FESTIVAL REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 2018 Live at Donington Park, UK – Day 3 (Sunday)
The final day of the UK edition of Download Festival 2018 felt relatively more subdued following the two previous days headlined by Avenged Sevenfold and Guns n’ Roses respectively, as people generally started to wind down and enjoy the last 24 hours of the event. In spite of this, however, the line-up for the day was still on par with Friday and Saturday, with Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, Marilyn Manson, Rise Against, Shinedown, Meshuggah, Baroness and many others taking to the festival’s 4 stages throughout the day.
Black metal turned goth export Cradle of Filth kicked things off, with an early main-stage set that perhaps would’ve been more apt for a 4th stage headlining performance at various points. Despite Cradle’s legacy as one of the UK’s most significant extreme musical acts, they definitely played in front of a crowd more of whom were not familiar with their music as opposed to those who were. A good idea for sure when it comes to exposing them to a wider audience, but sometimes bands like these should be given more appropriate slots.
Hatebreed shortly followed Cradle of Filth, and unsurprisingly received a considerably more receptive response from those in attendance. By far the most significant hardcore band of their generation, Hatebreed smashed their allocated set time with all the, by this point, anthems that you would expect, but managed to sneak in enough rarities that it didn’t come across as feeling like a ‘greatest hits’ set either. Jamey Jasta was in high spirits as he always is playing at a festival of this significance and magnitude, and while not being anything super special, it was very very good nonetheless.
Over on the second stage, German thrash-metal legends Kreator took to a much bigger crowd than I expected at their first time ever performing at Download. With previous incarnations of Download securing Testament, Carcass, Sepultura, Amon Amarth and others to perform on this stage, Kreator’s absence until now could be perceived as somewhat surprising. However, the atmosphere in that part of the field definitely adopted a Wacken/Bloodstock vibe for the time Kreator were on stage, as the balancing act between new tracks and older classics from the 1980s was almost perfectly executed leading up to a closing performance of “Pleasure to Kill”. With a lot of the bands of Kreator’s ilk deteriorating somewhat in terms of the quality of their live performances as time progresses, Kreator proved that they still have plenty of fuel left and have no intention on slowing down.
Taking a break from the older bands now to focus on one of the many examples of outstanding new talent in rock music with the grunge-pop band Milk Teeth. Despite having only one album under their belt so far, the band have toured incessantly playing shows with Good Charlotte, Enter Shikari, Alexisonfire and more, plus rabid media attention in their home country. Having seen them a few days before Download as well, the impact of Milk Teeth perhaps wasn’t as stupendous as it maybe would’ve been otherwise, but aside from that the band put on a solid performance that is difficult to fault. Like with Cradle of Filth earlier, a large portion of the crowd were unfamiliar with the band in front of them, but in Milk Teeth’s favour they are still a fledgling prospect with (hopefully) a very bright future ahead of them.
Over on the second stage, Thrice and Meshuggah delivered a one-two punch for people yearning for a little bit of musical nostalgia, in one way or another. Thrice’s eight-song setlist featured opener “Hurricane” leading onto “Of Dust and Nations”, “The Artist in the Ambulance” and more before a closing performance of “The Earth Will Shake”. Despite the notability of Thrice as one of the 21st century’s most significant bands in terms of melodic and experimental hardcore, it did feel like Thrice were just the opening act for what was to come on the 2nd stage later on in the day. Meshuggah, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more different. First and foremost, an enormous amount of props go out to the sound engineer on this one. Meshuggah had the best sound production of any band I saw across the entire weekend, so a big nod to whoever was responsible. Furthermore, the crowd response to Meshuggah was considerably more positive than to Thrice, which made for an all around great performance in every department.
Canadian post-hardcore favourites Alexisonfire returned to Download Festival for the first time since 2005, plus it being their first show in the UK since the summer of 2015. Definitely a nostalgia set, of which there were plenty throughout Download’s final day, the only band ever put on a fine display in terms of performing songs from the latter half of their discography, with only closing track “Accidents” getting a nod when it comes to their earlier output. Clashing with Marilyn Manson at Donington would be a death sentence for some bands in terms of crowd turnout, but nonetheless Alexis had a healthy audience in terms of size and the set in general should be a signifier of how much their fans crave Alexisonfire despite there being no new music in almost a decade.
Rise Against took to the stage following Alexisonfire as the final of the second stage’s headliners for Download 2018, and put on a respectable performance given the technically extreme metal and aggressively melodic hardcore of the two bands that had played before them. As expected, Rise Against’s approximately one-hour long slot covered 15 of the band’s tracks, from obvious hits “Savior”, “Help is On the Way”, “Prayer of the Refugee” and others, to “Ready to Fall”, “Like the Angel” and “Satellite”. With the festival gradually drawing to a close, Rise Against definitely felt like an appropriate headliner to have turn up before the grand finale finished everything off.
The aforementioned grand finale ended up being Ozzy Osbourne and his solo band, with it being two years on from Ozzy’s previous appearance at Download instead with Black Sabbath. Reception at the initial announcement that Ozzy would be headlining was met with undeniable skepticism, but come Sunday evening the general vibe in the air felt far more positive than expected, with very little confusion from anyone as to why there should be any justification for Ozzy, of all people, being given a headline slot at Donington Park. As for the performance itself, Ozzy’s voice – the one factor people had their alarm bells going off about – was better than feared, and not something anyone can really complain about given his age. One or two Sabbath covers dotted here and there helped somewhat diversify the setlist of mostly Ozzy-solo material (as expected), but as an entire spectacle it was not the disaster some had speculated it would be.
With Download being the big fish in the pond when it comes to rock and metal festivals in the United Kingdom due to its cultural heritage on-site as well as the many bands that have passed through over the years, the atmosphere throughout the entire weekend was a signifier that everyone is silently aware of how special this festival is. Almost 100,000 people coming together to celebrate and thrive in the enjoyment of one collective mindset isn’t emphasized enough. With top-quality performances from bands of all styles of rock across the weekend, Download 2018 was a resounding success, and if you haven’t been before: do it. Go next year, for real.