FESTIVAL REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 2019 Live at Donington Park, UK – Day 3 (Sunday)
Festivals sometimes have a bizarre knack for feeling like you’ve been there for longer than you actually have while at the same time it’s already the final day of music and everyone will be preparing to go home either today or tomorrow. With that said, however, there were still a plethora of bands getting ready to perform and close out Download Festival at Donington Park for another year.
First on the main stage was Cane Hill, all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana, and there to deliver their brand of 1990s influenced nu/alternative metal goodness. The main positive that I think should be taken away from Cane Hill’s performance is how well frontman Elijah Witt comfortably and confidently commanded the crowd, which is also worth adding was significant for a band taking to the stage so early in the day on the final day of a weekend-long festival – props to Cane Hill for kicking Sunday off in such an effective way.
I Prevail and Underoath followed directly after Cane Hill, with the former shooting straight up the mountain to metalcore stardom while the latter’s glory days of the early 2000s allowed for a successful reunion and subsequent comeback album within the last few years. In terms of I Prevail, they definitely had one of the most hyped up crowds of any main stage band to play this years Download Festival, with it all hitting the top mark from the get-go with their opening song “Bow Down”. Underoath, on the other hand, took quite a bit longer to get things going in the crowd but once the set drew gradually closer to its conclusion and their 2006 classic “Writing on the Walls” boomed out across the festival site, it was this moment that sparked the fire in the crowd for Underoath that should’ve happened way earlier.
Even on the final day of music when the majority of festival goers are starting to experience some tiredness, perhaps no better band could turn up and deliver such a punishingly heavy set on the 4th stage like Japan’s Crystal Lake. As one of metalcore’s recent big-time successes, it was great to see the tent filled to the rim and beyond with people trying to get a look at their performance. Ending track “Prometheus” devastated the place and Crystal Lake really were one of the best bands I saw across all three days at Download this year.
In the (finally) warm sunshine that had been delayed for far too long, Beartooth rocked up to the 2nd stage for their first Download performance since 2016 and also the first since the release of their new record Disease. With their music is a perfect blend of anthem-style choruses constructed for large crowds plus enough riff for people in the audience who enjoy harder edge music to get something out of it as well, Beartooth again proved that they’re a force to be reckoned with live helped by the fact that their frontman Caleb Shomo is one of the most talented musicians in the genre today.
Lamb of God is a band I’ve been wanting to see live for ages and ages but I kept missing for various reasons, so to finally get to see them at Download this year was fantastic. Notably missing drummer Chris Adler due to his motorcycle accident, the addition of Art Cruz from Winds of Plague on drums did nothing but cement Lamb of God’s consistency on stage. The sound, unfortunately, did appear to be slightly too quiet for a band like Lamb of God who really should be as loud as possible. Setlist-wise it was fairly straight-forward with all the expected bangers but in a festival setting that’s definitely the way to go.
With a one-two punch of politically charged punk/post-hardcore over in the equally intimate but appropriately expansive setting of the 3rd stage on Sunday evening came The Fever 333, commanded by former Letlive main man Jason Butler, and the UK’s favourite bunch of electronic/rock/hardcore misfits Enter Shikari, who at this point feel like they play a genre of music that doesn’t even exist yet. On the subject of The Fever 333 first, they’ve definitely made a significant impact due to the ferocity of their live performances mainly because of Butler’s well-documented stances on various political issues. Unfortunately, and it really is unfortunate, there’s something about The Fever 333 that doesn’t click with me. Very good live, but perhaps it needs just a bit more anger to what they do for it to really work. Enter Shikari, meanwhile, made themselves welcome to an absolutely crowded tent to the extent that I felt lucky to be able to find some ground to stand on. Like with Lamb of God earlier, their setlist was fairly unsurprising but the reality of seeing “Rabble Rouser”, “Juggernauts”, “Live Outside” and the quick-fire round of one-track per album was one of the best sets I saw all day.
With life comes growing older, and growing older means retirement. Slayer seem to be the latest band to reach this stage of being in a band, with their final shows concluding a multi-decade long career set to be mapped out for the end of 2019. I wasn’t able to catch the entirety of Slayer’s second stage headline slot at the festival this year, but what I did see reminded me just how powerful and violent Slayer can still be almost 40 years since their initial inception. “Disciple”, “Chemical Warfare”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, “Black Magic”, “Dead Skin Mask”, “Raining Blood”, “Born of Fire”, “Angel of Death” – the list goes on and on. The diverse mix of people in the audience also brought back just how significant Slayer were and still are all the way to their closing months.
Sunday headliners Tool rounded off another successful year at Download Festival, weather aside. With no new material since 2006 but their new album set to drop at the end of August, Tool to some people may have felt like a slightly odd choice as the main stage headliner at a rock festival for that reason alone. They’re not a band for everyone, which is fine, but the people that like them really love them and there appeared to be enough of that crowd at the festival to justify a band like Tool securing the top slot on the line-up for Sunday. Tracks like “Schism”, “Intolerance”, “Vicarious” and more paved the way for a set-closing rendition of “Stinkfist” thereby concluding their first UK show since 2007. Even if you don’t particularly get along with Tool’s musical output the talent and instrumental prowess and virtuosity on the part of Maynard, Danny Carey, Adam Jones, and Justin Chancellor is absolutely phenomenal, allowing for people not familiar with Tool’s music to get something out of the experience as well.
To round up, Download 2019 was the first year since the infamous 2016 festival to have admittedly not brilliant weather overall, but that can’t be helped and there were plenty of great bands across the weekend to satisfy the attention of the tens of thousands in attendance. Download is one of those festivals that is genuinely essential to attend at least once in your life if you enjoy this sort of music, purely based on the historical relevance of Donington Park, what’s happened in the past and what lies ahead.