Day two kicked off with another morning of sunshine and hot temperatures. After the experiences of 2016 and 2019 (Also known as Drownload and Brownload), the weather is very welcome and it’s impossible not to be in a good mood with such a great line-up of bands taking the stage.
Death Blooms are well worth the early start. Their ferocious mix of metalcore and nu-metal in a fresh package will please anyone who grew up in the 90s and 2000s. Unlike many bands from that era these guys really know how to write a good song and their set’s a brilliant, explosive start to the day.
Loathe were plagued with sound issues at last year’s Pilot Festival so it’s a relief that this year goes off without a hitch. It’s great to see a band that can masterfully mix crushing brutality with ethereal soundscapes continuing to climb in popularity.
Black Label Society and Zak Wylde swagger onto the main stage with the confidence that comes with having played at the biggest metal shows in the world for decades. This is a band that plays heavy metal at its most primal with blistering solos and behind-the-head shredding. By the time closer “Stillborn” fades out I’m sure there are plenty of people with a newfound appreciation for Black Label Society.
Mastodon’s new material isn’t well suited for blazing midday sunshine, but they manage to overcome this with a blistering display of technicality and power. From my experience the band veers between awful and incredible live and today they’re certainly closer to the latter. Blood and Thunder and Crystal Skull sound triumphant, if I had any complaints, it would only be that the set time was far too short for a band with such a vast back catalogue.
Back over on the main stage, we had a chance to catch the latter half of Deftones. While they’re one of my all-time favorites I’ve never found their live performances particularly exciting, especially at festivals. My opinion remained unchanged, they sounded fine but their insistence on weaving their slower tracks between the heavier tracks kills a lot of momentum, and the lack of Stephen Carpenter’s distinctive aggressive playstyle only blunts their impact further.
Megadeth, or Megadave as my circle tends to nickname them due to the ever-revolving lineup sans Dave Mustaine, are on form today. Peace Sells and Holy Wars sound just as vital and relevant as they did back in the 80s while Symphony of Destruction and Sweating Bullets remain crowd-pleasers. Having lost Slayer the question of which of the Big Four will be next to throw in the towel hangs in the air. Here’s hoping we’ve still got many more years of Megadeth.
Next, it was over to the tent for Sepultura. I’ve seen Soulfly many times and Max Calavera almost always throws in a few songs from his time in Sepultura into his sets, but this was my first time seeing the original band with Derrick Green. My expectations were low but I’m happy to say I was completely blown away. They sounded incredibly tight, inspiring the biggest tent to mosh pits of the weekend and pummelling through their set with barely a break between songs. I came away calling it the best gig of the weekend and a new desire to give the post-max Sepultura albums another chance.
I can’t say I was particularly excited for Iron Maiden. It’s not that I don’t like them, quite the opposite but by this point, I’ve seen them headline so many festivals that they barely register in my mind when looking at lineups. The decision to open up with a triple whammy of Senjetsu material pulled my attention back. Blood Brothers followed by Flight of Icarus, Fear Of The Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name, and The Number Of The Beast reminded me exactly why Iron Maiden are one of the biggest metal bands on the planet. Despite seeing them so many times it’s impossible not to enjoy a set of such incredible songs and the band sounded brilliant. Thirty-four years since their first headline show on the hallowed grounds of Donnington, Iron Maiden remain one of the very best live bands to grace heavy metal.
Day two of Download was a resounding success with almost every band putting in a noteworthy performance. Sepultura in particular far surpassed my expectations. It’s days like this that remind me why I love festivals and left me saddened that we only had one more day left.