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Rock fans enjoy stellar weekend of music at Download Festival - review with bumper gallery

Music | Published:

Thousands of rock and metal fans made the pilgrimage to Donnington Park this weekend as Download Festival returned.

Crowds at Download Festival 2019. Photo credit: David Dillon

'Biblical' mud and wet conditions didn't stop attendees pitching their tents and enjoying a weekend of performances from the likes of Def Leppard, Slipknot, Tool and more.

Take a look at our bumper gallery here:

Read more: Drownload: Rock fans leave Download Festival before it starts due to rain and mud

Our reviewer Michelle Martin looks back at some of the acts’ performances from over the weekend...

Friday

Sumo Cyco - The Avalanche Stages hosted by Kerrang! Radio

Sumo Cyco. Photo credit: James Bridle

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Lead singer Skye Sweetnam kicked off day one of Download with powerful vocals making a screaming introduction to the Canadian punk group Sumo Cyco.

The band - completed by Matt Drake, Matt Trozzi and Oscar Anesetti - started the party with a screeching, fast paced Sleep Tight from their second album Opus Mar.

Working through their back catalogue, they ended their energetic 30 minute set with their collaboration with Skindred’s Benji Webbe Move Mountains.

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Having been in the industry for almost 10 years, they sure make an impact with the crowd as they departed The Avalanche Stage breathless and sweaty with their wild performance.

Conjurer - The Dogtooth Stage

They were hooked from the start.

British progressive metal group Conjurer began a blistering live performance on The Dogtooth Stage, sending fans into a mosh frenzy, drowning out Clutch who were on the nearby Main Stage.

The vocal/guitar performance of Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose, drummer Jan Krause and bassist Conor Marshall, Conjurer took fans through a journey of their debut EP Mire, a stunning listen.

Deathly growls and ear piercing shrieks atmospheric aspects naturally flow through song, culminating in a sweaty thunderous applause demanding more from the group.

Despite being at the beginning of their career, they're the ones to look out for.

Opeth - Zippo Encore Stage

Opeth. Photo credit: Sarah Koury

Stockholm’s own Opeth only performed five songs but boy, did they throw all of Thor’s might into them.

The progressive metal band from Sweden are formed of Mikael Åkerfeldt, Martín Méndez, Martin Axenrot, Fredrik Åkesson and Joakim Svalberg.

They opened with a stunning performance of their first single from their 12th studio album of the same name followed suddenly followed by wall of drums smashing into your chest with Ghost Reveries’ Ghost of Perdition.

They packed into their mid-afternoon set a variety of styles from their recent retro/prog works to the deafening heavy growls of the 13 minute monster Deliverance.

Their set was faultless, cementing why they still remain relevant after more than 20 years in the music business.

Vega - The Dogtooth Stage

Ten years and five albums in and there’s no stopping melodic rock group Vega.

Ankle deep mud and constant rain didn’t stop fans packing into The Dogtooth Stage for a back catalogue of music from their early days of Kiss of Life through to 2018’s excellent Only Human.

The six piece from Stratford-Upon-Avon crammed on the small stage brought to Download good high-spirited music with lead vocalist Nick Workman leading the charge, supported by Tom Martin, James Martin, Marcus Thurston, Hutch and Mikey Kew, putting on a strong 25 min set of contemporary melodic rock.

Nick had the crowd in his grasp with Marcus and bassist Tom providing lively vocal support.

All in all, the Warwickshire group provided afternoon of fun full of energetic hits.

Rob Zombie - Zippo Encore Stage

Rob Zombie. Photo credit: Matt Eachus

One of the stand-out sets of the day was from metal God Hellbilly Rob Zombie, who brought Halloween festivities to Download a few months early.

The atmosphere at the Zippo Encore Stage was electrifying with non-stop partying and moshing from the packed in crowd.

So captivated by it, I almost missed the beginning of Whitesnake’s set, which showed the influence of the American’s charm and stage command.

He sent the fans into party mode with a now classic rendition of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter.

One of the highlights of Download, and one to certainly catch live in the future.

Whitesnake - Main Stage

Whitesnake. Photo credit: Matt Eachus

The rain held off and the sun briefly appeared as English hard rock band Whitesnake took us back to the 1980’s with their greatest hits set.

Lead vocalist David Coverdale lead the charge with a passionate performance of the band’s best hits, including Here I Go Again and crowd favourite Is This Love?.

Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra rocked out a guitar solo together before going into a performance of Shut Up and Kiss Me from their thirteenth album Fresh and Blood.

Easily the best moment of the day was with drummer Tommy Aldridge banged out an epic solo with his bare hands.

A stand-out from a muddy first day.

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators - Main Stage

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators

The Main Stage was packed out with fans eager to see Guns 'n' Roses legend Slash alongside Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, and The Conspirators.

A thunderous roar from the crowd welcomed the supergroup as they made their grand entrance before they kicked off their impressive set.

The stars formed after 2010 after extensive touring with Kennedy, and 2012’s Apocalyptic Love was billed as their first album.

They kicked off the mud-filled party with Living The Dream and fan favourite Back To Cali.

The late addition of Guns n Roses’ Night Train put a smile on everyone’s faces, and the epic guitar solo during the closing of World on Fire’truly showed the remarkable talent of the legendary Slash.

Def Leppard - Main Stage

Def Leppard. Photo credit: Abbie Shipperley

British rock legends Def Leppard brought the first night of Download Festival to a close with an evening of nostalgic heavy metal.

Vivian Campbell of Last in Line, who opened the Main Stage early afternoon, joined the rock veterans back on stage for the performance.

Completed with a big screen production, the five piece from Sheffield work their through the back catalogue of their anthemic greatest hits, including Pour Some Sugar on Me and playing their successful fourth studio album Hysteria in its entirety.

This was also their only UK appearance of 2019, and a fitting way to finish day one of Download Festival.

Saturday

Behemoth - Main Stage

Behemoth. Photo credit: Sarah Koury

Only minutes before the heavens opened up, Download experienced a religious moment.

Polish death metal Behemoth created an otherworldly atmosphere, opening with children eerily singing their introduction surrounded by high rising flames and pillars of smoke.

Taken from their eleventh studio album I Loved You at Your Darkest, they dived straight into Wolves of Siberia and the rest of their critically acclaimed album. Their soaring choirs and hellish riffs were reminiscent of old horror movies.

Their extreme death metal vocals, nimble-guitar solos and stunning outfits made for a surreal experience, capturing the audience straight away, evoking a feeling of being welcomed to hell.

They displayed an endearing stage presence, adding to the memorable 45 minutes set shortly before the biblical rain returned.

Trivium - Main Stage

Trivium. Photo credit: Matt Eachus

It’s the 20th Anniversary of Trivium’s career, and there’s no better place than the Main Stage at Download Festival to kickstart the party.

Returning the festival after their debut 14 years ago, with absolute carnage and mayhem taking over the fans as they rolled straight in with The Sin and The Sentence.

The American heavy metal band are formed of Matt Heady, Corey Beaulieu, Paolo Gregoletto and Alex Bent.

The set even featured an appearance from Strife lead singer Heady, who jumped down to the barrier as the heavy drums got going and sent the crowd into a circle.

During their last song of their set, the band forced the ground to the ground before the song exploded in full force in a climactic ending to their performance.

Skindred - Main Stage

Skindred. Photo credit: Abbie Shipperley

The sudden downpour at as Benji Webbe and the rest of Skindred jumped onto the Main Stage didn’t stop the crowd from rocking out in the mud.

A flawless performance from Newport’s punk/metal group ensued, seeing the quartet belting out songs including Trouble and Warning to keep up to the spirits for the afternoon.

And, no surprise, the legendary Newport Helicopter made its return to the Main Stage.

With a career spanning 20 years, there’s just no stopping them.

Halestorm - Zippo Encore Stage

Halestorm. Photo credit: James Bridle

The huge crowd American rock band Halestorm pulled towards the Main Stage demonstrated the sheer influence the band has their they were welcomed back to Download.

They began their 90 minute set on the Zippo Encore Stage with their most recent work Do Not Disturb and Uncomfortable from their fourth album Vicious.

Front lady Lzzy Hale lead the way with her powerful vocal, showing off her incredible talents with Familiar Taste Of Poison.

Drummer Arejay Hale began his epic solo with some really ridiculously oversized drum sticks, which he managed to pull off really well.

One of the best moments of the day was the surprise appearance of Japanese metal band Love Bites’ Asami to perform Love Bites (So Do I), the title the band their name from.

Exceptional.

The Hu - The Dogtooth Stage

The Hu. Photo credit: Matthew Higgs

Not to be mistaken with the English band of the same name, amazing act wowed crowds at The Dogtooth Stage with political pieces sung in Mongolian.

Powerful Mongolian throating singing combined with tradition instrumentation native to Mongolia brought a refreshing style to Download.

Fans at The Dogtooth Stage were hypnotised by The Hu’s war cries, performing Shoog Shoog, Wolf Totem and Yuve Yuve Yu.

These hypnotising songs that sent the crowd into a trance, with slow head banging and a sea of fists in the air.

The four piece, formed of Gala, Enkush, Jaya and Temka, produced a captivating 30 minute set that sent shivers down my spine.

These are the guys to look out for in the future.

Slipknot - Main Stage

Slipknot. Photo credit: Matt Eachus

Mayhem ensued when Download veterans returned to headline the second night of the festival.

The American groups’ fourth outing sent the fans into a frenzy performing hits such as Duality and Psychosocial, and all their way back to their self-titled debut album.

The stage was chaos as the crowd caused pandemonium in the pits, with many probably returning to their tents later with plenty of battle scars.

They didn’t mess around with floating back and forth between their new content from their upcoming album We Are Not Your Kind before throwing us back into Disasterpiece from their second album Iowa.

Corey Taylor and the gang got the audience down into the mud for the encore of Spit It Out, Surfacing and ‘Til We Die.

Their crushing and intense cements why Slipknot are one of the best headliners to grace the Main Stage and easily the best performances of the weekend.

Sunday

Wolf Jaw - The Dogtooth Stage

Wolf Jaw, previous known as The Bad Flowers, made their debut to Download on the final day of the festival.

West Midlands trio Tom Leighton, Dale Tonks and Karl Selickis, left their mark on The Dogtooth Stage with their display of powerful rock n roll edginess.

Their 25 minute set took us on a journey through their back catalogue, including new single I Lose My Mind, released in January this year.

The Cannock-based group trilled the crowd with thunderous riffs and anthemic choruses that left a lasting impression.

Twenty-five minutes didn’t seem long enough for the trio.

One of the highlights of the morning.

I Prevail - Main Stage

I Prevail. Photo credit: Matthew Higgs

From the moment they stepped onto the Main Stage, there was no turning back.

Their mixture of heavy metal, electronic and hip-hop was a show stopper. Straight away single Bow Down’the crowd got going, with singers Brian Burkheiser and Eric Vanlerberghe and their explosive vocals from the outset stunning.

Established in 2013, the Michigan band displayed a powerful performance. They were on another level with their stage presence and having the fans literally in their hands.

Their commitment to their trade was shown when lead Brian arrived on stage bandaged and a foot in a brace. Nothing stopped him flying around the stage.

Only eight songs were play but they threw all of their energy into these to make it one of the most memorable sets of the weekend.

Be sure to look out for these guys win the future.

Cane Hill - Main Stage

Louisiana heavy metal band Cane Hill emerged onto the Main Stage with their mind-altering and disturbing body of work.

Their crushing and intense introduction got fan whipped up into a frenzy as the moshing commenced. It was surprising to see so many people turn out for their set so early on the final day.

Lead singer Elijah Witt and co belted out seven songs in a 30 minute set that stunned fans.

There was no stopping them with their wild performance, playing a selection of songs from their first two albums and EPs, including Fountain of Youth and their latest single Too Far Gone.

Their set was faultless. A fitting way to finish off the weekend of rock n roll madness.

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