Last year Australia held its first Download Festival in Melbourne which boasted headliners Korn and Limp Bizkit along with some of the biggest names in metal and rock from Australia and the world. Due to its success it was announced to return in 2019 adding a Sydney date to further expand the global phenomenon. Kicking off the day are Aussie prog metallers Voyager who are no strangers to big stages and have a massive following overseas. What a Wonderful Dayseems like a fitting song to kick things off as the groovy rifts and soaring vocals draw the first revellers through to the main stage.
“This is our first time, show us what you fucking got” screams New Years Day, Ash Costello. Full of charisma and enthusiasm courtesy of their engaging frontwoman, they win over the crowd instantly with their cover of Pantera’sFucking Hostile and follow it up with tracks Epidemic, Skeletons and Scream among others. Sadly, the mix through the PA marks the only blight on memorable performance which will hopefully see them return in the near future. The only way to describe UK 2-piece punk band Slaves is “bonkers”. Opening with The Lives They Wish They Had from their latest album Acts of Fear and Love, Slaves go way harder than most bands and they do it with the most basic of set-ups. With an upturned bass drum, snare, cymbals and one guitar, the band manage to sound simultaneously filthy and enormous and their energy in putting it all together is endless. At one point a shirtless sweaty Issac Holman ditches the stage, dragging his microphone into the crowd to tell a story from the band’s early days and how everybody always asks where the hi-hat is, leading into a chant of “fuck the hi-hat”. They are as Intimidating as English gangsters but instead opt to play against type and incite a giant hug party in the pit. This sets goes down as one of my favourite live performances and I will travel to see them on their next trip down to these parts.
As the rain starts to set in it only amplifies the vibe rebounding off the crowd and the sludge of High Tension’s Mike Deslandes guitar tones rumbling underneath Karina Utomo growls and screeches. Fierce and fearless High Tensioncrushed it on the Avalanche stage with a storm or intensity and noise and left a lasting impression on everyone who saw them.
Being one of the most hyped acts on the bill, I took a minute to check out Fever 333 and ended up staying for the majority of their set. This band have an almost super-human energy pushing the security to work over time to contain the madness as frontman Jason Aalon Butler repeatedly enters the crowd. Keep an eye out for the return of Fever 333 in a headlining slot. Brisbane deathcore monsters Aversions Crown mean business. The grounds shake from the sound of their apocalyptic sub drops, blast beats and down-tuned guitars throw the pit into a frenzy.After conquering the worlds stages over the last couple of years it’s great to see the boys back on Aussie soil bringing the brutality and representing our home state. It was also cool to see a few familiar faces from Queensland who had come out to support the boys at their first appearance at Download Australia. Aussie punk rock royalty Frenzal Rhomb have one of the biggest crowds for the day. Opening their set with Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train as a tribute to the man who couldn’t make it and following it with Bird Attack and Cunt Act. Other hits such as Russell Crowe’s Band, When My Baby Smiles at Me I Go to Rehab, You Are Not My Friend and Punch in the Face get everyone onside and singing along. You can always count on Frenzal to break up the day with a punk show/comedy act.
Pittsburgh’s Code Orange are the heaviest and most aggressive band on the line up and I can safely say that this show is violent, unrelenting and the breakdown to Real is one of the most brutal things I’ve ever witnessed live. The mood shifts briefly for the single Bleeding In The Blurr before shifting wildy back into full blown danger and chaos, their set should come with a warning. Amazing stuff! Meanwhile, on the main stage, Behemoth are playing Bartzibel to a packed field. Their production has been stepped up with more fire and smoke than their sideshow in Brisbane and they once again prove that they can handle the main stage. Nergal is powerful. A menacing hooded figure stalking the stage, commanding attention as his growls and screams echo through the PA during songs like Ov Fire and the Void and Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.
Anthrax are still one of the greatest bands on the planet and being able to see them twice in a week was a special experience for me even if they are playing the exact same setlist. The crowd is packed and it’s almost impossible to make your way close to the stage as they open with Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell before tearing into Caught in a Mosh, Got The Time and I am the Law one after the other. Like their other thrash peers Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth the band aren’t getting any younger but they go hard up there, teaching some of the newer fresh faced metal bands a thing or two about putting on a show.
New Zealand’s Devilskin have been making waves back home and recently down here when they supported Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Frontwoman Jennie Skulander is one of the technically strongest vocalists I have ever heard, with an excellent range and diversity between screams and honey drenched melodies it’s easy to see why this band has been doing so well. Seattle legends Alice in Chains are one of the most anticipated bands on the line-up and draw an astonishing number of people for their slot. Opening with Bleed the Freak to an eruption of cheers the fun really begins when the moody drone of Check My Brain oozes through the speakers setting off the few thousand people to bang their head in unison.
Guitar god Jerry Cantrell sure knows how to write iconic riffs as evident to the first few seconds of songs like Them Bones, Damn That River and Down in a Hole. While vocalist William Duvall is flawless in executing the older Layne Staley material and his otherworldly and beautiful harmonies with Cantrell on No Excuses and Rooster provides the emotional high point of the day. It’s been a hell of a long time coming and there is an electric vibe in the air as Judas Priest storm the stage with Firepower. Their stage set is impressive, decked out with the biggest projector screen I’ve ever seen and Priest symbols displayed on top of ramping made to look like a giant 80’s sci-fi music video.
Rob Halford is almost 70. Let that sink in! Hearing his iconic voice shred through classics like Delivering the Goods, Turbo Lover, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and Hell Bent for Leather (with bike entrance) stirs up fond memories especially with the old school fans. Just when you think it’s coming to an end we get treated to Painkiller, Electric Eyeand Breaking the Law which for many in the crowd were gateway songs to a larger metal world, seriously epic stuff! For a lot of die hard fans it seems that the realisation that this is the last time they will ever get to see Slayer is starting set in and you can feel the immense anticipation surging throughout the park. After seeing them at the Riverstage a few nights prior, I was expecting much of the same kind of show but due to the bigger stage, things have been stepped up with bigger flames and an impressive light show.
Slayer have been doing this a hell of a long time and they’re definitely not just going through the motions and wanting it over and done with. There are moments where you can see Tom Araya crack that familiar serial killer smile when the fans scream along to songs like Disciple and War Ensemble. It’s powerful, moving and even a little sad that we will soon be living in a world without Slayer but much like other classic bands like Black Sabbath you can guarantee that they will still live on through future generations who discover them. Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that Ghost have become a phenomenon. With their mind blowing multi layered cathedral stage layout, costumes and catchy tunes it’s easy to get sucked into their world entirely.You really can’t help but marvel at the fact that master showman Tobias Forge, has carefully crafted the concept into a monster empire with fans the world over.
His over-confident, sleazy Cardinal Copia persona is extremely entertaining to watch and you get a kick out of his onstage banter between songs. Like a twisted unholy conductor he commands his nameless ghoul band mates into doing his bidding and even berates them at times when he thinks they are taking too much of the spotlight. The future looks incredibly bright for Ghost. It goes without saying that Download 2019 was one of the best festival experiences I have ever had and I am already making plans to return next year regardless of the line up. Well played Download….well played! Tickets for Download Festival Melbourne are on sale now throughhttps://downloadfestival.com.au/melbourne/tickets/
Special thanks to : Dan Maynard Photography and Christian Stanger.