Whilst shaking off the sudden sinking feeling of regret at being far too hungover to get up in time to catch djent-twiddling grime-spitting maestros Hacktivist at 11am, we find ourselves drinking cans of Koppaberg and downing Jagerbombs on our way to see the swash-buckling power metal playing pirate-loving Scots known as the one and only Alestorm on the Zippo Encore stage. Yes, we should be drinking the finest Rum the seas of Download provide, but nonetheless are we suitably intoxicated by the time they take to the stage to the sounds of Keelhauled and Shipwrecked. Alestorm are a funny bunch of fellas, navigating the line between bonafide rockstars and fucking nutcases very, very closely. Whilst it’s difficult to take tracks like Mexico and Fucked With An Anchor seriously – come on, the chorus is “fuck you, you’re a fucking wanker, we’re gonna punch you right in the balls, fuck you, with a fucking anchor, you’re a cunt so fuck you all!” – they play like they’ve never played before, shredding solo after solo and nailing note after note. It’s so wild that when a mosh pit breaks out, the crowd drop like flies to shit and begin rowing in motion like a true ship of pirates sailing the seas of Download. Closing on their ever-amusing cover of Taio Cruz’s Hangover, they’ve set a bar far too high to fight.

Paulo Gonçalves, Download Festival 2017

Flipping proceedings completely on their head in a set that they self-describe as something as far removed from heavy metal at a metal festival as something could possibly be, British-American pop-punkers As It Is tear up the Download rulebook on the Avalanche stage. Opening with their sophomore album’s titular track, Okay, they rip through a short-and-sweet Okay-heavy set that dips delicately into their debut’s inner workings, chucking out singles ‘Cheap Shots & Setbacks’ and ‘Dial Tones’ as pick-me-ups when the pace drops. As It Is are one of the few British pop-punk bands who actually nail it live every time, having synced almost as dangerously as a household of woman during their sensitive time of the month. The set caters a little too much to the new material, especially for a debut performance at a festival you wouldn’t normally play, but they pull it off, packing a decent crowd considering they’re up against Of Mice & Men and Suicide Silence on the Lemmy and Zippo Encore stages.

Matt Eachus, Download Festival 2017

Speaking of the Lemmy Stage, San Diego’s post-hardcore poster-boys Pierce The Veil take to the stage for one of the more high-profile Download debuts of 2017, and are ultimately let down by the pond-like trip that is their sound. It’s been a reoccurring problem throughout the weekend so far, but this is by far the worst its been, sounding so muddy that its near-impossible to recognise the lyrics frontman Vic Fuentes is singing during early helpings of ‘Bulls In The Bronx’ and ‘A March Into Water’, leaving the thick waves of bass blasting far too inhumanely over the speakers, rendering the slick guitar-lines useless. Despite death by sound, Pierce The Veil are on sheer form, sliding through a set of hits and no misses, spurring circle pits for ‘Caraphernelia’ and ‘Circles’. It’s clear from the whispers flowing through the wind that half of their crowd are gathered in the hope that Kellin Quinn (Frontman of Friday’s Avalanche stage headliners Sleeping With Sirens) comes out to perform super-hit King For A Day with Pierce The Veil, however, to no avail, they run through it without Kellin, yet it still ends the set on a high, despite the fact half of it sounded worse than a monologue from your grandmother.

Sarah Koury, Download Festival 2017

Keeping up with the Lemmy stage, a mediocre crowd gathers in its miniature masses for a goth-like gospel courtesy of returning icons AFI, who haven’t graced a UK festival in a good seven years, having only recently made their live return to the UK. Leaning heavily towards their latter-day career with a particular focus on their breakthrough album – 2003’s Sing The Sorrow -, they play-out a high-calibre set, kicking things off with Girl’s Not Grey. For a band who’ve been away from these shores for far too long, their crowd is disappointingly dismal, but that may well be because a certain set of Brazilian brothers are performing a certain record in its entirety over on the Zippo stage. Ending proceedings with ‘Miss Murder’, you’re left wondering how many bands can continue to play on nostalgia, and on a back catalogue, without adding fuel to the fire. AFI were good, but they weren’t great, and we all thought they would be.

Matt Eachus, Download Festival 2017

Meanwhile, Brazil’s very own Max and Igor Cavalera are tearing through their groove-tinged thrash-riddled mid-nineties masterpiece ‘Roots’ which was of course released as Sepultura back in 1996. From the opening moments of Roots Bloody Roots, the Zippo Encore stage is a toss-up of people screaming their heads off, opening up heart-attack-inducing circle pits, and causing sheer chaos. Whilst Roots undoubtedly catapulted Sepultura to bold new heights back in the day, it’s clear that this is a record still as relevant now as it was then, sounding painstakingly revitalised in the here and now, and whilst it isn’t Sepultura, the brothers are backed by none other than their Cavalera Conspiracy and Soulfly cohorts, Tony Campos and Marc Rizzo, who are on fantastic form. Set times being set times, they don’t have time to play Roots in full, but they trim the fat – in way of Andreas Kisser’s instrumental sections – and run through a solid ten tracks, as well as throwing in a tribal jam and a fitting cover of Ace Of Spades. Ratamahatta, Straighthate, and Spit are delivered with precision, and this performance cements, yet again, just how lucky as a community we are to have Max and Igor Cavalera walk among us.

Back in 2009, having followed in the footsteps of Three Days Grace, Rise Against, Breaking Benjamin, and so on, a little Australian alt-rock band known as Sick Puppies suddenly found themselves at the forefront of their scene thanks to a slew of their songs being featured in various promotions by the WWE. Of course, like so many before them, once the hype dies down, so do the songs and the band forgotten. Like digging through a crate of records and finding that one single gem, Sick Puppies centre their short-but-sweet set on the Dogtooth stage around their 2009 breakthrough Tri-Polar, deviating occasionally to throw out a new one from last year’s underwhelming Fury. It’s amusing, because the two songs from Fury – Black & Blue and Stick To Your Guns – are some of their most accomplished musically, yet fall flat on the faces of the crowd whilst their earlier creations resonate ten-fold setting the tent off. Riptide leaves the crowd singing along sweetly whilst the wrestling theme that shot them to stardom that is You’re Going Down brings their set to a climax in fine style, bodies surfing, people singing, and the band on fire. For just three of them, they make a lot of noise and work a stage well, and it’s a damn shame they’re not as big as they should be.

Ben Gibson, Download Festival 2017

Back on the Lemmy stage and it’s time for A Day To Remember to deliver us a day to remember. They’ve played Download quite a lot lately, climbing up stages and spots each time with stellar live shows, earning themselves the highly-coveted head support slot for tonight’s controversial headliners Biffy Clyro. Anyone who is anyone will recognise though that this is there most important set at Download, because this is there test, this is the sowing of the seed of graduating to headliner status come their next album cycle. Stripping back the stage show that has dazzled in previous years and opting for a more streamlined performance-focused set, they take to the stage to All I Want before exploding into a hit-after-hit cycle that includes Homesick-cuts ‘I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” and ‘The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle’ which, without any props, sets the supersized crowd off. Whilst they don’t definitively ditch the gimmicks – shooting t-shirts and toilet roll into the crowd are the MOST American thing any band could possibly do, especially an American metalcore-turned-pop-punk band – they utilise them and time them to fit in, mainly when they’re looking for a big pop. Whilst admittedly this year it feels as if we’ve seen a little too much of them and the set doesn’t sparkle as much as 2013 and 2015’s did, it does show that with some time away, A Day To Remember could definitely headline. A heartfelt sing-along of If It Means A Lot To You followed by a chaotic double-whammy of All Signs Point To Lauderdale and The Downfall Of Us All close out a slick set.

Matt Eachus, Download Festival 2017

Biffy Clyro, like Muse before them, have been dealt with wave after wave after wave of controversy surrounding their headline slot on the Lemmy Stage this year, because apparently, they simply aren’t ‘Download’ enough, and yet ironically, this is their sixth appearance at Download – having risen up the ranks from a early-afternoon slot on the second stage in 2004 to head-support for Metallica in 2012. Whilst ‘Wolves Of Winter’ feels resoundingly like a faux opener, second-song Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies grabs the bull firmly by the horns and takes it for one hell of a ride as the set picks up its pace from here on out, fully utilising an expressive and impressive stage show. Whilst many Biffy fans had hoped that they would either be treating us to an airing of Puzzle in full to celebrate its ten year anniversary, or an evening of rarer cuts back from their slightly heavier days (akin to the set Muse provided in their 2015 headline slot), it’s a bit of a slap-in-the-face when they barely touch either option, throwing a measly three tracks from Puzzle, and only two tracks from any album prior to Puzzle. Only Revolutions is the focal point, with Ellipsis and Opposites sitting closely behind, and classics like Bubbles and That Golden Rule exonerate any doubts Biffy could do Download. The crowd however is a tad too small on the headline scale, with many of the Download faithful residing over on the Zippo stage for Rob Zombie instead. Ending on a mediocre Stingin’ Belle, having followed a much-appreciated airing of There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake, Biffy Clyro stand tall as fireworks explode left, right, and centre. Whilst they didn’t have the crowd, Biffy Clyro played like this was their biggest show of their career.

Ben Gibson, Download Festival 2017

With a crowd of 50,000 people packed in to a stage that often only sees 30,000, super-beast Rob Zombie delivers yet another career-topping set complete with a golden setlist and full US production. Opening with ‘Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown’, it’s clear from the off that this is going to be one wild ride, with Zombie in full horror mode, gliding across his stage and its platforms. Helpings of Superbeast and Living Dead Girl very early on get the crowd dancing, singing, and moshing whilst newer cuts ‘In The Age…’ and ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking In A U.F.O.’ fall into place like the final pieces of a puzzle. John 5 is on exceptional form tonight, slipping and sliding through solo after solo, nailing the most complicated of arrangements like its nothing, a wizard of the riff if ever there were one. Remarking that he first played Thunder Kiss at Monsters Of Rock 22 years ago, Zombie delivers one of the finest performances of the song. Ending with Dragula, which is quite honestly sung more by the crowd than Zombie himself, highlights the fact that whilst Biffy were solid tonight, Zombie could’ve and perhaps should’ve been the man headlining the main stage tonight.

 

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