Review – Refused / Thrice

Date: Thursday 31st October 2019

Venue: Manchester Academy, Manchester

Supports: Gouge Away

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Occasionally a tour will be announced that is so good that you buy tickets despite the fact that the band you are going to see aren’t ones that are regularly played on your music list. This is one such example of a tour with two of the most influential yet somehow underrated bands in the alternative scene playing the same stage on the same night as co headliners. With both Thrice and Refused it was interesting to see the mix in the crowd as both bands have a very different sound to each other and yet somehow everything worked to perfection. Unfortunately thanks to the drive from hell across the M62, I didn’t get chance to catch tonight’s support act hardcore punks Gouge Away which was a real shame as they were a band that I was certainly looking forward to catching. If you aren’t familiar with the band then I’d definitely recommend giving them a listen, a personal favourite from them is R.O.T.

For the first of two hour long headline sets this evening were the Swedish punk pioneers Refused. Opening up with new album opener REV001 things started with a bang and by bringing the new album to front of set showed that they weren’t just living with their past success. Following up with ‘Violent Reaction’ kept the energy nicely flowing and was great to hear live after I’d put a bunch of plays into it on Spotify in preparation. Despite the new album sounding incredible, playing big hitter ‘Elektra’ early in the set really got the crowd moving and dancing along. Heading back to the newer tracks ‘I Wanna Watch The World Burn’ Which took vocalist Dennis Lyxzén Into the crowd all the way to the back which proved to be a very effective way of opening up the pit. Giving talks on serious topics such as capitalism and patrichy amongst others went out to approving crowds and it was good to see punk standing for something so strongly still. Saving the best track until last, it was no doubt that ‘New Noise’ would go down well to finish the set. As crowd in unison launched in with opening line ‘Can I Scream?’ Manchester Academy turned upside down with the sheer amount of people bouncing and shouting along the words. Pausing for extra effect before the last chorus Refused thanked the crowd as they were the reason the band could keep doing what they do. Launching back in it was clear how heavy the track hit and really ended the set on a high. It’s great to see that Refused unique sound is carried from their records and sounds just and incredible live and it just goes to show how talented of a band they really are.

Refused

Taking to the stage for the second coheadline set tonight were Thrice. Regularly described as your favourite bands favourite band, its no wonder that they deliver a fantastic show and having accidentally discovered them at Leeds festival back in 2016 so I was long overdue seeing them! Coming out to ‘Only Us’ showed the complete juxtaposition between the two headliners with Refused’s raw energy compared to the refined performance and intricate tracks of Thrice . By the second track ‘Image of Invisible’ the crowd were in full voice signing along with the chorus. It was clear that Thrice’s building tracks left the crowd in awe and new track ‘Just Breathe’ proved that booming across the Academy. Following this there was a huge crowd reaction to the opening riff of ‘Hurricane’ which got a huge tear and an even bigger singalong flying straight into  ‘Artist in the Ambulance’ after was one of the highlights of the night as the two tracks worked so well with each other. A couple of songs later the band cracked out arguably their biggest track ‘Black Honey’ which really showed just how tight the band were and how each element mixed so beautifully with the others. After a rousing performance of ‘The Earth Will Shake’ to start to wind down their set the band opted to finish with slower track ‘Beyond The Pines’ which somehow worked perfectly. It finished with somber tone but somehow worked and built on the fantastic set from tonight. As the band left the stage the crowd were left in awe at the end of Thrice’s phenomenal show. Despite having to follow a much heavier band it was clear that they could hold their own and by making the set focused on their deeper tracks they really used the earlier mentioned juxtaposition to their advantage. It would definitely be hard to find another band that refined and tight in a live setting, everything worked perfectly and really went to show just why Thrice are so many people’s favourite bands.

Thrice

Review – Conjurer

Date: Sunday 27th October 2019

Venue: The Key Club, Leeds

Supports: DAO, Armed For Apocalypse, Earth Moves

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Starting things off at one hundred percent this evening were local supports DAO.  Despite it being early in the night the band brought huge sound and you could feel the energy coming off the stage. As the set went on the vocalist slowly got further and further into the crowd leaving the stage to the rest of the band to really show off their skills and allowing them to move around creating even more energy. Despite working his way to the sound desk at one point the vocals kept coming thick and fast to keep up with the band and really worked well to create an intimate feel from the outset. New track ‘Everything’ brought heavy riffs while ‘Delusional Man’ really layered the crushing vocals over intricate guitar lines and the pounding drums sounding incredible. And after a set that seemed much shorter than it should have been, closer ‘New Normal’ ended it with a bang. It’s definitely one that will be going straight on my playlist as it was neck-snappingly brutal and that’s putting it mildly. Whilst the crowd weren’t as involved as they could have been it definitely didn’t take anything away from the performance that DAO delivered. As opening sets go at The Key Club this may have been one of the best I’ve seen in a long time up there with the likes of Cutting Teeth and God Complex!

DAO

Next up tonight were American metalers Armed for Apocalypse, Starting off with slower tracks the band ease the crowd into the chaos that was to come later in the set.  Despite being slower tracks to start than DOA beforehand they were certainly crushing and the entire crowd were banging their head by then end of their opening salvo. Despite the mix sometimes cutting the vocals down a little it didn’t affect the sound too much as the rest of the band were spot on. ‘Open Wound’ incited chaos in the crowd with tonight’s first pit opening up and the fast heavy track building brilliantly. Huge sound from all three members, drummer on point throughout the set not putting a foot wrong which was incredible to see. The bands newer tracks were a sight to behold and shows that these guys are still bringing out incredible tracks 10 years on from the release of their album ‘Defeat’. As the band left the stage it was clear that the crowd were left on a huge high with everyone pumping their fists and banging their heads. From the outset it may have been a tall order to follow DAO but Armed For Apocalypse took it in their stride and put on a pretty stellar set to keep tonight’s energy up.

Armed For Apocalypse

The last of tonight’s brilliant supports were Earth Moves and it was no surprise that they put on an incredible set. Mixing in the heavy sounds from tonight’s previous bands with the more emotional slow breaks and spoken word sections similar to bands like Casey. ‘Breathing Solemnity into the Deep Night’ sounded amazing as it rang out across the room with the crowd looking on in awe. The band’s new album ‘Human Intricacy’ due out in November and from the sounds of their single ‘Catatonic’ it’s going to be a stunner. A brief appearance from Conjurer’s Dan to provide additional vocals sounded brilliant and got a great reaction out of the crowd with everyone going wild. Closer ‘Pia Maita’ really showed the band at its best, coming in two parts with the heavy track blasting everyone’s face off before ending with an emotional slow section which left everyone in awe. As the song closed to an end, the microphone was cat aside and the band moved to just shouting the lyrics across the crowd to really hit the emotion of the track home. With the single guitar track and cymbals winding down definitely left an impression on the stunned crowd. Even though this was the first time I’d seen or even heard of Earth Moves, their ability and performance certainly left a mark on me and they’re definitely one of my regular listens already.

Earth Moves

To describe tonight’s headliners as a force of nature would be underselling them and having seen them playing at Download (review here) this was definitely an unmissable show. As Conjurer burst onto the stage with ‘Thankless’ it was clear that this was going to be a non-stop night of extreme metal to really show why they had the crowing title as one of the most exciting bands in metal. Riffs were flying out across the room over a crowd that refused to stand still and the dual vocals from both Dan and Brady worked brilliantly. With a light show that left the band in the shadows for the majority of their set it really built on their performance as a whole and built an intimate show. Despite the evening being one of very few that didn’t sell out on the whole tour it must have been very close to capacity with the surge of the crowd during the massive ‘Choke’ engulfing the entire venue and a pit that didn’t stop for the entire duration of the track. As their set drew to an end it was clear that the band had saved their top two tracks for the end. With both ‘Retch’ and ‘Hadal’ finishing off tonight’s set it was clear that the band were going out all guns blazing. The energy coming from the crowd was unreal and even wilder as it was matched by the band and as the band finished their setlist it gave everyone a short break to catch their breaths before the band took to a short encore.

Usually playing a cover to end the night would be a little weird but when that cover is ‘Blood and Thunder’ by Mastadon and it’s executed to perfection there aren’t any issues. It was a great way to end the night and really showed the influences that this band had. As they left the stage for one final time the crowd were left with ringing ears and sore necks from the onslaught that they had just witnessed. Conjurer yet again proved that they are at the top of their game and at this point they are the band that everyone needs to hear about. Hopefully this run of sold out shows will propel them up into the greatness that they so deserve. If you take nothing else away from this review go listen to Conjurer immediately and bask in their greatness as it’s not very often a band this impressive come around.

Conjurer

Review – Leeds Festival 2019 (Friday)

Leeds Festival 2019 – Friday

As the August Bank Holiday rolled round for another year it was time to close the Festival season in style with Leeds Festival. With a huge variety of different genres on show throughout the weekend it was a shame that I was only able to attend the Friday this year but what a day it was. Unfortunately due to some pretty severe transport issues (broken down trains into Leeds and an incident on the shuttle bus route meaning we had to walk down the A64 to the site) I didn’t manage to get into the site until 3pm so it’s quite a short review but despite this all bands put on amazing sets as you’ll read below and its certainly kept my love for the festival up and I’ll be looking forward to Leeds Festival 2020 next year

 

Enter Shikari – Main Stage

After an absolutely dismal journey in to the festival things were going to start back with a high as the first band to play were special guests Enter Shikari. Opening their set with newly released track ‘Stop the Clocks’ it was a clear that this was going to be a fun set and with the inclusion of the rarely played ‘The Paddington Frisk’ a few songs later that was all but confirmed. In true Enter Shikari fashion they put on a great show and the pyro blasting out during ‘Juggernauts’ really showed that they belong on the big stages. Whilst it was nice to see them intimately at Download Festival, they really could pull out all stops for their set with the huge screen behind them displaying various different elements to add to the show throughout. With the Quickfire Round flashing by the crowd were and truly here’s for a party. The 2019 mix of ‘No Sleep Tonight’ got everyone dancing before the crushing riffs of ‘…Meltdown’ finished the quickfire round brilliantly. By the time the band finished set closer ‘Live Outside’ it was clear the level of appreciation that was shown by the crowd. With chants of “Oh Enter Shikari” throughout and Rou’s words to “Be Wild, be free and be wonderful” taken on board this really was an incredible set to start the day with.

Enter Shikari

 

Machine Gun Kelly – BBC Radio 1 Stage

Next up for the day was Machine Gun Kelly, an artist that I was much less familiar with. This seemed to be something that I had missed as there was a huge crowd packing out BBC Radio 1 Stage to see him. New track ‘Candy’ went down a treat with the crowd singing it back at full volume! After playing at Download Festival a few years ago it was good to see his heavy influences throughout the set with a cover of Motley Crue’s ‘Shout at the Devil’ from The Dirt blasting out through the tent. ‘RAP DEVIL’ also made an appearance in the set and was a masterpiece to see live! Chants of “Yorkshire” filled the entire stage as Yungblud came out to perform with MGK for ‘I think I’m OKAY’. Having missed his set earlier in the day thanks to the transport it was great to see the young Yorkshire lad taking to the stage and bouncing around. One of the standout points of this set was that Machine Gun Kelly really showed off how much of a multi-instrumentalist he is by switching things up and taking on both the drums and guitar throughout as well as his vocals. Given my lack of knowledge beforehand this was definitely a surprise for me how much I enjoyed his set and I’ll definitely be listening to him more in the future.

Machine Gun Kelly

 

nothing,nowhere. – The Pit Stage

Keeping with the rap theme, it was time to catch emo rapper nothing,nowhere. an artist that I’d heard great things about but never managed to catch live yet. Working his balance of light signing and rap perfectly it was a very minimal performance but in the best way. With the confines of the tent over The Pit stage it worked perfectly with the intimacy meaning that each track hit home hard. The standout part of his set came as he finished with arguably his biggest track ‘hammer’. It was a perfect end and even managed to stir up a mosh pit in the closing moments to really release the emotion of the track. Definitely an artist that I’ll be checking out again in the future, whist the slow beats of emo rap are not usually my cup of tea this set really showed why nothing,nowhere. is really at the top of the game at the moment.

nothing,nowhere.

 

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes – Main Stage

Heading back to the Main Stage and changing the momentum very quickly to much heavier rock and roll, it was time to watch Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes. Having caught them at every Leeds Festival since 2015 I knew what to expect from the set but still they crushed it. The huge crowd began moshing as soon as the first chord of ‘Tyrant Lizard’ rang out. It was great to hear the newer tracks alongside older ones and really showed the growth that both Frank and The Rattlesnakes have done over the past few years. After all these years it’s great to see them rewarded with such a high slot after his set opening the Main Stage in 2017 everyone thought that would be the pinnacle. It’s great to see the band pushing the positive messages hard and this was made clear during ‘Wild Flowers’ where he not only had a female only crowd surfer moment but also a mosh pit just for the women in the crowd. It worked perfectly to give those that hadn’t had courage to do either before an opportunity to try it without a worry and hopefully gave them a great experience to take away. Following this it was back to the older tracks with ‘Devil Inside of Me’ which went down a treat causing an absolute ruckus in the crowd. Finishing with the huge ‘I Hate You’ was always gonna be a great choice but using it to ‘”Celebrate” the current prime minister, point out the failings in the current government and encouraging young people to vote was a great idea and certainly one I hope the crowd took on board. A fantastic set to really show what Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes stand for and how they are helping out the entire rock community. It won’t be too long before they are headlining the entire festival hopefully

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes

 

A Day to Remember – Main Stage

Continuing the heavier theme on the main stage were today’s main supports in A Day to Remember. Opening their set with ‘2nd Sucks’ really started the set off with a bang and what followed for the next 45mins could only be described as a brilliant set. Keeping things heavy meant that pits were opening everywhere and when rarely played ‘Sticks and Bricks’ came out the reaction was huge. Screams of “My heart is filled with hate!” were shouted back before the huge breakdown hit home and the crowd imploded on itself. After the heavy start things let up a little with ‘Rescue Me’ and the anthemic ‘Have Faith in Me’ getting massive singalongs. New track ‘Degenerates’ was added into the set and from the crowd’s reaction it’s certainly going to be around in their sets for a long time.

After the Huge ‘All I Want’ it was time to slow things down again for an acoustic version of ‘If It Means a Lot to You’ which really showed off just how good Jeremy McKinnon’s clean vocals were and by the time the song had built to its crescendo with the full band joining there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. Not one to put off a big finish, the band saved arguably one of their best tracks till last with the chants to ‘The Downfall Of Us All’ ringing out across the crowd and the CO2 and Pyro flying across the stage. With their set well and truly killed all that was left for the band to do was drop a huge banner down with ‘You’re Welcome’ on which only built the hype for the new album, only a few months to wait before its released.

A Day To Remember

 

Enter Shikari – The Pit Stage

No you haven’t scrolled back to the top of the post, it really is a second Enter Shikari set. Enter Shikari had the incredible ability to play two completely different sets in the same day and after their insane set earlier on the Main stage it was time for their Headline set on The Pit stage. Unfortunately due to the set times overlap with A Day to Remember, I wasn’t able catch the entire set but from the parts that I did catch it was no wonder that the tent was packed out. With old cut ‘Tribalism’ making its live debut despite being released almost 10 years ago just as I walked into the tent it was clear that this was going to be an incredible set. With the pyro and confetti thrown in it was certainly Enter Shikari’s no holds barred live show.

With big hits such as ‘Arguing with Thermometers’ and ‘Slipshod’ making appearances things were certainly rowdy and with everyone jumping into the crowd or climbing the stage framing it was clear this was a set to have fun with and definitely a great way to close the stage for the day. As the band finished with their set with ‘The Appeal and The Mindsweep II’ it was clear to see the energy was still flowing at 100% and it certainly looked like it ended the day on a high for the band. The fact that the band had pulled off two sets in the same day was one hell of an achievement and certainly one I’m glad to say that I was able to experience. I’ll say it in every review I write about Enter Shikari but it’s no lie, if you haven’t seen them live then go see them as soon as possible as it really is an unreal experience.

Enter Shikari

 

Foo Fighters – Main Stage

After being warmed up perfectly by both A Day to Remember and Enter Shikari it was time for today’s headliners – rock and roll titans Foo Fighters. Now in the past I’ve described sets starting with a bang but in this case there was a literal bang as fireworks shot into the sky as ‘The Pretender’ rang out. After this incredible start the band launched straight into ‘Learn to Fly’ as a para-glider flew about over Bramham Park. After starting at 110% the Foo’s dialled things back a little as they got to ‘My Hero’ with Dave bringing out his daughter Violet to help him on vocals which went down amazingly with the crowd. As the band introductions came around in the set the pace slowed a little bit but the band pulled a wild card when a guy dressed as Freddie Mercury in the crowd was invited on stage to dance along to Taylor Hawkins cover of the Queen hit ‘Under Pressure’. It brought a great entertainment factor and the guy pulled it off well getting a huge cheer from the crowd as he ran around the stage. Bringing out both All My Life and Monkey Wrench brought the energy back up to 100%. It was good to see how they had mixed some of their older tracks in with their big hits to really give a well-rounded Foo Fighters experience. ‘Best of You’ got a deafening singalong from the crowd being almost louder than the PA system.

As the band’s two hour set drew to its closing the band weren’t really to go down quietly and a cover of the massive AC/DC track ‘Let There Be Rock’ built up all the remaining energy and prepared the crowd for the last song in the set – the legendary ‘Everlong’. With Dave Grohl dedicating it to the crowd that had been with them for the last 25 years it really was a celebration of what the band had achieved over the years and as the song closed to an end and the fireworks rose to the sky over the giant logo it was clear to see just how much Foo Fighters meant to everyone in the crows and how they become one of the legendary bands in rock music. As the set wound down and people started leaving the arena it was clear from the overhead conversations that this would be a set to go down in Reading and Leeds Festival’s history books. A Phenomenal set to really end a brilliant day of Rock!

Foo Fighters

Review – Have Heart (One-Off Reunion Show)

Date: Sunday 21st July 2019

Venue: Stylus, Leeds

Supports: Stages In Faith, Big Cheese, Payday, Abuse Of Power

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Playing 10 year one off reunion shows in 4 cities was always going to be a huge hit but to have Leeds as one of the cities was monumental and really showed just how impressive the underground hardcore scene is in Leeds to draw a show like this. With tickets selling out extremely quickly, it was clear that everyone in attendance was in for a special night.

First up tonight were Stages In Faith. Going for a more old school hardcore sound mixing clean vocals and spoken word over the heavy distorted tracks, it was very reminiscent of bands like Leatherface. It was good to see that type of style was still being developed by the next generation of bands. Highlights from their set were recent track ‘Floodlights’ and their new unreleased track landed well with the early crowd to get the movement in the crowd started. Definitely a solid set to start off the night and hopefully the larger crowd that were present will pick up some of their tracks

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Stages In Faith

 

Next up were the mighty Big Cheese. After seeing these last year when they supported Madball I knew what to expect from them. As expected they put on a killer set which really work the crowd up. The hardcore dancers were out in full and kept up the same energy throughout the set. Going for a much heavier style of hardcore than SIF but it worked wonders to get everyone involved. To say they’re still a little off the radar they’re certainly making waves in the underground hardcore scene and definitely for the right reasons. Huge energy from the band matched the crowd perfectly and certainly a band to check out if you dig the heavier side of Hardcore! As the poster over the amps said – Don’t Forget 2 Tell The World.

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Big Cheese

 

Continuing Big Cheese’s theme of heavy hardcore were Payday it certainly kept the party mood well and truly in check. The set seemed to fly by with their short sharp bursts of songs but with the new album due out in September hopefully it’s not too long until Payday are back in Leeds. Highlight from them was the track ‘Blueprints’ from their new album which sounded very heavy and intense so will be interesting to see if the rest of the album matches. Certainly one I’ll be keeping my eye on in the near future! The whole band were tight and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. Definitely a good choice by Have Heart to book them and hopefully this will springboard them with their new album into the forefront of the hardcore scene.

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Payday

 

Last of the support bands tonight were the fantastic Abuse Of Power. Given the three stunning sets before them it was looking to be an uphill struggle for them to top what had already been a fantastic night. The band however had other plans and took the rooms energy up an extra level. With the front half of the floor becoming a warzone with people everywhere moshing and hardcore dancing. While the crowd were going crazy it was not much different up on stage with each member of the band moving non-stop as they powered through their set. Each member put in a fantastic performance and the end result was crushing hardcore that went down a dream.

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Abuse Of Power

 

Last up tonight were the band that everyone was here to see, Have Heart. It took a single note from the band before people were launching themselves from the stage into the crowd. As the band worked through the opening salvo of ‘The Machinist’ and ‘The Unbreakable’ it was clear that even though it had been 10 years they certainly hadn’t lost their edge and were still performing at a fantastic level. Crashing through their 17 song setlist it was clear that everyone in attendance had some connection to the band as every word was screamed back at the band throughout. Top tracks ‘Watch Me Sink’ and ‘Armed With a Mind’ got huge reactions from the crowd and were perfectly placed to keep the energy levels up even after three hours of solid hardcore. As the set reached its mid-point the band mentioned that the reason for this one off reunion is the world is currently going backwards in terms of equality and rights and that the band were showing that things need to keep moving forward with progression. Following this speech, vocalist Pat Flynn kicking the next song in with “Backwards Never, Forwards Forever”, a memento to live by that was shouted back by the crowd. In true Have Heart fashion as they reached their final track, they announced that this would be their last song ever with no encore or anything like that and as they smashed their way through ‘Watch Me Rise’ the entire crowd flooded the stage with chants of “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.” As the final note rang out, you could see the emotion on everyone’s faces, this really was a monumental show for everyone involved and certainly something that would be talked about for many years to come.

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Have Heart

Review – Download Festival 2019 (Sunday)

Download Festival 2019 – Sunday

I Prevail – Main Stage

Starting the day off nice and heavy I took a trip to the Main stage to see the incredibly heavy I Prevail. For a band that made their rise mostly through covers of pop songs it was great to hear that their original tracks sounds incredible. Despite it only being their second time playing in the UK they drew a huge crowd even given the fact it was only 12pm and the rain was pouring down. With sounds that were similar to A Day to Remember it was clear that the crowd were loving it with pits all throughout and plenty of people dancing along. Tracks off their new album ‘Trauma’ sound incredible with the standouts being opener ‘Bow Down’ which was an aggressive wake-up call and a great way to start the day and ‘DOA’ which got huge circle pits and singalongs at the same time whilst sounding incredible with the mix between the two vocalists. I Prevail are definitely a band that I’ll be trying to catch again in the future next time they’re in the UK

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I Prevail

Underoath – Main Stage

As Underoath took to the stage with the rain still pouring down, it was clear that the crowd was much smaller than it should have been for a band of this calibre. Not to help the rough start, the sound started a little off with the bass too heavy in the mix unfortunately affecting their sound. Once that was sorted out a couple of songs in all sounded good and the band really fell into their groove. Great vocals were on show from both singer and drummer who chimed in for a surprising amount of the tracks. With the majority of tracks coming from their new album ‘Erase Me’ it was clear that they fitted in well live. ‘Rapture’ was certainly a highlight sounded incredible and worked really well with their older stuff. The electronic element added greatly to the show to differentiate from generic metalcore and finishing with a pairing of the classic ‘Writings on the Wall’ before newer track ‘Sink with You’ went down a storm with the crowd. Finishing on a high it was great to see the triumph from Underoath despite their rocky start.

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Underoath

Starset – Zippo Encore Stage

Next up on the Zippo Encore Stage were my surprise of the day – Starset. I had heard and enjoyed a couple of songs by them on the Official Download Spotify playlist which meant that they were down to fill my time between Underoath and Black Peaks. However as the stage started to fog with smoke and the violinist and cellist appeared on stage it really piqued my interest that I was about to watch something different. As the rest of the band took to the stage in futuristic desert outfits it really was a sight to behold with the large sandy logo behind. As the tracks went on you could tell that the band were giving it 100% with early track ‘Monster’ sounding incredible. With the vocalist switching between two separate mic’s it provided a really interesting mix and the addition of some electronic elements mixed with the strings and regular band made for a great soundscape. Despite the fog machines working overtime and clouding the stage it was still a really enjoyable show to build the day up and certainly another band that I will be keeping my eye on in the future. Finishing their set with their top track ‘My Demons’, Starset certainly left a lasting impression on the unsuspecting crowd and for all the right reasons.

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Starset

Black Peaks – Avalanche Stage

After the surprise shock from the very impressive Starset before it was time for Black Peaks, a set that I knew from previous experience was going to be top notch. As I entered the Avalanche Stage tent it was clear to see the huge amount of people packing the tent and the anticipation was hanging in the air. As the band opened up with newer track ‘Can’t Sleep’ the tent fell into silence at the spectacle they were witnessing. With vocalist Will Gardner pulling out all the stops to deliver his fantastic mix of clean and unclean vocals and the rest of the band absolutely smashing it, it was clear that they had earned a reaction of this level. One of the surprises of the set was the Pyro the burst from the stage despite it only being 3pm and on the 3rd Stage. It was clear that everyone knew that this was going to be one of the standout sets from the entire weekend. Finishing with older cuts of the huge sounding ‘Say You Will’ and the incredible ‘Glass Built Castles’ ensured that the entire tent was moving. The only negative to pull from this set was that they only had six songs to impress but from this set, they’ll certainly be taking to the larger stages in the future. I have no doubt that Black Peaks will have picked up a new bunch of fans from this set and just in time for their headline tour in October.

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Black Peaks

Amon Amarth – Main Stage

Unfortunately due to the timing of the set Amon Amarth fell victim to me only being able to catch part of their set before heading off but boy did they pack a lot into the three songs that I caught.  A huge crowd had turned out to see the mighty Vikings and as they kicked off their first track it was incredible to see everyone banging their heads along to the huge riffs! Bringing heavy hitting drums and incredible sounding guitars with the deep vocals tying it over perfectly it really was a masterclass in metal music for everyone in attendance. With a huge amount pyro flying left, right, and centre and two Vikings engaging in combat on stage during ‘First Kill’ it really was a see it to believe it spectacle, being more of an entertainment set rather than just purely musical. As third track ‘Way of the Viking’ came to a crushing end it was time for us to leave which felt like a fitting end to their set for us. I can’t wait to get to enjoy the full Amon Amarth package later this year when they tour the UK as the posters around the arena were suggesting.

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Amon Amarth

Beartooth – Zippo Encore Stage

After cutting Amon Amarth short, it fell to Beartooth to ease my judgement and show why I was watching them and not still at the Main stage with the Vikings! As it turns out it was very much the correct choice. Having seen Beartooth a fair few times I knew what to expect but as with every performance they seem to improve on themselves. Given the huge size of the crowd it was clear that they are certainly rising through the ranks. Starting the set with a bang the band came out and immediately smashed into ‘Bad Listener’ performing to perfection, it really was a guide for what was about to follow.  With a mix of tracks during their set from all three albums it’s clear that fans both new and old of the band are very passionate with the crowd screaming along to every song. The reaction to newer track ‘You Never Know’ was incredible with everyone’s (and I do mean everyone!) fist pumping and head banging along. After a short speech talking about the importance of mental health on the community and how the band had helped him along personally, Caleb launched into final track ‘In Between’ which really finished the set with a huge bang as the crowd went crazy screaming all the words back. This really felt like a special set from Beartooth and I can’t wait to see them again on their 2020 tour.

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Beartooth

Lamb Of God – Main Stage

Next up for the day as it was drawing to a fever pitch were the Death Metal titans Lamb of God. As the crowd flocked to the Main stage to catch the huge band it was clear to see they were an band in demand and even clashing with the huge Anthrax hadn’t had too much of an impact on the numbers in attendance. Starting with arguably one of their biggest tracks in ‘Omerta’ things started off in great fashion and with ‘Walk With Me in Hell’ coming only a few songs later it was clear that they were firing on all cylinders with the band sounding incredible.  Unfortunately for me, this energy didn’t seem to continue for them throughout the set. Whilst it was still clear that the majority of the crowd were still rocking along there was just something off for me personally which I can only put down to the ability of all the bands that had put on stunning sets today beforehand. I’m definitely glad to have caught Lamb of God live though as they’ve been on my wish list for a long time and the early tracks really hit home well for me showing just how devastating the band can be live.

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Lamb of God

Fever 333 – Avalanche Stage

After the slight disappointment of the previous set it was time for things to hit the high notes again with arguably one of the most talked about sets of the weekend FEVER 333. Having been lucky enough to see their secret set exactly a year ago at Download Festival 2018 it was great to see the band back again playing to a much bigger crowd. As the first notes of ‘Burn It’ rang out the entire tent turned into a warzone with everyone both on the stage and in the crowd moving non-stop until the end. With the huge pairing of ‘Made In America’ and ‘One Of Us’ coming not far behind it was a brilliant showcase of just what the band had achieved so far in their short spell. With a short break for the band to show off their technical prowess with a drum solo and beatbox which included all three members hitting the drums as it came to a climax. Unfortunately due to the nature of a drum solo it did sap some of the energy from the crowd and the band had to put in more effort to the second half of the set to bring it back up. Luckily the setlist had been set up so that the huge ‘Out of Control’ could restart the movement with a bang. As the bands set drew to a close with ‘Hunting Season’ it was clear to see that the tent was back up to fever pitch – pun very much intended. As the band left the stage it was clear that through these demonstrations they were attracting a huge following and were only going to grow even more from here. With the headline demonstrations later in 2019 it was clear that there is no stopping FEVER 333 and that is very much a good thing!

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Fever 333

Enter Shikari – Avalanche Stage

For most bands following the explosive and very impressive FEVER 333 would be a tough challenge but luckily for me today final band and Avalanche Stage headliner Enter Shikari were the true champions of live performances and were on top form. Having previously headlined the Zippo Encore Stage in years gone by it seemed to be a downgrade to be headlining the third stage however the confines of a packed out tent complete with the Intimate venue tour they had done earlier in the year brought the perfect atmosphere to the set. Starting out with ‘The Appeal & The Mindsweep I’ was a master stroke with the entire crowd screaming along and following it up with my personal favourite Enter Shikari Song ‘Quelle Surprise’ it really was one giant mosh pit from the very beginning. With a very varied setlist covering all aspects of Enter Shikari’s sound it really was musically impressive and went to show that a band can experiment outside of set genres and pull it off perfectly jumping from the huge anthems of ‘Take My Country Back’ to the heaviness of ‘Slipshod’ to the technicality of ‘There’s a Price On Your Head’. After displaying the wide variety the band have, they decided to take it up another notch with the new version of the ‘Quick-fire Round’ which always goes down a treat at their shows. Amongst the usual heavy hitters the inclusion of a new ‘No Sleep Tonight’ remix went down perfectly, it really was a masterclass in how to mix songs perfectly and as the bad finished up with the fantastic ‘Live Outside’ there wasn’t a single person who left the tent without a smile on their face having just witnessed a perfect set. I may be biased given that they are my favourite band but seeing Enter Shikari play live is one of the most incredible things in music currently and certainly a must if you haven’t already. They were certainly the perfect way to end the whole festival on a huge high with easily the best set of the week for me personally. I can’t wait to catch them again in the summer playing at Leeds Festival.

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Enter Shikari

 

 

Review – Download Festival 2019 (Saturday)

Download Festival 2019 – Saturday

Royal Republic – Main Stage

Starting the day off with a trip the Main Stage, I was very keen to check out Royal Republic. Coming out to new track ‘Fireman and Dancer’ really set the fun mood for the upcoming set. Newest album mixed perfectly and older tracks like ‘Tommy Gun’ went down a storm. Deciding that they couldn’t manage to get the largest or most people in a single circle pit, Royal Republic decided to think outside the box and go for the most small circle pits. As ‘Don’t Stop Moving’ rang out the crowd were a sight to behold with pretty much everyone running around. Finishing on ‘Baby’ got a huge singalong to really warm everyone up for the day ahead. Extra points go to the band for not only appearing in matching red velvet jackets but also for playing Main Stage at Download Festival and brining out a keytar on multiple occasions (Even if it did cause a few technical difficulties). A very energetic set to start the day right and certainly a band to give a listen to if you haven’t heard them before.

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Underside – Dogtooth Stage

Not many bands start with a demon figure on stage but then again Nepalese metallers Underside are not many bands. Started off 100% but a few songs in and had a technical issue. Luckily skill of their drummer kept the audience captives with an intense drum solo. Once the band were back on track they picked up from where they left off with the crushing guitars really hitting the tracks home and the vocals coming crashing on top of them. Unfortunately the set had to be cut short thanks to the earlier issue but not before the huge Sky Burial and then the duelling solos of both guitarists to finish off their set with a punch.

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Palisades – Avalanche Stage

After a short break in the music it was time to head to the Avalanche Stage to check out metalcore act Palisades. The band only seem to come over to the UK for festivals and the occasional support slots. Bringing a majority of tracks from their newest album Erase the Pain to their set worked well and the crowd bounced along throughout. Title track of the album ‘Erase the Pain’ drew a huge reaction from the crowd and was certainly a highlight of the set. A very tight performance from the band and fantastic vocals both clean and screamed. Palisades definitely need to do a headline tour soon to build on their hype over this side of the pond.

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Skindred – Main Stage

Starting off with a bang Skindred launched into ‘Sound the Siren’ which started the crowd bouncing straight from the beginning. A few songs in they brought out Gary Stringer from Reef to provide some guest vocals over ‘Machine’ which worked as a nice contrast to Benji’s vocal style. Despite the rain still tipping down, they held the crowd well within their hands with everyone dancing along seemingly oblivious to the downpour. To finish off in typical Skindred fashion the crowd participated in a very damp Newport helicopter while the band crashed through ‘Warning’. Leaving the stage to ‘Nobody Does It Better’ it was hard to disagree with their choice of songs as they always put on a fantastic show and draw a huge crowd.

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The Hu – Dogtooth Stage

Having piqued my interest in the download playlist and having five minutes spare between Skindred and Trivium I felt it was only right to take a trip up the hill to see The Hu. As we approached the Dogtooth Stage it was clear that half of download had the same idea as there were rows and rows of people packed out of the tent to catch the sensations! Unfortunately due to the distance outside the tent it was hard to comment on their sound however everyone that had managed to fit in the tent seemed to be loving it so hopefully there will be another chance to catch them in the future.

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Trivium – Main Stage

As we headed back down to the main stage to catch Trivium the skies had started to clear and the sunshine flashed through the arena. For those still slightly damp the huge amounts of pyro flying from the stage will certainly have dried everyone off. As the band kicked things off with the huge ‘The Sin and The Sentence’ it was clear that they were here to bring the metal to Download this afternoon. As the band paid tribute to the festival for giving them their big break all those years ago  it was clear this was a set for the fans and a little bit of each album was thrown in for good measure. With Matt Heafy’s voice sounding incredible and the rest of the band putting on a crushing display behind him it was clear that they were fully deserving of the spot that they had earned. As the set drew to a close with the combination of  ‘Capsizing The Sea’ and ‘In Waves’ it was clear just how many people had turned out for their set as the cries of “In Waves…” were deafening and the crowd movement jumped to another level completely. Expect Trivium to be hitting the arenas next as they certainly put on a show for Download

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Die Antword – Main Stage

Turning the bass up to 11 after Trivium were this year’s controversial booking in Die Antwoord. Whilst they didn’t fit in with the other bands playing the festival they certainly fit under the alternative banner. Given the massive crowd that were there it was clear that everyone was just as intrigued to see what they would be like as I was. As it turns out not even the band knew why they were there but as they smashed through their hits it was clear that most of the crowd were getting involved. As a true marmite band it was clear that they received huge crowd reactions to their more popular songs such as ‘I Fink U Freeky’ and ‘Ugly Boy’ with the entire place bouncing along. In contract lesser well known songs like ‘Cookie Thumper’ kinda fell by the wayside and the crowd dropped off a little. Finishing their set with possibly their heaviest track in ‘Enter The Ninja’ you could feel the bass vibrating the entire ground and as they left the stage it was clear that there were a fair few converts in the crowd. Whilst Die Antwoord may not have been to everyone’s taste there it was clear that they can put on a very energetic show. For those who don’t venture outside of metal too often it was a chance to catch something different to the normal at Download.

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Halestorm – Zippo Encore Stage

As the Main Stage was cleared for Slipknot’s huge stage show to be set up, the majority of the crowd headed over to see Halestorm play a monumental set headlining the Zippo Encore Stage. Starting off with the mighty ‘Do Not Disturb’ and ‘Uncomfortable’ the band really showed that the new album was a huge leap in the right direction for the band. As the music raged across the crowd everyone was banging their heads and this just seemed to raise the energy coming off the stage. By the time came for Lzzy to do an acoustic version of ‘the silence’ the crowd definitely needed the calm. With the acoustic rendition showing just how powerful Lzzy’s voice is it’s no surprise that she is regarded as having one of the best voices in rock! As the set cracked on there was a mandatory break as with every Halestorm show for a drum solo from Arejay, unfortunately I’m still not a big fan of drum solos and this one was no different as it seemed to take a huge amount of the energy out of the performance. Luckily for me this picked back up straight after as the band smashed through ‘Freak Like Me’ with incredible ferociousness. Towards the end of the set the band brought on fellow vocalist Asami from the band LOVEBITES – who played earlier in the day – to do a joint rendition of ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’. It was a very impressive nod to the band that had clearly taken their inspiration from Halestorm. To finish off their set with a bang they chose top track ‘I Miss The Misery’. With soaring guitar solos and a hell of a scream from Lzzy the band certainly left the stage with everyone begging for more and with the arena shows later this year it’s clear that it won’t be too many years before Halestorm could headline the entire festival!

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Slipknot – Main Stage

Coming out to a combination of ‘People = Shit’ and ‘{sic}’ to create an incredible atmosphere from the start really set the bar for the rest of this evenings set. There was a reason that they had headlined multiple times and they were certainly here to deliver this evening. New track ‘Unsainted’ got one of the biggest reactions of the night from the crowd despite not being released too long before the festival. As the band smashed through their set with pin point precision it was clear to see just how good Slipknot had become and how amazing their live show was. As the set drew on older cuts such as ‘Custer’ sent the crowd into a frenzy and by the time the band got through ‘All Out Life’ anyone would be forgiven for having no voice and no knees left after all the jumping and screaming. Slipknot on the other hand were far from done with a fantastic version of ‘Spit It Out’ complete with the crouching and Jumping on a scale that could have shaken the earth before finishing their night off with the “National Anthem of Download Festival” in ‘Surfacing’. As their set came to an end, it really hit home the reason that Slipknot keep being given the opportunity to headline at download, they always bring a killer show. With the new tracks going down brilliantly it will be interesting to hear the new album when it is released and then see how those new songs transition into their set. There is one thing for sure though, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a Maggot!

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Review – Download Festival 2019 (Friday)

Download Festival 2019 – Friday

As June rolled around, a hundred thousand people ventured down to the hallowed turf of Donington Park to attend the UKs best rock and alternative music festival. With headliners of Def Leppard, Slipknot, and Tool there really was something for everyone. After a couple of days camping in the rain, it finally started easing up a little on Friday the bands started to hit the stage.

Kvelertak – Zippo Encore Stage

Opening up on Friday for me were Norwegian rockers Kvelertak on the Zippo Encore Stage! Matching the energy perfectly of Download. Musically the band were very impressive however they were let down at start by vocals not quite keeping to the same quality. It seemed that vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen would rather run round the stage celebrating his birthday a little too hard than sing the songs. After their rough start Kvelertak managed to pull it together by the time they hit their two most known tracks ‘Blodtørst’ and ‘Mjød’ and finished up with the great ‘Kverletak’! A decent band to start of the festival with and one that set the bar pretty high for all bands across the weekend.

Kverletak

Conjurer – Dogtooth Stage

Following up next on the Dogtooth stage were Conjurer, a band that I picked up at 2000trees last year but unfortunately due to set timings missed them. They were one of my must see bands of the weekend and they were certainly worth the wait. To sum their set up in one word it would have to be heavy! Playing a crushing but emotion filled set everything was pitch perfect for the band. Switching between the two vocalists work perfectly and let the bassist run round in the crowd. The drumming was done to perfection and finishing off with a huge circle pit really showed just how impressive Conjurer’s set was. I’ll definitely be catching them at their headline tour in October when it passes through Leeds.

Conjurerer

Clutch – Main Stage

Taking to a packed Main Stage were the rock and roll titans Clutch! Having honed their craft over the years it was no surprise that they sounded incredible. As it had finally stopped raining for the first time of the day they definitely picked up the party mood and the crowd were more than obliged to join in. With riffs for days and some killer solos it was clear to see why they had been moved up from playing the Zippo Encore Stage back in 2012 to high up on the Main Stage this year! Certainly a band to listen to if the Classic Rock N Roll is your choice of music! Finishing off with their masterclass of ‘Electric Worry’ went down a storm and really closed their set out on a high!

Clutch

Zebrahead – Avalanche Stage

Continuing the party theme were none other than ‘Mother Fucking Zebrahead Bitch!’ or MFZB for short! Coming out swinging with huge track ‘Rescue Me’, it was clear that the crowd were in full force at the Avalanche stage this afternoon. With the typical crowd kneeling down and jumping up happening to great effect and circle pits galore it’s clear that Zebrahead are a band in demand and them announcing they’ll be back in September lit the crowd up even more than before! Newer tracks such as ‘All My Friends Are Nobodies’ went down just as well as big hitters like ‘Falling Apart’ and to close things off with a band was their standout track ‘Anthem’. Zebrahead have the mix of singing and rapping really down to a T with the two playing off each other perfectly. This in addition to the huge guitar solos that soar over the top it is the perfect mix for a punk band to really start a party!

Zebrahead

The Interrupters – Avalanche Stage

Having only seen The Interrupters a few weeks back I was interested to see how the Download crowd took to them in comparison to Slam Dunk. Turns out The Interrupters has turned their game up to max, coming out of the gates in the Avalanche stage tent it was clear that the band were having fun and the crowd certainly returned the energy. Unsurprisingly playing a very similar set to the previous week it should have felt a bit off but everything sounded even better and more refined! Huge tracks like ‘She’s Kerosene’ and ‘Take Back The Power’ hit very hard and as the wall of death opened up down the middle it was very clear that everyone was on the same page. Changing things slightly with an Operation Ivy cover went down gloriously with the crowd and the chants to ‘Family’ as the band finished their set were deafening. Definitely one of the top sets on Friday and proof that Ska still has a place at Download Festival.

The Interrupters

Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators – Main Stage

Taking a short break from the Avalanche Stage and returning to the Main Stage I went to catch Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Given the opportunity to not only catch one of the most famous guitarists live but also one of rock’s most incredible voice, I couldn’t turn it down. Coming out the gates strong with ‘Call of the Wild’ it really showed that everyone was continuing the day’s theme and being on top form. After a few tracks the weather gods had decided a brief rainstorm was due but Myles Kennedy was on hand to dedicate a song to Lemmy and by the time the band started ‘Driving Rain’ it had stopped completely. With a huge sounding version of ‘World on Fire’ to finish the show it really hit home just how good this mix of artists were and why there were so many people watching.

Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – Avalanche Stage

Heading back to the Avalanche Stage, my last band of the day were the very unique Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. A self-proclaimed cover band they took all the classic tracks you know and love and gave them a very unique punk edge. The entire set was a celebration and the crowd were dancing from start to finish. Starting with a version of Cher’s Believe will give you an idea how this band works. Whilst the music may have been a parody the musicianship certainly wasn’t. Everyone played their instrument to the top level with each track sounding even better than on record. A Supergroup filled with Punk legends such as CJ Ramone (The Ramones) on Bass and up and newer artists like Stacey Dee (Bad Cop Bad Cop) on Guitar and vocals, there really was something for everyone in the set. High points in the set for me had to be the people crowd surfing during ‘Uptown Girl’ (A sentence I never thought I’d write) and the huge singalong to ‘Rocketman’. As the band finished their set there was just enough time for an encore of Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’ to really finish the party in style for day one of Download Festival 2019.

Me First And The Gimme Gimmes