Live Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download 2022 – Friday

Photo Credit: Abbi Draper

And so, the gates of the promised land were finally opened, ending a near three-year period of musical purgatory without a full-length Download to cleanse our souls. The promised land of Donington Park welcomed us all into her warm embrace this summer as the mosh pits returned, the metal hordes gathered and the Download Dog howled in delight as up tens of thousands of marauding metallers and rock n’ roll revellers descended on the world’s greatest weekend of musical mayhem – Download Festival.

A festival unlike any other on the musical circuit, a place of belonging, togetherness and of course the historical, spiritual home of rock n’ roll. And in 2022 and for us, Heriot were the band to officially confirm the good times were back and that it was time to get our rock on. The experimental upstarts booted the doors open on the Dogtooth Stage and were the first band to flood our lugs with bone shaking, heavy hitting slabs of metal, washing over us like a jaw dropping, musical embrace.
Taking inspiration from across the entire heavy metal spectrum, Heriot channelled a ferocious amount of energy into their set which doesn’t last long enough for the enthusiastic crowd who are left ravenous for more. One thing for sure is that these Midland music-makers will be back at Download again soon and next time they won’t be opening the stage, they are destined to keep climbing the bill after a performance like this. 7/10

The next stop on the magical mystery Download express was the Avalanche Stage to see PENGSHUi; a band hellbent on leaving a crater in the stage. Mega-energy from a band who sound like a cross between a grime band and a punk band who got into a fist fight at a metalcore concert. Eat The Rich has the crowd bellowing back every single word back to the stage which brings an undeniable grin on the chops of frontman Illaman but for all the chaos and furious pace in their set, it all ends on a calmer and emotional note as Illaman urges the crowd to settle and turn to hug the gig-goer next to them in the crowd – the first heart tugging moment of a few which came at Download this year. 6/10

For so many bands returning to the stage of mega festivals like Download has seemed like a forlorn dream for so long. As the world ground to a halt during the pandemic in the last few years, plugging in and performing to thousands has seemed so far away. One of those bands is Bury Tomorrow as frontman Dani Winter-Bates reveals on stage their road to the Apex Stage has Download has been a long battle. Referencing delays, cancellations and the hellish journey over the Covid years, Bury Tomorrow seem as relieved and delighted to be on stage as we all are to be in front of them in the arena. Eager to roar back their lyrics, flinging our heads in time to the beat and enjoy a return to glorious metal madness. A set packed with pyro, more surfers than Bondi Beach as dozens were passed across the top of the crowd, circle pits but mostly wide eyed and grinning faces, Bury Tomorrow cranked out a set full of big hitters including The Grey (VIXI), Man on Fire, and Black Flame which leave both the crowd and the band breathless but completely satisfied. 7/10

Skindred are the Download house band. In the 13-years we’ve been at Download it feels as if we’ve seen Skindred at almost every single one. That’s not a bad thing by any stretch and Newport’s finest are the perfect embodiment of a festival band who know what the crowd want and how to give it to them. Benji Webbe has long since had the Donington Park faithful in the palm of his hand and 2022 was no different. Shirts off, swing them around your head helicopter style – of course. He prowls the stage like a rock n’ roll warrior, in complete control, dripping in charisma and an infectious grin. Songs like Kill The Power and Nobody are well established, deeply rooted Download favourites now and have reached the point that when we hear them in ‘real life’ we are immediately transported to the Donington Park field and can almost smell the air and feel the grass under our feet. 8/10

Having never seen Sleep Token live before we did wonder quite how they would bring their anonymous and mysterious masked magician theme to the stage. Now we know. They simply let their music do the talking and it tells phenomenal, personal and moving yarns. Often, we find that the more mysterious a band is, the stronger the bond its audience will have with it and it is clear Sleep Token have struck a deep chord with their fans and have captured the imagination with their ‘lore’. The masked frontman Vessel, synonymous with the band – comes out with a guitar over his shoulders, and has the crowd singing along every lyric with their set opener Alkaline. The tent isn’t full by the time the band starts but with two or three tracks it is as their sound, musicianship and performance drags in stragglers and passers-by. Nine songs pass by far too quickly with an emotional highlight and quite something to witness had Vessel audibly sobbing during Mine. It was a haunting and hugely emotive part of the song and shows just how much emotion and of his entire being he, and his bandmates, are pouring and channelling into their art. 7/10

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes were late additions to the Download bill as they stepped in to answer an SOS after The Distillers pulled out. There was a terrific musical nod to the missing American punks with a cover of their Drain The Blood bringing a cheer from the crowd but it is their own songs which hit hardest and deepest. A big hit at last year’s Download Festival pilot where the band were one of the headline acts, Frank Carter is no stranger to the festival. After all, he first played there some 15-long years ago now as part of Gallows. He is a frontman who thrives and visibly grows with crowd interaction and this year was no different. He is a frontman who likes to be as close to his people as he can, hugging and high-fiving his devoted fans and all the while never missing a note or a beat. My Town, Devil Inside Me and Crowbar ensure the energy never dips below fever pitch and he even dedicates a moments silence to the ‘other bands we just murdered,’ as he acknowledges the band are producing something very special on stage. 8/10

The Demon, The Starchild, The Catman and The Spaceman have had their passports stamped on UK soil one last time as the American legends finally hang up their face paint. Download was blessed with a staggering back catalogue of mega hits from Deuce; Detroit Rock City and Love Gun; KISS with a sensational show to bring an end to four and a half decades of crazy, crazy nights. For one last time KISS brought their usual pyro-packed show to the main stage at Download before they bowed out from our musical lives forever. This was their fifth stint as a Donington headliner, but this will be their last. Perhaps knowing this was the end of the road made this feel all the more poignant and important. After all, the likes of KISS’ Beth, Strutter, Rock N’ Roll All Nite, Deuce are the kind of songs from a legendary band which turned so many of us onto this gloriously muddy path to festivals like these in the first place. But their Friday night headline performance wasn’t purely based on nostalgia or sentimentality. It was a masterclass in ass kicking, ear worm-infecting rock n’roll mega hits as they showed the next generation of wannabe headliners how the big dogs do it. ‘You wanted the best,’ bellowed over the speakers as it always does when KISS are in town – well tonight and for more than 40-years we might have had the best. 8/10

Words By: Eric Mackinnon

Photo Credit: Abbi Draper

Photo gallery features Bury Tomorrow, Black Veil Brides, Skindred, Normandie, Sleep Token, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and KISS.

Eric Mackinnon
Long time journo who sold his soul to newspapers to fund his passion of following rock and metal bands around Europe. A regular gig-goer, tour-traveller and festival scribe who has broken stories of some of the biggest bands in the world and interviewed most. Even had a trifle with Slash once. Lover of bourbon, 80's rock and is a self-confessed tattoo addict.