FestivalsLive Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download 2023 – Friday

Photo Credit: Abbi Draper

No rest for the wicked or the sun burnt as the action roared back into life on Friday morning which was day two of this year’s quadruple slice of Download delight.

Today’s first stop took us to the Opus Stage for a Download debut by three Mexican sisters who were jaw droppingly good, musically tight and mega confident. It was the red eye slot and the first of the day when many of the late-night festival frolickers haven’t braved the daylight hours yet but those that made their way to the second stage were treated to a blistering set by The Warning. Six songs, and each as badass as the one before, the Monterrey siblings: Daniela “Dany“ (vocals, guitars, piano); Paulina “Pau” (drums, vocals, piano) and Alejandra “Ale” Villarreal (bass, piano, backing vocals) left their bootprints all over the scorched turf of Donington Park. A band steeped in classic rock traditions The Warning will be back at Download and they will be moving up the card. 8/10

Next the short walk through the lane to the Avalanche Stage for Redhook and having never heard of them before we weren’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Postcard From A Living Hell is the name of their recent album but our impromptu visit to check them out definitely wasn’t. Fury with a dollop of punk and fingers so fast it’s as if they are being worked up the neck of the guitar by a Terminator. 7/10

Take one of the world’s greatest frontmen and whack him at the front of one of rock music’s most influential and iconic bands. Elvana? How can this work? We’ve no idea but it bloody does. The Opus was rammed for this catsuit crooning Elvis impersonator leading the crowd through some of Nirvana’s biggest hits. When else can you hear A Little Less Conversation into the generation defining Smells Like Teen Spirit? It’s just so fun and seeing Elvis leap backwards into the crowd and be surfed back to stage while belting out Rape Me is a sight to behold. 8/10

On the Apex Stage Hot Milk’s Han Mee was the most energetic and enthusiastic of all the front people to that point. Galloping like Usain Bolt on Red Bull from one side of the stage to the other but never missing a note as they ran through a set list of new songs and deep cuts to a horde of enthusiastic fans rising and falling in unison. This Manchester foursome weren’t far from home here in the East Midlands but infact we’d say they were right at home already bossing the top stage at Download. 8/10

Pupil Slicer do exactly what you’d think they do. A brutal name for a band which takes no prisoners or makes no apologies for their audio barrage on the senses. The Dogtooth Stage had no room to breathe with punters packed in as tightly as the tent could cope and the walls seemed to rise as the intensity and ferocity of Pupil Slicer’s set grew. 6/10

Epica hit the Opus Stage buoyed and freshed from a handful of dates opening for Metallica and their Donington return hits all the right notes. The Dutch metallers incorporate all the best aspects of classical vocalist Simone Simons with metal riffs and of course their signature symphonic melodies and orchestra and choir touches. Fresh off their UK/European run earlier this year with Apocalyptica, and an unexpected trio of stadium shows opening for Metallica, Epica won’t be pulling any symphonic metal half strings on their return to Donington. Their set is short at only forty minutes in the baking afternoon sun but it is more than sweet and it’s enough to get the crowd roaring and short enough to leave us all desperate for more. 7/10

Next, we took a detour to Pop-Punk town on the main stage again as Neck Deep grabbed us all by the hand to lead us through one of the most jovial and smile inducing sets of the entire weekend. Sugary sweet choruses, with set closer In Bloom generating an especially huge response from the crowd, keep the masses grinning and singing along as if our lives depend on it. 6/10

Headlining the Avalanche Stage was the leader of Love Metal, the glam-pire himself Ville Vallo who shone under the neon glow of his heartagram backdrop. Bounding through a set list of his new solo songs with our own favourite Run Away From The Sun being particularly appropriate as we took refuge from the great fiery ball in the sky in the slightly cooler Avalanche Tent and a generous sprinkling of classic HIM tracks, including Right Here In My Arms, Buried Alive By Love and Funeral Of Hearts, it kept the packed tent bowing at the feet of the Finnish glam-pire of Love Metal. 7/10

Friday night finished with the new boys in town. The newest band to boot the hinge off the doors to the select headliners club. Move along big boys because Bring Me The Horizon have earned an invitation to the top table and on this form, they are here to stay. What a crowd there for this but what a performance BMTH put on. Production levels were off the scale and they had the single most metal moment of the entire weekend when frontman Oli Sykes screamed into the mic during Dear Diary while surrounded by a circle of fire. Oh, and his mic was depicting a decapitated goat while the stage was drenched in blood red lights.

One of the main criticisms of Download in the past has been their reluctance to give newer, younger and growing bands the chance to prove themselves as headliners. We’d suggest that BMTH have proved once and for all there is a massive desire to see new headliners alongside the classic bands we all know and love. Like Wayne’s World so prophetically said: “Book it and they will come.” And people came in huge numbers for the Sheffield metallers headline performance. Amidst the pyro and graphics which made this set as much a treat for the eyes as it was the ears the guest appearance of Amy Lee was an unexpected and nice touch. As Sykes said to the crowd at the end: “I will never forget this moment,” well neither will we. We have a new bonafide headline act now and more will surely follow. 8/10

Words By: Eric Mackinnon

Photo Credit: Abbi Draper

Photo gallery features Smash Into Pieces, As December Falls, Epica, The Blackout, Within Temptation, Architects, Evanescence.

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.