After three long years without a full scale Download Festival, this year most certainly did not disappoint!

Following on from the prestigious Download Pilot last year, Download 2022 was one to remember, that’s for sure.

Friday

Press Club – Avalanche Stage

Melbourne punkers Press Club well and truly kicked the festival off in the best way possible! They began their instantly electrifying half an hour set with the track ‘Separate Houses’, which immediately caught onlookers attention. Even though Press Club are a fairly new band on the alternative scene with only a few years experience under their belt, the entirety of their energetic, passionate set certainly got the crowd pumped for what was to come over the course of the weekend. Tracks such as ‘Headwreck’ were an instant crowd pleaser, with eager fans in the middle leaping into the air expressing their excitement. Natalie Powers was a standout frontwoman who barely stopped to take a breath for the duration. Overall, a great start to the festival and most definitely would be interested to see them live again.

Theory – Apex Stage

Next up on the bill were Theory (previously known as Theory Of A Deadman). Hailing from North Delta, British Columbia, this Canadian rock band certainly didn’t disappoint! As a longtime fan of Theory, I was more than ready to know what they sounded like live. 2011’s ‘Lowlife’ was up first and Tyler Connelly was most certainly compelling to watch as a vocalist. Even though Theory’s live performance is exactly as you would expect, there is no doubt that their entire set was polished, slick and a joy to watch. ‘Bitch Came Back’ was a pleasant surprise for track two, which most definitely got everyone singing along in unison. ‘Rx (Medicate)’ managed to turn things down a notch, before Connelly leapt in to sing another fan favourite ‘Hate My Life’. They even took a slight break to engage with the crowd to play the classic riff of Guns N’ Roses’ iconic track ‘Paradise City’, which got fans hooked on every note. There were no hidden surprises, but it was a decent set overall!

As Everything Unfolds – Avalanche Stage

As Everything Unfolds’ thirty minute set was sensational from start to finish! After seeing them for the first time at the Download Pilot last year, it is very evident that this band are just getting better and better. As Everything Unfolds are most definitely in their prime, with lead vocalist Charlie Rolfe engaging the audience at every moment throughout the short set. The six piece sprung into action with their debut track ‘Take Me There’, which got the crowd hanging on every word. ‘Hiding From Myself’, ‘Grayscale’ and ‘Wallow’ were also sure highlights. They ended the set with a bang, playing their most notable track to date ‘On The Inside’ – one that everyone was certainly waiting to hear (including me!). Rolfe was very humble throughout, even though the band have really upped their fanbase since their performance at the Pilot last year. She thanked all the fans for their everlasting support and seemed to look hopeful for the band’s future.

Bury Tomorrow – Apex Stage

I managed to speed walk my way to catch the last few tracks of the set from the British metalcore giants that are Bury Tomorrow! Daniel Winter-Bates was a truly captivating lead and combined with Tom Prendergast on clean vocals, it made the set unforgettable. ‘Black Flame’ and ‘Cannibal’ were ideal closers for their 35-minute set. Onlookers were clearly attentive to their every word and for good reason. It is without a doubt that Bury Tomorrow have faced a lot of difficult hurdles within their career, especially within the last few years. However, they have well and truly stormed past those blips in the road and have come out victorious with the undeniably talented new members Ed Hartwell and Tom Prendergast really helping to push the band into super-stardom territory.

Not only are Bury Tomorrow one of the most prominent and promising metalcore bands on the scene right now, they also provide the energy and crowd engagement that is required to make a set like this truly astonishing. I am definitely going to try and catch them on tour in the near future or maybe even at Download 2023?!

Black Veil Brides – Apex Stage

I opted to stay put on the main Apex stage for Black Veil Brides. This is the second time I have now seen BVB in a live capacity and not going to lie, I wasn’t that impressed. I felt that vocalist Andy Biersack didn’t really have a lot of charisma and stage presence and was just there to perform a few songs and leave. Clearly, I wasn’t alone in thinking this as the crowd was pretty much dead. It is inevitable that the band were a tiny bit sceptical about returning to Donington Park following the band getting bottled by the divided crowd in previous years. However, I feel like they could have made a bit more of a conscious effort to make the set more diverse with a mixture of old and new material, as well as engaging with the crowd just a little bit more. Following this rather disappointing situation, I decided to walk on over to the Avalanche Stage for Meet Me @ The Altar.

Meet Me @ The Altar – Avalanche Stage

I only managed to catch a few moments of Meet Me @ The Altar’s set as I was intrigued to see what they were like live before walking over to get a good spot for the almighty Skindred. Even though I was only present with them for a couple of songs, Meet Me @ The Altar proved that they are certainly on the rise. Not only were they a full on female trio, they were also representing WOC, which is a sign that the alternative music scene is evolving and most certainly for the better.

Meet Me @ The Altar jumped headfirst into their eclectic live set, with ‘One band, five girls, get ready to have your fucking socks rocked off by Meet Me @ The Altar’ blaring out of the speakers. The Eastside ladies wasted absolutely no time in entertaining the crowd, jumping right in with their first track ‘May The Odds Be In Our Favour’. Whilst I was there watching their set, there was no denying that their all-female energy on stage was infectious and memorable, to say the least. Definitely worth more of a watch next time!

Skindred – Apex Stage

Following on from their impeccable live performance at the Download Pilot last year, Skindred were back in full force for the first full-scale Download since 2019. Frontman Benji Webbe proves that the ‘ragga-metal’ collective are more than capable of entertaining 10,000 people, engaging the masses with his humorous and unique personality once again. It has been said time and time again that Benji was born for doing this and I can only agree. He has this real yet relatable stage presence which is just electric every time you see the band live. Webbe and the rest of Skindred just have that real knack of keeping thousands of people focused and alert in a crowd that some bands can only dream of doing.

Of course, Skindred came out with all their classic bangers during their hour long set, with ‘Kill The Power’ and ‘Ratrace’ helping to make their time at Download this year truly sensational. There is honestly nothing more heart-warming than seeing a massive crowd of festival goers joining in with ‘Warning’s infamous Newport Helicopter. I have seen Skindred about a handful of times and I don’t think I will ever get bored with their insane live performances. One of the highlights of the year for sure!

Sleep Token – Avalanche Stage

I have only seen Sleep Token once before at Download Pilot last year, and I most certainly wasn’t going to miss them on the Avalanche Stage this year. The incognito alternative metal group provide as much intrigue as before with their unique ‘ambient metal’ sound. They kick things off with ‘Alkaline’ and ‘Hypnosis’ – two of the most recognisable tracks. As I near the end of the 45 minute set, Sleep Token kick things up a notch with arguably their best known song ‘The Offering’, which had everyone clapping along with every note.

A lot of people say that Sleep Token are one of the best new metal bands to emerge from this scene, and I couldn’t agree more. Their live stage presence is really something to remember, keeping you present from start to finish. They really offer a taste of something completely different, gaining a cult like following in the process. Vessel’s vocals were outstanding as always, with every beat of the drum pulsing through your veins!

A Day To Remember – Apex Stage

Ocala’s very own A Day To Remember took to the main (Apex) stage on the Friday night. During the limited time I witnessed this performance, they really proved that they are very much here to stay. They started off strong with the iconic nostalgia hit of ‘The Downfall Of Us All’, which highlighted why they were main stage material, even to this day. ‘What Separates Me From You’s ‘All I Want’ was up next, seriously upping the ante and having a great time while doing it. By the time ‘The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle’ comes around you are most definitely impressed with their energetic performance. Vocalist Jeremy McKinnon’s interactive and strong presence on stage was sure to engage fans old and new, with a real mix of newer tracks and old classics thrown around keeping everyone satisfied in the process.

Saturday

Death Blooms – Dogtooth Stage

The first band on my list for Saturday was Death Blooms! As soon as the jarring opening synths began, you knew you were in for a treat! Paul Barrow and the rest of the band leap out onto the tented stage with a sheer purpose; to keep the crowd entertained for 25 minutes. Barrow whipped the crowd up like a storm instantly with his electrifying and bold stage presence. Without a second to rest, they don’t waste any time starting out with ‘Life Is Pain’. As the set goes on, you realise how fantastic Death Blooms are. It is safe to say that their live performance is strikingly charismatic and downright heavy, with crowd surfers galore attacking you from left, right and centre. In the short timeframe they were given to show what they can do, they most certainly proved that and more! Death Blooms are most definitely a band that are going to move on to bigger and better things in the future – simply amazing.

Cassyette – Opus Stage

Cassy Brooking (aka Cassyette) certainly knows how to put on a show! As I raced from Avalanche to Opus to catch her set, her electro-rock bangers like ‘Behind Closed Doors’ and ‘Petrichor’, as well as new track ‘Sad Girl Summer’ kept the crowd happy for a good 35 minutes. Even though her vocal talent is clearly insane, you can observe that her stage presence makes the set just like any other – average.

Ice Nine Kills – Opus Stage

Ice Nine Kills are a newer addition to the regular Download line-up, with their most recent album ‘The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood’ seriously propelling this horror punk group into super stardom. Spencer Charnas’ presence on stage was entertaining to say the least. I really admired the theatrical nature of their set, with actors on the side-lines doing the most to add another dimension to Ice Nine Kills’ performance, done superbly. ‘Hip To Be Scared’ got the crowd moving rapidly, whereas ‘Funeral Derangements’ and ‘The American Nightmare’ closed off their set remarkably. Considering this is their first ever appearance at Download, the group have done even more than previously expected, proving to fans old and new why they are a solid booking for any festival in the future.

Loathe – Avalanche Stage

Fresh from their performance at Download Pilot last year, the Liverpudlian metalcore fourpiece took to the Avalanche Stage this year for a truly astonishing set. From the first note of ‘Aggressive Evolution’ to the last note of ‘White Hot’, the band have proven that they are definitely on the rise! Loathe’s set was evidently brutal throughout and for good reason. Entertaining a packed out Avalanche tent, their mosh worthy tracks sizzled like wildfire in this smaller setting.

Holding Absence – Avalanche Stage

Holding Absence are one of the key contenders for the Avalanche Stage crown of the weekend and it’s not hard to see why. From a totally packed out tent to some outrageously catchy tunes, Holding Absence are a band that have gone up in my estimations. ‘Curse Me With Your Kiss’ is the debut track on the setlist, with the notoriously infectious ‘Afterlife’ coming up second to last. You can definitely see why Holding Absence have attracted a semi-large fanbase over time. Frontman Lucas Woodland seems generally thrilled and humbled to be there, with the rest of the band giving the same energy from song to song. Another Pilot band rolling over from last year, Holding Absence have well and truly marked their territory here and for good reason!

Shinedown – Apex Stage

Long time Download performers Shinedown are back here again, following their last performance at the festival back in 2018, pre-pandemic. The Jacksonville rockers kick their set off with brand-new track ‘The Saints of Violence and Innuendo’, which goes down a treat. As soon as the initial chords of ‘Cut the Cord’ ring out on the Apex Stage, the crowd are more than ready to party! Saying this, by the final note of ‘Sound of Madness’, you are left wanting that little bit more. One thing I noticed was that vocalist Brent Smith was more interested in speaking his mind than interacting with the crowd, which made their performance lacklustre overall.

Creeper – Avalanche Stage

Southampton based horror punkers Creeper were the last full set of the night for me. I had never got the chance to see them live until this moment, and I really wish I had! From the very first second of their live stage show, I was hooked. Vocalist Will Gould really held his own for the duration of the performance with the eager crowd hanging on to his every word. The light show was truly electric from start to finish. The real highlight of the set was ‘Annabelle’, which was almost anthemic in nature, with ‘Misery’ and ‘Midnight’ both adding a touch of individuality to the performance. The crowd were truly singing along with every word, making this performance really something to remember. It really seems like the cult-like mentality isn’t just prominent with Sleep Token after all!

Deftones – Apex Stage

Even though I ended up only catching half an hour of Deftones’ set on Saturday night, it was more than enough. Every song that Chino Moreno tried to sing just ended up being a car crash, with every song clearly merging into the next with no breathing room. One redeeming feature of the performance was Moreno’s attempt at screaming, which was actually reasonably delightful. A lot of people in the crowd appeared to be dazed and staring out into the distance, completely unaware of what was going on around them and for good reason.

Sunday

Wargasm – Apex Stage

Despite being over 10 minutes late starting their set, British/Northern Irish electro-punk duo Sam Matlock and Milkie Way certainly made up for the delay. They initially kicked things off with a brand-new song which kept onlookers intrigued, to say the least. However, they quickly made their presence known with notable tracks such as ‘Rage All Over’, ‘Spit’ and their gritty cover of N*E*R*D’s ‘Lapdance’ taking the reins. One thing that I very quickly realised following Wargasm’s inevitable return to Donington after last year’s Pilot, was that their set had become extremely polished and perfected since the last time I saw them a year ago. Following their record deal announcement with Republic Records a few months ago, it has clearly changed them for the better, with the electric pairing just getting stronger and more prominent in the rock/metal scene.

They were very much a risky gamble for many, kicking off Sunday’s antics on the Apex stage yet Wargasm have well and truly proved their worth in many ways. Their high-energy, ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude is always a sure winner in my eyes, providing a real grit and rawness that is needed in the industry right now.

The Hara – Avalanche Stage

After a couple of hours of resting my very tired legs, I ventured out again to the Avalanche Stage to watch The Hara for the very first time. Safe to say, I was most definitely impressed with what I witnessed. After a somewhat notable entrance, vocalist Josh Taylor engages with the crowd from the first second, showcasing a no bullshit attitude and way of being that is unapologetically himself. As Taylor jumps right in with ‘Black Soul Ceremony’, the impeccable high energy is right there from the get-go as he walks purposefully around the stage – he is exactly where he needs to be in this moment. Even though the sound wasn’t particularly up to scratch in the Kerrang! hosted tent, The Hara did the best they could with the tools they were given.

Alestorm – Apex Stage

Scottish pirate metal fanatics Alestorm are the real heroes of Download Festival and it shows. From the first second of their performance, the Perth natives entertained me and made me laugh from beginning to end. To some degree, they know themselves that they are probably considered the joke act of the whole weekend, yet they fully embrace the utter madness and humour themselves completely throughout. Vocalist Christopher Bowes has somehow escaped the race row controversy that has come back to haunt him, with a packed crowd eager to be entertained surrounding him. The set was rubber ducks and bouncing balls galore, keeping people alert and focused on what was in front of them. It was great that everyone could forget the controversy Bowes had endured for a second and truly let themselves go. I mean there is nothing better than watching a bunch of metalheads jump around to lyrics such as ‘Fuck you, you’re a fucking wanker / We’re gonna punch you right in the balls / Fuck you with a fucking anchor /You’re all cunts, so fuck you all… right?!

Rise Against – Apex Stage

Rise Against haven’t been back on Download turf since 2018 and we have missed their much-needed political activism. Vocalist Tim McGrath says about making songs that inspire change, aiming to move the world forward with their very relevant and outspoken lyrics. Even though their challenge to change the world still very much exists in their music, this time round their live performance really lacked something special. Unlike the last time that I saw them live, their setlist was pretty mediocre, with nothing really to tell the tracks apart from one another. Even though Rise Against pulled several trump cards out of the bag like ‘Savior’ and ‘Ready To Fall’, the majority of their live show didn’t leave much to the imagination, unfortunately.

Spiritbox – Avalanche Stage

To say that Spiritbox were the absolute highlight of my whole weekend would be an understatement! Download 2022 was Spiritbox’s debut festival performance in the UK and I was so excited that I was there to experience it. From the first note of their insanely brilliant ‘Circle With Me’, the crowd within the tent was ever expanding, even getting onlookers from way outside the tent’s structure. This is a sure sign that Spiritbox could easily have been bumped up even further from the Dogtooth Stage to the second stage at least… maybe next time?!

Courtney LaPlante was truly exceptional as a lead vocalist and frontwoman, owning her rightful position in one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands of the last few years. If you thought that her impressive vocal talent was undeniable in Spiritbox’s studio work, just wait until you get the chance to see them live… truly incredible (and that doesn’t even give them enough credit!)

Skillet – Opus Stage

Skillet are constantly proving themselves to be one of the top dogs on the hallowed grounds of Donington Park. They consistently have an unforgettable live show, with realms of charisma whilst sticking to their religious roots, with vocalist John Cooper quoting The Bible at various points throughout the set. Newer tracks such as ‘Surviving The Game’ and ‘Whispers In The Dark’ definitely didn’t overshadow the classics like ‘Awake and Alive’, ‘Monster’ and ‘Hero’ though, but were fantastic in their own right. Skillet are most definitely not a one hit wonder, as the crowd kept getting more and more vast as the set continued. Not only are they musical wizards who are uncapable of creating a bad song, they are also a bunch of insanely talented musicians.

Trash Boat – Avalanche Stage

Trash Boat are another band that absolutely rocked the (boat!) at the Avalanche Stage this year. Tobi Duncan’s energy right off the bat was absolutely astonishing and most definitely kept onlookers on their toes! ‘Vertigo’, ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ and ‘He’s So Good’ were sure fire highlights of the set’s entirety, whereas ‘Bad Entertainment’ was a winner in its own right. The pairing with Wargasm’s Milkie Way was a memorable feature of the track and it was elevated even further in a live setting. Duncan was clearly there to make a statement and that he certainly did. Image, imaginable prestige and LGBT rights were all covered in his much-needed rants, really paving the way and guiding modern society to be much-more positive and accepting in their day to day lives.

Korn – Apex Stage

Korn are long standing Download participants and it’s not hard to see why. The nu-metal group fronted by Jonathan Davis are iconic in more ways than one, spanning a career of over 30 years. As always, Korn certainly didn’t disappoint, imposing the question of why these absolute legends haven’t had the chance to headline Download yet? Even though they are one of the oldest bands at this year’s festival, it definitely doesn’t mean they are unforgettable and less relevant than before. Mixing it up with new and older tracks on their ever expanding discography, Korn really delivered an impeccable live performance that I will not be forgetting in a hurry!

Boston Manor – Avalanche Stage

Boston Manor are certainly not new on the scene, having been a band since 2013. Despite this, they are still more than capable of giving a fantastic live performance, regardless of the setting. For old school fans of Boston Manor, they would have not been disappointed at the chosen setlist, however I’m a pretty new fan on the scene and would have appreciated a few more newer tracks. ‘Halo’ was by far the highlight of the set for me though, with fans (including me) holding on to every single word Henry Cox belted out.

Steel Panther – Opus Stage

Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that Steel Panther are entertaining! As the last act of the weekend on the Opus stage this year, I think they were an amazing addition to the festival. Even though the majority of their jokes on stage would have only appealed to a small audience, I found them extremely humorous throughout the set. A lot of their songs sound identical to one another though, but that doesn’t matter as their presence just made the performance complete.

Overall, Download Festival 2022 was a sure fire winner in my musical books and the fantastic weather just made the whole experience complete. The overflowing happiness of other festival goers just outshone everything else, as this is the first full-scale Download event since 2019. What an insane 3 days – bring on Download 2023 and 4 FULL days of music!

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