Review: Download at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, March 24 2018
After many long years of waiting, England’s greatly-revered Download festival finally arrived on Australia shores this Saturday, hosting thousands of keen, Aussie metal fans at Melbourne’s Flemington Raceway.
Not only were attendees met with a deluge of the world’s finest heavy metal, punk and hardcore bands, but they also copped a traditional UK Download experience in the downpour of rain, wind and mud that enveloped punters, whether they liked it or not.
Conjuring memories of the teething issues of early Soundwave festivals, lines at the gates were certainly frustrating. But those who made the choice to forgo a quick Bunnings trip for a poncho, thus making it in early, were rewarded with a ferocious set by locals Clowns.
The Melbourne five-piece pumped out future classics like ‘Dropped My Brain’, setting the tone for what was surely going to be an intense day of mind (and ear drum) destroying music.
With their set inexplicably moved forward by four hours, Sydney djent lords Northlane offered an absolute masterclass in modern metal. Bassist Alex Milovic, in particular, brought showmanship and technical skill rarely seen from a band lumped with a 1pm set time. Many fans may have had to scream along from outside the gates, but there were plenty more opportunities for a proper mosh ahead.
For those looking for a breather from the dual-pronged European onslaught of Sabaton and Gojira on the main stages, a whole other type of party was being hosted under the Avalanche tent. The likes of Trophy Eyes, Neck Deep and The Story So Far brought a far more upbeat, but equally genuine, vibe.
Emotionally intense, and clearly cathartic for their rabid fans, Trophy Eyes proved why they’ve been creeping their way up Aussie festival lineups for the last few years. Vocalist John Floreani took some time to warm up, letting the crowd handle a good half of the vocal duties at the start of the set, but was in fine form for the epic melodic closer of ‘Hurt’.
As most of the crowd was confused about the inclusion of Good Charlotte on the lineup, vocalist (and judge on The Voice) Joel Madden seemed equally bewildered by his own presence.
With a set-list featuring pop-punk anthems from GC’s first two albums, the crowd seemed torn between allowing their inner 11-year-olds to yell along to ‘The Anthem’ and ‘Little Things’, or shamefully double-checking that their mates hadn’t noticed how much fun they were having.
Expected to be equally divisive, Limp Bizkit were anything but. The nu-metal bad boys, fleshed out by the return of original beatmaker DJ Lethal, reigned in by far the biggest crowd of the day. No one could hide their enthusiasm for Chocolate Starfish classics like ‘Hot Dog’, ‘My Way’ or ‘Rollin”.
After an ill-advised attempt at a cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Durst and Co. declared they were ready to break the rules, and closed out their set with fan favourite ‘Break Stuff’.
The raging rap-rock anthem not been heard on Australian shores since the tragic loss of a young fan at Big Day Out years ago, and while the crowd largely were on-board, there was a feeling of awkwardness to the end of the set.
No such guilt was felt during Prophets of Rage, who brought undeniable intensity to original anti-establishment anthems, as well Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and RATM tracks. With the members of now-defunct Audioslave on stage, Morello delivered a brief obituary for their fallen frontman, turning the mic to the crowd for a touching instrumental rendition of ‘Like A Stone’. Grown men and women unashamedly choked back tears trying fill Cornell‘s shoes.
So sombre a moment, however, still couldn’t dull the power of ‘Killing In The Name’, the sentiment of which rings as true now as ever. Even without De la Rocha at the helm, it was hard to imagine how any artist could possibly follow on from the intensity of the classic Rage anthem.
Then again, Korn aren’t frequently cited as the most important heavy band of the last 25 years for no reason. They can still put on a show, with prodigal son Head back in the fold, Munky swinging guitars and dreads with equal abandon, Fieldy‘s bass tuned so low it was indistinguishable from Luzier‘s ferocious percussion, and Jonathan Davis at the top of his game.
After ten hours of mud, endless double-kicks and unearthly growls, you’d expect the crowd to be done. But, when Davis launched into ‘Blind’ with that now-immortalised “ARE YOU REAAADY?”, the answer was clear. Korn came to prove that they still belong at the top of this celebration of all things fast and heavy.
Australia is clearly ready for a big, heavy music festival on our calendars again. Download proved that. Thousands and thousands of fans are here and waiting, with no interest in glittered faces and op-shop hipster get-ups, to have their ear drums battered, bodies bruised and vocals chords torn to shreds, all in the name of that most unifying of all genres; Heavy Metal.