Gig Review: Download Festival Sydney
Event: Download Festival
Venue: Parramatta Park, Parramatta
Date: Saturday 9 March, 2019
Photography: Tam Schilling - Tamcam Images
Review: Nicole Roberts & Steve Jenkins
Download's inaugural Sydney event is done and dusted and, sporadic rain aside, it seemed to be a great success! We had a couple of IRH team members traipsing about the joint on Saturday, covering as many of the bands as we possibly could - some only for a few songs, some for an entire set. Enjoy our round up of highlights of the festival and hope to see you there next year!
SJ: Voyager kicked things off as punters entered Parramatta Park, with their prog metal sound getting a good amount of eyes and ears paying attention straight away. The clouds were hovering above but Voyager brought a bright and vibrant sound that reflected on everyone watching them, as the crowd seemed very happy and excited for the day ahead.
SJ: Next up it was time for some thrash metal from New Zealand, Alien Weaponary, were up next and they delivered a very energetic and heavy performance that had the crowd moving and with plenty of horns raised. Their set was very reminiscent of an early Sepultura, so it’s safe to say that this young band have a very bright future ahead.
New Years Day
NR: Californian rockers New Years Day had a bit of an uphill battle getting the crowd moving during such an early slot in the day, but front woman Ash Costello's energy, enthusiasm and rock 'n' roll attitude did help them make some headway. They blasted through new material and fan favourites alike, including highlights 'Hostile' and 'Skeletons'. Being early on in a festival was never going to be easy, but the band put in a solid performance, even throwing in a metal sacrifice for the late, great Vinnie Paul, and undoubtedly picked up a couple of new fans along the way.
NR: Going into watching their set, I wasn't sure what to expect from the British duo. The sum of my past experience with the band had been a brief love affair with their hit track 'The Hunter' back in the day and a passing knowledge of the shitty activities of one of their ex-members. Luckily, I was absolutely blown away by how ridiculously fun and entertaining these guys are. With just a bare bones drum kit, a guitar, and two very distinctively British vocalists, they threw on one of the most energetic, entertaining, and fun sets that I saw all day. Constantly moving, including forays into the crowd, the lads never stopped - even the drummer (Isaac) didn't use a drum stool, preferring to stand and dance whilst playing. Between hug breaks and everyone chanting 'fuck the hi-hat', the duo had phenomenal rapport with the crowd, and a stage presence that really impressed me. Even if their music isn't for you, their live show is something that should definitely be experienced. P.S. FUCK THE HI-HAT!
War On Women
The Beautiful Monument
NR: The Beautiful Monument did the Aussie heavy music scene proud, with a fantastic set which saw them show off their musical chops to an adoring crowd. The badass band screamed and shredded their way through their impressive catalogue, earning themselves quite a few new fans.
SJ: Things got extreme with High Tension as they delivered an intense performance that saw Karina Utomo execute some brutal vocals added with her huge stage presence. They certainly won over fans and proved that they are one of the best live metal bands in Australia right now.
NR: Right, straight off the bat, if you think the following review of their set is me being an absolute sweater of this band, you are 100% correct. However, don't let the insane love sway you - they are genuinely a fantastic band to see live and there's a reason why so many people who saw them walked away saying that their set was the highlight of the festival (this reviewer included).
Now that's out of the way, on to how much of a phenomenal performance this was, and christ on a bike, was it a stand out performance. I went in knowing that I was going to love it, since I'd been a huge fan of letlive. for so many years, however, even I was absolutely gobsmacked by how utterly insane it was. Starting with Jason Butler (he of letlive. fame) on stage with a pillowcase over his head, standing stock still while their intro music played, the rest of the band eventually came on and from the moment Jason ripped that pillowcase off his head and went batshit, it was intense. Jason was a destructive, whirlwind, tearing down a fence to stalk through the audience, crowd surfing, dismantling the stage, jumping off of speakers and destroying a drum. He perfectly balanced that with his impassioned interludes about racism and sexism, adding some real impact with his words. His fellow band members matched his intensity at every step, with drummed Aric Improta leaping out of his seat and proving to be a force to be reckoned with, and guitarist Stephen Harrison adding even more energy with his outrageous stage presence.
Musically, they were so goddamn on point, making me feel the intense passion behind their music right down to my bones. Their seamless blend of rock, punk and rap is so fantastically executed, and their insane quality of their limited catalogue (they've only been around 2017) is a testament to what great musicians they are. From 'ONE OF US' and 'BURN IT' to 'Made An America' and 'We're Coming In', their music is tight as hell.
I could really go on about this band for hours, but all I really need to say is this - it takes a very special band to make me feel a tightness in my chest caused by intense joy and passion, and Fever 333 made me feel it. If you ever get the chance to see these guys, take it. It's an unmissable experience and the fever is definitely spreading worldwide.
SJ: Polish blackened death metal masters Behemoth put on a spectacular and memorable performance that was filled with corpse paint, fire and pyrotechnics. Frontman Nergal had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he commanded the onlookers to raise their fists and chant along to the mayhem that ensued. Definitely one of the highlights of the day.
SJ: Code Orange took things up a notch with an unmatched intensity that they brought to the stage. The sound was unfortunately a bit off, but that didn’t stop the crowd from losing their minds with circle pits, hardcore dancing, and limbs going in every direction. This band is stupidly heavy and I think a lot of people would like to see them come back sooner rather than later.
SJ: Back over on the main stage, thrash metal legends Anthrax had a huge crowd for their set, as they looked like they were having plenty of fun as they always do when they play here. Their set list was very solid and it had metalheads pumped up and excited.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Twelve Foot Ninja
NR: Hell yes, Rise Against. The stalwart punk rockers are always such a pleasure to watch, with frontman Tim McIlrath always creating such a strong bond with the audience. Their set was a fantastic mix of old and new, with highlights including 'Drones'. 'Savior', 'The Good Left Undone', 'Satellite', and 'House On Fire' - they had something for both the longtime fans (yours truly) and the newer fans who are just being introduced to the joy that is Rise Against. Musically, they were so tight and flawless, which truly isn't a surprise - these guys are fantastic performers and work together like a very well oiled machine. They also brought on two surprise guests for two covers - Shawna (War On Women) for a Black Flag cover and Spike for a Misfits cover. These were fun, I will say that, but in all honesty, as a huge Rise Against fan, I would've preferred just some more straight up Rise Against stuff.
Honestly, it's no surprise Rise Against were a highlight of the festival. Between their great musicality and their enthralling stage presence, the group put on such a fantastic show. They connect with their audience, they get the crowd screaming their lyrics, and from start to finish, they're such a joy to watch. Bravo.
Thy Art Is Murder
NR: Talk about a powerhouse vocalist! Lzzy Hales' vocals from the get go were just as powerful and intense as they are on their records, brimming with attitude and a rock 'n' roll badassery that had the crowd moving. Halestorm kept up a fearsome pace, peppering in newer tracks like 'Black Vultures' with old fan favourites like 'Mz. Hyde' and 'Love Bites (So Do I)'. Their balls to the wall signature of rock that you can hear in their tracks is brought to their live shows in spades and it's abundantly clear why this band have managed to cultivate such a dedicated fanbase.
Alice In Chains
SJ: As we moved into the evening, Alice In Chains deliverer a strong set, but the crowd seemed a bit disinterested at this point with a lot of people sitting down and talking to each other rather than paying attention to the stage. It was a rather drastic drop in terms of energy levels, but they sounded great up there and the crowd reacted really well when 'Rooster' was played.
NR: Punk rock icons Pennywise hit the stage in a hurricane of jokes, fast paced songs, and punk rock glory. The crowd loved them, and I think they loved the crowd equally. With tracks like 'Alien' and 'Fuck Authority', and a Beastie Boys cover thrown in for good measure, they kept up the energy and the punk spirit as they ripped through their set.
SJ: The mighty Judas Priest were up next and there’s no denying that they still have what it takes fifty years into their illustrious career. Their opening track 'Firepower' got the audience banging their heads and the 67 year old Rob Halford delivered an excellent performance, hitting his signature high-pitched scream, and multiple wardrobe changes as well. Their set list had a tonne of variety, with everyone reacting positively to the old and new songs. Halford sat on a giant Harley Davidson towards the end of the set, with classics such as 'Painkiller', 'Hell Bent for Leather' and 'Breaking The Law' rounding out their memorable performance. They’ve still got it.
NR: Oh man, Sum 41 crushed this. The last time I saw them in 2014, I think Deryck Whibley was going through some rough stuff so they obviously weren't as on top of their game as they are now. Thankfully, the rock gods were smiling down on me, as Sum 41 were tight as hell, absolutely owning the stage and reminding me why I was so in love with them as a teenager. Deryck had an incredible chemistry with the crowd, whipping them into a frenzy and connecting with them on a whole new level. He was charismatic and entertaining and had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the second he jumped onto the stage. They pumped out the hits one after another, including 'Over My Head', 'Motivation', 'Walking Disaster', 'In Too Deep, 'Fat Lip' and 'Still Waiting. They treated fans to covers of Pink Floyd, Queen, and a little bit of Ozzy Osbourne. From their excellent set list to their endless energy, even to the creepy skeleton thing in the background, the spectacle of Sum 41 was an unmissable, memorable event which I'm so happy I got to see.
SJ: Now, it was the band that diehard metal fans had been waiting all day for, Slayer! The eager crowd started chanting for them almost as soon as Judas Priest had finished their set and had barely walked off stage. It was dark and the atmosphere in the air was electric. The build was slow and eerie, before they ripped into opening song 'Repentless' which was an onslaught of heaviness. Slayer weren’t here to muck around, as they went into each song with ferocity, never missing a beat. Guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt were delivering some absolute crushing and fast riffs and soaring leads and solos. Proving that they are one of the tightest and overall best live bands in metal.
NR: Closing the Avalanche Stage, Ghost were back for the first time in 6 years. One of the things I love about the band is their theatrics and their drama, and they brought it to this show. There were demonic costumes and elaborate staging setups aplenty as Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghouls played hit after hit. Mixing it up with both new tracks such as 'Rats' to older favourites like 'From The Pinnacle To The Pit', to one of my favourites 'Absolution', they enthralled the huge crowd as they ended the night with a bang. Whether you're a fan or not, this band are like clockwork, moving about the stage in tandem as they perfectly executed song after song. It was definitely a fantastic end to an incredible day.