The spiritual home for rock, metal, punk and everything in between, Donington Park has been hosting legendary gigs for almost 40 years. And, much like the genres it champions, it walks a tightrope between paying its dues to the world-conquering acts of old, and championing up-and-coming talent that can carry the torch for the next 50-plus years. With Download 2017 offering a decidedly more modern-oriented line-up, it seems only fair that 2018 should lean more heavily on the classic contingent to balance the scales.
Marmozets stand out as one of very few major exciting new band bookings on the Main Stage at Download 2018, having only just released their second record a few months prior and enjoyed the fruits of a mostly sold-out UK tour.
The band have clearly taken lessons from the road to heart, taking to the stage with such self-assurance that you’d believe they were born to do this. It's a factor which becomes increasingly apparent as vocalist Becca Macintyre oozes star quality, not hurt in the least by the fact the band are dropping massive anthems like ‘Play’ and ‘Major System Error’.
Over on the Zippo Encore stage, Andrew W.K. is very much living up to his moniker of The King of Partying.
Dividing the set into two halves (opening half – new material, second half – massive tunes all the way), it’s a little disappointing that the crowd trickling over from Marmozets miss out on the likes of new roar-along ‘Ever Again’ or ‘Music Is Worth Living For’.
Nevertheless, once the man with the biggest grin (and best gurn) in rock lets loose with ‘She Is Beautiful’ and a 93-second countdown before ‘Party Hard’, you can rest assured that the whole crowd reflects that hedonistic mantra.
In one of the strangest dualities of the weekend, the Avalanche Stage alternates between cheesy 80s pop tunes during the crossover between bands, followed by two sets of unbelievably potent punk from Cancer Bats and The Bronx respectively.
For the former, the sheer aggression of ‘Hail Destroyer’ and ‘Sabotage’ threatens to take the top off the tent.
The Bronx, meanwhile, offer an unyielding sense of hyperactivity that sets the bar for all energetic performances across the whole weekend.
The only day to truly offer alternatives to its Main Stage, Friday offers the choice of You Me At Six on Zippo (promising anthemic sing-alongs and swagger for miles) or Avenged Sevenfold on Main (promising an enormous stage-show, backed by even bigger tunes).
Each of Friday's headline slots showcases artists at the top of their game, showing just what it takes to be a rock star in the new millennium.
If ever there was a case to be made for British hardcore being in one of its most productive and creatively fertile periods ever, Higher Power could be chosen as exhibit A.
Swinging grooves like a baseball bat and attacking each vocal with similar zeal, the band are nothing like the tinned-breakdown purveyors of the past decade, instead choosing to let loose with riff after riff after motherfuckin’ riff.
Meat and potatoes metalcore with none of the funny stuff added, Bury Tomorrow aren’t here to reinvent the wheel, but to sear the fundamental principles of the genre into the brain.
Between sing-alongs and chugging riffs, Daniel Winter-Bates baits the crowd with taunts and encouragement to get the most from an early afternoon crowd, teetering between arrogance and confidence in a way that clearly delights fans.
Rolo Tomassi are ear-splittingly loud on the Avalanche Stage, Eva Spence unleashing her full range of howls, snarls and serene melodies to keep the whole crowd rapt throughout the set.
Never staying in one position or place for longer than a couple of seconds, she contorts her body and strikes poses as the set progresses, the precise movements and unyielding violence like watching an apex predator circle in for the kill.
They may be considered divisive, but Babymetal pull what must be easily the biggest crowd on the second stage all day (if not weekend). A sea of faces stare expectantly to the stage as the intro video begins (in turn, introducing the new concept and ‘storyline’ for the band), followed by a number of masked women holding sceptres to the thunderous beats of a heavy metal instrumental.
The atmosphere now completely electric, the arrival of vocalists Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal causes an eruption of cheers, only intensifying as the band let loose with their distinctive theatrical display.
It’s not often you’ll go to a metal show and see synchronised dancing –
and Babymetal are most definitely metal on a musical level, particularly post-debut – so the opportunity to see the band do something completely different to the rest of the world is worth the price of admission alone.
Closing out the second stage, Australian metalcore mob Parkway Drive produce undoubtedly one of the most (literally) incendiary performances of the weekend, with an enormous stage production to boot.
Heralded by explosions and punctuating their riffs with fireworks and gouts of flame, the band work seamlessly with their production to create a sense of unstoppable metal imperiousness.
Quite how this band aren’t already cemented onto arena level is anybody’s guess, but the sheer strength of their set and passionate performance makes it feel like a near-certainty that they will achieve such status in the not-so-distant future, particularly when they bring out tricks like covering almost the whole stage in flames.
Not even that most frowned upon rock star excess the drum solo can derail the atmosphere, helped along some by the fact that drummer Ben “Gaz” Gordon is strapped into a revolving drum platform that twists, turns and leaves him soloing upside down.
But, for all of their bluster and incredible stagecraft, Parkway Drive haven’t yet got the pulling power of Guns N Roses, who draw quite possibly the biggest crowd Download Festival has ever seen for a single band (certainly the biggest in the past few years).
Guns N Roses close out Saturday night with a three-hour demonstration of exactly why they are revered as one of the world’s most recognisable rock bands, uniting fans by their many thousands under the single banner of roaring along to good times rock n roll.
The wait for a debut album by Puppy has been almost unbearable, but with the end in sight it feels fitting to see the band absolutely smash the Avalanche Stage early afternoon.
While they’ve always had an interesting sound (think Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins and Metallica having a jam), the new songs introduce a hardcore-like energy that suggests their days of playing tents could soon be behind them.
It’s all go for new bands on the Avalanche Stage as Milk Teeth let loose with their own brand of punkish, 90s-inspired alt rock.
The last time they played Download it was to a capacity fourth stage, so to see them once again fill a tent and show just how much they have evolved over the past couple years, a sensation which is reinforced by the inclusion of great new songs like ‘Owning Your Okayness’ – not bad for a band who literally turned five the day of the festival.
Love them or loathe them (and you'll almost certainly sit in one camp or the other), Black Veil Brides pull an enormous crowd to roar along to their set of arena-ready goth-rock tunes.
Despite their theatricality, the band are somewhat lacklustre in performance - not that you'd tell by the frantic reaction coming from the field.
Opening with a storming cover of ‘Raining Blood’ and closing on the furious ‘Cop Killer’ (complete with guest vocals from Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta), Body Count nail their colours to the mast for just how metal they can be.
When it comes to family friendly shows, Body Count won’t often come to mind. But, with a ten-year-old in the front row and Ice T’s own 2-year-old daughter onstage, it turns out that the whole family can enjoy visceral 90s rap metal, particularly when its message is so vocally anti-racism and bigotry.
The festival was headlined by the Prince Of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
His first ever solo appearance at the festival, it was a fitting end to a weekend of metal mayhem.