When attending Download Festival, you would be forgiven for believing that Friday lunchtime in the arena was the start of the live bands. In truth, by the time All That Remains have taken to the main stage this year for their 1pm opener, no less than 5 bands have already raised the curtain to the biggest rock weekend the UK has to offer. Welcome to the worst-kept secret… Welcome to the Boardie Takeover 2015!
Our opening act of the evening saw Halifax’s punk band Burning Flag take to the stage. Their straight forward style of short songs like ‘Early Graves’ & ‘Burning Flags’, featuring fast drum beats and gritty guitar riffs make them the perfect punk band and an absolute must on this event! The one thing I noted straight away was how their singer MD is so softly spoken between songs but lays down the lyrics with such volume and aggression! When I mentioned this to her after their set she noted that she doesn’t mean to be that way, rather she just has fun with the music they play and loves having the opportunity to perform at places like Download. Their new album is expected out in July and I for one cannot wait to hear it.
It was now time for the second band of the night. Wakefield’s Autumn Ghost took to the stage, launching into a progressive metal assault. Before the event I had listened to tracks from their debut EP ‘Astral’, and seeing them live showed me just how versatile their vocalists are! Ad and Bretty alternate styles throughout their set and deliver the perfect combination of clean and screaming vocals… It’s one of those “seeing is believing” moments.
The rest of the band supports their front men fantastically well. Again we saw a devilish combination, this time between calm interludes and aggressive breakdowns that had the Downloaders in attendance banging their heads to the beat. After they finished their set I caught up with bassist Col, who told me that he and the band were chuffed with their performance and glad that they could now relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend at Download, knowing they had absolutely hit the mark this evening.
As I return from the press area in the backstage, my ears are greeted by the familiar intro track of fellow-Liverpudlians, Scare Tactics. I have known these guys for the best part of 5 years now and even before speaking to them I knew just how much playing the hallowed grounds of Donington meant to them.
Kicking into gear with their distinctive heavy metal groove, it was clear early on that they were in the zone tonight and the crowd responded by opening up the first mosh pits we had seen this year. The band were quick to remind the fans to take care when “having fun out there” and it was easy to see that everyone got that message loud and clear. We were all treated to songs from the band’s debut album ‘Legion’, including the crowd favourite ‘Drunk Fuck’ & ‘Little Time’ for which Scare Tactics released a music video for earlier this year. This was a superb performance from four very talented musicians.
The fourth band tonight travelled down from Thurso in Scotland to play Download and they did not disappoint! I’m stealing some of their own words here, but they are a rock sound full of melody & thunderous beats. Within 2 songs, the tent starts to really fill up. Turns out these guys have a big following in the East Midlands this Thursday night! Rightly so might I add, they play a hard rock set filled with crowd pleasing choruses that have everyone jumping up and down and clapping their hands.
If you closed your eyes you could have sworn you were at a Def Leppard gig, they are really that good. I would be surprised if we don’t see Estrella back at download in future… This time in the main arena.
The last band on this year’s line up was 5-piece Plymouth band Huron. Takeover regulars will note that they have played before at Download, back in 2012 when they opened for headliners Seven Deadly. Needless to say, their return was highly anticipated.
It is always important for bands for to engage with their fans and give them a show, which is something that was not lost on Huron’s members. The crushing riffs and machine gun double bass drumming rained down on a packed doghouse tent as Knievel delivered a guttural body slam on the mic. Relentless and viciously precise, Huron left nothing in the locker. Shortly before the end, the band played a cover… ‘Into the pit’ by Testament! As they start to play, possibly the biggest circle pit in Takeover history opens up! We had seen pits during the night, but this one topped the lot… It was just like the band tonight, a sight to behold.
With the bands now done and dusted for the evening, it was now over to DJ Soundwave to play us out. If you have never seen this guy DJ, you need to check him out online immediately! His social media presence is all about his music mixes and his goal is to be the best metal DJ in the UK. Hearing him at the Takeover, you can quickly understand why he is so highly rated in the industry.
One thing was clear as I walked out of the Doghouse tent at the end of the night… This year’s line-up had been one of the strongest to-date. The bill had a cross-section of genres that will have taken older fans in the crowd back to the gigs of the 80’s, where punk, hard rock, thrash & hair metal would have shared the same stage. The bands can be proud of themselves after their performances, because they pushed the boundaries and raised the bar for the bands that will play in 2016 and beyond.