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LIVE: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL AUSTRALIA – Melbourne, 11 March, 2019

| 15 March 2019 | Reply

LIVE: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL AUSTRALIA – Melbourne, 11 March, 2019
Slayer, Judas Priest, Ghost, Alice In Chains, Anthrax and many more
Review & a couple of amateur photos by Shane Pinnegar

Official photos by Ian Laidlaw, used with permission

Slayer by Ian Laidlaw

The second year of Download Festival in Australia kicked off with a debut in Sydney, where a nearly drama-free show (four medical transfers, three for pre-existing conditions, one case of natural selection when a fence-jump went awry) proved that political showboating , drug paranoia and an “excessive” police presence were completely irrelevant to 20,000 fans of heavy rock n’ roll music.

Melbourne’s second Download event (are we allowed to call it an annual thing yet?) was similarly attended by around 20,000 punters. Our experience was pleasant and fun all day, with our fellow crowd-members almost unanimously polite, friendly and good-natured (there will always be a few drunken bums barging through any big crowd) and we didn’t see a single act of any kind of aggression. The ever-present police seemed superfluous to the point of boredom, most of them chatting to fans or amongst themselves whilst leaning on fences, some even seeming to enjoy the world-class music on offer.

Early starters on a beautiful Melbourne day were treated to insanely good sets from Perth prog legends Voyager, who opened the festival at noon; Tassie punks Luca Brasi; Ruins, Slaves, I Prevail, highly rated newcomers Fever 333; and a triumphant party set from South Aus rockers Airbourne, who seem to finally be persuading Aussie crowds what the Europeans have known for a few years now: these guys can seriously tear up a main stage, and act like they’re the biggest band on the planet no matter who they’re playing for.

Death metal legends Behemoth brought fire and aggression to the main stage in an early afternoon display of face painted, shape throwing brutality, and we saw fans own face paint rubbing off or melting in the sun bit by bit for the rest of the day.

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes are fun, fun, fun – a demi-supergroup of punk semi-legends (Lagwagon, Bad Religion and more) who play beefy covers of some of the most unlikely songs of all time. Billy Joel, Cher, Elton John and John Denver tracks all got the MFATGG’s treatment, but it was Billy Thorpe’s Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy) and Judy Garland (and also Thorpie’s) staple Over The Rainbow that had the whole crowd singing in full voice.

Anthrax turned up the volume on the main stage for a short set of iconic metal, Scott Ian and (relatively) new boy Jon Donais’s guitars shredding through early classics Caught In A Mosh, I Am The Law, Antisocial and Indians, with frontman Joey Belladonna’s rich voice impressing the most. Coming all the way to Australia and being allowed only forty-five minutes to perform, it’s hard to think that the band and fans weren’t shortchanged – Anthrax are as important in the overall scheme of things as any other band on the bill, after all, and a full set was deserved.

Aversion’s Crown brought some seriously heavy growling to the Ascension Stage, while 4-times ARIA winners Amity Affliction showed why metalcore fans are so enamoured of their two-pronged clean/scream vocal assault. Pittsburgh closed out a pummelling and intense main stage set.

Amity Affliction by Ian Laidlaw

Fuck My School Reunion, When My Baby Smiles At Me I Go To Rehab, You Are Not My Friend, Fuckin’ Genius and a few jammed riffs in homage to absent former headliner-to-be Ozzy Osbourne (including Crazy Train, War Pigs and Iron Man) could mean only one thing: Sydney’s punk jesters Frenzal Rhomb were lording it up over at the Dogtooth stage. The Frenzals are as fun, funny and rocking as always as they amiably take the piss out of themselves and anything else that takes their fancy.

Alien Weaponry may have had a shitty sound mix to contend with, but they slayed a packed Ascension stage crowd with pure modern metal and can boast one of the healthiest (and most dangerous looking) circle pit we’ve seen in ages. Their youthful confidence and brutal tunes show why they’re one of the most promising young bands in heavy metal on the planet.

Pennywise took no prisoners in the Avalanche Stage tent, delivering a fast, furious and raucous set of good natured punk n’ roll which engaged the crowd, especially on anti-establishment anthems Society and Fuck Authority, while main stage fans were treated to high energy punk from Chicago’s Rise Against. They delivered a great set which included bringing out War On Women’s Shawna Potter for a cover of Black Flag’s Rise Above and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes’ Spike Slawson for The Misfit’s Hybrid Moments.

Alice In Chains by Shane Pinnegar

It should come as no surprise that Alice In Chains were an unmitigated highlight. Their set was a veritable powerhouse of sludgy rock n’ roll, heavy on the early faves but also paying homage to more recent albums with frontman William DuVall. The charismatic DuVall has proven himself the perfect successor to the late Layne Staley, and whilst he boasts a similar timbre, he is resolutely his own man in front of the mic and on the guitar. Opener Bleed The Freak, Rainier Fog, Them Bones, Dam That River, a semi-acoustic No Excuses, and the mighty Angry Chair and Man In The Box were all riveting, but it was an achingly drawn out, epic and emotional rendition of The Rooster, which guitarist & co-vocalist Jerry Cantrell wrote about his Vietnam vet Dad’s war experiences, which resonated the most. This track wisely closed their set, as there wasn’t much hope they’d be able to follow such walloping climax.

Judas Priest by Shane Pinnegar

Heavy Metal pioneers Judas Priest delivered the goods with a set which similarly cherry picked iconic classics and more recent offerings. As with most classic bands, their newer stuff is best received when it directly echoes their former glories, and tracks from last year’s Firepower sat comfortably along with long-time favourites Sinner, Turbo Lover, Freewheel Burning and You’ve Got Another Thing Coming. Sure. We’d have scrapped some of the more self-indulgent newies and extended musical passages for more of the classics (NO Living After Midnight  ) given the choice, but nit picking is daft when seeing the 45-year veterans (and frontman Rob Halford’s collection of amazing technicolour jackets) at all is such a joyous experience. Halford rides (or is wheeled) out a motorbike for Hell Bent For Leather, which is as iconic as it is ridiculous, before a crazy metal Painkiller brings their main set to a close. Electric Eye and Breaking The Law are a masterclass in crowd pleasing encore.

Sum 41 raised the temperature in the tent, with a sardine-packed crowd moshing along to favourites In Too Deep, Fat Lip and Still Waiting.

When Ozzy Osbourne was forced to pull out a few weeks before the event due to health reasons, it seems Slayer got the nod to take their place as surrogate headliners of Download Australia 2019, and they rose to the occasion sensationally. Bass player/singer Tom Araya looked trim and fired up as they launched into an (alleged) farewell performance to be reckoned with. There was no quarter given as he, demon guitarist Kerry King and Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostaph delivered an assault on the senses which never stopped for long enough to take any prisoners.

 

Slayer by Ian Laidlaw

No-one should have to choose between Slayer and Ghost, but some bright spark scheduled them AND Halestorm all clashing on different stages. It’s the only serious mis-step of the day by the organisers, and sadly we missed Halestorm entirely.

Faceless Grammy award-winning Swedes Ghost played to a dwindling crowd in the tent stage as the majority of fans seemed to favour Slayer after sampling both, or left entirely after an exhausting but rewardingly long day. Ghost deserved better, their more-Blue Oyster Cult-than-death-metal tunes as infectious live as on record.

Ghost by Shane Pinnegar

That Slayer won out between the three show-closers is no surprise. Put simply, their performance is vital and brutal by ANY standards, let alone for a bunch of old guys who’ve been playing together for close to forty years. Mandatory Suicide and War Ensemble are legendary, while a close barrage of Dead Skin Mask, Hell Awaits, South Of Heaven, Raining Blood, Chemical Warfare and Angel Of Death leave mouths agape at their sheer ferocity and surgical precision, and the constant whoosh of pyro just made the whole experience even more epic. Theirs is a fitting farewell to a country who obviously loves their work.

Slayer by Shane Pinnegar

YES!

The music, especially Slayer, Ghost, Alice In Chains, Judas Priest.
Extended set times due to the original headliner cancelling.
The (mostly) respectful, friendly vibe.
Australia needs a heavy music festival – how about the rest of the country for 2020 please?

NO 🙁

Set clashes. UGH! What on earth would it have looked like if Ozzy HAD played?!?
Smokers. Seriously – why aren’t ALL festivals smoke free, or at least have designated smoking areas?
Limiting the event to Sydney and Melbourne, and having practically no sideshows in Perth.
Flying the likes of legends Anthrax to Australia to play for a measly 45 minutes.

Shane

Category: Live Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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