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LIVE: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL AUSTRALIA – Sydney, 9 March, 2019

| 15 March 2019 | Reply

LIVE: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL AUSTRALIA – Sydney, 9 March, 2019
Slayer, Judas Priest, Ghost, Alice In Chains, Anthrax and many more
Review & Photography by Stuart McKay

Judas Priest

As the gates opened for the first ever Sydney instalment of the incredibly successful Download Festival, a sea of black shirts descended onto the beautiful surrounds of Parramatta Park to worship the Gods of Metal. Since the departure of festivals like The Big Day Out and Soundwave, Aussie rock and metal fans have been starved of the big festival experience for a number of years, but with the success of the inaugural Download in Melbourne in 2018, hopefully it could gain even more momentum each year to become a nationwide festival for all the big cities of Australia to enjoy. One can only dream!

First up on the main stage were Perth’s very own Voyager who despite the early start, pulled a sizeable and engaged crowd that seemed to lap up their prog-metal offerings and got the crowd well and truly buoyant for more to come.

Voyager

Up and coming Kiwi lads Alien Weaponry entered the stage to a mild response albeit until they performed the Haka, which got the crowd suitably whipped up and ready to digest whatever they had to offer: a blistering display of politically charged straight-up metal with a fearless stage presence that impressed and eventually won over the crowd quite easily.

Local act Polaris had the advantage today of playing to a home crowd but that didn’t mean they were resting on their laurels. Frontman Jamie Hails was a crucial part in getting everyone engaged and did a great job of working the stage like a pro while the rest of the band concentrated on cranking out their energetic blend of metalcore.

The Dogtooth stage was the next port of call with High Tension. This band has gone from strength to strength and with last year’s long player release Purge, have really solidified their place as one of Australia’s best metal exports. This is in part because of their dynamic frontwoman Karina Utumo, who completely commands your attention on stage. She sings with such ferocious intensity that you can’t take your eyes off her. Utumo also provided the first crowd surf of the day; something that would be repeated regularly throughout the day on this stage.

Code Orange

When Grammy nominated Hardcore outfit Code Orange walked out you could tell from the get go that they were there to destroy. They have been touted by big names like Randy Blythe and Corey Taylor and it’s easy to see why. They have this fearless intensity that comes with youth and they all have their own unique way of interacting with the crowd to create this collective energy that is scarily palpable. Songs like Forever and Kill The Creator served as perfect vessels to channel this intensity which saw most band members stomping around the stage like escaped mental patients, screaming at the crowd and compelling them to be a part of this visceral experience.

Frenzal Rhomb began their set with a little tribute to Ozzy by playing Crazy Train and it was cool to hear but also a sad reminder of the huge blank space of the line up after he had to pull out due to health reasons. They pulled the biggest crowd of the day up to that point and it was just a cool party atmosphere that they put out to a crowd that were probably getting quite sauced up.

Frenzal Rhomb

Fever 333, a supergroup comprising members of letlive, The Chariot and Night Verses, were up soon after bringing an equally exhilarating experience but on a different level. Each band member entered stage A periodically culminating in frontman Jason Aalon Butler being led onto the stage with a black hood over his head. He stood there for what seemed like ages perfectly still as the intro music played out and then absolutely exploded into their set flailing around like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees. It’s hard to put into words how explosive and thrilling it was to watch all band members giving it everything on stage as if their life depended on it. The level of energy put out by Jason is really something to behold and even if you’re not a fan of their music, it is an experience and a half to see them playing live and their set was something that people will be telling their friends about for a long time to come.

Over on the main stage Polish black metallers Behemoth conjured the rains and had the perfect backdrop for their intense stage presence. Possibly coming second only to Ghost for theatrics, they well and truly filled the mammoth stage.

Returning to the Dogtooth stage, yet another round of extreme music comes in the shape of cult legends Converge. The crowd had just been sonically and visually pummelled by the last three bands so it was an understandably hard task to match the same intensity brought by them and it showed in their set. Frontman Jacob Bannon did the best job he could but their set kind of fell flat in the wake of such thrilling sets by their peers. Not that their fans probably cared, their love for this band is totally evident.

Anthrax

One band that could have matched the Dogtooth stage for a thrilling watch was Anthrax over on the main stage. Their collective ages must make the other bands look like foetuses but they certainly showed today that age don’t mean shit and why they have been mainstays in an industry that chews you up and spits you out without mercy. The energy being put out by the band and fans alike was electric. Classic tracks like Caught in a Mosh and I Am the Law got the fans sing along with gusto.

Twelve Foot Ninja

Melbourne genre benders Twelve Foot Ninja have been a bit quiet of late since realising their second album Outlier in 2016 but that didn’t seem to make any difference today on the Dogtooth stage. Tracks like Sick, Invincible, Mother Sky and Coming For You were the stand outs for today and were instrumental in getting everyone moving. They also treated fans to a new song that was met with genuine enthusiasm.

Alice In Chains

The main stage was then treated to rock royalty in the shape of Alice in Chains. Opening with Bleed The Freak it wasn’t long before the crowd were lapping it up. Playing a good variety of songs from old and new albums ensured the die hards and new fans were kept happy. It’s not an easy task to replace a frontman as iconic as Layne Staley but William DuVall does and has done an incredible job from the get go. The chemistry that he shares vocally and on stage with Jerry Cantrell can’t be understated and anyone suggesting that Alice in Chains aren’t making great music because of Layne’s absence needs to have a lobotomy. Playing songs like The One You Know and Rainier Fog From from their 2017 release are perfect examples of the signature AiC sound and style and although they didn’t go down as well as the classic tracks, in time, like most new songs, the audience will accept them into the set’s rotation. Stand out tracks that never fail to make the hair stand on end were Down In A Hole and We Die Young.

As Rob Halford entered the main stage he asked the crowd “Are you ready for our brand of heavy metal?” And of course, how could they not be ready? Judas Priest are more than just a heavy metal band, they are outliers in their field, who have influenced countless heavy bands and when you hear these songs live it’s very easy to hear how many bands have emulated their sound over the years. Resplendent in his usual stage attire Halford worked the stage like the metal god that he is and still has the ability to nail those high notes that he’s famous for. He and guitarist Richie Faulkner have a great chemistry together and bounce of each other so well. Faulkner really brings so much pizzaz to the stage that you forget how technical his playing is because he seems to do it with a casual, almost arrogant ease.

Judas Priest

Back over at the Dogtooth stage Sum 41 get the prize for the biggest crowd of the day showing that their appeal is still relevant after all these years. Deryck Whibly, some how looking younger than he did when Sum 41 first burst into the scene, really worked the crowd and was very reminiscent in the way Billie Joe of Green Day reacts with the fans. Understandably songs like Fat Lip and In Too Deep provided the biggest sing a longs of their set and their rendition of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ was also a memorable moment. Ending with the pop punk metal anthem Still Waiting, Sum 41 showed the crowd that there’s still a lot of life left in them yet.

Slayer

The pyro was all set for main stage headliners Slayer who were welcomed to the stage with the usual ‘SLAYER’ growls from the crowd. If the punters seemed even more rabid than usual it’s probably because this would be the last time that the majority of the Sydney crowd would ever get to see them live again. Since announcing their farewell tour earlier this year, it was great to see such an iconic and iconoclastic band in the flesh. They showed the Download crowd why they’ve been one of the most important bands in the metal genre for over 30 years. They were on the top of their game tonight with Kerry King providing the fierce intensity to Tom Araya’s stoic and guttural delivery of songs like Raining Blood and Angel of Death. To many, this band is the epitome of the thrash genre and there will probably never be another band that can conjure such intensity in their audience as Slayer.

Ghost were headliners at the Dogtooth stage and with the stage setup and theatrics it was easy to see why. Easily the loudest band of the day they opened with Ashes off of last year’s critically acclaimed Prequelle and from then on Cardinal Copia and his band of Nameless Ghouls kept you captivated from the moment they started till the very end. Tobias Forge has created such a powerfully unique mystique to this band and it was a joy to witness it in the flesh for the first time. The latest incarnation of himself as Cardinal Copia is probably the best vessel to deliver the music of Ghost and the onstage interplay between the audience is both awkward and funny at the same time. Best tracks of the night go to From The Pinnacle to the Pit and Cirice with an honourable mention the the sax wielding bishop who came out to play the solo for instrumental track Miasma. All in all it was one of the most memorable performances of the day and hopefully they can come back to do an Australian tour sooner rather than later.

Ghost

So that was Download 2019!

A really exceptional day of music that will hopefully continue for as long as possible because there really ain’t nothing as compelling to watch as a good old fashioned Rock and Metal Festival.

 

Shane

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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