IRON MAIDEN on their home turf, a swarm of kiddies getting their ears dirty for the first time with controversial headliners MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE and LINKIN PARK, a slew of UK talent and just as much American garbage, a £2 mugging every time you want a drink of water...it can only be Donington. We're back once more in England's finest field - the sun is threatening to shine, backstage areas are swarming with last-minute chaos, the Stormtroopers and girls-on-stilts are milling with the punters - it's all good.
Comedy hardcore punk from Manchester, self-described as "not to be taken seriously by anyone", featuring a frontman who's currently enjoying a run on Channel 4's "Deal Or No Deal"...the nutty duo SCUMFACE take to the stage at Thursday's free BBQ and wind up being the first band to play a note at Download 2007. Maiden eat your heart out. Stealing a page from Bruce Dickinson's book, Mike Hyslop takes a turn at "Scream for me Doningtoooooon!" before tearing into 10-second blasts of songs like 'UUUEEEHHH', 'Bryan Adams Is Boss' and 'All My Equipment's Nicked'. Mental. "This next song's for you," Hyslop declares, pointing at a delighted fan. "It's called 'You're A Bellend With A Stupid Face'"
Opening Friday's main stage proper, ZICO CHAIN swagger on like a band who truly believe they're the next rock n roll revolution - the grunge star wannabes fail to set any ears on fire with their fuzzed-up desert noise, but we're grateful for a good chance to lather up the sun cream and grab an ice lolly. Scumface played 'Get Your Hands Off My Gran' with more conviction than this lot can muster.
Now it's BUCKCHERRY's turn. Terrible sleaze-glam shit, Late-80s throwback on a par with pub-touring cover bands, and one terrible hook of "Hey! You're a crazy bitch!" that never seems to end. The baldy dads in the crowd are loving it, but for the rest of us it's time to run to the hot dog stall, ice cream van, or indeed anywhere that's Buckcherry-free...
Metal maniacs MEGADETH are the only band so far that pull a crowd bigger than the bar queue. Top cuts of a legendary back catalogue include 'Symphony of Destruction' and 'Peace Sells...But Who's Buying', with popular new track 'Gears of War' thrown in to prove this revitalised four-piece is no nostalgia band. The first Donington-worthy performance of the day ends with the classic heavy metal riffs of 'The Mechanix' and with that Dave Mustaine exits to the sounds of rapturous applause.
Like Pacman sound FX ten-fold, the super-fast widdly-widdly-widdly guitars of DRAGONFORCE either send your fingers horn-wards or straight into your ears. There's no middle ground with this lot, like a heavy metal Marmite. It's all here - swords and steeds, dragon-slaying, valleys and sunsets, all the fantastical lyrical nonsense we've come to expect, in the most ridiculous trousers-too-tight falsetto that ZP Theart can muster. Fans charge forward with swords, chants are summoned, air guitars are frantically fingered...and a chorus of "Dragonforce! Yer havin' a laugh!" can be heard from the back of the crowd.
With heavy speed-metallers headbanging on the main stage, prog-geek PORCUPINE TREE leader Steve Wilson is right to feel ill at ease taking to a stage at Donington - "I've been told to say 'Fuck' and 'Are you having a good time?' a lot," the bespectacled frontman says. "So... Are you having a FUCKING good time?!" He eschews the pianos and acoustic guitars in favour of the band's darker material - we echo back the words to 'Open Car' before standing in awe of heavy jazz-funk jam session 'Hatesong', as drummer Gavin Harrison flexes his musical muscles and Wilson solos the shit out of his guitar like a real rock hero. New album centre-piece 'Anaesthetize' couldn't possibly be played in it's 18-minute glory with stage time constraints, so they shorten the Tool-versus-Pink-Floyd battle soundtrack to just 15 minutes... they throw in 'Blackest Eyes' and then dare to finish on a b-side instrumental as only Porcupine Tree can.
Myspace cult heroes and "Next Big Thing" #101 ENTER SHIKARI storm onto the Dimebag Darrell stage to prove their worth. Hyperactive, energetic and a tad odd...introducing 'No Sssweat' singer Rou Reynolds riles the crowd into a chant of "EA Sports!" before revealing that guitarist Rory Clewlow was once caught wanking by his gran, whilst watching CITV in her rocking chair... pretend that never happened, and what you're left with is an explosive electronic post-hardcore blast chocked full of great tunes like the appropriately-titled 'Anything Can Happen In The Next Half An Hour' and everyone's fave, 'Sorry You're Not A Winner'. Reynolds thanks the punters peering in from the outside for enduring "crap sound and a crap view" and then it's all over. Strangely compelling!
As always, Hollywood supergroup VELVET REVOLVER rely heavily on Guns N' Roses' and Stone Temple Pilots' classics like 'It's So Easy' and 'Sex Type Thing', and the same debut album rockers they've been trundling out for years - 'Set Me Free', 'Fall To Pieces', etc. What makes tonight's set interesting is a curveball cover of Talking Head's 'Psycho Killer' and three fresh new songs from the forthcoming 'Libertad' album. Any chance to see Slash and co. rocking out on a Donington stage is welcome, so it's as good a way as any to bring in the setting of the Friday night sun.
Surely the only band of the weekend to whip out a banjo, and quite possibly the only band that's ever played both Donington and the Cambridge Folk Festival... it's HAYSEED DIXIE on the Tuborg stage, and it's time to witness 'Ace of Spades' done Hillbilly-style. Bluegrass hard-rock classics turn out to be surprisingly popular, as a dirty tent crammed full of metalheads sees a hoedown of epic proportions - we swing arm-in-arm with strangers, cheer "Yeeha!" and pretty much make arseholes of ourselves for a gleeful half-hour party.
Second stage headliners KORN may be just as big a joke as MCR nowadays, but there's one all-important thing they do have - and that's an amazing back catalogue to fall back on. We all grew up with 'Got The Life", 'Twist", 'Falling Away From Me'...that's why there's just as many fans dangerously packed London Underground -style into the tiny tent as there are sprawled casually around the main stage hill. Renditions of the diabolical 'Y'All Want A Single' and 'Twisted Transistor' are more than evened out by mad thrashing honorary member Joey Jordison of Slipknot pounding his drums into the ground...and there are certainly worse ways to finish your Friday night than mosh-baiting airings of 'Freak On A Leash', 'Clown', 'Throw Me Away' and 'Blind'.
The screaming to get them on, the petitions to get them off... Never before has any headliner provoked such delight and outrage as the glum-faced, emotional wrecks of MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE. Download bosses (with the knowledge of massive CD sales records, magazine covers and radio play) assured the metal snobs that the infectious emo-popsters deserved their night on the throne of Donington... they were wrong. No internet forum rant could sum up as perfectly as a sparsely populated field of grass that MCR just weren't ready for the finest slot on the UK's biggest metal festival. Gerard Way and his black parade weren't particularly bad, they just weren't good. Disposable anthems like 'Welcome to the Black Parade' and 'I'm Not Okay, I Promise' which over the airwaves have literally submerged fans in a twisted self torment, leaving them screaming back at the radio in search of redemption, are no more than nod-along tunes as the skies darken above the mammoth stage. A bit of on-stage banter about fans shagging image-conscious Way keeps things ticking over and the needle never falls as low as 'boring' but by the time the last riffs of 'Helena' hum out, it's fairly evident that tonight's showing will be filed beside Guns'n'Roses under disappointing.
"For all you guys who have never been to a punk rock show before..." Now, the next words out of AIDEN's Wil Francis' mouth should surely have been: "I hope you catch one soon." or "Gallows are booked for the Dimebag Darrell stage later." But no, "...this is how we do it!" It's amazing what American self-belief can do for a band, Aiden is what our generation has to offer for the punk rock history chart, the Sex Pistols bow down. And with those words, a wall of death collides, Francis sings about dying romantics and his make up runs a little - Nevermind The Bollocks.
30 SECONDS TO MARS kick things into gear with a Download debut performance that humbles Jared Leto: "I have to say there is something special about Download. I noticed that when we were coming in. I'll never forget this moment as long as I live." The 'Fight Club' star turned rock ponce throws his eager kiddie-crowd chunks of metal like 'A Beautiful Lie', before getting down to reach into the audience for a lung-bursting rendition of 'The Fantasy'.
A measure of true UK underground grit, PANIC CELL are back again. Scores of shows, dozens of bottles of Jager and a new album recorded since last time we had the pleasure of the Cell at Download and they are now fiercer and sharper than ever.
Showing his respect for the UK scene, frontman Luke Bell appears kitted out in a Damnation Festival t-shirt and proceeds to power through a couple of hook laden, guitar driven slabs of no-nonsense metal from their forthcoming album before the redemption classic 'Save Me' has the masses in full swing. Panic Cell embody why homegrown underground metal just won't die off in the face of overblown, over-hyped imported fads, and today, in a packed Tuborg tent, they do it in style.
BOWLING FOR SOUP sing songs about bad girls, high school teenagers and beer kegs...and we're supposed to be amused because they've brought inflatable sheep. The kids and special looking punters down the front are loving it, but the rest of us are just wondering how this lot are gracing the stage that's hosted Maiden, Metallica, Sabbath, Guns N Roses, Megadeth, Slayer...fuck off, take the fat one with you and leave us to enjoy Machine Head!
"This song is for someone very special... if she picks up her phone. Donington say hello to my fucking mum!" shouts GALLOWS frontman Frank Carter in the Dimebag tent, dropping his phone and tearing into the chaotic 'Six Years'. With every mic stand smashed and furious guitars ringing out the end of the song, Carter simply explains "My mum means a fucking lot to me." Later, a fan throws a pair of clean socks at bassist Stuart Gili-Ross who has notoriously smelly feet, a pitter tears through windmilling youngsters wearing a wolf mask, and Frank crowdsurfs from the front to the back...raw dirty punk without an ounce of pretence, the "next big thing" in rock and roll are quite simply, fucking amazing.
MACHINE HEAD need prove themselves to no-one in this field - you could better fit ten sumo wrestlers in a phone box than find space for everyone who wants to watch Rob Flynn and co. - but gritting the teeth, the gladiators enter their arena. 'Take My Scars' and 'Aesthetics of Hate' are tossed like bones to wild dogs, and dust flies as we batter perfect strangers. Before we can catch breath it's suddenly half an hour later and 'Davidian' rings round Donington like a shotgun blast. The masochistic quarter leave us bloodied and bruised, smiling.
SLAYER at Download, now there's a surprise. A bit like booking a hot-dog van and someone to sell the laminates. And, as the thrash legends get ready to play - just like taking your first bite into that German sausage - you hope to God, you're going to get your money's worth this time. It's tough be downbeat about a band of such legendary status, with such an awesome arsenal of face-shredding classics in their back catalogue, but it can no longer be ignored - these boys are less interesting than the instructions to a camp stove. Opening with 'South of Heaven' and swiftly onto 'War Ensemble' the routine quickly becomes one we've seen played too many times before, the masses' hearts sink in unison and the thousands at the front chant 'SLAYER, SLAYER, SLAYER' as they enjoy the greatest show ever played by the greatest band that have ever played. They don't play favourite Angel of Death, presumably to be spontaneous, but we still get the treat of Raining Blood as a closer. Until 2009... Or no doubt before.
Not since the masterful Nirvana have a trio of musical magicians conjured up performances of such mesmerising rock n roll trickery as BIFFY CLYRO do with their aggressive pop-rock. The ace up their sleeve is an incredible ability to mix heart-melting majesty with pure balls-to-the-wall fury - but this is Donington, so they forego the former for a raucous setlist worthy of the spiritual home of metal. Opening blast '57' could pull the tent down around it, epic 'Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies' could raise it up again, and frantic finisher 'Glitter and Trauma' sends the blood, sweat and tears flying as we all crash through the mosh pit to ardent chants of "Mon the Biffy!" In a word, magic!
The self-described Antichrist Superstar MARILYN MANSON strolls on to the strains of classical music, dressed head-to-toe in his customary goth ensemble with pasty white make-up and red lipstick, holding a slasher knife-shaped microphone - there's never been any doubting the big man's stylistic credentials, it's just a question of whether he'll play the classics or dip into his shite. Surely a man with enough talent to write 'Coma White', 'The Last Day On Earth' and 'The Reflecting God' has the intelligence to bloody well play them? 'If I Was Your Vampire' is a terrible opening gambit, and before you know it we're getting the Kerrang! specials of 'Disposable Teens', the ridiculous 'mObscene' and pathetic 'The Fight Song'. Punctuated by the occasional landing aircraft heading for East Midlands Airport next door, 'The Beautiful People' culminates in an explosion of ticker tape and dry ice - the wow factor finally hits, but it's all too late. What could be a sublime spectacle from the Anti Christ in his own lunchtime, is no better than background music.
LINKIN PARK may be just as controversial a headliner as My Chemical Romance, but what the Californian nu-metallers succeed in doing is pulling a headline-worthy crowd. Surely everyone here owns at least 'Hybrid Theory', if only in the recesses of their loft... be it flag-waving devotion or a mild curiosity as to how the boys now sound, there's a lot of interest for the Saturday main stage finishers. 'One Step Closer' wins everyone to their side as they move on to battle through their discography, throwing in new songs like 'Given Up' and 'Leave Out All The Rest' to mixed reception, and spicing things up with fan faves 'In The End', 'Crawling' and recent single 'What I've Done'.
Frontman Chester Benington tells the crowd: "We just want to dedicate this show to all of you who've been Linkin Park fans since day one. I can see a lot of 'LP' flags out there." With that, they finish on 'Bleed it Out' and 'Faint', bringing an end to another day of rock with a suitably dangerous moshpit.
We're sleep deprived by this point so it's hard to feel passionate about PAPA ROACH...when Jacoby Shaddix and co. play songs from the last two albums, like 'Alive (N' Out of Control)' and 'Getting Away With Murder', it all sorts of wash over us as we discuss more important matters like what colour of socks we'll be wearing tomorrow. 'Between Angels & Insects' and 'Last Resort' perk the ears, and before you know it you're singing back 'Losing my sight, losing my mind, wish somebody would tell me I'm fine...' like it's your favourite song of all time. There's a lesson in there, Jacoby.
DEVILDRIVER's groove-bolstered death metal should be a simple chance for a primal headbang and some pitting action – instead, it becomes spectacular carnage as Dez Fafara and his merry men try to create a record-breaking circle pit. Rousing fans into mayhem with cuts from their self-titled, 'The Fury Of Our Maker's Hands' and the forthcoming 'The Last Kind Words', Satan's twisted merry-go-round spreads until it dominates a whole half of the massive tent. Breathtaking for onlookers, fucking terrifying for moshers, all round great fun.
Submit to MASTODON's overwhelming powerhouse of noise and you'll suddenly feel your head nod. Progressive sludge metal with an underlying groove, it's not quite as obviously catchy as Papa Roach...but then that's a good thing. When the instrumentals rage and the four men's vocals combine, they threaten to give us all a shake from our siestas. 'Blood and Thunder' tops a colossal set that's worthy of this mucky field.
Booze-driven hooligans ORANGE GOBLIN pump up the decibels for their testosterone-overloading blend of bluesy stoner rock. 'Some You Win, Some You Lose', 'The Ballad Of Solomon Eagle' and the finishing salvo of 'Scorpionica' to the huge nods of arms-folded bikers - roaring tattooed giant Ben Ward screaming with all the subtlety and range of a truck horn. Titanic headbanging fun!
'Silence is Deafening', 'Scum', 'You Suffer'...fuck you, fuck the government, fuck your mum, fuck NAPALM DEATH. The lyrics are indecipherable, the music makes your eyes squirm, and the pit leaves you feeling like you're stuck in a washing machine full of knives. They finish Round 12 with an incredible cover of 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off', the fans go bananas and the St John's Ambulance crew suddenly look worried...Napalm Death are fucking incredible.
The symphonic rock of WITHIN TEMPTATION pull a very certain crowd - there's the lads at the front just willing the stunning Sharon den Adel's dress to fall off; there's the mental goth girls dancing and singing out-of-key in worship to their idol; and there's the people that are a frightening mixture of both. The gorgeous girl in question and her band batter through big beautiful tunes like 'Mother Earth' and 'Ice Queen' to the delight of their entire audience, no-one batting an eyelid at the fact that this all follows on the heels of Napalm Death and 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off'.
DREAM THEATER take to the stage and we prepare ourselves for an hour of good old-fashioned rock n roll pomp - Mike Portnoy's drum kit is so big he must have a mortgage on it, James LaBrie's voice allegedly has its own postcode, and John Petrucci...well, he's a fucking great guitarist. 'As I Am' and 'Panic Attack' are breakneck-speed, technically-complex masterpieces, and as we try to keep up on our air guitars (it's bloody hard!) the tent fills with more and more interested parties. 'Endless Sacrifice' and 'Pull Me Under' finish us off with goosebumps as we suddenly remember there's one more band to come...
If one band is completely synonymous with Donington, it's IRON MAIDEN. Back for a fourth time since their first in 1988, the classic Brit metalheads always promise something of legend on their home turf. Kicking things off in typically grandiose style with stunning Eddie backdrops, a barrage of new material and Bruce Dickinson rocketing around in true-to-form air-raid siren mode, it's all pretty special – save for some fanny throwing free-range dairy products in reference to the infamous Ozzfest egging of last year. Undeterred, the boys dip into 'Wrathchild' and 'The Trooper', before marking the 25th anniversary of the seminal 'Number of the Beast' with a rare airing of 'Children of the Damned'. Bruce tells us 'It's a song that brings a tear to the eye', and Donington screams for him as is our wont.
There's really only one band in the world that can bring a tank on-stage, and to do it during the song 'Iron Maiden' seems fitting. The Eddie-helmed monstrosity rumbles around while we all raise cries of "Iron Maiden can't be fought! Iron Maiden can't be sought!" with an air of glee. Then there's just time for the remaining classics, and like we're pyjama-clad kids at Christmas, they so kindly give us an encore of '2 Minutes To Midnight', 'The Evil That Men Do' and the awesome 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'. It's not a real heavy metal show unless you leave 70,000 scruffy punters throwing horns in a dirty field, and Iron Maiden do that oh-so-bloody well.
Gav & Gee.
Check out the Download 2007 photos