The weather was unexpectedly glorious on arrival at Donington Park early afternoon on Friday. Known as the home of rock and metal in the UK, Donington has hosted Download Festival since 2003, while through the '80s and '90s it also played host to Monsters Of Rock festival.
The first band we witnessed were Sabaton who were pretty funny, if nothing else. They had an onstage prop tank called Roger, lyrics dealing with World War II and pumped out some power metal to a sizable crowd.
Much better were Code Orange on the Avalanche Kerrang! Radio Stage. Handpicked by Friday's headliners System of a Down to support their upcoming European Tour, it was obvious to see why they were chosen. The band played a tight, hardcore sound and the singer was also their drummer. He didn't sound like Phil Collins though.
We headed over to the Zippo Encore Stage (essentially Download's Other Stage) where Machine Gun Kelly played an ill-advised rendition of Oasis' 'Wonderwall' as he'd met Liam at the weekend. The sentiment was nice but the metal crowd weren't really feeling it.
Next up was Mastodon on the Main Stage (now known as the Lemmy Stage after the legend died). The band performed all their biggest hits and had a good sized crowd but the sound wasn't as good as it would be later on for the headliners.
Suicidal Tendencies were the first stand out band. Their frontman Mike Muir can't quite run around the stage like he used to though they brought the first sing alongs of the day as well as the first real mosh pits. Combining rap, punk and thrash metal, the band close with the riotous 'Pledge Your Allegiance'.
You couldn't have timed it any better but the two most political bands on the whole lineup were the closing acts on the main stage, the night after the snap election. Prophets Of Rage, consisting of 3 members of Rage Against the Machine, along with the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill played their first ever UK show.
As expected, the set was very heavy on Rage songs, Chuck and Real taking turns on the verses. No one seemed to mind original singer Zach de la Rocha not being there at all as the energy was so high tempo. There was even time for some Public Enemy and Cypress Hill classics including 'Fight the Power' and 'Insane in the Brain'. The biggest sing along, of course, was for 'Killing in the Name.'
There was a long 50 minute wait for the final headliners, System of a Down. It's been a long long time since the band have played here, with all the members doing their own side projects, Serj Tankian's being particularly successful in recent years. The Californian outfit didn't miss a note though, getting off to a frantic start with two of their album openers 'Suite-Pee' and 'Prison Song'.
There were no new tracks played this evening but the crowd didn't seem to mind. Selections were taken from all albums and of course the biggest cheer came for 'Chop Suey!', coming half way through the set. The song that got them noticed in the first place, 'Sugar', was the final song of the night, creating once last mosh and head bang for the mammoth crowd.