Mud, madness and metal
Download Festival 2012

Now in its tenth year, Download Festival has grown to become the biggest rock and metal festival on the planet, annually headlined by a host bands spanning over forty years of heavy musical heritage. With Friday seeing the heavens open up and turn the ground into a giant brown ocean of Pritt Stick, the loyal still marched on to catch the likes of Machine Head deliver blistering sets.

Chase and Status proved this year’s controversial line up choice but acted as a suitable warm up for the day’s top slot, The Prodigy. Red light basking the crowd, the crossover icons stormed onstage to provide an hour and a half of high octane, fist pumping frenzied noise. Wisely sticking to the singles with the likes of ‘Their Law’, ‘Take Me to the Hospital’ and, of course, ‘Firestarter’. The Prodigy created one of the muddiest raves Clash has had the pleasure to see. Maxim and Keith proved as ever their natural ability to work up any crowd no matter what subcultural flag they may be waving.

Saturday underway, and all four stages got into full swing with the likes of Turbonegro providing a thrillingly silly set ended with a chant along ‘I Got Erection’ – top stuff. Silliness is in vast supply in fact with the main stage’s double bill of Steel Panther and Tenacious D. On paper Panther’s tongue in cheek homage to ‘80s hair metal should grow weary very fast but when the likes of the infectiously insulting ‘Asian Hooker’ is dropped and surrounding hoards of woman bare their chests its hard not to get sucked into the fun. Tenacious D took a while to warm up but Jack Black and Kyle Gass’s brand of acoustic-led ridiculousness soon got into full swing and brought the sun out with it to boot.

Metallica predictably stole the day with a tight and thrilling set which included their 1991 opus ‘The Black Album’ played in its entirety – albeit backwards. Two hours of fun and fireworks over too soon and frontman James Hetfield couldn’t quite leave the stage before dropping fan favourite ‘Seek and Destroy’ with a big smile on his face.

Sunday came and it was a ‘90s bonanza with reformed stoner legends Kyuss Lives! bringing the grooves before the highly anticipated appearance of Soundgarden later that evening. Chris Cornell and co. didn’t disappoint with the frontman’s vocals remaining as powerful as ever the bands stormed through material from their very first E.P to a heavy dose of the ‘Superunknown’ album. Feed-backing guitars left onstage the crowd stood with jaws on the floor.

It’s only right that the godfathers of metal, Black Sabbath were selected to close proceedings. With guitarist Toni Iommi’s cancer public knowledge the crowd and band cheered on the bona fide axe god through classics such as ‘Sweet Leaf’, ‘Snow Blind’ and of course ‘Iron Man’, the latter proving the best thing seen all weekend. Owning as much energy as their younger spawn, Sabbath showed the newbies how it’s done a signed off Download 2012 on a massive, riff-laden high.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart.
Photo by Jessica Gilbert

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