To borrow from the chaotic lyrical verse of Mindless Self Indulgence, ‘I like my coffee black just like my metal’.
The Melbourne edition of this year's Download Festival (11 March) supremely satisfied both urges. It was an uplifting gathering of tribes and counter-cultures. Twenty thousand affable metalheads riding the train.
Even the cancellation of headliner Ozzy Osbourne couldn’t dampen the collective elation. Tributes to Ozzy and Black Sabbath abounded.
Organisers praised the incident-free event, reinforced by emergency services pleased with the crowd’s chilled behaviour. Australia needs heavy metal festivals like this.Click here to read our review of Download Sydney.
The balmy sunny day kicked off with Tasmanian punk and metal aptly represented by Luca Brasi and Ruins. Followed by an incendiary set where War On Women harnessed their rage on the Dogtooth Stage with their hard-hitting lyrical themes around rape and abortion, and the general socio-political disarray under Trump.
Soon to tour with Converge, the Maryland-born ensemble urged the crowd to “support art made by women, people of colour and gender non-conforming folks”.
War On Women - image © Stephen Sloggett
Frontwoman Shawna Potter later jumped on stage with Rise Against for a captivating cover of Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above’.
Some of you have never been in an AC/DC cover band and it shows. Airbourne actually was. Their set was a joyous reverie of shirtless, sweaty, exuberant Aussie cock rock. Singer Joel O'Keeffe bellowed to the crowd on the sad state of extreme music tours in the country.
“Australia has the worst luck in the world when it comes to festivals. Big Day Out. F...ed. Soundwave. F...ed. But Download is still going strong,” he said chugging VB as the roars of the crowd ricocheted around the stage. ‘Straya.
Airbourne - image © Stephen Sloggett
Behemoth. Theatricality and brutality. Smoke and fire. A snow-white butterfly drifts incongruously past. The drum sound is fleshy and resounding. The visual references ancient and pagan. Satan’s choir who held the crowd transfixed through the intensity of their ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’. The symphonic savagery of their riffs. From a darker time.
Weaving back to Dogtooth. Passing a metal mime (which if you are wondering was great and exactly what it sounds like). Towards the brutality of Sydney metalcore outfit Polaris, whose set was unfortunately marred by sound issues. They barrelled on nonetheless. Experimental. Brutal. Nautical.
Face tattoos, falafel, fizzy pop. The metallic industrial tones of Aversions Crown. The pleasingly chunky riffage of Converge. The much-hyped intensity of the live set of Fever 333 after the previous day’s performance in Sydney. A sense of breathless anticipation.
Frenzal Rhomb - image © Stephen Sloggett
Frenzal Rhomb’s set opened with a tribute Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’, followed by the Rhomb's quintessentially Aussie tongue-in-cheek silliness: “This song is about being attacked by birds. It’s called 'Bird Attack'.”
It was a heavier, thrashier, heaps more metal sound, a departure from their usual frolicking fun, loving punk-rock tones. “I’m pretty sure this is the heaviest we are going to get.” Frenzal wrapped up their set to a captivated crowd with a frenzied instrumental Black Sabbath medley.
The fiery drummer of Code Orange shredded the Avalanche Stage delivering pleasingly thrashy rock beats, while singing. The level of coordination required of drummers who are able to move four limbs independently of one another while simultaneously belting out a banger is supremely impressive.
Up and coming New Zealand act Alien Weaponry sounds like Slayer and Sepultura had an illegitimate love child and it sang in Maori. So much sound emanating from just three people.
Rise Against was both contemplative and uplifting, as with Alice in Chains as singer William DuVall’s intense and operatic voice belting out classics ‘Would’ and ‘Rooster’.Click here for more photos from Download Melbourne.
Their tone is undeniably different to the hoarse pleading melancholy of the immortal and much missed Layne Staley, but none of the grunge heavy intensity is lost. The crowd was mesmerised.
Alice In Chains - image © Stephen Sloggett
Despite the sadness around the cancellation of headliner Ozzy Osbourne due to poor health, the raison d’etre of the majority of the crowd attending was clearly Slayer.
They did not disappoint. Pummelling tracks from favourites 'Seasons In The Abyss' and 'Reign In Blood' in a triumphant and fiery spectacle that was to be their last Australian tour. Thrash magic abounded as they captivated the enraptured crowd with ‘Repentless’, ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Disciple’.
This forever please.