The line-up for this year’s Download Australia boasted diversity and drew delight for its medley of punk, rock, and metal artists.
From new names and local bands, to international headliners, stalemates of their genres, and living legends, Download Sydney brought thousands to Parramatta Park (9 March) for a day of music, madness, and many, many horns held to the sky.
Nobody, nobody could predict the sense of elation that swarmed throughout the venue. Each band bore such distinct personalities, each performance was marked out like a unique chapter of a book.
Binding the Download story together was one commonality – the ardent devotion and violent love everyone there has for heavy music.Click here for more photos from Download Sydney.
Fever 333 brought the rapture, their unique blend of nu-metal and rap the perfect soundtrack for their relevant and revealing socio-political messages.
As one of the day’s standout performances, Fever 333 certainly lived up to the hype, the crowd hanging on vocalist Jason Butler’s every word as he and Stephen Harrison threw themselves across the stage to the beat of Aric Improta’s drum.
Fever 333 - image © Kim Rudner
When Jason immersed himself into the crowd, excitement plastered across his face, it was as if he wanted to feel the camaraderie of his fans on the same level everyone was feeling the awesome music.
Put on the bill when Ozzy Osbourne pulled out, Airbourne used their time wisely. Frontman Joel O'Keeffe knows how to command a crowd, pairing the band’s immense hard rock anthems with typically Aussie banter.
From a white esky emblazed with Australian green and gold and our most recognisable animal, the kangaroo, the vocalist pulled out can after can of beer, smashing one against the side of his head in time to the magnificent music before throwing cans out to an audience that seemed thirsty in more ways than one.
Airbourne have a proud attitude for their country and their music, something that put a real cultural flavour on this edition of Download. Heck, even the coppers dotted throughout the arena tried to maintain stony faces and conceal their smiles as they involuntarily bopped along!
Behemoth - image © Kim Rudner
It was a sad state of affairs for Polish black metal masters Behemoth when they decked the stage in black hoods and metallic paint, and it wasn’t through any fault of their own.
The sound on the Red Stage was shoddy at best all day, and the curse coursing the equipment met Behemoth, try as they might to keep unwanted demons from their own satanic performance.
Though the reception to the dank doom the band provided was strong, Behemoth were let down by poor equipment and the daylight – perhaps Behemoth’s brand of blackened metal is best appreciated under cover of darkness.
The day’s eclectic concoction of punk-rock, heavy metal and hard rock was very much peppered across Parramatta Park.
Newcastle’s Eat Your Heart Out quickly turned many onto their bright and unabashed pop-punk melodies, while Anthrax looked like they didn’t want to be anywhere else, tearing across their stage with maniacal grins and attacking their instruments like there’s no tomorrow – their energy and love was blindingly obvious.
The Amity Affliction - image © Kim Rudner
Opinions were drawn about The Amity Affliction’s set, some saying they’d seen the Gympie metalcore outfit play better, some discussing the drastic change in sound as they performed tracks from latest album ‘Misery’.
Though their sound, too, was met by the curse of the Red Stage, The Amity Affliction projected ‘Open Letter’ with such appreciation that it moved most of the crowd to rock out subliminally.
New Zealand’s best kept metal secret, Devilskin, drew a marginally older contingent to their stage.
It’s likely the collection of middle-aged males were there for frontwoman Jennie Skulander, who, looking suitably slutty in a skimpy PVC get up, captivated her audience with her incredible siren song. The few women in the crowd evidently wanted to be her as much as blokes were probably wanting her.
Crowd at Download Sydney - image © Kim Rudner
But Devilskin are more than their awesome looks, of course. They’ve an innate ability to blast out alt-metal madness with a rawness unmatched by any other band of their ilk on the bill. One’s to watch, certainly.
As seductive as ever, the hard rock anthems from Halestorm whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Vocalist Lzzy Hale is unapologetically sexual, enticing her audience with her sensational voice as much as her killer moves.
At dusk, Halestorm shook the bats from the trees, swarms of the creatures framing the sky above the stage as Halestorm viciously ripped through ‘Mayhem’, ‘Freak Like Me’, and other massive numbers.
The band as a singular entity create such an impressive sound through extended improvisations of classics like ‘Amen’ and the more recent ‘Do Not Disturb’, that it’s no surprise people were raving about their performance long after the lights went down on them.
Nothing could be more punk than a blown up condom floating above the crowd during Pennywise’s tumultuous set, and nothing sounded more sublime than hundreds of voices crooning to their brief rendition of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ – Ozzy was certainly missed, and there was more than one nod by more than one band throughout the day.
Sum 41 - image © Kim Rudner
There’s nothing sweeter to behold than an ocean of heads collectively jumping to the punk-rock anthems of Sum 41, nothing more sublime than to see the Canadian rockers still so loved so many years after the peak of their success.
Reliving the recalcitrant ways of youth, enjoying the freedom of no-damns-given adulthood, Sum 41 are as loved now as they’ve ever been, and are just as amazing to witness.
While bright lights graced Sum 41, the adjacent stage was undergoing a biblical transition. Backdrops, alters, steps made to look like stone, it was as if a church was being constructed on the Avalanche Stage – and indeed, it was, for soon a congregation would gather to hear the gospel of Ghost.
Once the enigmatic, theatrical Swedes took to the stage, the sermon was unforgiving, the crowd converging on the stage transfixed by the masked musicians whose intoxicating rock caused many to be overcome by the curiosity of their own minds.
Ghost - image © Kim Rudner
Just when you think you know Ghost, sermon leader Cardinal Copia sparks more questions, your faith in your own mind in doubt, leaving you reeling from the madness of the melodies and the cleverness of the Cardinal’s creation.
Ghost bewitched, entranced and conformed many unsuspecting attendees, a question forming in the minds of many, much to their surprise – when will Ghost headline in Australia?
Through the scented clouds of smoke from the vapers, across the dusty knolls of the park, the first instalment of Download Australia Sydney proved to be the heavy festival the city’s alternative community have been missing.
It’s the place where punks, goths, metalheads and rockers converged to enjoy music and each other, to bear witness to the strength of the heavy music scene and to prove to the man that there’s no danger in live music.