Download Festival 2023 – Friday. As the night closes in, you can really feel the masses pouring in for the music. A few highlights and one big surprise hit as the 6 pm marker crept closer. One came from Brutus, the three-piece band making some serious noise on the scene. But it was Within Temptation who made us feel good to be alive.
Drummer and lead vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts was just mesmerising. It was a real, “She can play drums like that and sing like that?!” moment. The group lorded the Dogtooth stage with continuous sing-alongs with the audience, who seemed to know almost every word.
With great instrumental time signature change interludes and a nice addition of the wind chimes, Brutus were definitely an addition not to be taken lightly.
The second almost surprise of the night was Pendulum. It’s always an absolute pleasure watching a drum and bass band play live as it really takes away those pre-notion electronic assumptions before dipping us into the realm of using instruments to make the sounds previously thought to be made by no instruments at all.
The crowd loves it. A sea of endless jumps and hands to the sky blanketed over Download. Not holding anything back, they gave us classic Pendulum favourites one after another. What was a field of rockers turns into a field of full-on ravers.
A prime-time dream for all, those ’80s and ’90s babies got their dose of teenage nostalgia. We also got a bit of their Metal side as they played one of their new tracks, Halo, which was all tom drums and vocal screeches. Halo was recorded with Bullet For My Valentine.
Out of their box, they step with some serious graft. What a way to keep Download on that high.
Empire State Bastard
Then the biggest surprise came. Empire State Bastard, Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro’s passion project, was announced earlier this year with their debut album, Rivers Of Heresy, to drop this September.
Though they’d released their first single, Harvest, a short while back, I hadn’t the chance to lay my ears on it. So when that first Death Metal scream came howling from Neil’s lips, I was a bit taken aback but entirely enthralled.
If you wanted some cheap Biffy Clyro type knock-off, it ain’t happening. Empire State Bastard are a deep dive into double kick drums and uncontainable dark energy, with Dave Lombardo, of Slayer fame, lending his go-hard or get the fuck out drumming chops.
It’s nasty and then delicate. Neil also plays brief moments on his keyboard before knocking the wind out of our chests again. It’s completely Black Metal inspired, and though it came as a shock, it was brilliant to see someone the industry knows so well as one thing become something entirely else.
Who knows? Maybe this was the part of Neil always just trying to get out. Well, it certainly did and does, in a bloody huge way.
Architects blew the – very metaphorical – roof off the place with their bone-crunchingly good set. The guys are just fantastically mammoth at the moment. And tonight, in their just-over-an-hour-long set, they prove why they are moving mountains.
The atmosphere is deafening, but only in the best of ways. It’s a cascading infatuation of Architects that engulfs Donnington as Animals, When We Were Young, and Black Lungs are played out to an electrified reaction from the thousands.
Creeping their way closer to that headlining spot, I’m sure Architects will just keep building – pardon the pun – higher. Sam Carter is the sunglassed, tattooed conductor of the performance, drenching us with his versatile vocals and at-ease showmanship.
The UK champions of Metalcore return to Download on a tidal wave of new music, their set a judicious mix of old and new. Fronted by Danny Worsnop, the York Titans are as ferocious as they’ve ever been, hungry and feral, despite the temptation to rest on their laurels.
Certainly, the massive crowd at the Opus stage welcomed them as returning heroes and their faith and expectations were fulfilled as the band bridged old-school hard rock and Metal with something distinctly modern. Future headliners in waiting.
With their last UK tour an arena trek with Evanescence, it must have been quite an adjustment for the Symphonic Metallers to play in broad daylight.
Swapping the dark atmospherics of an enormodome with the sun-kissed fields of Download made no difference, though, the band putting everything into their titanic show, stage set and plentiful flames all present and correct.
The sugar rush of Faster and the grandeur of Stand My Ground were stunning, but it was with the powerfully moving Supernova and a passionate What About Us the band shone the brightest.
Within Temptation make you feel good to be alive.
Take Part: Are you at Download this year? Who are you looking forward to see? Want to get in touch and tell us how it’s going? Email MetalTalk Editor Steve Ritchie to tell us how it’s going for you. Download@MetalTalk.net.
Download Festival 2023
MetalTalk Download 2023 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2023
Download 2023 will see the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary with an additional day, meaning four days of live music in total.
This year’s MetalTalk team is:
For Download 2022, visit MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2022