After watching the rain coming down for two days¸ I was quite nervous at what I would be driving into on the Sunday of Download. However¸ my brother-in-law and I were lucky¸ as the sun was out and the skies were (almost) clear. Walking into the clay floored arena to the sound of Devildriver was a good start. Despite being on early in the day¸ they were ferocious in their demand for energy from the weekenders. Devildriver have a strong back catalogue at their disposal¸ and they showed it off in their small festival set. Circle pits seemed inevitable with each new song. 'Clouds over California' brought to their set to a close¸ and once again Devildriver had produced a fine heavy metal performance.
A quick wander from the main stage found us in the small Pepsi max stage as Heavens Basement started. It appears someone forgot to tell them they weren't on the main stage¸ as they were filled with the passion and pride you would expect from bigger bands. Their energy and attitude flooded into the crowd. I don't think I saw one head not bobbing away. When 'Executioners Day' gave way to a partial cover of RATM's¸ 'bullet in your head' the atmosphere was immense. Curiosity produced a good result today!

Another wander discovered the second stage. August Burns Red were in full swing by the time we got there. As much as they were giving it their all to please the assembled crowd¸ I feel the open air wasn't doing them any favours. A lot of the kick of their sound was being lost and apart from the first few rows¸ there didn't seem to be too much movement. I really would like to see them again in a club or venue¸ as I feel having some walls to bounce would help their live sound massively. Despite most of their intent being lost in the wind¸ they performed admirably.

Back at the main stage¸ the banner for Anthrax was enough to get the party started for some people. The band pretty much charged on and straight into 'Caught in a Mosh.' I was impressed that everyone on stage were hardened veterans in the heavy metal scene¸ yet they were jumping¸ running and smiling like a college band given their first support slot at rock club. However¸ the pedigree found in their upbeat¸ high tempo songs. This was most apparent in newer song 'Fight em til you can't' which sounded superb through the massive speakers dotted around. As much as my resolve to play air guitar is strong¸ I was extremely tempted! 'Madhouse' was a great hit with the crowd; the chanting reached as far as the people that were merely walking past. Thoroughly enjoyable stuff.

We returned to the second stage for a chance to chill out and get some lunch before the final stretch at the main stage. Rival Sons were the ideal backdrop for a beer and a burger. The feel good¸ blues enriched sound was a change from the heaviness of the day so far. The band seemed to appreciate their time at Download and they treated the crowd like good friends¸ and that respect was returned by the metal-heads and hard rockers. I never thought I would enjoy such a band at a festival like this¸ but with the warm weather and the cold beer I was quite happy listening to them. They signed off with big thanks and a deserved round of applause.

Turning the tempo up afterwards was Sebastian Bach. The charisma of the front man was nothing but likeable. 'Kicking and Screaming' stood out as a brilliant live track¸ encouraging everyone standing to rock out and throw the horns as they sang along¸ even though the ability to hit the high notes belonged almost exclusively to the man on stage. The closing track of 'Youth Gone Wild' was bittersweet in that although it was a lot of fun¸ it was a close to enjoyable set. The Skid Row singer had injected a huge dose of energy into the second stage. The professionalism and the enjoyment on stage were both very high and it set the ball rolling for the rest of the day.

Up next was Ugly Kid Joe¸ A band that for me was pure nostalgia. It was a reminder of a time where being young and stupid was a full time occupation¸ instead of the odd weekend when I'm drunk! The set seemed short¸ possibly due to delays¸ but was catchy. Although obligatory¸ the karaoke of 'Cats in the Cradle' was a bit dull in my opinion. But when the opening notes of 'Everything about you kicked in¸ the crowd went crazy. If this song was to be their legacy¸ it's a good one to have. I defiantly enjoyed singing the stupid lyrics and bouncing about like a teenager.

The noise from the main stage where Lamb of God were in full flow¸ was similar to a rhino hitting me in the sternum as I changed stages. Thunder has a thing or two to learn from these guys! The power and force was unrelenting through the entire set. If there were to be a new 'Big 4' I will always maintain Lamb of God should be guaranteed a place. Songs like 'Walk with me in Hell' and 'Now You've Got Something to Die For' are delivered with ferocity and fervour. But the tag team of 'Laid to Rest' and 'Redneck' are something else. They raised all the hairs on the back of my neck in a sheer rush of adrenaline¸ and judging by the insanity down the hill in the several pits¸ I can only assume the same reaction has taken hold to many more people. Lamb of God are a perfect metal band for this generation.

As the light finally started to fade¸ Megadeth took to the main stage. They were¸ as expected¸ technically brilliant. Despite probably not appreciating it as much as a guitar player would¸ I was impressed with the skill from the guitarists. Despite that¸ Megadeth were not doing it for me. As much as they were alright to listen to¸ I found their presence on stage far too serious and subdued compared to some of the bands I'd seen today. They just seemed content to grind out each track like a live jukebox. So¸ I enjoyed the sound of 'Symphony of Destruction' and 'Peace Sells' resonating around the festival as I made some stops at the various stalls. I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything happening on stage.

My serious love of music happened when grunge was big. However¸ before I started going to gigs the bands I listened to split or quit. Having been lucky enough to see the reformed Alice In Chains (Minus Layne) a couple of years back¸ seeing Soundgarden was just as exciting for me. No matter what I???m listening to after years of discovering music¸ I will always revisit those two bands from time to time. The whole band sounded amazing¸ like they had been split for merely weeks and not years. The band played with a confident groove¸ mixing faster tempo songs like 'Jesus Christ Pose' and 'Rusty Cage' in with the downtrodden 'Fell On Black Days' and 'Day I Tried To Live.' A good number of the crowd (who I assume were just getting a good spot for the headliners) politely waited through the lesser known songs¸ but soon found their voices when the first line of 'Black Hole Sun' was sung. The performance was first class and the organisers could have easily closed the day on that.

As much as the sound of Periphery starting on the second stage was sorely tempting¸ the chance to see Black Sabbath was reason enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the tens of thousands of people at Donnnigton at the main stage. The age range was the biggest I've ever seen at a festival. I could have sworn I saw 3 generations of one family a few rows forward from my spot. But it mattered not if you had the entire back catalogue on the original vinyl or just the most recent greatest hits on mp3¸ the respect for the band had everyone assembled together filled with anticipation and excitement for the icons that were Black Sabbath. Although sadly missing Bill Ward¸ the front 3 were cheered for with the upmost intensity. The reward was nearly 2 hours of music from their distinguished career. Ozzy seemed unable to stand still¸ sprinting (sort of) from one end of the stage to the other. Geezer seemed quite happy rooted to the spot; showing up younger bass players and head banging in a way which made me feel like the old man! But the real star was Tony. Despite the recent news of his illness¸ he looked remarkably well albeit stoic and his skills were as sharp as ever. It was nothing short of an honour to see him play live on stage. It was humbling to think that this band had someway influenced every band I listen to. The crowd were charged¸ head banging and singing along to hits like 'NIB¸' 'War Pigs'¸ 'Iron Man' and 'Children of the Grave.' Each track was delivered perfectly and the crowd received each minute gratefully. The (literally) explosive finale of 'Paranoid' was one of those moments that will be continued to be talked about for years. Although I have seen several bands in my time and will probably see many more. But nothing will measure up to the fathers of heavy metal. And I'm not even a fan! But respect is given¸ where respect is deserved and Black Sabbath deserves a lot.

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