Photo credit: Matt Eachus
There’s expectation in the air as Creeper make the leap from fourth to the main stage with ease. However, this is a band that has plenty to give and make their 30 minutes matter. Their ferocious brand of gloom, melodic punk rock proves to be a big draw, as the Southampton band continue to justify their hype. With old and new favourites (‘Suzanne’, ‘VCR’) on display, you realise Creeper really are the special band many make them out to be. The mix of bold horror punk and subtle theatrics is compelling, while frontman Will Gould’s stage presence continues to grow as he walks down the catwalk with confidence to address the crowd sincerely in-between songs. While ‘Misery’, as always, aims to steal the show uniting the growing crowd. Preceded with a message of hope, the poignant words of ‘I Choose To Live’ echo across Donington, with Creeper departing having thrown their hat as outsiders into the discussion of potential future headliners. (4.5/5) (SR)
With their first album in 11 years, ‘The Future In Whose Eyes’, fresh out in the open, SikTh bring their frantic, twisted brand of tech metal to the main stage. With Mikee Goodman’s growls, plucky bass lines and rapid riffs, the Watford sextet bring a dense wall of sound. While they don’t pull in the biggest crowd, there is still a dedicated presence. Supplying a “greatest hits” set, SikTh use their slot ideally. ‘Skies of Millennium Night’, ‘Flogging the Horses’ and ‘Philistine Philosophies’ are pulled out alongside recent single, ‘Golden Cufflinks’. Whilst second vocalist, Joe Rosser. sounds more confident than before, as he and Goodman take advantage of the large stage. Although they might not be the biggest main stage pull of the weekend, SikTh show intent and even invite former vocalist Justin Hill to end their set with ‘Bland Street Bloom’. (3/5) (SR)
Those enticed into the Dogtooth tent by the fact that Junior feature current WWE UK star Mark Andrews on bass, were rewarded by a landmark set in the career of a trio just starting to make some real waves on the exploding UK pop-punk scene. You can’t be from South Wales and play any kind of pop-punk or pop-rock without solid performance or songwriting chops, not if you want to be taking seriously anyway. Thankfully these lads have it in spades. Live they have a much heavier bite than they do on record, while the aforementioned Mr Andrew’s off the scale charisma infects his bandmates as well resulting in a composed and entertaining showing. ’A House That’s Not Quite Home’ packs the sort of belting hook that’s ideal for festival singalongs, while surprise sightings of WWE stars No Way Jose and Jack Gallagher rocking out in the pit (the latter doing so in a gentlemanly fashion naturally) and some post set shenanigans involving Andrews and his long-time nemesis Pete Dunne all rounded out a performance that was as memorable for the fans as the band themselves. (4/5) (DW)
Photo credit: Ross Silcocks
What a difference a few years makes, when AH first saw Trash Boat make their tentative steps onto the UK festival circuit they were raw, rough around the edges and a little unpredictable quality wise. Now though their ringing pop-punk riffs and flailing frontman Toby own the tent with composure and self-assurance. Returning to the UK after a lengthy run stateside, the lads look right at home in their spot as one of the brightest lights of UK pop-punk. Their newer material in particular does sterling work of stirring up the tent from front to back, with a triumphant closing performance of ’Strangers’ reinforcing just how far they’ve come. (3.5/5) (DW)
With Scot-Rock gods Biffy Clyro due to headline the next day, we got a look at one of the absolute best of the newer generation bands from North of the border rapidly making a name for themselves in The LaFontaines. You can’t deny that the lads from Glasgow just might be the coolest outfit to have graced Donnington all weekend, and they make a huge impact from the off. One of the biggest crowds that we see jam themselves into the Dogtooth Stage lap up every second, and frontman Kerr, who‘s presence and crowd control feels increasingly masterful every time we witness it, works overtime to keep their focused glued to him. From the opening grove of ’Slow Elvis’, to the awesome chorus vocal of ’Under The Storm’, it’s a mystery how this lot aren’t massive already. Many more festival showings like this and they certainly will be, drawing such a big crowd when you’re the most indie-influenced act on a metal and heavy rock dominated bill is an achievement in itself. (4/5) (DW)
Their first trip to Donnington may have marked one of Of Mice & Men’s biggest appearances so far since the medically necessitated departure of Austin Carlisle, but if the band felt any trepidation as a consequence they didn’t show it. This was a slick, business like showing from a band that have long since morphed into an unstoppable heavy rock juggernaut. New track ’Back To Me’ suggested their writing remains as potent as ever, even with the loss of their main vocalist. Elsewhere the likes of ’Never Giving Up’ and ’The Depths’ sound positively gargantuan blasting out of the main stage, and remind us that the band can nail bittersweet melody and the impactful heavy stuff with equal aplomb. (3.5/5) (DW)
This was always going to be an interesting one. After the controversial release and aftermath of their recently released self-titled album, Suicide Silence take to the stage to silence the haters, and to a degree do a really good job. ‘You Only Live Once’ and ‘Unanswered’ have limbs flying from all angles while even ‘Doris’ sounds brilliantly affecting. It’s when closer ’Conformity’ comes in that things get a little baffling. Clearly the band have injected a lot of pent up rage into their new material but compared to the straightforward brutality of their older material, on the live stage it just comes across a bit lost and awkward. Love or hate it, Suicide Silence are playing to the beat of their own drum and seem to have no intention of stopping. (3/5) (JR)
Bleaker then bleak and heavier than hell, Casey are in terrific form on the Dogtooth stage. The band’s mix of heart-shattering spoken word and gut-busting hardcore riffing have the crowd before in a stand of stunned silence, expect those with their heads in their hands singing along to ever word with ‘Teeth’ and ‘Darling’ being prominent highlights. This is a band that you will be seeing more and more of as the year winds down and based on this display you would be a fool to miss them. (4/5) (JR)
As one of the standout bands from the pool of pop-punk bands appearing across the weekend, Knuckle Puck are welcomed back to the UK with open arms. Over the course of half an hour, the Chicago group deliver an impressive and energetic set that is wall to wall of big hooks and massive singalongs. With highlights from 2015’s ‘Copacetic’ dominating their time, songs such as ‘Pretense’ and ‘Evergreen’ are received overwhelmingly positive with a sea of crowd surfers making their way to join vocalist Joe Taylor. For (possible) new fans, this was a strong viewing of Knuckle Puck, and while longtime fans lapped it all up, you can’t help but think an injection of new material is needed. (3.5/5) (SR)
Photo credit: Sarah Koury
One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend and thankfully A Fire Inside pulled it off brilliantly. Drawing songs from across the whole of their back catalogue, the band are on powerful form, especially Davey Havok who utilizes the ego walk before him at any opportunity he can. Though some of their faster cuts get a little lost on such a large stage, ’17 Crimes’ and ‘Snow Cats’ have enough power surging through them to rise to the occasion. The purists may not have got exactly what they wanted, but AFI still put the same amount of heart and soul in to their live show now as they did when they started out on the bar circuit, and that is something to be applauded. (3.5/5) (JR)
Photo credit: Ben Gibson
There’s a point at every festival, usually in mid-evening, where your energy and enthusiasm levels start to drop. What you really need at that stage is a band to unleash utter carnage and give your attention span a bloody good kicking. And there’s no band quite as ideal for that as Every Time I Die, who within seconds of arriving on the Avalanche stage have set in motion the aforementioned carnage and then some. If you don’t get instantly pumped by the relentless riff attack by the brothers Buckley and co then we’d have to question just what you were doing at Donnington in the first place, as the likes of ’Glitches’ and ’Decayin’ With The Boys’ stir up pit action all over the tent. Keith Buckley’s scattergun quips and irresistible madcap presence can’t help but draw fans old and new to commit entirely to the mayhem as a ’Low Teens’ heavy set goes down a storm. (4/5) (DW)
Photo credit: Sarah Koury
Bands like Coheed and Cambria are always the most reliable when it comes to festival sets. Taking a break from their hugely successful ‘Neverender’ tour to play a perfectly executed set of fan favourites, this is just another feather in the hat of a band which does no wrong. Onlookers sing back every single word pitch perfect while head honcho Claudio Sanchez looks like he is having just as much fun as the people standing before him. An ear-splitting rendition of ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth:3’ makes this as a resounding victory and once again one of the clear highlights of a weekend that was already with them. (4.5/5) (JR)
Photo credit: Ben Gibson
If you want “bangers” in abundance, then A Day To Remember is the band to call upon. With a slot subheading for Biffy Clyro, this is a test for ADTR, to see if they can potentially headline one day. Kicking off with back to back hits; ‘All I Want’, ‘I’m Made of Wax, Larry…’, and ‘The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle’, it’s clear the Ocala, Florida group know how to satisfy in a swift manner. Even with vocalist Jeremy McKinnon occasionally struggling, the thousands spread out across the fields of Donington were eating up everything from ADTR’s palm.
Where longtime favourites ‘Right Back at It Again’ and ‘Have Faith In Me’ are made to be sung in unison, new cuts such as ‘Naivety’ and ‘Paranoia’ are fierce and made for moshing. Add to that the usual shenanigans of giant beach balls and a t-shirt gun, and you’re left with an entertaining set full of stylistic variation; even ‘End Of Me’ gets a rare outing. As ‘The Downfall of Us All’ shudders the ground of Donington Park, it’s obvious A Day To Remember have all the markings to one day top the bill. They’ve got the songs, the presence and the potential to pull it off. (4.5/5) (SR)
Veteran Canadian pop-punkers Simple Plan take the rather dubious honour of being easily the poppiest, most saccharine act of the weekend. Despite that they still pack out the Avalanche Stage as hordes of former emo inclined pop-punk kids regress from their late 20’s and 30’s back to belting out some unashamedly anthemic teenage angst. A greatest hits heavy set generally hits the mark, particularly old favourites ’Addicted’, ’Welcome To My Life’ and ’I’m Just A Kid’, but cheesier number ’Summer Paradise’ and more sedentary pop-groover ’Love Is Just A Lie’ feel a tad out of place in the surroundings. But Bouvier’s polished crowd interaction shtick and a stage dive from drummer Chuck Comeau get things heading back in the right direction before ’Shut Up’ and a communal singalong to the gloriously downbeat ’Perfect’ ends proceedings on a high. (3/5) (DW)
Photo credit: Ben Gibson
Although their spot as headliners has split opinions in the weeks leading up to Download, Biffy Clyro have paid their Donington dues yet it’s clear they’re here to prove the doubters wrong. While they pull in the smallest of the three main stage headliners, those in attendance witnessed a sublime alternative rock show that saw the band delve into their discography. Accompanied by a dedicated section of the crowd, Simon Neil bellows out ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’, ‘Biblical’ and ‘Bubbles’ across Donington. Beyond the “radio hits”, Biffy offer a mix bag of jagged, intense numbers (‘Who’s Got a Match?’, ‘That Golden Rule’ and ‘Animal Style’), delicate-yet-unifying acoustics (‘Medicine’ and ‘God & Satan’) and grandiose rock (‘Different People’).
Throughout, it’s clear the trio haven’t taken this opportunity to headline for granted, with Neil commenting on some of the rock giants that have had the same billing in the past; AC/DC and Black Sabbath. As the last notes of ‘Stingin’ Belle’ ring out and a plethora of fireworks light up the sky, it’s clear Biffy Clyro’s mission has been accomplished. With the old crop of Download headliners fading out, like it or not, Biffy Clyro will be back again and with the same determination. (4/5) (SR)
View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Download Festival 2017 here.
Words by Sêan Reid (SR), Dane Wright (DW) and Jack Rogers (JR).