For the fourth straight year, the hordes descend on Southampton University. Once again, festival season is here, and it’s Takedown that rings us in. A one-day “welcome back” celebration for the British music festival and once again, the typical Takedown’s blend of mosh inducing metal and wall-shaking rock is on the scene to make the party a wild one.

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Plenty of familiar Takedown names scatter the lineup, and the day kicks off with one of last year’s debutants. Zoax open the main stage with the same riotous approach that won the over Southampton crowd one year earlier, and whoever it was that coined the unwritten rule of life being hardest for bands tasked with opening a stage has clearly never met the London-based quintet. Vocalist Adam Carroll moves through the crowd with a slight twist on the Baby Godzilla approach to fan interaction; rather than climbing on everything in sight, Carroll seems content to scurry about making friends with individual crowd members, getting in close so he can gradually steal all their things. We’re not quite sure where the phone, sunglasses or handbag came from, but we assume they all found their rightful owners again in time. Musically, the set was just as characteristically raucous as a Zoax performance can be, and with a new EP to plug the five-piece sell themselves superbly. If 2014’s set was enough for Takedown to bring Zoax back, then 2015 may have secured them a lifetime pass. We certainly wouldn’t complain if it had. (4.5/5)

With the way things kicked off, it’s difficult to imagine how momentum was going to sustain itself throughout the day. A brief respite at City of Ashes is enough to keep things ticking over; their placement on the FVK-curated Obsidian Stage is a wise addition and one they make use of well. (3/5)

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The Uprawr Stage is gathering speed, however, and the returning Dendera are Judas Priest for a new generation. The speaking voice of frontman Ashley Edison does nothing to suggest the superb vocal abilities he possesses, and it gives the Portsmouth armada a real staying power in your memory by the end of the day. (4/5)

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Vocal excellence might just be the theme of the day, as following Dendera are Black Peaks. Fresh off a name change and a great run of shows with Arcane Roots, it’s hardly surprising that they’ve found themselves at Takedown this year, and perhaps even less so that the Kingston trio are having them back out for more this May. Singer Will Gardner has a range that many vocalists at the festival could only dream of, and as tense as his stage presence may seem, the guy is right at home on the Black Peaks frontline, where the instrumental backing can go from 0-100 in the blink of an eye. (4.5/5)

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Hawk Eyes are another Obsidian Stage act making full use of their spot, with tracks from ‘Ideas’ and their most recent album (‘Everything is Fine’) offerings smashed out as if it’s the band’s last day on earth. ‘Skyspinners’ is the moment that everything seems to slot together, and in the Leeds quartet you have another act who will surely be welcomed back with open arms in the coming years. (4/5)

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If Hawk Eyes are playing like the world will end tomorrow, however, then Rolo Tomassi’s set is thrashed out as if the world is collapsing around their very heads. It’s purebred carnage and at this point it’s insanity to expect anything less; the feral main stagers are single-handedly making the jump in ticket prices worthwhile and they are loved for it. The first real pits of the day have arrived and they couldn’t have done so in a more appropriate set; with plenty more festivals to come before Rolo Tomassi’s season is through, they’ve certainly started on a high note at Southampton University. (5/5)

Creeper have made a name for themselves recently with some eye-catching studio releases, and their recent announcement as support for Bury Tomorrow has given them a lot to live up to in a live setting. On this particular outing to the Big Deal Stage, however, you’d be forgiven for viewing it as something of a false start. In our position at the back of the room something just doesn’t click, and the band’s invigorating power on record is rather non-existent on stage in the Stag’s Head. (2/5)

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If there’s anyone to turn to for getting things back on track, however, then you can bet Arcane Roots fit the bill. Returning to the main stage after two years away, the three-piece smash out the same sublime balance of old and new tracks that have made their headline shows such must-see experiences in the past year. With a new album on the way, tracks like ‘Leaving’ are the perfect advert, in the same way that the likes of ‘You Are’ and ‘Resolve’ have sold previous efforts so well in the past. If ‘Left Fire’ was Arcane Roots announcing their arrival, ‘Blood and Chemistry’ was them finding their place, then be prepared for this year’s record to deliver the resounding statement that they want more, and they’ve got plenty left in the tank right now. (4.5/5)

From here, everything seems to get a little more hectic as the must-see sets come thick and fast. The Hell storm the Uprawr Stage with their typical swear jar-shattering offence, though there are no inflatables in sight on this particular outing. As The Hell sets go, its decidedly more paint-by-numbers than many of last year’s outings appeared to be, but a baseline performance by the Hell is still a hell of a show. Perhaps it’s a case of “end of the album cycle” blues, and if that’s the explanation then you can bet that the mob will be back up to full speed by the end of 2015. This particular set, however, will be unlikely to stand out. (3/5)

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Perhaps the toughest overlap of the day is between Takedown veterans The Blackout and Dead!, and the knowledge that seeing every second of both sets is impossible is a real downer as the day goes on. The arrival of Dead! is something of a homecoming, however, and missing their return to the University is not something to pass up. The tracklist of ‘Tu Me Manques’ is still getting solid treatment, and it’s as if the young quintet had never left their South Coast hometown. They won’t be gone for long though, back down in the coming months with Zoax alongside them, a two-band assault that there’s no real excuse for missing after each act’s performance on their respective Takedown returns. (4/5)

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For The Blackout, however, there is no “next time down south”. With the end of this month comes the end of the Welsh band’s journey, ending how it began in a sweaty and emotional Methyr Tydfil venue. It all comes full circle, and the band’s last ever South Coast set is a late addition to the final run of shows. This will be the last time that many in the crowd see the outfit live, and you can tell from the word go that none of them are willing to waste the opportunity. Something special is brewing, and from the very first bellowing of “we are the dynamite!” to the last dying notes of ‘I’m a Riot? You’re a Fucking Riot!’, the main stage is really the only place to be. It’s the perfect send-off for a band that have had such an impact on so many faces in the room, and you can bet that there’ll be a lot more tears shed in venues nationwide before the month is through. (5/5)

From a band at the tail end of their career, the next stop is one who are still defining their own. Moose Blood have become a highly touted fixture in the catalogue of emerging talent, especially since their performances in support of Mallory Knox late last year. On the Big Deal stage they certainly live up to the hype, belting out a set which will both satiate their established fans while winning over a whole heap more who happened to pass through. (4/5)

It’s unfortunate that we only catch the final seconds of Fort Hope’s Obsidian Stage outing, but Fearless Vampire Killers are well worth the wait, and having assembled a fantastic array of acts to grace the stage they helped curate they couldn’t have done a better job in wrapping things up. Everyone in the room seems to have found their second wind in time to throw everything into FVK’s set, and it’s a special kind atmosphere for a band finally finding their feet again after a turbulent 2014. (4/5)

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For Mallory Knox, it’s a similar kind of story. Their rise up through the ranks of British rock has been well-documented and well-deserved, and the band are a worthy addition to the list of names to headline Takedown Festival. The group look like superstars as they close out the main stage, and they’re treated like it too by a crowd who have been on point all day. It’s the perfect send-off for another successful year of Takedown, with the band showing their full range of thunder and emotion from ‘Wake Up’ to ‘1949’. It’s the sort of set that has you leaving the festival caught in two minds. On the one hand, you’d be hard pressed to see Mallory Knox as anything other than on top of their game right now. On the other, however, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that we haven’t seen anything yet. (4.5/5)

Takedown Festival continues to be the perfect start to the festival season, and it’s left a whole heap of rock and metal fans hungry for a summer full of music. When you talk about kicking things off in style, the Southampton festival is writing the book on it right now, and there’s already a feeling of anticipation to see what 2016 has in store for the event.


Words by Antony Lusmore (@Metacosmica_). Photos by Heather Fitsell.

View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Takedown Fest 2015 here.

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