DOWNLOAD DIARY 2012 – DAY THREE

To steal a phrase from the canny Pete Spibey, it was Black Spiders who got this very special ‘Sabbath’ day underway.

And who better to usher in the final chapter of another riveting Download story than a band heavily influenced by Osbourne, Iommi, Butler and Ward?

A brilliant yet brief set by the Sheffield band begs the question why they have yet to reach the next level. With singalong metal anthems, a cracking attitude and a growing fan base surely it’s only a matter of time. 

But then those in the know have been saying the same about Heaven’s Basement for many years now and an early slot on the Pepsi Max stage hardly represents progress. Perhaps the problem is the fact that a settled line-up and a familiar name has done nothing to solve the band’s obvious identity crisis. Still veering between melodic classic rock and full-on metal there’s a tough decision to be made some time in the near future.

Reckless Love, however, know exactly who they are and where they’re going. The band’s addictive brand of 80s hair metal is beginning to win wider acclaim and rightly so: this was a retro party from start to finish with Steel Panther-esque posturing and a Leppard-like sheen perfect for a steamy Sunday.

Edguy maintained the Pepsi Max stage momentum but a truncated set robbed a decidedly international crowd of the best of Tobias Sammet’s infectious banter. Even so, the pint-sized singer brought a big smile to the faces of those present and tunes like Superheroes and Lavatory Love Machine kept the party in full swing.

Back on the Zippo Encore stage Rival Sons’ 70s soaked grooves proved perfect for a crowd enjoying the early afternoon sun and a few cheeky beers. Jay Buchanan’s trousers might have left a lot to be desired and he didn’t quite hit it off with the agitated stage manager but the Sons successfully converted daughters, fathers and mothers. With festival organiser Andy Copping watching from the wings expect this band to feature heavily on future Download bills.

Sebastian Bach couldn’t quite resist rolling out the sub-standard metal of his later years but at least the towering frontman paid homage to his former band with a slew of Skid Row classics. Cracking versions of Monkey Buisness, 18 And Life, Youth Gone Wild and I Remember You went down a storm. Sadly Bach has long since turned his back on penning similarly melodic hits and dire songs like American Metalhead now seem to excite a frontman who prefers to squeal than sing.

Ugly Kid Joe were on many fans’ must-see lists with a rare appearance from the US party rockers more than meeting expectations. Neighbor sounded naughtier than ever but the brilliant Everything About You brought the house down.

Shinedown have morphed into an ultra-professional hard rock machine and if the US mega-sellers can occasionally appear a little too polished then this impressive band don’t play poor gigs. Given a suitably grand stage to showcase their talents, Brent Smith and his buddies took their chance and then some – wrapping up with a fierce version of 2012 single Bully.

A day of main stage metal came to a monstrous finale with Soundgarden immediately preceding Black Sabbath in a hard hitting one-two hyped to the hilt in the Download build-up. But did both bands deliver?

Soundgarden rolled out a typically surly set punctuated buy the odd genuine gem – a raucous rendition of Rusty Cage the clear highlight. But whereas hair metal has enjoyed a revival due to the fact that it was fun first time around, grunge was always deeply depressing. On this evidence a second helping doesn’t look likely to set the world alight.

Sabbath called time on Download 2012 by delivering a series of metal standards written to inspire heavy bands for generations to come. Tony Iommi’s fretwork was nothing short of dazzling and if Ozzy looks in danger every time he lets go of the mic stand then his vocals were spot on.

And in all honesty that’s all you can possibly ask of an individual who, by rights, probably shouldn’t be headlining Download with his old Sabbath buddies such were the excesses of his colourful past. Yet Ozzy, like Iommi, is a true rock n roll survivor and this was a set as much about the past as the present.

It’s impossible to imagine a long-term future for this band but a legacy-affirming appearance was significant nonetheless. If, by any chance, you’d forgotten just how influential Sabbath are then this was a compelling reminder.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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