Heavy Metal’s voice of authority is not to be messed with and if a supreme if succinct main stage set was anything to go he’s still the only voice for a slew of NWOBHM classics.
Hammer Of The Gods and a retro-fueled rendition of Denim And Leather blew away any early cobwebs even though Byford’s winter coat and windswept hair indicated a chilly breeze had replaced Friday’s woeful washout.
Across the way Fozzy – aka wrestler Chris Jericho and his US metal mob – found the blustery conditions too hard to handle. Their high-energy set lacked any focus and the best bits were lost in a weather-affected mix. New tune Sandpaper was a welcome exception.
Halestorm might have cut across Saxon’s grand finale (a brilliant version of And The Bands Played On wrapped things up for the Barnsley boys) but Lzzy Hale and her band mates still drew a bumper crowd from the off. Wearing her England football socks above the knee in a clear case of wooing the crowd ahead of Monday’s Euro 2012 opener, the multi-talented musician kicked up a storm on the Zippo Encore stage. Declaring that Download was the ‘dirtiest, nastiest, freakiest’ festival Halestorm had ever played Hales promptly delivered a killer version Freak Like Me to set the standard for Day Two.
And back on the main stage it was time for the band that would provide the main talking point of an action-packed Saturday. From the off the Brides were booed, barracked and bottled and feisty frontman Andy Biersack rose to the challenge – in a fashion.
Mixing arrogant smirks with verbal volleys he managed to whip the crowd into an agitated frenzy and capped it all by pulling a moonie out front. Love them or hate them – and there’s a lot of hate out there – these lads are entertainers born to cement rock n roll’s reputation for courting controversy and polarising opinion.
Trivium picked up the pace and played to a more receptive crowd at the venue that launched their career many moons ago. Now big players on the metal scene they managed to set a record for mosh pits and, in the case of frontman Matt Heafy, a record for expletives. As the sun showed signs of poking out Heafy turned the air blue but belting out tunes like Black and the snappily titled A Gunshot To The Head Of Tepidation made up for some choice Saturday afternoon turns of phrase.
If Heafy’s language was industrial then Steel Panther’s was typically sleazy. Playing in front of a huge main stage crowd the spoof hair metallers made the most of their latest return to Castle Donington delivering a unique mix of X-rated comedy and killer 80s anthems.
The band’s ascension to the Download’s main stage was written in the Starrs and few acts look more comfortable cajoling a monster gathering. Of the new jokes comparing Satchel to a skinner Yngwie Malmsteen made those in the know chuckle hardest.
The Treatment – who head out on the road with the Panther in Germany again this week – followed Hollywood’s finest in the Pepsi Max tent and these boisterous young Brits are only getting better. Frontman Matt Jones was born to belt out classic rock anthems and did just that with prime cuts from debut long player This Might Hurt going down better than a dose of valium.
Over on the Jagermeister Stage and it was time for a double dose of late 80s/early 90s nostalgia with Quireboys and Dogs D’Amour singer Tyla providing the perfect chill out zone. Following Friday’s triumphant Zippo Stage set the former mixed things up a little – squeezing in a marvelous rendition of Mona Lisa Smiled – but sensibly finished with 7 O’Clock. For one fan – a member of Metallica’s road crew – a truncated set ended a 22-year wait to see his favourite band and he left with a smile as wide as Spike’s beloved Tyne.
Tyla, watched stage left by Spike and possibly the coolest dude inside Castle Donington, was on fire and Dogs classics How Come It Never Rains and I Think Its Love Again never sounded so good.
A quick hop across to the Red Bull stage and new Brit buzz band Fearless Vampire Killers attempted to mix melody with some meaty growls – and never quite succeeded. Much hyped yet lacking experience this lot could be good in five years’ time but over-enthusiasm is no substitute for cool heads on the big occasion. Given a decent dry cleaner and some facial scrub and things could get very much better for the new darlings of Kerrang! magazine.
And so to the main event. Metallica were born to headline Download and Castle Donington has become a home from home for James Hetfield and his buddies down the years. Perhaps milking that relationship just a little too much, the pioneers of thrash nevertheless delivered what could be the perfect set for fans of a late 80s/early 90s vintage.
Building a bombastic greatest hits set around the mega-selling Black album and throwing in some spectacular fireworks for good measure, Metallica owned the muddy wastes for two glorious hours. Black Sabbath have it all to do.