If there is one band that encapsulates the Castle Donington spirit more than any other it’s the mighty Metallica and a headline set reflecting the venue’s rich history was perfectly pitched and typically professional.
That Black Sabbath never got close to matching their protégés 24 hours later proves that few acts can confidently emerge from the shadow of a genuine giant of the metal genre.
The unlikely criticism that the centrepiece of the band’s Saturday show – a rendition of the definitive Black album in reverse – was both dispassionate and derivative simply beggared belief. Clearly Metallica can do no right in the eyes of a muddled minority: for the fair-minded majority it was clear that this was a fitting celebration of Download’s 10 years at the top.
In truth Metallica have never sounded better pounding through the anthems that completed their transformation from thrash metal pioneers to heavy metal heroes.
As a body of work the Black album always provided a nod to the past – elements of Master Of Puppets and …And Justice For All remain – and a glimpse of the future. In the live environment its heavier side is allowed to flourish and the lighter moments underpinned by a voracious appetite for excellence.
A mixed bag of stone cold classics (Master Of Puppets and For Whom The Bell Tolls) and surprise picks (The Four Horsemen and Hell And Back) had ushered in the Black set but it was only when Metallica unleashed their 25 million-selling magnum opus on a chilly Donington that things really warmed up. A thrilling version of The Unforgiven and a foreboding slice of Enter Sandman proved to be the pick of a brutal bunch but consistency was the key.
Reprising their Rock Am Ring encore of Battery, the brilliant One (the original precursor to the Black album’s subtle shades of dark and light) and interactive crowd-pleaser Seek And Destroy set the seal on a genuine highlight of the metal year. Resistance – like criticism – was futile.