download 2013 poster final@ The Main Stage, June 15 2013

A Louisiana supergroup, a stoner metal institution, a five headed, southern-fried sludge monster… Down have long since established themselves as far more than just a mere side project. Three studio albums, plus an EP, of Sabbathian grooves sprinkled with Sknyrd have made the quintet a major draw at festivals like Download. 

And they certainly didn’t disappoint fans eager to hear spliffed up anthems like Hail The Leaf, or experience the joy of watching Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein – two of metal’s greatest riff writers – in full flow.

However, any Down acolytes expecting to hear material from the majestic Over The Under album would have felt short changed from this set, which leant heavily on NOLA, the band’s debut. As packed with anthems as that album is – Eyes Of The South and Pillars Of Eternity being just two examples aired at Donington – some more recent work would have added more depth to the performance. Only Witchtripper, from 2012’s Purple EP and the 11-year-old Ghosts Along The Mississippi – played in all its stomping glory – were featured from later efforts.

Phil Anselmo, stalking the stage and as intimidating as always, may have provided a clue to this. His vocals were much rawer than we’ve now come to expect on record, and therefore much more suited to NOLA-era songs than the more refined work found on Over The Under.

Nevertheless, this was a rabble rousing performance, and you just can’t help being riffed into submission by Bury Me In Smoke – even if, by the end, the grizzled vets were bizarrely joined on stage by Scottish proggers Akord, fresh from their appearance on the Red Bull Studio Stage.

Life’s never predictable for Anselmo and co…but it always rocks.

Richard Holmes