[LIVE REVIEW] Download Festival @ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne 11/03/2019

Just as the epic line up from 2018 in Melbourne brought Sydney to a boil in a jealous rage, this year Sydney siders returned the favour by hosting Download and enhancing the excitement 100 fold for this year’s magnificent cast of hard rocking protagonists let loose on Melbourne.

Although news of The Blizzard becoming too ill to make the journey had an evident effect on the festival post notice, hardcore lovers of live rock and metal could not be dissuaded from the thrill of these events nor their enthusiasm dampened.  And let’s just face it head on…what more could possibly be done to make up for elements outside the control of organisers.  Personally, I’d slide down a razor slide using my goolies for brakes if need be to have a chance to slam a can on my forehead with Joel O’Keeffe and the lads from Airbourne.  Well…almost. 

But as we march with the masses into Flemington, eyes wide as dinner plates, chests thrust forth and fists clenched ready to pound the air aloft, the excitement for Download is alive and well.  We wish Ozzy a speedy recovery and all those serious about supporting hard rocking festivals in Australia are here regardless of the headliner’s absence.  And who could possibly miss the amazing assembly of artists from all over the globe including the mighty Slayer including our continent as part of their final shows ever?

Now I freely confess that I’m not 100 percent certain whether the opening act launched my enthusiasm skyward because proceedings were officially underway or whether they were simply just so awesome.  Either way Voyager from Perth, Western Australia was absolutely first rate in performance and could not have selected a more apt song than fan favourite What A Wonder day to officially open Download Melbourne.  This tremendous outfit fed furiously from the atmosphere of the big festival stage and delivered the goods ferociously. 

New Years Day

Utterly superb while just adjacent in the Avalanche Stage tent New Years Day sought to bring their assembled audience from their weary slumber with an invitation to get all the way involved on the announcement from Ash Costello that “its time to wake the fuck up”. To be perfectly honest I am a little biased here because I have been busting to see NYD since My Dear and despite Ash being the sole remaining member since that time, my enthusiasm has not diminished. Thanks to the dynamic energy and delivery commitment from the current sensational line up I was rocked senseless from start to finish. From Vinnie Paul tributes that ‘they told me I couldn’t do, but fuck it’ to utterly phenomenal stage energy from all members, a sensational set list and soaring vocal delivery, I was thrilled to have built up such lofty expectations and see those exceeded so sensationally. – (Casper)

Opening the Avalanche Stage for the day’s proceedings was New Years Day who brought their gothic metal sound to the forefront and I am sure that the punters who turned out early were glad they did. Fronting the band is Ash Costello with her two-toned red and black hair she is hard to miss, and what a pocket rocket! Ash worked the stage like a woman possessed with F-bombs flying at every opportunity. She has a dynamite voice and had the crowd eating out of her hand in minutes. New Years Day is a tight unit all round and one to seek out if you have the opportunity. (Cassandra Hale)

New Years Day: Photo By Tess

Luca Brasi

Tasmania’s own Luca Brasi got the Black Stage off to a great start as the fans flooded in to check them out. They have been getting some serious radio time of late, so it came as no surprise to see the large gathering of people coming for a listen.  With a set-list of around 10 songs they kept the fans happy with Stay, Reeling, Got to Give and Clothes I Slept In to name a few.  They gave an engaging performance and certainly picked up a few new fans in the process. (Cassandra Hale)

Luca Brasi: Photo by Tess

Windwaker

Hailing from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales are metalcore outfit Windwaker. This five-piece certainly blew the hair back on the punters up close as they blasted their heaviness to all in attendance. The Ascension Stage was a short hike, but it was well worth it to see this type of home-grown talent busting loose. Front-man Will King killed it during their set, the whole band were tight and well received by the fans who added them into their itinerary for the day. I can see why they took out the chocolates for Triple J’s unearthed this year, definitely one to watch. (Cassandra Hale)

Windwaker: Photo by Tess

Slaves

I was thrilled to see that such a great turnout assembled under the Avalanche Stage roof for Slaves from the UK and it is my honest hope that there will be further increase in local support to see this brilliant pair at work in Oz.  With the sorting out of initial mic issues for Isaac Holman at the drums, the lads from Royal Tunbridge Wells were taking charge in ferocious style.  Who could possibly imagine that only two people on stage could bring about such a sensationally soaring celebration, but the angst and outrage built into their magical offerings drive this pair to a world-class performance? Soon sans shirts and absolutely sensational, we can’t wait to see you back down under.  Chatting later in the day it is again gobsmacking that two calm, considered and thoroughly charming chaps could summon such vicious performances.  I hope my next comment is received by all with the utmost respect I intend to all parties concerned, living or departed but this performance was something resembling the result of a Joe Strummer and Keith Flint collaboration.  Astonishing.  Slaves left nothing in the tank but if need be I’m certain they would always find more…finding the drumsticks after every song is a little more difficult. (Casper)

Slaves: Photo by Tess

War On Women

War On Women were all tremendously engaging with Shawna Potter putting on a brilliantly cheeky performance that seemed equally entertaining for the band as well as the crowd.  Musically delivering in their usual fine form but with an obvious extra dimension to their act, presumably brought about but the environment and the appreciation of a crowd the band could actually see smiling back enthusiastically.  Just brilliant. (Casper)

War On Women: Photo by Tess

I Prevail

I Prevail were obviously appreciated by the Melbourne audience and expressed special thanks to Triple J for including their music on rotation which was met by huge cheers.  Although polished and engaging, the crowd appreciation may just have struck a special note for “a couple of lads from Michigan” declaring their thanks for the chance to travel the world to appreciative audiences.  Then the ‘shoeies’ make an appearance and someone’s particularly character building foot odour made drinking from their offering to this ritual a little less than pleasant.  Nevertheless, checking, double checking and triple checking how many people had seen them before and would indeed come to see them again brought positive response to a possible November Tour that would leave a promoter very comfortable. “Whose coming?” Basically everyone.  Scars and Breaking Down were the standout fan favourites and I was certainly no exception to thrill.   (Casper)

Airbourne

Long before I Prevail finished on the Red Stage the foreground of the Black stage was awash with black T-shirts as the Airbourne army were summoned to find prime position. Opening with huge pyro and jumps in the air the guys were off and running and didn’t we love it. The energy and stamina this crazy bunch have needs to be seen to be believed. They put together a ripper set-list including Ready To Rock, Chewin’ The Fat and Rivalry. No strangers to the festival circuit overseas, it was brilliant to finally have them play a festival here in Australia and judging by the turnout, thousands were in agreeance. The whole set was action packed with singer Joel O’Keefe even smashing a beer can into his head, which worrying as it was, he was loving every second as the amber liquid cascaded over his shirtless torso. Finishing out their set with Runnin’ Wild to thunderous applause and cheers of more. It was a balls and all rock show, and while it was my first time seeing Airbourne I can say for certain it will not be my last! (Cassandra Hale

Airbourne: Photo By Tess

Fever 333

Following the recent release of the utterly superb new album Strength in Numb333rs, Fever 333 had a massive assembly ready for the amazing group.  It is of course no secret that Jason Aaron Butler has a vast support base in Australia right back to the days of Letlive and he has fond ties with us down under.  Having had the opportunity to interview Jason a couple of times in recent weeks and having been utterly blown away by the new album I was like a kid before Christmas as they took to the stage.   Reflecting on these chats and now having the opportunity to meet this Jason, I remain in bewildered awe of how such a mild-mannered and magnificent guy can muster such intense, incredible and thrilling stage performance along with harnessing the angst and anger of contemporary society within his music so brilliantly.  With such a huge crowd all sharing similar sentiments, together Fever 333 brought the meaning of community, charity, and change to the fore for us all, and so very much more.  Jason. Stephen Harrison and Aric Improta were far better live than I could have reasonably expected, but the inevitable and presumably impromptu theatrics of Jason, brought the experience to a new level of excitement.  Crowd surfing and sharing with attendees, yes. Running through the crowd to the sound booth, absolutely.  But watching Jason scale the sound booth scaffolding and literally dance the music, dangling aloft from fingertips only, was something else entirely.  Having the forethought to hit record on the trust iPhone was a decision I was pleased with and showing Jason later in the day, even he seemed pretty pleased with the new heights of theatrics.  Pun intended.  All summed up and with a few words exchanged with colleagues post-event, this performance was the highlight of the festival for more than just a few.  Thank you Fever 333 for ‘bringing it’ so intensely and such a phenomenally brilliant set.  We hope to see you back soon for a headline run. (Casper

Californian outfit FEVER333 tore the Avalanche Stage a new one, this insane three piece with the never say die attitude had the floor jumping from the first song. Never mind the fact that singer Jason Aalon Butler launched into the crowd and continued to sing while he was passed around like pass the parcel. If that was not enough, he then popped up on the lighting scaffold at the rear of the tent which he climbed at warp speed, had a swing then jumped back down to sing his way back through the cheering punters. I must admit I held my breath until he was back on stage, but he didn’t seem to have a worry in the world. They gave a blistering set including, Burn It, Made In America and Out Of Control. If music at a frenzied pace is your thing you will love these guys, the crowd seemed blissfully satisfied as their set came to a close. (Cassandra Hale)

Fever 333: Photo By Tess

High Tension

Wow! What can I say, extreme metal to the max. Formed in 2012 Melbourne based High Tension slotted into the Dogtooth Stage early in the afternoon but had a large following front and centre as they tore up the floor. Karina Utomo was scary to say the least, her gravelly voice plucked straight from the bowels of hell. She works the crowd incredibly well and was dynamic in her delivery, putting every bit of energy into her performance. If metal pushed to its limits is your cup of tea then High Tension is for you. Now someone please give Karina a Soother! (Cassandra Hale)

High Tension: Photo By Tess

Behemoth

Behemoth, as defined in the dictionary, is ‘a huge and monstrous creature’ which I think sums up this band to a tee. It was a show with no boundaries, full of death metal and all things satanic or of the occult. Their painted faces cloaked by hoods setting an ominous tone for the show. The punters were jostling for prime position as the whole two main stages filled to capacity to take in the glory of Wolves of Siberia, Bartzabel, and Conquer All to name a few. The hoards were out of control with pits a plenty opening up and some very sore bodies by the sets end. Listening to vocalist Nergal talk to the crowd you would think butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but when it was down to business Behemoth were nothing but brutal finishing their stage time with blood aplenty and hints that they may return to Australia soon. Let’s hope it comes to fruition and we can welcome these Polish metal masters back to our shores sooner rather than later. (Cassandra Hale

Behemoth: Photo By Tess

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes were an absolutely must for yours truly and I was tickled pink (haha yes, the suits) on the first announcement to the Download line up.  As this super-group of tremendous musicians, led by the delightfully disoriented, dizzy and comical antics on bass, blast into Believe at a lively pace a very special thrill overtook the already enthusiastic crowd.  Heart of Glass continued the passionate celebration and let into what was a thoroughly superb set. (Casper

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes: Photo By Tess

Anthrax

It has been six long years since Anthrax have been in Australia and boy have we missed them. Opening with Caught In A Mosh no truer words have ever been sung as the pit opened up at a furious pace. Joey Belladonna was exceptional his voice that of a man many years his junior, still hitting the high notes and working the stage with lightning speed. Scott Ian performing his trademark jumps to precision and shredding the shit out of his flying V, while he ran in circles imitating the mosh in front of him. Got The Time was up next followed by I Am The Law which had the punters singing loud and proud “I AM THE LAW” fists pumping the air. Frank Bello moved so fast I couldn’t keep up, his stage presence was sensational and bass playing exemplary. Be All,End All and Evil Twin were both huge hits with the fans but Antisocial set the mosh alight again, Jon Donais killing it on lead guitar and headbanging in the process. Charlie Benante came into his own as Indians finished out the set, he is a demon on the kit and I was in awe just being so close to the stage watching him live. The ‘war dance’ consumed the mosh pit which was going crazy, bodies a blur but metal horns still pumping the air. Anthrax was one of my favourite performances of the day and it was a massive tick off my bucket list. Please come back and headline soon, we love you here Down Under. (Cassandra Hale

Anthrax: Photo By Tess

The Amity Affliction

The Amity Affliction set was magnificent and as much as I would prefer to concentrate on the musical delivery, the levels of crowd care, attention and the power of a band on stage are worthy of particular note.  During mid track delivery Joel Birch was gesturing to security that there was a problem in the crowd, ultimately ceasing proceedings to ensure appropriate care was afforded to the person experiencing severe difficulties in the crowd.  From an elevated height there is the obvious advantage of seeing more than we mere mortals at ground level, but the care and concerned displayed by the band was far from typical.  The power of the band in directing the ‘seas to part’ and allow medical care to the patient was impressive at very least and the groups behaviour should be applauded.  The group being far more concerned with the welfare of a concert patron rather than getting on with the set.  Most admirable behaviour indeed. (Casper)

Rise Against

Rise Against filled the next Black Stage slot and it was a full house to see their one hour set. The fans were treated to a large setlist including The Violence, Give It All, Drones and The Good Left Undone. Tim McIIrath’s vocals were faultless and the fans were engaged in their set for the duration, happy to punch the air and sing back with gusto. They fit the festival circuit well and it gave everyone a chance to catch their breath after a few heavier bands before them. Satellite and Saviour finished out their hour, proving they are a tight rock unit and a definite crowd pleaser. It was fantastic to see them back so soon after their headline tour of Australia and I can guarantee if they keep coming back we will keep turning up. (Cassandra Hale)

Frenzal Rhomb

Frenzel Rhomb have been a favourite of mine since 1997 when they left me suitably advised if I had any inclination of perhaps taking up abode in their respective residences.  Since I did indeed Meet The Family and follow the unique Aussie wit of Jason Whalley, there has been much to celebrate and today, on the Dogtooth Stage at Download, we celebrated in finest FR style.  In the most opportune and perfect Frenzel Rhomb way the band brought about heads spinning in surprise toward Dogtooth and cries of “Ozzy?” filled the air.  Some were running to see if The Blizzard had a change of health only to find Lindsay McDougal punching out Crazy Train in fantastic fashion.  A perfect Frenzel Rhomb opening before Bird Attack, Cunt Act and Mummy Doesn’t Know You’re a Nazi filled the air to joyous applause.  Naturally Russell Crowe and co were a part of the equation and yes  Jason, we would indeed pay $200 to see Frenzel Rhomb.  Lindsay is a fucking doubting Thomas.  Hey, there a new song in that! A word of personal thanks to the lads for my all time favourite and seriously?  After all these years I still can’t move in? Killer stuff.  Perfection.  (Casper

Frenzal Rhomb: Photo By Tess

Pennywise

Pennywise are long-loved entities in Australia and their return is always so very welcome.  Sound checks, warm-ups and Duelling Banjo’s esque renditions of Smoke On The Water were a fun way to start and watching Fletcher Dragge march forward is always a uniquely thrilling moment for me.   Pennywise, being to some elder statesmen of the 80’s west coast punk movement are, just like their last album Never Gonna Die and their contemporary performances reflect their superior skill and tremendous experience.   This performance was so important for so many assembled and a relevant demonstration that if you keep making them, we will keep loving your work.  Lets face it…trying to stop Pennywise makes as much sense as a car jacker considering taking on Fletcher mid cruise on the Pacific Coast Highway.  If you don’t remember that, listen in to a chat I had with Fletcher back then at http://silvertigermedia.com.au/tag/fletcher-dragge/

Pennywise are best summed up by the announcement of their name and those who have witnessed, know what that means. You could tell who had enjoyed their first Pennywise experience as they left the tent because of their mouth agape and eyes like saucers in astonishment. And yes Lindsay, photographers cameras are some heavy MF’s.  Thank you Pennywise.  Just brilliant. (Casper

Pennywise: Photo By Tess

Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains was obviously extremely special to their assembled faithful and delivered to absolute perfection.  Observations that “it’s been a long five years” were met with cheers from the crowd and evidence enough that Alice In Chains are always welcome favourites Down Under and we were always keen for a Rainier Fog visit.  A huge setlist of brilliant tracks and call it grunge, call it metal, call it grunge metal if you like but just call it as it is… sensational. (Casper)

Devilskin

Our pals from across the ditch Devilskin are back in Oz and after their recent tour run with Slash, Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, they have grown a vast horde of appreciative fans on Australia soil, many of whom are here stage front at Ascension.  With amps turned appropriately to eleven Jennie, Paul, Nick and Nail pound out the kiwi metal perfectly and in amazing fashion.  Jennie’s new outfit is certainly an eyecatcher during the show and the cartwheels nearly cost me a lent over the head as appropriate punishment to my gaze.  Remember…look away.  Not that there was nothing else to see as Nail delivers demonic growls that would have  Beelzebub himself saying fuck, kiwi’s are cool cuz.  Nick at the kit is always a skilled dynamo and Paul charges from one side of the stage to the other commanding axe attention.  But that outfit Jennie…DAMN. An outstanding set as always but with a festival edge.  If you missed them at Download, make sure you pop Devilskin live on your bucket list to avoid afterlife regret. (Casper

Devilskin: Photo By Tess

Judas Priest

Metal Gods Judas Priest were a brilliant addition to the Download Festival line up and plenty turned out purely to see them in the flesh. The Black Stage was packed solid and I struggled to contain my excitement as I got myself a spot up close. Firepower opened the set and they blasted the title track of the latest album to perfection. Rob Halford’s powerful vocals just as good as they were 20 years ago. Sinner saw the rear curtain disappear to reveal screens of flames and smoke cannons spurting to the sky. Rob had a jacket change the first on many over the course of the set, enough to make any metalhead envious of his collection of leather and studs. Desert Plains was an unexpected gem and Turbo Lover saw the fans lose their minds. Ritchie Faulkner filled the spot K.K. Downing back in 2011, his shredding skills are exemplary, and he has cemented his potion with his sensational musicianship. He was engaging to the audience like no other and I was drawn to him for the whole set, constantly pointing people out and flicking them picks, a memento to treasure. Andy Sneap did a fabulous job keeping Glenn Tipton’s spot warm and it was touching to see Glenn on the big screen with Rob pointing to him, reminding us he is never far from their hearts while he is fighting the hard fight. Freewheel Burning turned the heat up a notch and got the fans jumping followed up by You Got Another Thing Comin’.

Rob disappeared stage right for what I thought was another jacket change but low and behold he returned riding his trademark motorbike on stage. Hell Bent For Leather rang out to the roaring crowd before Scott Travis asked ‘what do you want to hear’ the answer, of course, was Painkiller! Scott showed the crowd why he is one of the best metal drummers in the business, super tight and never missing a beat. The hoards reveled in the heaviness of Painkiller with a sensational light show to match, a standout of the whole day for me. Ian Hill, as usual, stayed to the rear of the stage, and while his stage presence isn’t huge he is the glue that binds these metal gods together. His musical ability is second to none and he is an integral part of the band. The show could have ended on Painkiller but an encore ensued much to our delight which included Electric Eye and Breaking The Law which shows Rob Halford is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. Judas Priest are the consummate professionals of the heavy metal industry, 50 years young and still going strong. (Cassandra Hale)

Judas Priest : Photo By Tess

Twelve Foot Ninja

It seems only last year that Twelve Foot Ninja released Outlier and my brain will scarcely accept that the excitement that came with that album was in 2016 but their popularity is alive and well with a hometown crowd bringing it for the band.  Howling cheers for fan favourites and the band delivering for adoring Melbourne faithful was something encouraging to behold.  More music, more shows, and more Twelve Foot Ninja is our vow for the future.  Sensational. (Casper)

Twelve Foot Ninja: Photos By Tess

Slayer

Slayer…2019…Melbourne…Final World Tour.  One could write volumes on that short assembly of words alone.  The heritage and history of this phenomenal outfit formed way back in 1981 laid out on stage for Download 2019.  The stuff of legend.  Watching these thrash gods roll out, what could be their final Melbourne performance finds me heavy of heart and looking for the silver lining in tour wordplay.  Maybe this is the final world tour and maybe there will be just individual countries visited one by one? Maybe it will be individual special ‘live appearances’ instead of the word Tour?  Whatever it may be…PLEASE don’t let this be the last time we hear such amazing music performed by such skilled protagonists.  I think it is safe to say that raining tears was true for so many that this may be the last we hear Raining Blood live in Melbourne.  But should that be our fate, what a way to say farewell this was with face-melting thrash magnificence.  Slayer were beyond astonishing, beyond phenomenal and for those who were there, I’m sure you’ll understand that they were literally beyond further words. Thank you Download, UNIFIED Music Group, Live Nation Australia and New Zealand for this historic and thrilling opportunity. (Casper)

Slayer: Photo by Tess

Ghost

Ghost were the penultimate performance of the days splendiferous offerings and what a spectacle of brilliant rock theatre is offered in the limited surrounds of the Avalanche Stage.  I was genuinely astonished to see what excellent accommodations had been made for the legendary Tobias Forge and his troupe of magnificent masked minions.  The stage display was more impressive that a modern day  Boaz and Jachin, an incredibly effective spectacle considering the limited area.  A credit to everyone involved and the show itself was every bit as legendary as the band themselves.  The lighting and the pyrotechnics gave a distinct impression that we had been lured into the shrine of Belial and the spectacle was flying by all too quickly.  Whilst entwined in the glory of Ghost and their phenomenal performance with every second being the most thrilling of musical and visual encounters but Mummy Dust, Dance Macabre and Square Hammer brought about the thrilling finale all too soon.  With the concept of bottom wobbling and tantalising temptations continuing on announcement from Cardinal Corpus that we may se Ghost back within a year, we leave with hope springing eternal.  Utterly thrilling. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Tobias post download and you can hear the story behind the tour news from the legend himself. (Casper)

Halestorm

Halestorm have recently popped onto my radar and I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Saying this, I was excited to see them live and I was not disappointed. Lzzy Hale oozes sex appeal and has a killer set of pipes to boot. I was worried about the height of her heels, but she is a stiletto professional and I needn’t have given it a second thought. Opening with It’s Not You they were off and running much to the fans delight. They had stiff competition with Slayer and Ghost playing simultaneously but they had the Dogtooth Stage jam-packed in their own right which was a fabulous thing to see. Uncomfortable filled the next slot followed by Mz. Hyde and I Am The Fire it was a packed set-list and not much time to talk in between. Black Vultures and Do Not Disturb off the latest album Vicious were brilliant and I am certain that Do Not Disturb raised the pulse of more than a few punters. Freak Like Me, Love Bites (So Do I) and I Miss The Misery was a spectacular trifecta to finish out the show and the last gig of the whole Download festival.  I was blown away by the stamina and charisma of the band as a whole, they live through their music and you can feel it just being in their presence. With hints of a headline tour later in the year being teased I can assure you I will be there flying the Halestorm flag. (Cassandra Hale)

Halestorm: Photo By Tess

That’s a wrap on Download 2019, we came, we saw, and we kicked its arse! Until next year keep the metal horns flying and stay true to your love of live music. If we keep supporting music festivals such as Download they will keep them running them, it’s in our hand’s metalheads!

Review covered by Casper and Cassandra Hale