Download 2019 Proved Why Australia Needs Heavy Music Festivals

Download 2019 Proved Why Australia Needs Heavy Music Festivals

Returning to Australia this past weekend with a scorching line-up, Download Festival 2019 proved that heavy metal events deliver a communal atmosphere like no other.

Despite headliner Ozzy Osbourne forced to withdraw from the Sydney and Melbourne events due to illness, the talent on display across all stages was relentless and astounding, with international favourites like Ghost and Slayer and local legends Luca Brasi and High Tension helping match the excitement around the festival’s Australian debut last year.

Here’s what you missed at Download Festival Australia 2019.

PARRAMATTA PARK

Mar 9

  • Perth crew Voyager didn’t squander the opportunity to broaden their fanbase. A standout was new single Brightstar, which segued from ’80s pop glory to a prog-metal workout.
  • Kiwi groove-thrash trio Alien Weaponry packed in plenty of enthusiasm despite a few technical snafus, and songs like Holding My Breath incited, what was for many, the first circle pit of the day.
  • On record, Polaris‘ beefy grooves and technical flourishes of The Mortal Coil didn’t entirely win this scribe over. Live, the impact was enhanced, even if by set’s end their Architects-style fare felt a tad played out.
  • Clearly thrilled to be there, Melbourne’s The Beautiful Monument possessed a likeable stage presence, and cuts likeManic endeared their brand of alt-rock/melodic metal further to the respectable turnout. 
  • FEVER 333 sporting of band uniforms didn’t last long as a sweat-drenched Butler and bandmates ventured into the crowd and urged punters to make festivals a safe space for female fans.
  • Ably spurred on by drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan, Code Orange leaned heavily on the ambient hardcore/metal/punk amalgam of the aforementioned latest record including the bruising title track, capped off by guitarist Reba Meyers stepping up to the mic for the memorable Bleeding In The Blur.
  • Even with fill-in drummer in tow (Urian Hackney of Rough Francis substituted with impressive skill) Massachusetts heavy hitters Converge delivered one of the sets of the day
  • Lzzy Hale is a bona fide star. The Halestorm leader’s charisma meant she was able to command the gathering to do her bidding at will, her formidable voice unwavering. 
  • Pitch-perfect harmonies and riff-meister Jerry Cantrell’s distinctive tone on Down In A Hole, No Excuses, We Die Young, Angry Chair and Man In The Box in succession was a festival-friendly maneuver from Alice In Chains that few other bands could have delivered.
  • Judas Priest delivered motorcycles, outlandish jackets, lightsabers and tunes like Hell Bent For Leather and Painkiller – this was an old-fashioned, celebratory metal show in all respects.
  • Latter-day Slayer sets have veered between great and sub-par. Thankfully, this was far more a case of the former.
  • For all the negative headlines, online debate and protests surrounding the future of music festivals in NSW, this event was a timely reminder of the community feel that is the lifeblood of these events. Hopefully, this won’t be the last instalment of Download in Sydney.

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Slayer. Photo by Hayden Nixon.

 

FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE

Mar 11

  • Windwakerdo their darndest to get some circle-pit action happening just shy of 1pm and for that this Wagga Wagga metalcore band must be commended.
  • Slaves totally win us over.
  • War On Women impart important messages while they thrash around on stage and Potter encourages us to continue supporting “people of colour and gender non-conforming folks.
  • Airbourne never disappoint, but we do miss those early days, especially when O’Keeffe used to scale festival stage scaffolding, bottle of red in one hand, before pausing up top to scull from a great height (bloody OH&S is the enemy of rock’n’roll!).
  • High Tension from Melbourne sound so sludgy and dense, and vocalist Karina Utomo is an absolute weapon who performs as if possessed.
  • The punters lap up Me First & The Gimme Gimmes selection of covers including Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, Paul Simon’s Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard and Dolly Parton’s Jolene, all presented in trademark thrashing fashion.
  • Anthrax own the Black Stage and standout track I Am The Law wonderfully showcases the accelerating axe wizardry of Scott Ian and Jon Donais plus Joey Belladonna’s vocal chops.
  • The banter between Frenzal Rhomb’s Jason Whalley and Lindsay McDougall is priceless and it’s refreshing to have a laugh and break up the heaviness of Download’s line-up.
  • Outright impress with Jelena Goluza out front giving it her all with those in-your-face, screamo vocals. 
  • As soon as Judas Priest materialise, lead singer Rob Halford wins outfit of the day with that silver leather jacket trimmed with red and black detail that includes fringing under each sleeve for maximum colour and movement. 
  • Slayer are totally in the zone from the first note of super-fast, relentless opener Repentless; every sound produced so effortlessly that, for these musicians, muscle memory must totally take over.
  • The atmosphere for Ghost is almost icy with fear and the Nameless Ghouls that back frontman Cardinal Copia absolutely crush it – even though their vision is seriously restricted – while creating a sinister vibe thanks to their costuming.
  • 
Ozzy’s cancellation definitely left a headliner-sized hole in this evening’s programming, although the talent on display all day across all stages is astounding.

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High Tension. Photo by Jay Hynes.