Download 2014: Black Label Society and Within Temptation

Following on from the party atmosphere of Skindred we've got Download's favourite axe-man - Zakk Wylde - followed by Within Temptation.

Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society are greeted like heroes returning from some kind of interminable war, but they’re still ready for battle. With comprehensively tattooed drummer Jeff Fabb thudding away in the rear, Zakk’s lack of ink is almost startling, but we’re not here to compliment the artwork, we’re here to enjoy the solos. And boy, we get solos. At one point Zakk advances, spider-like, down a gangway deep into the audience, where he unleashes a shattering cluster of scales and harmonics, before retreating to the stage for more of the same. Presumably he’s in his trailer right now, still soloing, wondering where everyone’s gone. Like a proper guitar hero. (7) (FR)

Traditionally, symphonic metal doesn’t tend to fare well out in the open air at festivals, but today the odds seem to be in Within Temptation’s favour: the charismatic Sharon den Adel’s voice is crystal clear in the mix and the abundance of heavier songs, mostly from Hydra, translate perfectly to the live setting. It helps that the singer doesn’t stop smiling beatifically down at the audience and manages to inject a hell of a lot of power into her performance, hitting all the high notes and possibly regretting her choice of a black leather corset in this heat just a tad.

The only slight snag they hit is with the trio of duets they perform with backing tracks - the voice of Tarja Turunen on Paradise is pretty much lost, but thankfully Sharon is more than capable of carrying a song on her own. This is abundantly clear during Fire and Ice, during which her voice floats out against a sparse piano backdrop which builds into a heavy power ballad - perfect for a hazy, sunny afternoon like this. But it’s songs like the exhilarating Dangerous, live favourite Stand My Ground and of course, Ice Queen that get the crowd jumping and prove that when it comes to metal, the girls can bring it just as hard as the boys. (8) (CM)