Download festival 2018 is upon us! Castle Donington is awash with metalheads, punks, crusties, scene kids, and everyone in between. Friday should be the day you go easy, leaving Saturday as your party night, but when the lineup is topped by Avenged Sevenfold and bolstered the likes of Tesseract and Cancer Bats, it's impossible not to join the party.
Here are some of the highlights from the first day of Download festival.
The rule of Download dicates that you drive 50/150/500 miles to the festival site, your weather app telling you there's a 10% chance of rain, and at the very moment you arrive the skies darken and the deluge starts. This year was no different, but it didn't last. The ground is firm, the going good, and waterproof ponchos are nowhere to be seen.
If you're not headlining the main stage, your job at Download is to show that you should be. Tesseract apprear to have spent their annual touring budget on this evening's lightshow - which flashes and plulses and spins in spectacular, disorientating fashion - and it works. The tent is packed, and it feels like they need a bigger stage.
Employed To Serve
We've said it before and we're bloody going to say it again - Employed To Serve are one of the best bands in the UK right now. Early in the day on the Avalanche Stage, the Woking wrecking machine unleash a savage barrage of metallic hardcore, with vocalist Justine Jones looking like an absolute rockstar as she barks and screams the heaviest cuts from The Warmth Of A Dying Sun. The band are clearly positioning themselves for something bigger. All wearing matching ETS branded jackets and putting as much effort into stagecraft as songwriting, we are no longer watching a band content with the hardcore toilet circuit - they want it all.
The Zippo Sessions Stage
At Download this year, Louder and Metal Hammer have teamed up with Zippo Encore to bring a series of exclusive acoustic sessions to the festival. Friday saw both You Me At Six and Nothing More perform unique, stripped-down sets in an intimate setting a lucky group of Downloaders - and there's much more to come across the weekend. All the sets are secret, so you never know who you're going to get, but it's always a performance to remember.
Cancer Bats don't play bad shows. It's impossible for them to do. Packing out the Avalanche tent to bursting point late in the afternoon, the Canadian punks deliver a pulverising greatest hits set that sends Donington into spasms of rage and ecstacy. Hail Destroyer, Sabotage, Winterpeg, Lucifer's Rocking Chair, Bricks & Mortar... We could watch them all day.
Last time Avenged Sevenfold headlined Download, they received something of a mixed response, but tonight the heavy metal jury has voted unanimously in their favour. A mammoth crowd has gathered to watch the Orange County heavyweights bring their Stage tour to Donington, will all the production gizmos, pyro and giant King heads that go along with it. Sadly, M Shadows' voice is a bit wobbly, failing to hit the heights and the power we saw last time A7X hit the UK, but the dedicated Deathbat family down front are carrying songs old and new up to the sky. Avenged have cemented their spot as bona fide festival headliners in the UK and one of the biggest metal bands on the planet - but where do they go from here?