Download 2015: Ace Frehley, Testament, Carcass

Clear evidence that veterans can still bring the noise

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Resplendent in black leather, mirror shades and a ‘New York Fuckin’ City’ t-shirt, Ace Frehley looks every inch the statesman rock star as he opens up a weekend his former bandmates in Kiss are finishing off, splitting his set between the songs he wrote for the band and his own material.

He kicks off with a quick blast through Rip It Up from his first solo album. 1974’s Parasite follows, barrelling along with drummer Scott Coogan’s miniature drum intermission a scattergun highlight, and Frehley wishes Queen Elizabeth a happy birthday before the appearance of Toys, one of the highlights from last year’s Space Invaders album. Today’s World Gin Day (seriously, look it up), so Cold Gin’s appearance is as appropriate as it is delicious, and Coogan takes the mic for a storming Love Gun. The band are clearly fired up, and momentum is only lost during a rather laboured trudge through Shock Me. Deuce recovers the lost ground as smoke billows from Ace’s guitar, and it’s a bright, surprisingly spiky start to the day. Kiss songs, in daylight, with no costumes and no pyro? It shouldn’t work, but it does. (FL)

As the liquid mud by the Zippo Stage climbs to boot-sucking level and beyond, drunken men slip backwards into the slurry while young women squat beside an overflowing bin to piss into the swamp. Paradise. Or at least the perfect post-apocalyptic backdrop for a Saturday afternoon marathon of hairy nihilistic gruntcore. Evergreen survivors of California’s first-wave 1980s thrash boom, Testament are what Metallica would sound like without the platinum albums, private jets and Hollywood-level special effects. Turbo-barking quasi-bestial frontman Chuck Billy keeps it muscular and percussive with a pulverising Practise What You Preach and a fist-pumping Into The Pit, which gets the moshpit cyclone whirling. Billy concludes by dedicating Native Blood to “all my Native American brothers and sisters,” an unlikely contingent of the Download audience here in the East Midlands, admittedly, but still a sweet sentiment on a filth-caked afternoon standing ankle-deep in a lagoon of mud and piss. (SD)

“Good afternoon Monsters of Rock! How you fucking doing?” Maximum respect to Jeff Walker of Merseyside grindcore legends Carcass: even his gig introductions are old school. Now eight years into their post-reformation second act, Carcass can still shred with warp-speed surgical precision in the studio, but they have inevitably lost some of their old weapons-grade ferocity live. They crank out a short set of tempo-twisting, guttural, torture-porn growls about genital wounds and rotting corpses, some a little on the sluggish side. Even so, there are still flashes of the explosively discordant avant-punk experimentation that made these Brit-thrash poioneers sound so revolutionary 25 years ago, injecting some of the liberating anarchy of free jazz into heavy rock. “We may not have the biggest crowd today, but we’ve got the ugliest and best,” grins Walker. Correct. Carcass have still got it. (SD)