The sun is just about still with us as Clutch  amble onstage as if they’re about to play a show at their local bar, rather than the biggest rock festival in the UK.
Their confidence is justified as, for the next 45 minutes, they stun the main stage with a set of brilliantly crafted southern-tinged rock ‘n’ roll boogie. Wisely much of the set is taken from their awesome Earth Rocker album, the title track, opener Crucial Velocity and the cowbell heavy D.C. Sound Attack sounding absolutely monumental under the beaming sun. Plus they are just about the tightest band you’ll ever witness, the lucid riffs of Tim Sult and brainiac octopus drumming of JP Gaster merging beautifully throughout. But the star, as ever, is frontman Neil Fallon. His wide eyed, babbling preacher act seduces the rapidly swelling crowd until, by the time Clutch end with the ever perfect blues banger Electric Worry, they are eating out of the palm of his hand. This is Clutch’s first ever appearance on the main stage at Download, and they smashed it so hard you’d struggle to believe they could ever have been anywhere else. Consider this gauntlet thrown down, and hard.
Make absolutely no mistake, Five Finger Death Punch  are going to headline this festival one day. They’ve had a genuine bond with Download ever since their morning performance on this very stage six years ago, and today they cement their position as THE upcoming metal band to beat. Six albums in this set is totally comprised of fan favourite, killer material, from opener Under And Over It to closer The Bleeding and through the mass singalongs of Burn M.F. and Lift Me Up (sadly not featuring Rob Halford today) this is as dominant a display as you could wish to see before a headliner. The trick of bringing some of their more youthful fans onstage to join the band may have been performed numerous times before, but it still feels heartfelt, genuine and, most importantly, so, SO fucking cool.
The only comparable, non-headline display to this in recent Download history is the demolition job Avenged Sevenfold performed in 2011. And look where that took them. “Who would have believed it!” barks human pitbull Ivan Moody, reflecting on the packed field before them, before they depart. Not many people to be fair mate, but if they were here today then they certainly believe it now. Kick, scream, bitch, moan, fold your arms all you want. But this is happening. Five Finger Death Punch are metal’s next superstars.