Rousing the wet and dejected crowd into an 11am frenzy on the Main Stage are Heart Of A Coward, and no amount of rain is going to dampen their show.
Ex-Sylosis frontman Jamie Graham brings a much-needed energy to the grey Donington morning as he commands a circle pit from the small but lively crowd. Soggy wellies and hangovers aside, they comply. The Milton Keynes metallers have got enough grooves, darkness and riffs shot through with soaring melodies to give fellow Brits Bury Tomorrow a run for their money, as they prove with the booming Psychophant. Graham stands like a figurehead at the end of the gangway, his every word ringing out clearly as he treats his audience to a no-holds-barred wake up call laced with snarling anger. They end with Around A Girl In 80 Days which, although lyrically lacking, is a booming soundscape with a melodic middle eight that allows guitarists Tim Beazley and Carl Ayers to show off some fancy fingerwork. Download, consider yourselves awake.
Next up on the main stage are veteran emo quintet Funeral For A Friend, whose signature brand of spiky, melancholia keeps the crowd moving, despite not having the raw energy of openers Heart Of A Coward. They show their political side by playing 1% early on in the set, which takes on a new rawness given the sharp divide of opinions after the recent election. As frontman Matthew Davies-Kreye says: ‘This song is for anyone who gives a fuck about our country’. Their sound is as passionate as ever, but it doesn’t quite have the fire needed to rouse the lunchtime crowd; Davies-Kreye and his bandmates are static on the stage, even as they coax the crowd into a circle pit during End Of Nothing. It seems they were saving up their real energy for the last ten minutes of the set; they thank the fans, or ‘old fuckers’ as they affectionately refer to them – that that have stuck with them since their inception, and end with a triumphant rendition of Escape Artists Never Die. Neither, it seems, does rousing Welsh emo.
Mallory Knox manage to lighten the mood and get the crowd to test their lungs during a powerful set that sees frontman Mikey Chapman showing off some impressive pipes. The spritely Cambridge bunch have no trouble in getting the audience swaying as they launch into Getaway, and Chapman’s voice rings out clearly over razor-sharp riffs. Hearing them live, it’s obvious why their career is going from strength to strength; their most recent album, Asymmetry, translates just as well to the stage as it does to record, with all melodies and rhythmic nuances intact. Alongside the likes of Neck Deep and Twin Atlantic, Mallory Knox are a promising force in the latest wave of British rock; they play with retro-sounding hooks that hark back to the days of early ‘00s indie rock, but add their own slice of attitude. The set gets progressively heavier as it goes on, and they show they’re more than capable of crossing into post-hardcore territory as Chapman snarls his way through The Remedy, before ending on a high with the soaring Lighthouse. Expect to see them higher on the bill next year.