Download Festival live review - Donington Park, Derby

Black Peaks, TesseracT, Periphery, Good Tiger and Nightwish bring some prog to the UK's biggest metal fest.

Nightwish's Floor Jansen on stage at Download
(Image: © Kevin Nixon)

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Only the strong survive at Download this year. The strong and anyone with really good-quality waterproofs. But even as the Donington site begins to resemble a World War I battlefield (minus the corpses), the music continues to provide some sunshine and to remind us why we put ourselves through this soggy torture (nearly) every year.

Black Peaks may have an early start on Saturday, but it doesn’t detract from their debut Download experience. Plaid-shirted frontman Joe Gosney stalks the stage with bags of energy to bash out their particularly unique blend of alt-rock, metal and prog. These Brightonians are easily one of the most exciting and original new bands on the rock scene today, as today’s set certifies.

Amos from TesseracT

Amos from TesseracT (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The wind rips through the mud when TesseracT take to the Zippo Encore Stage on Saturday afternoon. Their show today is an indication of just how far the techy five-piece have come – they draw in a huge crowd, despite the weather. Tearing through a set of five songs, TesseracT showcase the heavier side of their repertoire, with frontman Daniel Tompkins on spirited form.

Periphery aren’t just cutting-edge prog metal’s most prolific band – new album Periphery III is their fourth major release in as many years – they’re also one of its best live acts. This Sunday, these turbocharged geeks are on blistering form, tearing through angular riff labyrinths like The Scourge and vicious newie The Price Is Wrong, all six members of the band grinning like madmen. Their enthusiasm is infectious; their execution of this undeniably complex music is simply thrilling.

Periphery's Adam Nolly Getgood

Periphery's Adam Nolly Getgood (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Good Tiger may be a relatively unknown name, but they boast former members of tech‑metal favourites The Safety Fire and TesseracT (Elliot Coleman is their vocalist). The toe-tapping, techy melody of Snake Oil opens their raucous set in the tent today, and while you can definitely hear echoes of their previous bands in their sound, they look set to achieve great things on their own merit.

There’s something hugely satisfying about watching Nightwish these days. Seemingly fizzing with collective admiration and chemistry, the Finns are an altogether different band now that Floor Jansen has become a permanent fixture.

As expected from a group that have long since conquered the arena circuit, they bombard Download with sonic opulence and a blizzard of glamour and light. Everything from mega-hits like Élan and Nemo through to the elegant melodrama of Ghost Love Score sounds immaculate.

More importantly, perhaps, Nightwish are seriously great fun and still very much enjoying an upward trajectory. If they were second on the bill to anyone other than Iron Maiden, you could be forgiven for assuming they were headlining this thing.