Despite playing at the painful-when-hungover hour of 11am, AVATAR  own the main stage. Johannes Eckerström is the perfect combination of unhinged, theatrical and oddly sexy, and deserves a slot at a more sociable hour next year. BEARTOOTH  follow, drawing on their first album, Disgusting, for most of their set, as Caleb Shomo leaps about in a Motörhead t-shirt and shows off powerful clean vocals in the triumphant In Between. They seem slightly uneasy on such a big stage, but their raw energy proves they deserve to be there. Predictable, slightly cheesy, but familiar enough to entertain soggy people, ATREYU’s  old-school, classic rock-influenced metalcore sounds dated next to the genre’s modern proponents, and they even manage to make Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name sound flat. Did Nikki Sixx pass a copy of Stadium Rock For Dummies to his band and insist they weren’t to deviate from the instructions inside? SIXX:A.M.’s  bombastic pop-rock would probably go down a storm in a Vegas casino, but overblown tracks like Rise and Prayers For The Damned lack any real grit.
THE MEN THAT WILL NOT BE NAMED FOR NOTHING  are essentially a novelty act, but since they’ve got big riffs, and, most importantly, can be genuinely funny, they make for a surprisingly enjoyable set on the second stage. There aren’t many people hanging around for SCORPION CHILD  as they plod through unremarkable trad-rock. A closing, belting Polygon Of Eyes proving there is something there, but why did it take so long to surface? TESSERACT’s  first Download appearance is stunning, with Dan Tompkins’ glacial vocals sending shivers down the spine of the huge and appreciative crowd. BURY TOMORROW  look and sound as massive as any of their metalcore peers, and when Dani Winter-Bates hangs at the lip of the second stage to meet their rabid fanbase for almost half an hour after their set it’s a moment that cements Bury Tomorrow as a real band of the people.
The second of three Dickinsons to play Download this weekend, Griffin leads SHVPES  through some standard metalcore fare at the Maverick Stage, though God Warrior and False Teeth do show some encouraging signs for their forthcoming debut. BLACK PEAKS  tick every box with a performance that’s both muscular and majestic. Challenging, inventive and heavy, they9 end with the elegant Say You Will and coercive Saviour, offering further proof of the Brighton quartet’s talent. TURBOWOLF’s  sheer enthusiasm gets everyone to start the set sat down in the mud, before finishing with an attempted tent-sized conga line. New song Domino also means there’s a bit of substance to back up the glitz and good times. DANKO JONES  himself admits that each song “is the same three chords played in a different order,” but when they elicit such a joyous reaction it’s hard not to get swept up in their slick vibes. LAWNMOWER DETH  are ridiculously good fun, providing Maverick attendees with a truly golden moment when “the actual” Kim Wilde hits the stage to sing on Egg Sandwich, Watch Out Grandma and, of course, her own Kids In America. Chaos ensues. ESCAPE THE FATE’s  take on metalcore may be more polished than some of their contemporaries, but they know how to shred. Remember Every Scar gets the crowd bouncing, and the sultry, glam over-tones of Gorgeous Nightmare show that the 80s are still a credible source of inspiration.
It takes a while for CANE HILL  to find their groove at the Dogtooth Stage, but once the stomp of Timebomb and new track Fountain Of Youth hit the mark, the glory days of nu metal are reignited. By the time MUNICIPAL WASTE  hit the stage, the tent is overflowing and crackling with energy ready to be unleashed. The Virginians’ party-thrash anthems provide the perfect soundtrack and even MW newbies chant along to the newly rechristened I Want To Kill Donald Trump, and minute’s applause for former drummer Brandon Ferrell, who tragically passed away just a week ago, makes this even more of a meaningful return.
With Dave Mustaine looking more relaxed than ever before, MEGADETH  are on brilliant form at the main stage. A flurry of songs from Dystopia sound monstrous, but it’s the classics that seal the deal. Nikki Sixx joins his former foes for a predictably dreadful plod through Anarchy In The UK, but you can’t win ‘em all. DEFTONES  follow and play only two tracks from the newly released Gore setlist – Prayers/Triangles and Rubicon – but they slot perfectly into the set. Chino Moreno has an understated yet powerful stage presence, letting woozy vocals do the talking, as their sludgy, artfully discordant post-rock is fractured by drum hits like gunshots. Only SKINDRED  can be relied upon to raise everyone’s ailing spirits in this weather. Benji Webbe commands the second stage crowd with effortless verve, as the likes of Pressure, Trouble and Nobody provide the sonic sunshine we’ve been craving.
If this is the end for BLACK SABBATH’s  history as festival headliners, it is not quite the spinetingling affair it probably should have been. On the plus side, the band sound fucking incredible, Tony Iommi’s ageless riffs resounding across the Donington swamps with all the majestic power devotees have adored for decades. Unfortunately, that potency is tragically undermined by the fact that Ozzy Osbourne sings the first four songs completely off-key and it’s truly painful to listen to. It’s a shame, because when Ozzy does click into the correct key for Snowblind and War Pigs, Sabbath are simply magical, but as the rain crashes down, plenty head for their tents long before Paranoid brings things to a close.