It's been almost two years since Spiritbox first went stratospheric with Holy Roller (which now sits at over 3 million views on YouTube alone). In that time, we've seen them firmly established as one of metal's most exciting new bands, their debut Eternal Blue appearing on both critics' and fans' end of year lists, as well as appearing in international charts.
The fact that this all happened during the pandemic made it hard to judge exactly how this would all translate back in the real world once everything had opened back up again, but rest assured: seeing the crowd Spiritbox amass for their first ever UK appearance is all the evidence needed to know this isn't just a case of media or internet hype going out of control.
The Avalanche Stage tent is absolutely packed 15 minutes before the band are even on-stage, and by the time they do arrive more bodies still are hugging the perimeter of the tent. If there was any nervousness about playing the UK for the first time, it's utterly shattered as Courtney LaPlante snarls "Cut down the altar", signalling utter bedlam as Spiritbox get stuck into Circle With Me.
Admittedly, the cleans in the song's verse come across a little quiet and indistinct, but each time Courtney lets loose with her screams its like pandora's box opened with a hydrogen bomb inside, her voice filling the tent and being reflected back by an utterly exhilirated crowd.
Spiritbox's Download Festival debut has all the makings of a legendary set on par with Trivium in 2005, a moment that an exciting new band absolutely assert themselves as ones to watch for years to come. Blessed Be, Hurt You and Yellowjacket are absolutely colossal, the crowd screaming with such fervour you can practically see it fuelling the band to go bigger and harder.
There's not an ounce of timidity to how Spiritbox come across; Courtney cracks jokes ("what a first date, we'll do another..." she says. "Next time we'll buy dinner") while the rest of the band stride and grandstand with the confidence of a band whose future is looking very assured. And why wouldn't it be? By the time the band get to Holy Roller itself the atmosphere is like bottled lightning, the crowd screaming along, headbanging and moshing like Spiritbox are returning heroes.
The band's softer, more melodic sides are explored on closer Eternal Blue, an emotional swansong from a set which feels destined to go down in Donington history. Whether you were there or not, Spiritbox have staked a claim on being the metal band every fan needs to know after Download Festival 2022, on a rocket ride that seemingly has no end in sight.