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Download 2016: Day Two Review

Driving rain and black skies provide a suitably doomy backdrop for Black Sabbath's final UK festival show

There's no getting away from the mud. It's everywhere. Each footstep drives your boots deeper into the sucking, energy-sapping quagmire, and gazing out over the festival reveals a vast sea of disposable ponchos splattered with silt. We're not obliged to talk about the weather, of course, but to do so would be un-British, and it's our Britishness that allows us to cope. It's Dunkirk, and tally-ho, and into the breach, old friends. For there are bands to watch.

Avatar are simply fantastic today. A demented blur of riffs, grins and mutant theatrics, the likes of Hail The Apocalypse and Smells Like A Freakshow sound like proper anthems and receive the noisy, effusive acclaim they deserve. We even learn how to "headbang like Swedes", although this technique would appear to be exactly the same as our own British version. Bit weird, really. (DL)

Having fun is a tiring business, but Beartooth vocalist Caleb Shomo is here to help and bellows any fatigue from our damp bones. The band’s title track from their new album Aggressive gets an early outing in a set that’s mainly filled with their older abrasive tracks from their Disgusting debut. Beaten In Lips suffers a minor balls-up mid-song when the music drops out and Caleb screams the chorus off-key, and some songs feel disjointed as the frontman favours talking to the crowd over singing. Even so, their set marks them as one of the most exciting new bands, while In Between is clearly on course to become their set-closing anthem. (TDG)

A week after they tore Wembley arena a new one, Black Peaks effortlessly leap over another career obstacle as they make their Download debut. This is possibly Britain's most original young band, and the tent is left slack-jawed by their blend of metal, prog and alternative rock. With every step made Black Peaks get closer to becoming modern rock's torch-bearers. (SH)

“Don't you ever get bored of big blokes calling you motherfuckers?” asks The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing medium bloke Marc Burrows. “It's just not polite!” A good point well, made. Off-colour cockney charm is the order of the day here with songs like Miner – which is about a miner – warning of death by silicosis, and one about a chimney sweep that guitarist Andrew O’Neill describes as part Pixies, part Voivod. It sounds more like Sweeney Todd on a Napalm Death binge. “Can we get in Metal Hammer now?” grins Andrew before peeling off another metallic riff. Go on, then. (TDG)

It used to be the nu-metal bands that were wheeled out to give us that nostalgic buzz here at Download, but these days we're all a little older, so we get the sleek, polished and dated metalcore of Atreyu instead. As warm and fuzzy as these songs might make you feel, they're paper thin when stacked against rock's finest in 2016. (SH)

Riding the healthy tide of retro rock that’s grown in recent years, hairy, psychedelic Texans Scorpion Child echo notes of the classic rock elite (Deep Purple-esque keys and heavy grooves; a frontman with Steve Marriott-meets-Robert Plant pipes...) while still sounding like a young, creative band. Seemingly pumped by latest release Acid Roulette – keyboardist AJ Vincent contorts increasingly like a man possessed – they leave a strong impression by the time singer Aryn Jonathan Black (grinning through ripples of sweat) bids us a closing “well gahhd dayum!” (PG)

Only a year since his last Download appearance as part of Motley Crue's farewell extravaganza, Nicki Sixx returns with his long-term side project Sixx A.M. The veteran bassman is generous onstage, ceding most of the limelight to his scorchingly nimble guitarist DJ Ashba and effusive frontman James Michael, who combines Jon Bon Jovi's flair for sky-punching anthems with Jim Carrey's tireless showmanship and Barry Manilow's hair. Pure Vegas metal, but a much-needed blast of positivity on a rain-sodden, mud-caked afternoon. (SD)

"My name is Danko Jones," explains Danko Jones. "And everyone gets to call me... delicious." Toronto's rowdiest son isn't backwards in coming forwards, and a swift half-hour of fist-pumping rock'n'roll gives him ample opportunity to share the love. He’s clearly got a lot to share: Do You Wanna Rock, Gonna Be A Fight Tonight, Play The Blues and Sugar Chocolate pass in a blur of righteous riffing and suggestive tonguework, while a flag from the audience requesting Sex Change Shake (“a song about when you're so horny you wanna lop that thing off,” says Danko, gleefully) is dismissed in favour of an utterly lascivious grind through Cadillac. One imagines he’s pretty good at this sex thing. (FL)

Growing in stature by the week, Tesseract bring some cerebral elegance to Download, with loads of razor-sharp, lurching riffs thrown in. Only slightly marred by the sound being hurled around by hostile winds, the British quintet continue to bring some much-needed depth and class to the UK scene and it's obvious that the diehards really, really love them. As ever, Dan Tompkins sings his heart out, bringing the sun out (albeit briefly) with a sublime Nocturne that leaves everyone present feeling warmer and just a little enriched. (DL)

Despite their new found brutality, you'll not get a much better feel-good set at this year's Download than watching Bury Tomorrow bring the house down. Yes, there are more original bands out there, but do any of them match the passion or the heart of BT? Not many. From Lionheart to Earthbound, they get circle pits and crowdsurfers aplenty. And when Dani Winter-Bates tells the crowd that he's going to stand by the barrier to meet 'every single one of you', Bury Tomorrow's coronation as Band Of The People is complete. (SH)

Hairy, bluesy, soulful Americana has long been part of Download's DNA, and this year the obligatory keepers of the flame are California's Rival Sons, who are currently touring the world with Black Sabbath. Livewire frontman Jay Buchanan is clearly pretty skilled at partying like it's 1974, and the ramshackle waltz-time power ballad Fade Out packs a real emotional kick. But the band's vintage valve-amp nostalgia soon wears out its welcome, a smokescreen failing to hide a lack of truly original ideas. (SD)

A cursory glance at Juliette Lewis’ IMDB page says that her trademark is a ‘deep husky voice’. While she’s several octaves away from Till Lindemann’s clipped baritone, her raspy tones are perfectly suited to Juliette And The Licks’ bluesy garage rock. Shimmying and sashaying across the stage in a very crisp white Evel Knievel catsuit, Lewis – who’s been busy of late in her role as Detective Andrea Cornell in the US thriller Secrets and Lies – is in fine form. Bendy and lithe like Iggy Pop's cat, Lewis leads her band through Mind Full Of Daggers and I Know Trouble. Then there’s an extended blues jam during Hard Lovin’ Woman with a cheeky nod to Whole Lotta Love, which is a clever move at any rock festival. “Is it too early to say how beautiful you all are?” she asks before a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary. It seems a touch disingenuous when addressing the thousands who’ve been sleeping in a puddle, but right now, we’ll take it. Thank you. (SY)

Dave Mustaine cuts a relaxed figure these days, the current Megadeth line-up clearly making him a happy man. Today we get plenty from the brilliant Dystopia but it's the classics that do most to raise the spirits, from a bludgeoning Hangar 18 to a particularly venomous She-Wolf, and on to an imperious Trust. Special marks go to latest drumming recruit Dirk Verbeuren (from Soilwork) who plays as if he's always been there, and is clearly loving every second of the experience. When the band are joined by Nikki Sixx for Anarchy In The UK, Megadave reminds us of the animosity between thrash and glam during the '80s, but really this is a meeting of weatherbeaten veterans and perhaps life's too short for old rivalries. It's still a terrible cover, mind you. Happily, Megadeth close with Holy Wars, sounding more pertinent and powerful than they have in years. (DL)

There’s an appetite for political punk on the Maverick Stage, judging by the roar that greets Pittsburgh punks Anti-Flag. Beginning their set by reading out the names of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and other casualties of police violence, they launch into an utterly abrasive version of Fuck Police Brutality. Their riotous set proves to be one of the surprise highlights of the day and their cover of The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go goes down a storm, ironic given the rain that’s giving the venue an absolute kicking. (TDG)

Partying like it's 1999 (by sounding like the opening act on a Family Values tour) are Cane Hill. There's something great about hearing the lost art of nu-metal's boom and burst dynamism appropriated into 2016's metal scene, but if you were there first time around, you'll know they have more work to do. Gemini and Time Bomb aside, this is less early Korn and more Dry Kill Logic. With a bit more work on those songs, there's something special here for sure. (SH)

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Over on the Maverick Stage are Wrexham pop punk five-piece Neck Deep. Stints on the Warped Tour has taught frontman Ben Barlow how to work a crowd well. With tracks taken from their albums Wishful Thinking and last summer’s follow-up Life’s Not Out To Get You, it’s an entertaining show alright, but not one to chalk up as a classic by any means. (TDG)

Despite being eight albums into a two decade long career, Deftones still feel like a band for the more youthful Download punter when compared to the majority of today's main stage line up. Could it be the fact that Chino Moreno still throws himself around with utter reckless abandon, as he channels that spellbinding voice? Or that Deftones' new material like Prayers/Triangles still sounds as fresh and otherworldly as they did in the early '90s? Or that classic cuts like Engine No.9 - tonight mashed up brilliantly with Cypress Hill's How I Could Just Kill A Man - sound as cutting edge as they did the day they were released? Er... Yeah. All those things. (SH)

Opening with Under Attack and Rat Race, Skindred are playing the Zippo Encore Stage like they’re headlining the entire festival. This is a joy to watch. It’s a party in a house with a leaky roof. Rain doesn’t even bother people burdened with glasses. They’re cocky, alright, but they’ve got the chops to back it up. They even dick around with Justin Bieber samples to illicit some pantomime booing. Next up is Trouble which morphs into Metallica’s Sad But True. It all sounds huge. Changing the pace with the Saying It Now, guitarist Mikey Demus and Benji sit at the lip of the stage armed with just an acoustic guitar. It’s a bold move during yet another rainstorm, but it works. People turn to their friend and hug one another. Is that rain or a tear? It’s rain, alright? It’s rain. It's fucking rain. The band end the set with Warning – the highlight of 2011’s Union Black – as thousands of fans and converts whip their coats around their head, known as the Newport Helicopter. This could easily be the set of the day. Now the party is over, our thoughts go out to NOFX who have to follow this. Let’s see Skindred high up on the main stage next year, Mr. Copping. Thank you. (SY)

Coming on stage several minutes early, Zippo Encore Stage headliners NOFX put the punk into punctual and frontman Fat Mike – sporting a red mohawk and a dress – delivers an off-the-cuff speech about wanting to watch Black Sabbath. We don’t think they’re joking either. Later on in their set, guitarist Eric Melvin pauses the set “for 20 seconds” to listen to the main stage headliners, whose doomy boom can be heard over their own breakneck riffs. A series of hammy jokes ("I look like Agnes Young in this dress!" quips Fat Mike) get a mixed reaction, but there's no doubt NOFX have an endearing quality about them. Six Years On Dope has the kind of blasé honesty you can't imagine a new band writing if they wanted to be taken seriously, and the asides between songs are the kind of piss-taking you'd hear at a rehearsal, not a headline slot on Download's second stage. It's a raucous, throwaway set that reminds us life is infinitely more fun if you don't take things too seriously. (TDG)

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As the purple cloak of darkness falls across Download, a river of fire ignites onstage and church bells peal ominously across the arena. But ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Black Sabbath, the founding fathers of metal currently in the early stages of their epic final world tour. This show is, quite literally, the beginning of The End.

Sabbath take no chances with a vintage set list almost entirely culled from their first three classic albums. The crowd-pleasing choice is not surprising, but the undimmed power of these tracks still comes as a jolt. The brute physicality of Snowblind, the visceral funk of Into The Void, the psych-blues sensory assault that is Behind The Wall of Sleep. Geezer Butler's bass-guitar wizardry feels especially potent tonight, elevated to weapons-grade alchemy in partnership with Bill Ward's youthful replacement behind the double bass drums, Tommy Clufetos.

Less than a decade ago, Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi were fighting each other in court over the Sabbath name. But onstage at Download, the singer literally bows down as he introduces his legendary guitarist. Ozzy may be off-key half the time but still focussed enough to make it work, especially when orchestrating 50,000 people all roaring along to War Pigs and Paranoid. There remains something elemental and primal about this music that transcends more than 40 years of break-ups and breakdowns, lawsuits and line-up changes, backstage dramas and reality TV clowning. If this really is the end for Sabbath, at least they are closing the story with grace and gravitas. None more black. (SD)

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