Did anyone go to the Download festival this year? I didn’t, and this was mainly down to the fact that the DL lineup this year sucked the most balls ever. It shamed me. I love metal, punk and hardcore and have done for years, and to see the genre’s main festival represented by such a piss-poor collection of also-rans was pretty saddening to me.
Okay, they had a couple of decent bands there. Faith No More (who were great at Pukkelpop), Slipknot, Opeth, and Killswitch Engage all rocked for the discerning headbangers there. Even Hatebreed and Down are passable. I have seen Marilyn Manson, and he’s fun live. But as FNM’s Mike Patton himself mentioned, the majority of the bands there were 80’s throwbacks and novelty acts.
Def Leppard? Okay maybe, I know some old-school fans may dig them, but as Sunday night headliners? Shut up. Whitesnake? Fuck off. Journey? Okay, we have all seen Scrubs, but that’s not good enough to merit their inclusion in a metal festival. They are barely a rock group.
It got me thinking, is this the state of modern heavy metal? Where are the huge, stadium slaying acts of today? Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Big Players Just Now:
Apart from almost always being on the verge of splitting up, Slipknot are one of the leading lights of the modern metal scene, and have been since their vicious debut in 1999. Their newest album, All Hope Is Gone, was also their most mellow. The one that preceeded that, Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses, was awesome.
The hipsters metal band of choice, Mastodon recently released their best and most ambitious album to date, Crack The Skye. It cemented their place as the most experimental and bravest hard rock band of the moment. I have no idea why they didn’t play Download.
Queens Of The Stone Age
My favourite of all metal bands are not strictly metal by any standards, but are far too heavy to be labelled as anything else. They seem to be on a hiatus just now as Josh works on Them Crooked Vultures.
Despite being one of the best bands at DL, i have yet to pick up their latest album as I heard the lead single and was a little underwhelmed. I have hope it’s a grower. Kudos to them for also having that rarest of things: a black (as in skin colour) metal singer.
Saw them for the third time at Pukkelpop and they were great. New album Eros was shelved after bassist Chi Cheng was hospitalised in a car accident. They have since recorded a new album and will release that instead. Disappointingly they didn’t play any new songs whatsoever. Should have also played DL.
The Mars Volta
Not long ago released their most chilled out recording, Octahedron, containing several acoustic-based songs similar to the classic Televators from De-Loused In The Comatorium. They clearly believe they are too cool for Download. And they would be right.
The ‘Are They Still Alive Or Not’ Guys:
The most artful of all the bands on the list and a huge influence on Mastodon, Tool have sporadically played some festivals this year, but I don’t have a clue what their future album/tour plans are. If there’s one thing you can count on with that band, is that they will do whatever they want.
System Of A Down
System are another band on hiatus, with singer Serj Tankian releasing, in my opinion, System-lite solo albums while guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan formed side project Scars On Broadway. All members believe they will reunite at some point.
Not strictly a metal band, as they started off life as a Dillinger Escape Plan-esque metalcore (god I hate that term) band, but have metal instilled in their musical DNA. One of the most underrated and talented bands in heavy music, they boast two phenomenal vocalists and have never made the same album twice, moving on from math-rock to space-rock to stoner rock to everything in between. Recently played a reunion show that was insane, and released an EP.
The Great Pretenders
A lot of people would label these guys as the top band of right now, but I can’t. It’s just my resistance to black metal in general. The vocals just make me cringe sometimes. In fairness, the members of Opeth are all incredible musicians, and Watershed is a great album. But until I get over my black metal problem, they will never be loved by me.
Not really that good, are they? They released one good album, Ascension. Then they released some shit albums. Ah well.
Lamb Of God
I lump LOG in with the other New Wave Of American Heavy Metal bands. They all kinda meld into one for me. LOG have some great riffs, but beyond that I honestly don’t know enough to comment.
And there you have it, a semi-complete rundown of some bands I would have liked to have seen represent the Devil’s tunes at Download. If you like metal, then your probably sneering at my taste. But if you don’t, and are curious, well why not check some tunes out from the best of the best modern bands. This is an awesome collection of intelligent heavy metal. Get in!
If tyou like what you hear, buy these recommended albums by the artists from Amazon.