Download Festival 2019 ignited Melbourne into a raucous wildfire of punk, metal and hard rock

It was a titanic second instalment from the festival.

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Dylan Martin

When a handful of some of the world’s most recognisable punk, metal and hard rock acts descended upon Flemington Racecourse, a question comes to mind – could this day get any better? Exclusive performances, a bill stacked with titans of each genre and a farewell to one of the heaviest bands in existence – Download’s second Melbourne installation blasted every eardrum and crushed every skull in an afternoon with something for everyone.

Anyone who wanted to soak themselves in a hot slog of dad energy would have been more than satisfied with Airbourne, ripping out a heaving set of AC/DC-esque chops and reckless hair flips. Needless to say, if the band’s energy and the piercing sun weren’t putting the crowd to a sweat, the ten-fire-blasts-a-minute pyrotechnics most certainly were. Good showmanship, potential violation of state fire bans, what’s not to like?

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Behemoth, however, stylistically countered this in almost every way possible. Holding sermon to a dark congregation of the festival’s most dedicated metal-heads, their pummelling riffs, blast beats and blackened howls were some of the heaviest moments of Download 2019. Yet, although the atmosphere was dictated by a barrage of crushingly oppressive instrumentals, frontman Nergal’s stage talk and general graciousness painted him as far more approachable than the music he was playing. An odd twist on a cult classic.

Converge’s set was so furious and fast, it felt like it ended just as fast as it begun. Jam-packed with tracks from The Dusk in Us stretching all the way back to Jane Doe, the highlights of the set were the immense shredding on 'Dark Horse' and the closing track 'Concubine'. Nate Newton’s theatrical-yet-accurate bass playing added excellent, dynamic showmanship, and Jacob Bannon’s screams were so furious he could have popped a lung – it’s nothing short of spectacular that a band nearing 30 years of existence can still put on this good of a show.

Teasing at the fact that Ozzy Osbourne’s cancellation was leaving a few people down in the dumps, Frenzal Rhomb did their part and threw together a few inspired medleys using riffs from tracks such as 'Crazy Train' and 'Iron Man' during their already stacked set. New age Frenzal belters like 'Cunt Act' got both the crowd and the band jumping around in a rush, the chorus of 'You Are Not My Friend' managed to turn the audience into a choir of wet-eyed piss rats and 'Punch In The Face' was the perfect round-out for the best set of Download 2019. Vocalist Jay Whalley stated during the show they’ve been around 26 years as a band – if they keep treading such a visceral, strong path, the band will remain relevant for years and years to come.

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From this point on, much of Download was an amicable stroll down memory lane. Rise Against’s anthemic punk choruses rang across the grounds – each one bringing back nostalgia due to both skill and possibly the huge amount of video game music licencing they’ve done during their career. Sum 41’s 'Over My Head (Better Off Dead)'’s perfect execution couldn’t have been a better flashback to the early 2000s, Judas Priest’s 'You've Got Another Thing Coming' still had enough grunt to send a crowd of metal mums into heaving headbangs and Slayer’s cataclysmic farewell, inclusive of 'Raining Blood', was as urgent and fatal as war itself. Save for maybe Alice in Chains’ earlier set being a bit drawn out, no disappointment was had all day. Every band poured their guts into their performance, every audience member was beyond satisfied. To answer an earlier question – no, the day couldn’t have been much better.

Highlight: Guessing people’s DnD alignment based on bandshirts vs haircuts.

Lowlight: Anthrax and Converge clashing.

Crowd favourite: 'You Are Not My Friend'. Cheers Frenzal.