June 21, 2016 Download Festival Arrives In Paris, France 6-10-16
French Metal festivals have been increasing in frequency and popularity over the past decade or so with the rising of Fury Fest, and thereafter, Hellfest. That is why excitement ran high when rumors began to swirl in the fall of 2015 that England-based Download Festival would be coming to France. Set to take place over three days, June 10th through the 12th, it would be held at Hippodrome de Longchamp in the city of Paris on the same weekend as the Donington Park edition of the festival.
An event organizers were expecting an even better turn out, sadly the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan and terraces in November of last halted the craze. Then, on December 28th, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister passed away, thus resulting in the band’s bowing out as one of Download Festival’s headliners. Overcoming all adversity, 100,000 spectators made it out to the city of Paris to bare witness to the first ever Paris Download Festival as forty bands played over the course of three days. A lineup that included some of Rock/Metal’s biggest stars, headliners included Iron Maiden, Rammstein, Korn, and Deftones. Extremely impressive to gather the world’s best bands in one place, it all kicked off on Friday the 10th with a lineup consisting of Iron Maiden, Deftones, Gojira, We Came as Romans, Ghost, Anthrax, Avatar, Beartooth, Tremonti, BlackRain, The Raven Age, and The Wild Lies.
We Came As Romans
First up on the Main Stage at 3:15 PM was Michigan based band We Came As Romans. Over ten years into their career, the band has released four albums, including their tremendously successful self-titled 2015 effort. As one of the first bands to open Download Festival, unfortunately We Came As Romans faced a few kinks in the organization with the audience still stuck in front of closed doors as their set began with “Regenerate.” Overcoming it all, they played on with a mass of energy as they offered songs such as “Fade Away.” Continuing to offer a dynamic performance, interpreting songs like “Ghosts” and “Tracing Back Roots,” they closed out their set having everyone bouncing up and down for “Hope.”
Next up on the Main Stage at 4:30 PM invited the return of France’s own Gojira. Consisting of Vocalist Joseph Duplantier, Guitarist Cristian Andreu, Bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, and Drummer Mario Duplantier, Goijra have become international Metal leaders over their lengthy career. With their sixth album, Magma, set for release the following week, adrenaline began to rise as they hit the stage. With the field now packed with Parisians, Gojira took the opportunity to present a fantastic set that included “Toxic Garbage Island,” “L’Enfant Sauvage,” and “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe.” Charging on with fury, they offered the powerful new song “Stranded,” which proved to be a hit live.
Overall putting on a flawless show, catchy and captivating, Gojira celebrated their twenty years of existence with their home country in style. Those who missed the appearance at Download Festival can catch the band on tour throughout Europe through July before they visit North America.
Moving over to Stage 2, at 5:30 PM, Sweden’s Avatar were ready to bring their nightmarish carnival to the platform. With a history that dates back over a decade now, Avatar’s presence has grown following the release of 2014’s Hail the Apocalypse and now 2016’s Feathers & Flesh. Led by their singer disguised as a clown, Johannes Eckerstom, the band immediately conquered the audience with opening track “For the Swarm.” With a backdrop of an eerier forest painted behind them, each member dazzled musically as they followed with “Hail The Apocalypse” before later on chaining together several tracks from Feathers and Flesh, before yet another older favorite, “Bloody Angel.”
Having everyone’s hands in their air, the band wrapped their original show with “Smells Like a Freakshow,” “Let It Burn,” and “Night Never Ending.” In their own unique style, Avatar captured the hearts and imaginations of Paris in the most vivid of ways.
Also on Stage 2, at 7:30 PM was New York City’s legendary Thrash Metallers Anthrax. Considered one of the big four of Thrash along side Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, Anthrax need no introduction. Consistently touring and putting out quality new music, their latest album, For All Kings, is their first Billboard 200 Top 10 charted album since 1993’s Sound of White Noise. Bringing the noise across to Europe, their tour found them gracing the stage of Download Festival as they opened with new song “You Gotta Believe.”
Charging along with untamed speed, they mixed and matched their set with tracks like “Caught in a Mosh,” a cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got The Time,” and later, “Evil Twin.” With Vocalist Joey Belladonna pumping his fist in the air and enticing the audience to join in, they rounded out the punishing performance with a traditional cover of Trust’s “Antisocial,” “Breathing Lightening,” and the classic, “Indians.” Putting on a action-packed set, Anthrax are true showmen that continue to travel the world without compromising their reputation.
Back at the Main Stage, Deftones were ready to go at 6:30 PM. After a series of three concerts were canceled following the attacks in Paris, fans from the city were quite anxious to finally see the California based band’s return. In a career that has spanned nearly thirty years now, Deftones are the spokespeople of a generation of Metalheads who stay faithful to all their visits in the French capital. With a massive poster of their latest album Gore dressed behind them, Chino Moreno (vocals), Stephen Carpenter (guitar), Abe Cunningham (drums), Frank Delgado (keyboards), and Sergio Vega (bass) took the stage to a sea of cheers.
Opening with “Rocket Skates,” they quickly went into hits like “My Own Summer” and “You’ve Seen the Butcher.” With lights flashing and Moreno giving a passionate vocal performance, everyone in the crowd was in ecstasy as they dove in and out of their catalogue with newer pieces like “Prayers / Triangles,” then the beautiful “Digital Bath,” “Knife Party,” as well as “Change (In the House of Flies).” Ambient, yet razor sharp, Deftones completely enthralled their fans from start to finish as Moreno even dared to hop off the stage to go into the massive crowd. There is a reason this ever-changing band continues to wow audiences and they proved why in their welcomed return to Paris.
While Iron Maiden’s show was concluding on the Main Stage, Stage 2 was preparing to host the mystical Swedish band known as Ghost at approximately 10:30 PM. Born back in 2008, it was thought a band such as Ghost would be impossible to market due to their blasphemous imagery and lyrical content. Although, Ghost keep within their own universe mixing esotericism and mystery that entices a larger audience than one would think. They have essentially proven that critics are just critics and music lovers can distinguish real art on their own. With all that said, the mass was ready to begin as The Nameless Ghouls took their places prior to the entrance of Vocalist Papa Emeritus III.
Inviting the audience under their spell, they began with “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” before going back to 2010’s Opus Eponymous with the melodic “Ritual” and “Prime Mover.” Allowing their music to take over as they hide behind masks and makeup, they later created a catacombs atmosphere with “Year Zero” before bringing on heavier pieces like “Absolution.” Battling through a hoarse voice, Papa Emeritus III did not disappoint as he gave it all he had. With cathedral decor surrounding them, the dark mass concluded with blue lights penetrating the stage as they played the “Monstrance Clock” with The Nameless Ghouls once again providing textured instrumentation. Masters in the art of producing intense melodies and offer grandiloquent shows, Ghost delivered during their set at Download Festival.
All in all, technical issues aside, Day One of Download Festival in Paris was outstanding. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the audience, each band put on elevated performances that showed how powerful positive energy can be. Feeding off the crowd, the crowd fed off the music, and that cycle continued for over seven straight hours. This was only the beginning though, and Day Two would have plenty more to offer.Photos by Michela Cuccagna