After Avenged Sevenfold were announced as the headliner of Download Festival 2014 on the previous Friday, all eyes were on this show to see how the band would cope with their first run of arena tours.
First band on the bill were Swedish industrial death metallers Avatar [6/10] who had replaced Device on the bill only a few weeks before. Their sound was very familiar and their brand of heavy metal theatre – with a frontman who obviously channeled acts such as Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper – went down well and had the band been around in the mid to late 90’s they could have been huge.
Next on were Five Finger Death Punch [8/10] who played in front of a crowd who were almost as excited to see them as they were to see Avenged. Opening with ‘Under and Over It’ and ‘Burn It Down’, the first circle pits of the night opened up to the sound of fist pumping, beer guzzling heavy metal. The highlight of the set was without a doubt when the metal god himself, Rob Halford of Judas Priest fame, joined the band on stage to duet on their song ‘Lift Me Up’. Another highlight included ‘Far From Home’ which began with just the vocals of lead singer Ivan Moody and ended with the entire crowd singing it back to him. Finishing with ‘The Bleeding’, every single phone and lighter in the LG was raised triumphantly in the air in a climax of light and sound.
The lights went out and Back In Black hit, the anticipation was palpable as one of the biggest metal bands of this century took to the stage: Avenged Sevenfold [9/10]. Opening with’ Shepherd of Fire’ was a big risk, since it’s from the new album Hail to the King however the gamble paid off as this song proved a great choice even in such a large venue. ‘Critical Acclaim’ swiftly followed and sounded massive with the backdrop of the bands iconic logo of the Death Bat and a tonne of pyrotechnics – Avenged let off an amount of fireworks that would have put Rammstein to shame! They were part of nearly every song of the set and by half way through the set people had forgotten it was a freezing cold December night it was that hot. A third of the set was made up of songs from the new album that unlike ‘Shepherd of Fire’ didn’t always pay off. Songs such as ‘Hail To The King’ and ‘This Means War’ sounded incredible however ‘Requiem’, which followed 10 minutes of a pretty dreadful guitar solo and a half decent half band jam session, fell flat and should have been replaced with virtually any song from City of Evil.
Hearing ‘Fiction’ on record is always emotional for any Avenged fan as it was the last song their drummer Jimmy ‘Rev’ Sullivan wrote with the working title of ‘Death’, and when M Shadows introduced the song it was hugely moving and the song sounded beautiful. Closing the set with ‘Bat Country’ was a smart move, however you could tell this was a band that had been on tour constantly for the last 6 months or so and it did feel a little tired. The encore was made up of ‘Chapter 4’ and ‘Unholy Confessions’ which went down well with the fans who have been following this band for years but there were some people there of a certain age who were not as familiar with the songs as they could have been. Nevertheless the songs were still huge and with the mammoth amount of explosions and things on fire it was hard to not enjoy yourself.
There were fears that Avenged Sevenfold could not perform adequately in a venue this size when the gig was announced, however this show proved those doubters wrong! If this show was just a taster of what to expect at Download, start getting excited; Avenged Sevenfold no longer want to be the big boys of heavy metal, they are the big boys of heavy metal.
Words by Sam Taylor, Pictures by James Hammond