There is a sense of excitement growing over on the Pepsi Max stage as people wait for the ‘secret band’ to be unveiled, but since I already figured out the rather obvious mystery about three weeks before the event I decided to take my chances over on the main stage with Volbeat.
Volbeat are a band I heard fleetingly in a mate’s car on the way back from a Korn gig about four years ago but then foolishly never followed up, and they have since played Download a couple of times over the years and have always escaped my eyes and ears, but on this occasion I had decided it was time to finally be converted by the ‘beat.
The first thing you notice as Volbeat stride onstage is that vocalist Michael Poulsen is the coolest motherfucker in the world and that this is going to be great, and it is just that. Volbeat manage to take the best parts of Johnny Cash, Misfits, Elvis and Metallica and smash them all together into one perfectly-formed musical soup.
So you get sharp riffs played by men in sharper clothes and a vocal that is dripping with cool and sincerity as well, and as someone that couldn’t name a single Volbeat tune, it took them no less than two songs to grab my attention and hold it for their entire set, such is the power of how unique and intriguing they are. And let’s be clear – I have the attention span of a two-year-old playing with their toes.
Even when the band slows things down and Michael leads the crowd in an impromptu version of ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash, no momentum is lost and it feels as organic as anything else you’ll see all day.
It’s interesting to see a band like Volbeat so high up on the main stage and playing before Steel Panther, a band they hold no similarities with at all, but it shows not only the popularity of Volbeat that they can more than hold their own during a great exodus to the smaller stage, but also that they fit right in on what is known as the ‘Classic Rock’ day and they do this by putting in a swaggering, effortlessly cool performance and by playing music with edge that also sounds timeless in the process.
Volbeat are a band that have escaped my attention for far too long but thanks to a well-placed and timed performance at Download they may well have just gone on to become my new favourite band.
Photo credit: Derek Bremner