From DownloadFestival.co.uk, June 2011. Photography by Hevs.

After the celebratory blowout that was the 30th anniversary of rock at Donington Park, everyone has just about recovered in time for another weekend of reckless abandon at Download Festival 2011.

Once again, the admins have taken the lid off the bubbling pot of raw talent that is the forums and served up a banquet of musical delights in the form of The Boardie Takeover. Offering little bands and DJs the chance to perform with the big boys and to provide the entertainment before the festival truly kicks off, the Takeover stands as a visual and visceral tribute to the rock ‘n’ rollers who shape Download into what it is.

Getting the party started with a nu metal-tinged set, DJ Soundwave is overjoyed to be returning to Download for the second year running.

“Last year was good, of course, but this year the tent is bigger, so the crowd’s bigger, so the energy’s bigger… everything’s bigger and better!” he exclaims.

The Leicester disc jockey made such a splash in 2010 that he was invited to perform the previous day too.

“I played Slayer and the crowd went mental. Someone got their nose broken!” he says, almost in disbelief. “I got told off for that, and for passing out a bottle of Jack Daniel’s!”

Scolded he may have been, but what’s rock ‘n’ roll without a little danger? By the time his first set of the night is over, it’s time for the first band to step up and show that they’ve got what it takes to join the big league. Take it away, Stone Circle.

The Brighton four-piece play inspiring progressive death metal, juxtaposing crushing chuggery with sombre, quiet melodies, their talents earning them a slot at Bloodstock Open Air Festival last year.

“It was really stressful,” says guitarist Tom Skelton. “They were really on-it in terms of change-overs, whereas here, things are a lot more chilled out.”

Comparisons to Opeth are easy to make, thanks to Stone Circle’s effortless bleeding of tempos and styles (and because vocalist Joe Ashwin has a look of Mikael Åkerfeldt about him too).
The clean, introspective guitar whisperings and reserved croons are mesmerising, but it’s when behind their heavy, sonic walls of noise that this band truly shine.

With long musical passages free of vocals, they run the risk of losing the interest of a festival crowd in the mood for a party, but they remain captivating and never boring.

But how was it for them?

“The crowd were great, and we had a really nice sound on stage too,” says Joe, seemingly not as overwhelmed as you’d expect someone who had just played Download to be.

His tone is one of confidence, however, and not of disinterest. “We try not to have too many expectations before a show, but it really was good fun.”

With an album out on Glasstone Records and a music video soon to be released, the future looks bright for Stone Circle.

First, they’re going to enjoy a weekend seeing System Of A Down and Rob Zombie, although Joe, with a grin, claims he is going to get so drunk he doesn’t care who he sees.

DJ Apocalypse’s reaction couldn’t be more different to Joe’s.

“Bloody hell… it’s Donington! Fuck’s sake… it’s Donington! It’s amazing!”

After a brief panic when he thought his kit had malfunctioned, he was able to relax and get into the swing of things.

“I have a few residencies like my night, Assault, in Nottingham, but Download is the biggest and best thing you can do. So far, everyone’s been lovely and everything’s been really chilled out.”

If he’s this excited now, how is he going to be when the bands start tomorrow?

“This is the best Download line-up in years!” he exclaims. “I can’t wait to see Hyro Da Hero and Clutch. I’m torn between Frank Turner and Rob Zombie on Sunday though; I’ve never seen Rob Zombie, but I love Frank so much…”

His worries are nothing compared to that of Aceldama – it’s their turn to get up in front of this ever-growing, ever-drunkening, ever-critical mob.

The female-fronted Brummies have nothing to fear though, as they prove themselves to be a hard-hitting, ten-legged rock animal.

They expertly walk a line between soulful, melancholic hard rock and big, dumb, old-school metal shoutalongs, never once tripping or stumbling too far into either self-indulgence or ridiculousness.

Metal And Beer sounds like it was written for the occasion, while a galloping cover of The Pointer SistersI’m So Excited sees flames erupting from the ends of the lads’ guitars. Yes, seriously.

“The crowd were brilliant!” smiles vocalist Leanne post-gig. “To look out and see them enjoying themselves, hands in the air, wanting more… wow.”

“It was beyond all of our expectations,” adds six-stringer Ian.

The band have had the pleasure of performing at Metalcamp in Slovenia, but at the same time had the misfortune to clash with power metallers Hammerfall – not an act you want to share a time slot with on the continent.

Tonight, however, all focus was on them, and the festivallers certainly aren’t left disappointed.

Leanne’s excitement is unfortunately marred by having to work tomorrow, but after that she can return to enjoy the weekend.

And, despite their album Seduce, Deceive and Lead Astray currently being mixed and mastered, drummer Paul is about to leave the band, so they’ll be looking for a replacement.

“The suitable candidate must be able to put away a 24-pack in less than three hours.” they state firmly.

And where do they get such a name?

“It’s Aramaic. It literally means ‘fields of blood’ and is to do with Judas betraying Jesus,” offers Leanne.

So they’re a Christian band?

“No, we just like the name!” she hastens to add, “And, since it begins with A, we’re always at the top of the list!”

Hopefully that’s top of the list of bands for Andy Copping to one day add to his festival line-up but, regardless, tonight they’re certainly at the top of something: their game.

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