There's no such thing as easing into the day at Download, with Sunday stages starting at the ungodly hour of 11AM. The colossal sounds of Greta Van Fleet, Starcrawler and Inglorious are all here to blow the cobwebs off before even midday has struck.
Once breakfast and hangover-cradling are over, the bar is (surprise, surprise) already rammed as Cradle of Filth take to the main stage at the marginally more reasonable hour of 12pm. Now, Cradle of Filth are a very important band – firmly holding a place at the forefront of black metal and gothic metal since 1991, their influence and reputation is undeniable. Just take a look at their infamous Vestal Masturbation T-shirt design if you want to know what I mean. Their performance is, however, slightly underwhelming compared to what their aesthetic promises – although talking to Cradle of Filth fans in the audience I'm reassured that in a crowd of their own followers they live up to the name.
Before Black Veil Brides take to the Main Stage later in the afternoon, the press tent is buzzing as people push to catch even five minutes with them. If you venture outside into the blazing sunshine you'll find teenage girls desperate to meet Andy Biersack and strangely enough give him things – a cigarette, although he's now a non-smoker, amongst the offerings.
Watched avidly by his wife Juliet Simms from the side of the stage, Andy and Black Veil Brides tear up the main stage amid a chaos of pyrotechnics, dry ice and soaring riffs. Despite starting their journey as a band as what can only be dubbed a screamo Kiss tribute, BVB have come such a long way in the eyes of not just metal fans, but even the mainstream fans. They've lost the big hair, most of the face make-up and have really become performers in their own sense.
Time for Shinedown. Who doesn't like Shinedown? Nobody, that's who. Frontman Brent Smith, who FYI you would never know is the same person who formed the band in 2001, since his incredible journey of getting clean – commands the crowd with his jolting movements and death-grip type stare. Bounding around with relentless energy, running all the way from the stage to the sound desk one hundred meters away to pump up the crowd – he's got a certain effervescence that translates to the crowd, right the way to the back.
With that it's time for Marilyn Manson. Kicking off an evening dominated by two of the biggest Princes of Darkness of all time, at this point in his career we all approach good ol' Manson with a pinch of salt. The expectation that even though we don't get to see him in his shock-rocking, urinating in the crowd hey-day, we still get to scream 'We're disposable teens' with him as though he's still full of youth and scandal.
Strolling on stage casually to 'Irresponsible Hate Anthem' he struts around stage, fully aware of his own gravity. There's no humbleness or modesty with this man, just self-assured grandeur. A hat-trick run of ‘This Is The New Shit’, ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘Mobscene’ sends the crowd into an insane frenzy, with crowd surfers and mosh pits everywhere. He brings Dani Filth back on stage during ‘The Beautiful People’ and chooses to end on a fairly sombre cover of Gerard McMann's ‘Cry Little Sister’.
As Manson does his best to perpetuate his shock-rock title, you can’t help but feel there's something a little awry. Is it the broad daylight counteracting the darkness within? Is it the elephant in the room.. That he just isn't the same performer he once was? He acknowledges and perhaps excuses this by growling "we’re all stuck here with daytime so let’s deal with it… it’s like having sex with the lights on”. Despite these minor hiccups, we leave reeling with excitement and fiery passion, ready for Ozzy.
A national treasure of both heavy metal and reality television, Ozzy pioneered crossing the lines between insanity and brilliance. He could come on stage and just scream 'Sharon!' For two hours for all the general public care. Choosing not to go down this path (hopes for a future set, maybe?) the familiar ominous sound of Carl Orff's ‘O Fortuna’ rings out across the hills, and everybody buckles in for the next couple hours. The stage is alight with screens of fire, and pictures of Ozzy as a child, morphing into his personas through the decades.
Screams of “all aboard” and on stage arrives the man himself, to a chorus of 70,000 devil horns. He screams (well, slurs), “Are you gonna go fucking crazy tonight?! I can't hear you! Let the madness begin!” Before launching straight into ‘Bark at the Moon’ and showing us his best on-stage aerobics moves, by jumping and clapping his hands above his head simultaneously.
Who cares if we can't understand a word as he wobbles his way through ‘Mr Crowley’, ‘Crazy Train’ and various Black Sabbath singles – it's Ozzy Osbourne. Zakk Wylde does his obligatory guitar solo during ‘Miracle Man’, followed by a drum solo so long I'm starting to ponder what to have for breakfast tomorrow.
For encore? Why, Black Sabbath's ‘Paranoid', obviously. Uniting the crowd and reminding everyone in Donington why Ozzy is the Godfather of Heavy Metal, the weekend climaxes in an explosion of fireworks and echoing screams of, “Finished with my woman 'cause she couldn't help me with my mind”. A true Blizzard of Oz.
Same time next year? Bring your horns.