Now into its 10th year, attracting close to 100,000 fans and sprouting more stages, Download is becoming the heavy metal Glastonbury. The elements conspired in this process this year, with torrential rain on the opening Friday delaying the start for two hours, turning the site into a quagmire and – every cloud has a silver lining – trapping 80s poodle rockers Europe in gridlocked traffic.

The downpour also put paid to sets by Cancer Bats and Rise to Remain, but Slash fired through a set of LA sleaze-rock solo numbers interspersed with Guns N' Roses hits such as Sweet Child O' Mine with his usual blase elan. The Prodigy and Chase & Status's testosterone-fuelled techno was thrillingly brutalist enough to distract fans from rival attractions with names like Nightwish and Axe Wound.

Saturday saw copious US bands such as Trivium and Killswitch Engage churn out guttural thrash by the yard, but also embraced comedy. Steel Panther's expertly executed spoof on Sunset Strip hair metal had female fans baring their breasts on the big screen, but after 18 years, Jack Black's Tenacious D's joke of being the world's best acoustic metal duo may be wearing a tad thin.

UK melodic rockers You Me at Six have two top 5 albums to their name but drew the short straw of competing for a crowd with headliners Metallica. The LA band played their taut, frill-free 1991 Black Album, a sacred text of metal, in reverse track order: as ever, applauding it felt like clapping a piece of high-tensile industrial machinery.

On Sunday, Megadeth's born-again-Christian vocalist Dave Mustaine appeared content to fire out finger-shredding thrashes such as She-Wolf to a sea of devil horns, before the re-formed Soundgarden's grinding set emphasised they were always the most gothic of grunge's major players. Like most of the weekend's bill, they also owe a huge debt to the final night's headliners.

Black Sabbath's bleak, turgid and blisteringly loud take on the blues set the template for heavy metal more than 40 years ago, when Ozzy Osbourne was an angst-ridden, self-destructive rock god rather than a lovably befuddled reality-TV star. Reunited except for original drummer Bill Ward , they turned in a sharp and compelling set, with the shambling Osbourne dancing like a rag doll but in strong voice and fully engaged with monolithic, dolorous slabs of sound such as Iron Man and War Pigs. As the baleful Paranoid brought Download to a close, it appeared that the original metal monsters are still the best.

The view on Twitter


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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