Five months after Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot and a double dose of Metallica rocked Download’s 20th edition, we finally know who’s going to be topping the bill at Donington in 2024. Fall Out Boy, Queens Of The Stone Age and Avenged Sevenfold are the holy trinity topping UK rock ’n’ roll’s most sacred spot next year – and the response to that news has been, let’s say, “mixed”. However, to complain about pop-punks and stoner rockers being the main event of a “metal” festival is to actually miss the full picture.
Cards on the table: I am as fierce a metalhead as you can get. Ever since I saw Metallica headline at Donington in 2012, I’ve been a devoted acolyte in the cult of heavy music. Try as I may to broaden my palate and dabble in sugary pop or snooty jazz, I always end up returning to the face-scrunching riffery of Gojira or Cult Of Luna within minutes. And the freak metalhead in me (which is all of me) is actually incredibly satisfied with the lineup for Download 2024.
Do I listen to much Fall Out Boy or Queens Of The Stone Age in my downtime? No. I’m also someone who does not enjoy the new Avenged album, Life Is But A Dream…, despite respecting the ambition of what they’re attempting. However, I know Download has not forgotten me – nor the many hard-as-nails metalheads that return every year.
If you want your metal hard and your guitars distorted as fuck, there will be so much for you next year. Urne’s new album A Feast On Sorrow has the densest riffs-per-capita quota I’ve heard of any UK metal album this year, while Heriot are pure, discordant, brash metalcore and The Callous Daoboys promise to be the maddest set of the whole thing, thanks to their mashups of twitching mathcore and baroque pop. The likes of Bleed From Within, Alien Weaponry and Machine Head, meanwhile, are all returning metal juggernauts who absolutely levelled the festival last time they played their respective slots.
This is still only half the picture, though. When I first attended Download 11 years back, I was a naive 15-year-old who had a fascination with heavy music, but absolutely no idea who or what to begin with. My mum bought me a day ticket to the Saturday as a Christmas present purely because I’d heard of Metallica and was curious. Outside of that, what I considered skull-crushingly heavy was Disturbed or Adelitas Way. These were dark times.
But, after I entered Download with just a recognition of one headliner’s name and an enjoyment of the softest of heavy music, I emerged changed. I discovered Trivium (they were sick), Saxon (they rocked) and As I Lay Dying (they’re less fun to talk about nowadays), and this young lad with a curiosity changed.
It really is not a stretch to suggest that, in 2024, the same thing will happen to countless other people. How many will rock up just because they know that one Queens Of The Stone Age song, or because they listened to Fall Out Boy 18 years ago, and maybe – just maybe – experience the excitement of Urne and become drawn in?
If there’s one talking point that’s kept coming up again and again in recent years, it’s that heavy metal needs to extend its horizons to survive. It’s been discussed this year with the ascents of Scene Queen (also at Download 2024) and Sleep Token among demographics otherwise unfamiliar with the genre. It came up when Babymetal exposed the J-pop crowd to nasty riffs, and when nu metal came back, and it’ll damn sure be argued over again whenever the next big thing hits. This is just another example of that.
No, Fall Out Boy and Queens Of The Stone are not metal bands. However, if their inclusion at Download means just one of their fans experiences metal live (the best way to experience metal) and falls in love, I’m all for it.