As Download marks another year of heavy, we choose our highlights of the weekend
System Of A Down return
Donington hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for SOAD in the past. They were upstaged by Slipknot in 2005 and put on a flabby and disinterested reunion show in 2011, so we’re hoping for third time lucky this year. The omens couldn’t be better; news of a new album incoming surely means that they’re back as a full-time concern, and their Wembley headline show in 2015 showed them approaching peak powers as a live band again. They’ve got the tunes and goodwill behind them, plus they kind of owe us one. Let’s hope they deliver.
Prophets Of Rage bite back
There are undoubtedly politically aware bands on the bill at Download every year, but has there ever been one that was formed solely because of their disgust with the system? That’s exactly what Prophets Of Rage did, and while there will be thousands of people turning up to their Friday sub-headline slot to hear the songs that made the members of the original bands, Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy, global musical icons, it would be churlish not to expect Tom Morello and Chuck D to spend a good portion of the set venting their disgust at Trump, Brexit, Syria and whatever other topics are the focus of their ire.
Five Finger Death Punch come out swinging
Modern metal needs 5FDP – the one band of the decade who truly look like they could become legitimate festival headliners. But the last 12 months has seen their momentum stall. Rumours about the gulf between frontman Ivan Moody and his bandmates have increased since they left him onstage alone during a gig in Memphis in 2015, and whispers about him leaving recently surfaced again (though were swiftly denied). But if we’ve learned anything about 5FDP over the years, it’s that they work best with their backs up against the wall, so we fully expect them to come roaring back at Download.
Metal Madness hits the main stage
As much as we always love seeing the big guns come out in force at Donington, this year sees some of the hottest young acts of our world making their Main Stage debut. It’s a big deal for Creeper (left), Hacktivist, Sabaton, Northlane and Motionless In White – expect them all to grab their opportunity with both hands.
Code Orange step up
January’s mindblowing Forever is still being lauded by fans and critics alike. And after coming within a whisker of toppling a band as mighty as Gojira on their recent European tour, you can expect them to produce one of the weekend’s most ferocious sets.
Steel Panther party fucking hard
You can always rely on Steel Panther to bring the biggest party atmosphere, but have they reached their ceiling when it comes to how high they can scale the Download bill? It’s another third-from-the-top appearance for the glam metal titans – another home run is needed to put them on the list of potential headliners.
Suicide Silence prove themselves
The backlash to Suicide Silence’s self-titled album has been brutal, but there may be redemption on the horizon. The deathcore legends have never backed down from a fight, and at Donington they will come face to face with the haters, determined to make the new songs work. It could be one of the weekend’s most memorable sets.
Dillinger wave goodbye
And so the end is here. One of the most brilliant, unique and important bands of the 21st century will bow out at Donington, and, just like every time The Dillinger Escape Plan step onstage, we still have no idea what to expect. One thing is for sure: we’ll be there to celebrate their legacy.
Your guide to more cool shit at Download
Is anything happening on site before it starts?
We’re glad you asked. Formed in 2009 by members of the Download Forum to provide entertainment and increase community spirit, The Boardie Takeover is a place where people can meet and watch new talent. On Thursday from 6pm in the campsite’s Doghouse, you can see One For Sorrow, Mason Hill, Ramage Inc, Dream Awake and Hands Off Gretel.
Why should we go there?
It’s a true showcase of the best aspects of our scene. Boardie Takeover founder Hevs tells us: “Being part of this event is the highlight of my year – to give bands the opportunity to play Download, and to share that experience with them – it’s an honour to be part of it, and a great way to discover new bands.”
What else is going on over the weekend?
There’s all manner of other events to keep you interested at all hours. Wrestling fans will rejoice at the return of WWE NXT, featuring Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Tye Dillinger, Nikki Cross and more. Meanwhile, The Download Village will be home to a load of DJing and stand-up comedy
Heading to Bloodstock? From fire to fury, they’ve got you covered
Amon Amarth bring the fire
It felt like a genuine moment all metal fans could rejoice in: after more than a decade of hard graft, Amon Amarth reached the stage where they could be considered headliners. And, due to the sheer weight of consistency of the Swedish legends, this time we know exactly what we’re going to get: a fuck-ton of fire, a massive Viking longboat, Johan Hegg’s unmistakable roar, and some of the meatiest, most headbanging melodic death metal the world has ever produced. It will be a coronation for a band long overdue their spot. Horns up!
Ghost make a spooktacular debut
They’ve gone from being an odd, underground doom metal curiosity to metal’s premier Grammy-winning spectacle, and Ghost will cap off their rise so far by headlining a UK festival for the first time. Quite where they take it after this, no one knows, and the sky is the limit, frankly. But for this one night, we should all take a moment to appreciate the majesty of a band who look capable of transcending our world and becoming a genuine musical phenomenon. It promises to be a set that all those in attendance will be able to look back on and say, ‘I was there.’
Thrash rules the roost
Thrash metal doesn’t always translate from tiny clubs to big festivals, but if it’s going to succeed anywhere, it’ll be Bloodstock, with a field full of rabid metalheads desperate to bang their heads in fury. And boy, do they get their wish this year, with German legends Kreator still on stunning form on this year’s Gods Of Violence; fifth members of the Big Four, Testament; new-school crossover kings Municipal Waste; and a headline slot from icon, Golden God and all-round legend Dave Mustaine bringing Megadeth to town. There will be sore necks all round for sure.
King 810 kill ’em all
It must rank as one of Bloodstock’s most bizarre bookings. Bringing Flint, Michigan avant-garde noise terrorists King 810 to a festival born from power metal takes some balls. But off the back of the superb La Petite Morte… album, we back them to win over the naysayers… if the notorious gun lovers can actually make it to the UK.
Decapitated hit 20
Celebrating 20 years of being a band is a pretty special achievement. To do so when you’re a death metal band from Poland is an even more amazing feat, so this celebratory set from Decapitated promises to be one of Bloodstock’s highlights. And, as their stunning new album, Anticult, shows, there’s still plenty more inspiration in the tank. Unmissable.
Skindred sound the siren
It may look odd on paper, but we have no doubt that ragga-punk-metallers Skindred are going to slay Bloodstock. Benji Webbe’s crew have tamed the most hostile of festival crowds with their rabble-rousing anthems and, no matter how much brutal metal surrounds them, Skindred will conquer. As they always do.
Global metal erupts
Bloodstock is establishing itself as the place to see not just the newest bands, but the newest scenes in metal, drawing their line-up from every corner of the globe. This year Egyptian death metallers Scarab and the thrash stylings of Beirut’s Blaakyum fit the bill.
Mud and Thunder
We round up the best metal action at the other UK festivals
Despite its countryside setting, 2000trees (July 6-8, Upcote Farm, Cheltenham) boasts some definite thrills. There’s Brighton post-prog-metal newbies Black Peaks, the rave-mosh action of youthful quartet The One Hundred and, in what’s sure to be one of the sets of the season, the ethereal, post-black metal of Belgians Oathbreaker. That weekend also sees UK Tech-Fest(July 6-10, Newark Showground, Nottinghamshire), one of the most exciting events in metal’s calendar. It features exclusive UK sets from The Black Dahlia Murder, Obscura, The Faceless and Beyond Creation, along with a ton more heaviness and a series of afterparties and workshops. For classic rock fans, Ramblin’ Man Fair (July 28-30, Kent) offers denim and leather from the likes of Saxon, ZZ Top, Extreme, British Lion and Rivals Sons.
ArcTanGent(August 17-19, Bristol) caters to fans of the most challenging and diverse music our world has to offer, and this year is possibly their most impressive line-up yet, boasting tech-metal pioneers Sikth, Japanese weirdos Boris, post-metallers Devil Sold His Soul, djent royalty Tesseract and rising metallic hardcore mob Employed To Serve. But it’s the UK-exclusive additions of two genuine heavyweight headliners that makes this year so special: Texan post-rock luminaries Explosions In The Sky and Boston’s legends of hardcore, Converge. A few weeks later, Reading & Leeds (August 25-27, Richfield Avenue / Bramham Park) provides more heaviness than we’re used to from them. The heart-string pull of nostalgia may play a big part, with Eminem headlining a Main Stage that includes nu metal godfathers Korn and reformed post-hardcore icons At The Drive In. Architects also find themselves on the Main Stage, oddly sandwiched between grime darling Giggs and pop rock goons Against The Current. You’ll mostly find us camped in The Pit stage, where While She Sleeps headline with the likes of Zeal & Ardor and The Amity Affliction in tow. Finally, Marmozets make their return to action. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.
Mammothfest (October 6-8, Brighton) has grown every year, and is pulling in some impressive names on the sub-genre specific Main Stage of each day. Greek legends Rotting Christ top the bill on the black metal day and avant-garde Italians Fleshgod Apocalypse headline the extreme day, while the third day is dedicated to stoner rock and doom. Meanwhile, Damnation (November 4, Leeds) caps off the year with Dying Fetus and resurrected doom trio Warning.
Best of the Fest: Europe
Like a summer holiday, but with 666% more metal
Graspop Metal Meeting
**Dessel, Belgium |June 16-18 **
Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, Graspop offers an immersive festival village featuring record fairs, rides, a classic rock cafe and a metal boulevard where you can do everything from having an oxygen shot to getting a beard trim from their onsite barbers. Add to this a killer line-up, featuring big names like Rammstein and Steel Panther, playing to more than 100,000 people, and you’ve got an unmissable weekend.
Bands: Clutch, Evanescence, Five Finger Death Punch, In Flames, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, Sabaton, Steel Panther, While She Sleeps
Clisson, France | June 16-18
Always boasting a rather awe- inspiring line-up, Hellfest now sells out in advance of any announcements purely on the strength of its consistency. It’s the same again this year, where the bands are placed in genre-specific stages, each complete with their own unique aesthetic. From the punk stage Warzone’s industrialised wasteland to the black-metal-centric Altar’s arcane religious imagery, Hellfest continues to nail it.
Bands: Aerosmith, Airbourne, Avatar, Baroness, Behemoth, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Opeth, Prophets Of Rage, Slayer
**Tolmin, Slovenia | July 23-29 **
Combining a metal festival with a camping and beach holiday, MetalDays is your go-to place to kill two birds with one stone. Spend the day sunbathing around some idyllic views and swimming in the clear blue waters of the site’s man-made lake, before heading over to the main arena to watch some face-ripping metal for the evening. There really is no other festival quite like MetalDays.
Bands: Abbath, Amon Amarth, Architects, Bloodbath, Blues Pills, Death Angel, Grand Magus, Iced Earth, Marilyn Manson, Opeth
**Schleswig-Holstein, Germany | August 3-5 **
The granddaddy of all European metal festivals. Wacken has established itself through a combination of excellent facilities and organisation, and an always-stellar musical line-up of the biggest and best in pure and traditional metal, along with a few surprises. With tickets usually selling out within 48 hours of going on sale, the Wacken brand is bigger and more iconic than ever.
Bands: Accept, Alice Cooper, Architects, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Megadeth, Napalm Death, Paradise Lost, Trivium, Volbeat
**Fortress Josefov, Czech Republic | August 9-12 **
Situated in the grounds of an old army fortress, and surrounded by ancient castle ruins and woodland, Brutal Assault offers a scenic view to go along with the many musical delights on the bill. Plus, it offers incredible value for money at a mere 86 Euros for a weekend ticket, and, being in the Czech Republic, one of the finest beer selections you could ask for.
Bands: Decapitated, Electric Wizard, Emperor, Hatebreed, Morbid Angel, Sikth, Trivium
Schlotheim, Germany | August 10-12
It would take some going for another German festival to ‘out metal’ Wacken, but the Party San folks are doing their very best to achieve that feat by booking some of the most extreme and violent music they can. Party San also manages to attract many bands from some of the emerging scenes around the world. If you like it truly underground and kvlt as fuck, then Party San should be on your to-do list.
Bands: Abbath, Candlemass, Cryptopsy, Insomnium, Marduk, Nile, Possessed, Vader
**Borre, Vestfold, Norway | August 17-19 **
A festival dedicated to all things Viking, set amongst the grounds of a former Viking settlement. Midgardsblot is one festival that truly can lean on more than just music, with beer festivals, Norse games, battle recreations and a Viking market with authentic food, clothes and drink for you to sample. Not to mention a bill of the very best in battle metal. Basically, if you like Viking culture, Midgardsblot is a no-brainer.
Bands: Aura Noir, Gaahls Wyrd, Moonsorrow, Oranssi Pazuzu, Sahg, Sólstafir, Winterfylleth
Beyond The Gates: Bjørgvin Black Mass 2017
Bergen, Norway | August 24-26
Formerly Hole In The Sky and then Beyond The Gates, this new incarnation of the festival promises to be an experience like no other. It’s moving to a bigger venue, is hosting a world-exclusive performance of Enslaved’s 1994 debut Vikingligr Veldi, and is holding firm to its cult ethos. It’s also set on a lake, with a welcome and fraternal atmosphere akin to Roadburn.
Bands: Enslaved, Exciter, Master’s Hammer, Mayhem, Mgła, Revenge
Fall Of Summer
Torcy, France | September 8-9
A relative newcomer, only in its fourth year, Fall Of Summer is situated 30km from Paris by the Torcy Lake and represents one final chance to see out festival season in heavy style. Featuring a line-up that concentrates on some of the best underground and extreme bands in metal, FOS would certainly be a fine last hurrah to your summer festival-going calendar.
Bands: Blasphemy, Bulldozer, Coven, Magma, Marduk, Orange Goblin, Primordial, Saint Vitus
Best of the Fest: The World
Fancy going to a field further afield? Check out these gatherings
México Metal Fest
Monterrey, Mexico | June 16
A one-day extravaganza of massively heavy sounds, which is bound to be full of legendarily passionate South American metal fans. Not only do we fancy the music and the weather – seeing Amon Amarth rock up with a massive great Viking longboat will be some juxtaposition – but you also can buy a ticket that includes a commemorative t-shirt and four beers… we’ll take that one, please.
Bands: Abbath, Amon Amarth, Avatar, Dark Tranquillity, Nervosa, Sodom
Various locations across the US | June 16 - August 6
Just when we thought the long-running punk summer camp was getting further and further away from us, so 2017 is the year that Warped has snapped back into heavy action. Hardcore originals Sick Of It All, goth punks Creeper, party thrash legends Municipal Waste and spunk-spraying aliens GWAR are appearing on the travelling circus. After years of malnourished, piss-weak pop-punk, this is a very good thing. Welcome back, Warped Tour!
Bands: Alestorm, Anti-Flag, Beartooth, Being As An Ocean, Carnifex, Creeper, Emmure, GWAR, Hatebreed, Municipal Waste, New Years Day, Sick Of It All, Stick To Your Guns, Valient Thorr
Bangalore Open Air
Bangalore, India | July 1
Now in its sixth year, Bangalore Open Air is India’s longest-running metal festival, and is a must-attend event. Marduk and Nile have been confirmed for 2017’s event at a luxury resort, along with California’s Galaxy Crusher and India’s own Kryptos, and more to be announced.
Bands: Galaxy Crusher, Kryptos, Marduk, Nile
Dhaka Metal Fest
Dhaka, Bangladesh | July 7-8
This two-day festival is headlined by Japanese death metallers Desecravity, but is a true showcase for the talent that Bangladesh has to offer, with a ton of bands from the country making their live mark. There’ll also be guitar, drum and bass clinics run by local veteran musicians, and a bunch of tasty merch.
Bands: Desecravity, Nafarmaan, Nekrohowl, Orator, Psychotron, Severe Dementia, Sonic Predator
Oshkosh, Wisconsin | July 13-15
The US festival market is booming right now, and it’s easy to see why when you look at this line-up and the level of experiences on offer at Rock USA. Bringing in local produce from the Wisconsin area, the delicacies on offer are mouth-watering. A craft beer stall, gourmet food and an American whiskey trail sure beat a warm paper cup of lager and a soggy burger. Plus, it’s one of Avenged Sevenfold’s only festival appearances of 2017.
Bands: Anthrax, Avatar, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Lamb Of God, Megadeth, Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Stone Sour, Suicide Silence, Volbeat
Chicago Open Air
Bridgeview, Chicago | July 14-16
Chicago Open Air offers one of the most fan-interactive festivals around. Fans and bands can mingle in a variety of ways, from signing sessions to the interactive music experience area where you can get your hands on gear used by your favourite bands and play the rockstar yourself – before going off to see Kiss and Rob Zombie do it for real.
Bands: Behemoth, Body Count, Clutch, Code Orange, Devildriver, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dragonforce, Hellyeah, Kiss, Korn, Megadeth, Meshuggah, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Steel Panther, Stone Sour, Suicide Silence
Psycho Las Vegas
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas | August 18-20
With one of the most spectacularly decadent surroundings of any festival on Earth, Psycho Las Vegas seems like the perfect opportunity to truly indulge yourself in sinful debauchery alongside the cream of extreme, underground and doom worlds. It seems insane that nobody ever thought of this before! Selling your soul while enjoying King Diamond playing his classic Abigail album in its entirety? Sign us up, Satan!
Bands: Carcass, Code Orange, Corrosion Of Conformity, Gojira, King Diamond, Mastodon, Melvins, Neurosis, Sleep, Swans, Zeal & Ardor
Noise Metal Festival
Mongolia | September 16
Noise metal festival bills itself as ‘The first and biggest metal festival in Mongolia’ and should be considered one of the first ports of call for the exploring metal fan. Not only will you get to experience the impact of our scene in a totally different environment to what you’re used to, you’ll be able to sample some of the Asian scene’s best bands alongside some more familiar names. Such as this year’s headliners, Greek blackened death metal stalwarts Rotting Christ.
Bands: Rotting Christ + more tbc
Alberton, South Africa | September 30
This one-day annual celebration of all things heavy returns with Animals As Leaders boosting a bill that boasts some of the best live bands in South Africa. VIP ticket holders also get the chance to watch the headliners soundcheck and receive a signed festival poster, plus pizza and beer. Stay tuned for the headliner announcement in the weeks to come.
Bands: Animals As Leaders + more tbc
Cancún, Mexico | October 29 – November 2
From the creators of the ShipRocked cruise comes the first annual Metal Maya, a four-day all-inclusive festival vacation on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Luxury accommodation, gourmet meals, and alcohol included? Count us in! There will also be festive celebrations on Halloween and the Day Of The Dead.
Bands: Anthrax, Death Angel, Metal Allegiance, Otep, Overkill, Prong, Superjoint
Want to get a headstart on 2018’s action? Step this way…
70,000 Tons Of Metal
Miami, Florida, USA | February 1-5
The original metal booze cruise, 70,000 Tons is the loudest ship on the ocean. Enjoy a luxury liner’s facilities and bang your head for five days. Fear Factory, Nightwish, Behemoth and Sabaton are just some of the bands who’ve played onboard so far.
Full Metal Mountain
Nassfeld, Austria | April 2-8
A luxury ski resort, loads of snow, even more beer and some of the world’s best metal bands playing on top of an icy mound. Come on, what’s not to love about Full Metal Mountain? Amon Amarth, Asking Alexandria and Apocalyptica played this year and it was ruddy awesome.
Tilburg, Netherlands | April 19-22
Roadburn needs no introduction, having a reputation as one of the world’s best festivals, featuring bands, art exhibitions and a side programme of panels and interviews. We’re sure 2018’s will once again have a genuine sense of occasion.
Montreal, Canada | July 28-29
After taking this year off, Heavy Montreal will return stronger than ever in 2018, featuring some of the biggest names in rock and metal you’ll see anywhere in Canada. Past headliners have included Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slipknot and A7X.