Bring Me The Horizon's spectacular Download set proved it's time to let the next generation of headliners in

Bring Me The Horizon finally got to headline Download - and they made the most of it with the most spectacular stage show of the weekend

Oli Sykes onstage at Donington
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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Today might just be Download's most important day for quite some time. Featuring a main stage stacked with exciting, young, British bands, it's a potential signifier for the future of the festival, particularly with so many of rock and metal's heritage acts beginning to slow down or bow out completely. 

There can be no doubt, then, that it's the perfect opportunity for Bring Me The Horizon to finally headline Download for the first time; this is years in the making, and while the crowd is initially noticeably thinner than the gargantuan mob that turned up to see Metallica last night, the atmosphere is one of excitement, expectation and celebration. 

"Download, are you ready for the greatest night of your life?" questions an unsettling, computer-generated AI lady who pops up over the main stage screens, introducing a conceptual through-line for the show that eventually ties together Terminator-esque themes of tech running wild with shady cults and weird mutant beasties. It's fun, it's out there, and it's the first indicator that Bring Me The Horizon haven't held back with building a show to match their new headliner status.

And what a show it is. Playing over multiple, flashing tiers and backed by an immersive backdrop that looks like it came from a Ghost stage 20 years in the future, Sheffield's finest really have gone all out. Over the course of two highly entertaining hours we see lashings upon lashings of towering pyro, confetti cannons, dancers, stilt walkers and even beach balls, all lapped up by a crowd that only gets bigger and bigger (and more excited!) as the show goes on. Even Oli Sykes' mic stand looks epic, a horned, Giger-esque monstrosity that presumably owes a debt of influence to a certain Jonathan Davis.

Sykes himself remains an enigmatic, magnetic presence at the heart of it all, one moment nonchalantly striding across the stage dishing out the most hilariously, bluntly British stage patter ("If you stand still you are a very special kind of knob head"), the next down on all fours, screaming his guts out. He's also happy to let his enamoured audience do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to clean vocals; it's something that will doubtless stick in the craw of metal fans who demand a certain kind of performance from their singers, but when you have a crowd this happy to participate, it only adds to the spectacle.

There are also some brilliantly worked cameos - the excellent Nova Twins bound out for a riotous 1x1 in what feels like a huge moment for British rock music on the big stage, while Evanescence's Amy Lee makes a dramatic arrival, appearing from under a hood to sing a verse from One Day The Only Butterflies Left... before duetting with Oli on a pulsating Nihilist Blues. By now, the crowd has filled out to epic proportions and the party atmosphere is in full swing.

The set doesn't dip into anything from before 2013 magnum opus Sempiternal – a shame in some ways, as it swerves an opportunity to recognise Bring Me's unlikely journey to the top of the metal food chain, but given that the mass majority of the band's most anthemic material has come in the last decade, it's an understandable decision. The euphoria that erupts across Donington as Sykes induces a classic, Slipknot-esque 'jumpthefuckup' during Throne suggests that Bring Me The Horizon have judged this most vital of performances exactly right. 

"You have no idea what this means to us," Sykes gushes as he takes a detour to the front row, high-fiving elated fans during Can You Feel My Heart. The feeling appears mutual and there's no going back now; if tonight has shown anything, it's that the next generation of festival headliners has finally arrived, and the rock scene is ready for them.

Bring Me The Horizon Download 2023 setlist

1. Amen
2. Teardrops
3. The House Of Wolves
4. Mantra
5. Dear Diary
6. Parasite Eve
7. Shadow Moses
8. 1x1
9. Lost
10. One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death
11. Nihilst Blues
12. Die4u
13. Kingslayer
14. Folllow You
15. Drown
16. Throne
17. Can You Feel My Heart

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.