"There aren't many metal bands that can live with Machine Head." Robb Flynn's warriors remind Download Festival what they've sorely missed

Machine Head finally returned to Download - and how!

Machine Head on stage
(Image: © Getty Images)

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It always seemed like a case of “when” rather than “if” Machine Head would end their self-imposed hiatus from festivals and return to Download. There have just been too many incredible sets from the Oakland legends on Donington’s turf over their career for them to not want to come back. And, although this headlining set on the Opus Stage probably won’t go down in history in the same way as their legendary 2007 show did, tonight is a hell of a way for Machine Head to re-introduce themselves to the UK festival scene.

The main reason, as is true for basically any Machine Head show, is Robb Flynn being on tip-top form. The General is, obviously, the main focal point of his band, and when he is fired up and urging his troops on, there aren’t many bands in metal that can live with them. As soon as they come out and blast into a frantic Imperium it’s clear that Flynn is bang up for it; his voice sounds fantastic, he nails every riff and every solo and the big, shit-eating grin on his face as he cajoles the sprawling mass in front of him is a joy to see. From then on Machine Head never drop the ball; highlights include a fantastic reworking of the once-maligned rap-metal track From This Day, a crushing Locust and a mass sing-along to Is There Anybody Out There?, a song that sounds far heavier and more urgent in the live environment than on record. Flynn also gets a massive cheer when he throws a beer into the hands of one eagle-eyed punter, something that appears to delight him just as much as it does the crowd. 

It all culminates in a spectacular Davidian, complete with more fire than Rammstein and Parkway Drive having a communal barbeque, and a gorgeous Halo, again with Flynn’s voice sounding as good as it has at any time in Machine Head’s career. The days when Machine Head were touted as potential main stage headliners may well be long gone, and the fairly modest turn out for their set is testament to that, but now they’re back on the festival scene, it would still take a brave band to want to follow them.

Machine Head Download 2024 setlist

Ten Ton Hammer
Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate
The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears
No Gods, No Masters
Is There Anybody Out There?
From This Day

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.