“Download Festival headliners in the making”: While She Sleeps put on yet another metalcore masterclass in Donington

At Download 2024, metalcore maestros While She Sleeps gave the UK’s biggest rock weekender a spectacle of rage, hooks and pyro

While She Sleeps live in 2024
(Image: © Gina Wetzler/Redferns)

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While She Sleeps are Download headliners in the making. Since the end of the pandemic, the Northern rabble have been one of the most unstoppable forces in UK metal, proving furious yet anthemic on Sleeps Society before stealing the show at this festival’s 2021 Pilot edition. Then, of course, came last year’s Alexandra Palace extravaganza: yet another declaration that Loz Taylor and the lads are ready for the big time and will blast everyone with electronic excellence until they reach it.

Given Sleeps’ recent momentum and impeccable showmanship, a set tucked away on the second stage during the Saturday of Download 2024 is actually pretty fucking insulting. Nonetheless, armed with output from this year’s Self Hell, the quintet put on yet another blinder of a performance.

Opener Rainbows may be a new, deep cut, but the energy’s instantly explosive: atop pulsing electronics, guitarists Mat Welsh and Sean Long hammer out the chunkiest of riffs. Meanwhile, vocalist Loz snarls as he explores every inch of the stage, which includes a massive raised platform, spotlights with a suitably technicolour spectrum and frequent blasts of pyrotechnics. A crammed crowd match the band’s undying energy, especially when the more familiar and incensed Sleeps Society strikes. Even Self Hell gets the masses jumping in unison: a surprise but welcome reaction if you’ve spent any time in the Youtube comments that first baulked at the controversial nu metal banger last year.

Sleeps haven’t just brought extra helpings of groove, either. There’s a shocking supply of bittersweetness from recent single To The Flowers, which slows the set to a ballad-like crawl and broadcasts Loz’s more melodic, mournful side. It’s not the kind of crowd-pleaser one would expect from a festival showcase, although as a demonstration of this band’s growing versatility, it’s pretty undeniable.

In between, Sleeps unload a couple of pre-pandemic bangers. Four Walls, from 2015’s Brainwashed, inspires countless to leap up onto someone else’s shoulders, while its rawer screaming and guitars appease the old-school contingent of these Yorkshiremen’s fan-base. Silence Speaks works to similarly euphoric effect, Donington’s hordes all roaring, “I think the silence speaks… VOLUMES!” in lieu of the track’s original guest vocalist, Oli Sykes.

Today’s set may not have leaned on early material as much as some diehards will have hoped, but the fact remains: Sleeps again proved that they possess the vigour, song craft and production of a headliner. How many more times do this lot need to outshine their peers before becoming the biggest players at British rock’s biggest annual event?

While She Sleeps - Sleeps Society LIVE @ Download Festival Pilot 2021 - YouTube While She Sleeps - Sleeps Society LIVE @ Download Festival Pilot 2021 - YouTube
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While She Sleeps setlist: Download Festival, Donington, UK – June 15, 2024

Sleeps Society
You Are All You Need
Self Hell
Four Walls
To The Flowers 
Silence Speaks 

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.