Download remains an oasis of leather, studs, tattoos, piercings, and eyeliner amid a sea of increasingly mediocre UK festivals.
Holding true - largely speaking - to its principles the enormous rock and metal extravaganza remains a key event for those in the know, for those who want volume, distortion, and riffs, riffs glorious riffs.
This year the Download team will welcome some absolute legends on site, with Guns N' Roses touching down for what will surely be a performance for the history books.
That's not all, though, with this year's bill flitting between hardcore punk, old school thrash, and sundry other branches of fetid underground noise.
Alight thy goblets to the sky for this year's Download preview - helmed by the most righteous Dannii Leivers...
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Guns N’ Roses
This one’s a no-brainer. When most bands of a certain level reform, you can see the looming tax bill reflected in their dead eyes. Not GNR. They’ve manged to tolerate each other long enough for their Not In This Lifetime reunion tour to become one of the highest grossing tours of all time, but even more surprisingly, they’ve surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Anyone who saw the band when they came to the UK last summer will attest that Axl’s pipes are in fine form and the band are just as taut, raw and menacing as they were back in 1987. Screaming the words to ‘Mr Brownstone’, ‘It’s So Easy’ and ‘Paradise City’ with a field of 120,000 people is going to be a thing of insane beauty.
Guns and Roses headline the Main stage on Saturday (June 9th).
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Rolo Tomassi have spent the last 13 years evolving into one of the most innovative, definition-defying and special bands in the UK. Their most recent album, ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’, was another step in their perennial progression, melding haunting expanse with fits of vicious brutality and exploring themes of freedom, release and rebirth. Go have your mind boggled.
Rolo Tomassi play the Avalanche stage on Saturday (June 9th).
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Employed To Serve
Powerful hardcore with a math twist, Employed To Serve was originally a bedroom project formed in thrall to vocalist Justine Jones and guitarist Sammy Urwin’s grindcore inclinations. Their 2017 album, ‘Warmth Of A Dying Sun’, was horrifically nasty, untamed, and technical beast and, as a result, their early morning Friday slot is going to be like a vicious slap in the face.
Employed To Serve play the Avalanche stage on Friday (June 8th).
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Last year Myrkur, aka willowy chanteuse Amalie Bruun, released ‘Mareridt’, a grisly ceremony of atmospheric Nordic folk and black metal and one of the best metal albums in recent years.
Hearing tracks like ‘The Serpent’ and ‘Ulvinde’ live is a visceral, haunting and sensory experience, like falling under a dark and decadent spell. Myrkur plays the Dogtooth stage on Sunday (June 10th).
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Sleep Token is a shadowy dude in a mask and cloak whose music is a means of worship to an ancient deity called Sleep. Yeah … us too. Fusing haunting post-rock with blasts of tech metal, topped with Justin Vernon-esque vocals, Sleep Token is gimmicky for sure, but his music would be just as entrancing without the back story.
Sleep Token play the Dogtooth stage on Saturday (June 9th).
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‘The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets’, the debut from these mathy Yorkshire upstarts, kept you on your toes, breathlessly navigating its endless twists and turns.
It’s follow up, ‘Knowing What You Know Now’, released earlier this year, was a sonic statement of intent which embraced pop-tinged anthems and gave the quintet a deserved leg-up to the festival mainstages.
Marmozets play the Main stage on Friday (June 8th).
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Download 2018 will mark the first solo festival performance from Korn frontman Jonathan Davis. His debut solo album, ‘Black Labyrinth’, released a couple of weeks ago, is a deliciously dark affair reminiscent of his gothic, velvet-fingered work on early-00’s horror flick ‘Queen Of The Damned’, eschewing the chunky riffs of the day job in favour of shimmering 80’s post-punk a la The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cult. Be there.
Jonathan Davis plays the Zippo Encore stage on Friday (June 8th).
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It’s been 26 years since L7 singer Donita Sparks defiantly tossed her bloodied tampon into the crowd at Reading Festival at the height of the grunge-era. These days the band have mellowed somewhat, but more than two decades on, the raw-throated punk of ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ and ‘Shitlist’ sound as rambunctious as ever.
L7 play the Zippo Encore stage on Saturday (June 9th).
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Sonder, the recent album from Tesseract proved why the technical metallers are the front runners of their scene. Not only does it revisit the brutal, heavy riffs of their early work, the band also manage to navigate that tricky middle ground between immediacy and brain-melting complexity. Don’t miss them play it live on Friday night.
Tesseract headline the Dogtooth stage on Friday (June 8th).
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Sure, everyone is revving up in preparation for Guns N' Roses now, but we’d put money on Parkway Drive being touted as THE moment of the festival when the weekend is over.
The Australian metalcore crew have been churning out solid battery for over a decade now but with the release of 2015’s ‘Ire’ and their recent album ‘Reverence’, it seems the quintet are poised to take that massive step up to arenas. Plus their latest set production is a sight to behold with more fire than Rammstein and a revolving drum kit. These guys are the future headliners of Download.
Parkway Drive headline the Zippo Encore stage on Saturday (June 9th).
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Download runs between June 8th - 10th.
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