What happened when Avenged Sevenfold headlined Download 2024

Avenged Sevenfold melt minds – and the sound system – at their successfully strange Download headline hat-trick.

What happened when Avenged Sevenfold headlined Download 2024
Emily Carter
Andy Ford

It’s precisely 10:16pm, and the members of Avenged Sevenfold are bemusingly walking around the Apex Stage in total darkness, to the sound of a crowd singing DJ Ötzi’s Hey Baby at them. Given the Huntington Beach metallers’ fantastically out-there current streak, these words might not actually come as a massive surprise to you. But tonight, this isn’t part of their grand plan.

No, what’s actually happened is a complete sound system meltdown, right after the guitar solo during 2010 mega-single Nightmare (insert ‘electrifying’ joke of your choice). It’s a hiccup, for sure, but as Download 2024’s most seasoned headliners, it’s nothing that can’t soon be styled out – especially not when the answer to get things back on track is by launching straight into Unholy Confessions a couple of minutes later.

Indeed, Avenged Sevenfold are the biggest band here with the most Donington experience, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to rest on any laurels just yet. While Friday and Saturday’s closing sets from Queens Of The Stone Age and Fall Out Boy respectively bring their own fresh feel, A7X are determined to out-do everyone and deliver one of the most unique sets of the entire weekend.

And that’s exactly what they do. The band’s hat-trick headliner begins not with your typical metal bang, but rather with frontman M. Shadows casually strolling out in a balaclava and Yeezus jumper, and having a sit-down as the acoustic intro to Game Over from last year’s Life Is But A Dream… album plays out. Intensely surveying those who haven’t bailed in favour of a much-needed hot shower, the singer and his bandmates take fans on the rest of this thrash-meets-Beatles thrill ride, before going straight into Mattel.

From the off, it’s evident this isn’t a setlist for everyone. Though of course peppered with huge singles like Afterlife, Hail To The King and Bat Country, Avenged are all about doing what they want tonight, celebrating 2023’s wild LP and translating their ultra-modern ideas into a live setting.

On that subject, LIBAD… lead single Nobody goes down best of all, sounding crushingly heavy with a brain-boggling light show to match. “We’re gonna play all kinds of shit for you,” M. teases. “We’re not sure yet, but this might be the only time we come here on this album cycle. We’re trying to come in 2025, but we don’t know yet…”

In case that doesn’t happen, Avenged do make sure to hit particular career touchstones elsewhere, from the poignant Fiction in memory of The Rev – “Gone but not forgotten…” says Shadows onstage – to disturbing fan-favourite A Little Piece Of Heaven and a triumphant The Stage.

At only 15 songs (but almost two hours) long, there are naturally some pretty massive omissions – Beast And The Harlot, Almost Easy and Shepherd Of Fire to name just three – but A7X haven’t made it this far by pandering to the masses, and for their hardcore contingent down the front it feels like a risk that pays off.

“We hope you had a beautiful night and a beautiful weekend,” M. grins during spectacularly cinematic closer Cosmic – again, not the conventional choice for some, but at this point, if you’re not all-in then you’ve probably made a dash for the exit to beat the Sunday-night traffic, anyway.

Whether Avenged Sevenfold are able to return to these shores next year remains to be seen, but in the meantime, this has been a total dream in every sense.

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