The big review: Download Festival 2024

Download Festival 2024 is go! As is the annual Kerrang! rolling review, featuring all the best, can’t-be-missed stuff from the home of metal this weekend…

The big review: Download Festival 2024
Emily Carter, Sam Law, Luke Morton, Nick Ruskell, Emma Wilkes
Jenn Five, Andy Ford, Bethan Miller

Following a mammoth 20th anniversary bash in 2023, this year Download returns to Donington Park with its usual three-day format and kicks off a whole new era for the festival – with two first-time headliners in the form of Queens Of The Stone Age and Fall Out Boy, and a third bill-topping show from Avenged Sevenfold.

As always, Kerrang! will be here all weekend, keeping you updated with what’s going on live across the Apex, Opus, Avalance and Dogtooth Stages.

So let’s get stuck in, shall we?

Avenged SevenfoldApex Stage

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…

…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…”

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. (EC)

Read the full review: What happened when Avenged Sevenfold headlined Download 2024

The UsedAvalanche Stage

Toxic Positivity is a hell of a concept: that ignorant, mind-numbing unwillingness to be engage with life's darknesses which only exacerbates the misery of others. The Used frontman Bert McCracken encourages everyone to tackle any lingering bad feelings head-on with a communal 'boo' in the middle of an excellent Avalanche Stage headline instead this evening. But that's about as murky as the vibe gets, with the caustic complexity of songs as big as The Taste Of Ink and Take It Away basically drowned out in a riot of colossal sing-alongs and full-throttle pits. From storming mega-choruses to unapologetically offbeat Shakespeare soliloquies, it's a set with a hundred ways to entertain the thousands who've stuck around to see Utah's finest. And when Bert knowingly teases that, "I hope everyone's having as much fun as I am," before chucking all in attendance into A Box Full Of Sharp Objects, the mud-chucking response is one of the most raucous all weekend. A strong showing from the stubbornly unstoppable emo icons. (SL)

Machine HeadOpus Stage

Remember when Machine Head stopped doing festivals for ages? Tonight holds up a magnifying glass as to what a fucking colossal waste of skill that was. Even with their big stage set and enough fire to open their own steel foundry, Robb Flynn and the lads turn this (absolutely rammed) stage headlining slot into a backyard BBQ. "How are all my Sunday night beer drinkers doing?" he yells with a massive grin, to a huge roar. Loose though the vibe is, they are nothing less than devastating as they bulldoze through Davidian, Ten Ton Hammer and From This Day, a precision-tooled metal machine that moves like a tank and hits like… a tank. Nobody is enjoying it all as much as Robb, who looks at every circle-pit with the smile of a man once again knowing how it feels to be at the top of his game. Remember when Machine Head stopped doing festivals for ages? After this, that won't be a problem for a very long time to come. (NR)

CounterpartsAvalanche Stage

Counterparts’ Brendan Murphy has a sharp tongue, a feral scream and, hilariously, no filter. “You have work tomorrow?” he asks the punters who braved the mud for one last mosh. “I have work right now. Bite me.” Their output is especially cutting in the gradually darkening expanse of the tent, with the seething Unwavering Vow sounding rightfully murderous and the pummelling Your Knife compels the punters to use their last reserves of energy on spin kicking like ninjas in the pit (and shirts come off). By the end, the Ontario mob decide to devastate in a different way, wrapping up with the agonising, atmospheric elegy for Brendan's late cat, Whispers Of Your Death. While the first trickles of festival goers have started to head for the car parks, this set is more than worth sticking around for. (EW)

Limp BizkitApex Stage

Although Avenged Sevenfold are at the top of the bill, for many people at Download this weekend, it has all been building to this: one hour of the ultimate party band, Limp Bizkit. The skies are mercifully clear as the ground turns to treacle underneath the weight of the biggest crowd the Apex Stage has seen all weekend, as an ocean of red caps and white vests cascades over Donington. And let’s not beat around the bush here, this is undoubtedly one of the best sets of the entire weekend. All-out bangers from start to finish – beginning and ending on Break Stuff is a brilliantly banterous move – it’s a masterclass in how to do festivals properly. Hotdog. Rollin. My Generation. My Way. At every turn another chorus or riff (courtesy of Wes Borland in full gilded Zoidberg mode) that are so deeply embedded in the culture of Download it’s basically become second nature to drop 46 fucks in a fucked up rhyme or do it all for the nookie.

Slotting in their well-trodden covers of Behind Blue Eyes and Faith – and even a brief refrain of Nirvana’s Come As You Are – there isn’t a single moment the air over hallowed grounds isn’t thick with 70,000 pissed-up voices, bellowing along with Fred Durst in his most affable and let’s-fucking-have-it form. Joking they are just trying to get the crowd warmed up for tonight’s headliners, the mayhem that ensues for tracks like Take A Look Around – or “that weird song Tom Cruise likes” – and Full Nelson prove that Bizkit could and arguably should be in that top slot. With next year coming as the 25th anniversary of Chocolate Starfish, if anyone at Download is reading this, you know what to do. (LM)

Corey TaylorOpus Stage

Download is basically Corey Taylor’s second home, but the odds feel stacked against him tonight. For one, he’s been “sick for a week”, even having to cancel a couple of prior European festival shows within the past few days. For another, his set starts at the exact same time as Limp Bizkit’s – one of the most hyped-up performances of the whole weekend.

To misquote one of his own solo songs, though, CMFT can’t be stopped.

Strolling out with his infectious Corey grin, this is a blast right from the off, with the frontman working his loyal fanbase gathered at the Opus Stage, throwing both the horns and a constant stream of water bottles into the crowd. “It’s so fucking good to be home, god dammit,” he begins. “There’s no fucking way I was missing this show!”

True to form, Corey musters up every ounce of energy he has for a huge rock’n’roll celebration. Backed by his infectiously enthusiastic solo band, they bring the sing-alongs early with Stone Sour’s Made Of Scars, Slipknot’s Before I Forget and… the SpongeBob theme tune.

Of course, there’s plenty of room for his own recent work, too, with Corey dedicating a particularly emotional Home to “the love of my life”, his wife Alicia, because, “Six months ago, she saved me from the darkest fucking point of my whole life.”

That in itself would be the highlight for most, but the metal legend isn’t done just yet.

“I was here 21 fucking years ago for the first time, and I’ll never forget it!” he yells in closing. “The fact you’re still here watching my silly ass jumping around, and doing what I do, means the world.” Adding that he’s decided to put out nothing but positive energy in 2024 and beyond, and tells his fans that they’re a “fucking gift”, before signing off with an epic Duality.

As always, this guy is bloody unbeatable. (EC)

Parkway DriveDogtooth Stage

The Dogtooth Stage has been full for quite some time, with fans standing 10 rows deep outside the smallest tent at the festival to try and grab a glimpse of Australia’s finest wrecking crew. Looking every bit like a man who hasn’t spent the past four days slumming it in the mud, the dictionary definition of charisma Winston McCall strolls out in a Persil-white tank top and a grin so wide it threatens the integrity of his cheeks. He knows, as much as ever-growing horde does, the next 30 minutes are going down in Donington history.

As the braying crowd swells and surges forward like a writhing mass of battered flesh, it’s bedlam from the first strains of Glitch, with bodies piling over the barricade, fist-bumping Winston as he hurls himself round the stage, barking into the audience with every ounce of energy and adrenaline his muscular frame can muster. And the momentum never stops, with a punishing Prey almost causing a small earthquake across the East Midlands, as circle-pits rev into gear and a deafening chorus engulfs the marquee.

Read the full review: What happened when Parkway Drive surprised Download Festival 2024

AtreyuAvalanche Stage

There's lots of people very, very happy they made it through to mud to see Atreyu. Frontman Brandon Saller stands powerfully centre stage as the metalcore heroes tear through a towering rendition of Drowning and a mighty airing of Right Side Of The Bed that gets fists instantly raised. “I want you to fucking lose your minds,” says Brandon, as if the crowd haven't done so already. “Open the pit wide and say AH!” With a positively electric airing of Blow to bring things home, their agenda isn't just so much about crushing skulls as it is about creating a feeling of jubilation and it's awesome. (EW)

Sum 41Apex Stage

Obviously, there's more of a pop-punk hook in Download 2024 than there's ever been before. Sum 41 have always flirted with the metallic end of that genre, but there's a fucking massive chunk of steel on show today as the rampant Canadians hammer home the fandom they've built for the best part of three decades. "Fuck all the happy shit," laughs Deryck Whibley as they're about to pile into a shuddering All To Blame. "Let's play some heavy shit!" There's a little more emotional dynamism rolling through an uber-angsty Walking Disaster and all-time classic Fat Lip. But the fact they've got Still Waiting in their back pocket underlines quite how essential these lads still remain. (SL)

Thy Art Is MurderOpus Stage

Aussie metalcore's leading lights in Parkway Drive might've stolen their thunder somewhat, but fellow deviants from the land down under Thy Art Is Murder hit hard throughout their Opus Stage slot. Violence is everywhere. Bones break, claret flows. From the serrated riffs and heat-seeking beats of songs like Slave Beyond Death and Blood Throne to the simple need for movement that pervades throughout, there's a remarkable sense of energy that simply will not be damped. Bodies bounce. Heads clash. Pain is shared in a weirdly intimate way. And though severe injuries in the crowd curtail their full chaos somewhat, this still feels like a set from one of deathcore's most convincing contenders. Next time they pitch up on these shores, get in the pit! (SL)

Bowling For SoupApex Stage

Listen, Bowling For Soup are one of the best festival bands in existence. Especially if the sun's out, and even being a man down with Chris Van Malmsteen recuperating at home after a hospital visit. It is, in fact, this that makes the Texas pop-punk kings even more likeable today. At pains to keep shouting out their mate (to huge applause each time), they fill the big hole stage right with a massive load of love. They also have some of the biggest bangers for big stages you'll ever hear. The sing-alongs to 1985, Punk Rock 101 and their best song, Emily, are the sort that would make Bon Jovi jealous, to the point where you want to accuse Jaret Reddick of lying when he says it's somehow been 10 FUCKIN’ YEARS since the band last played them here. Like Skindred via the Lone Star State, it's impossible not to get caught up in the fun, and banter moments like a break for Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up, and inviting Wheatus bloke Brendan B. Brown out to announce their tour next year, just add to the sweet afternoon vibes. Get better soon, Chris, you missed a fucking riot today, lad. (NR)

Kerry KingApex Stage

For those missing that period where it felt like Slayer were part of the furniture at Download, hi there, here's Kerry fuckin' King. The songs have changed, playing mostly his own stuff, but the vibe remains gloriously the same. His debut solo turn at Donington is absolutely correct vibes, all aggro and muscle, and also highlights that he's far from done when it comes to writing cast-iron bangers to assault your mates to. Raining Blood is a welcome treat – duh, go fuck yourself if you think anything else – but the lion's share of the set is a reminder of what a formidable force the man is under his own name. And there's something rather lovely about seeing the big man's bald head banging away to a bunch of testosterone-soaked riffs. King shit, mate, king shit. (NR)

PinkshiftAvalanche Stage

“The last time I saw this much mud, it was for lesbian wrestling,” quips Pinkshift frontperson Ashrita Kumar. Incidentally, there are plenty of folks willing to risk getting coated in the stuff for the sake of a good old mosh or a two-step, because standing still hardly seems an option when the Baltimore trio are going this hard. In the process of opening the book on a new, heavier era (almost hardcore-esque, which suits them wonderfully), they feel like the truest version of themselves, with Ashrita moving and dancing on stage like they are capable of either curbstomping a wrong’un or beating them in a dance battle. They debut a new song, Blood, that blazes with righteous rage over “genocide and colonisation”, viral hit I’m Gonna Tell My Therapist On You fizzes with attitude and Trust Fall offers a colossal ending. Genius. (EW)

CreeperApex Stage

There's a delicious irony in the weather deciding to fucking behave itself and stop raining in time for Creeper. You'd want a bit of rainy thundery drama, maybe, instead you get a lovely time in the sun as the Southampton ghouls bring a sexy dark cloud to proceedings, plus a load of fire and spooky make-up. Right now, they are on the sort of form that few bands properly reach. Cry To Heaven is like Sisters Of Mercy with Queen's powerful thrust, and from there they basically spit blood in the face of the suggestion they aren't one of the very best bands in the country. William Von Ghould is now so comfortable on stages this big he may as well perform in pyjamas and slippers, leading his charges through a show that ticks all the boxes for greatness, making full use of the ego ramp and the massive wings. Cool as fuck, darker than the inside of a tomb, and hornier than a line of Viagra, today Creeper announced themselves as royalty in waiting. Absolutely peerless. (NR)

NOISYAvalanche Stage

Anyone got any glow sticks? NOISY are here to transform a lethargic Sunday afternoon into an electric Friday night rock-flavoured rave – and yes, they do love The Prodigy, as frontman Cody clarifies like if it isn't blindingly obvious. It's come together in a messy way thanks to the ongoing delays and mic issues that have the crowd chanting “SOUND GUY!”, but our jack-the-lad MC is a giant presence full of witty one-liners and party spirit, including when he takes a tumble in the first song. They live up to their name, even when guitars play second fiddle – it’s loud, just the right kind of silly and impossible not to move your aching body to. (EW)

Code OrangeApex Stage

Jami Morgan is already bleeding about five minutes into Code Orange's awesome showing. Smashing a mic into your forehead will do that. Obviously pissed the fuck off by the compacting of a main stage full of heavy bands, the Pittsburgh crew are already brilliantly angry, but this is another level. In about 25 minutes of stage time, Grooming My Replacement and Bleeding In The Blur stir up some of the rowdiest receptions of the weekend. Then the real fury. At the end, the sound gets cut, and they stubbornly carry on until stage hands emerge and begin clearing them off, at which point Jami throws a mic stand, and guitarist Reba Myers boots over a pyro pot. The most dangerous band in the world? Fuckin’ right. (SL)

HarperDogtooth Stage

Chances are, this is the first time an artist has played Download when they’ve got school the next day. At just 12 years old, viral sensation Harper is the youngest-ever performer to grace the stage at Donington and yet she's easily going toe to toe with artists three or four times her age. Her throat-shredding howls aren't just powerful but beautifully controlled, meaning she absolutely shines throughout the likes of Weight Of The World and the clearly Spiritbox-inspired Falling. If anyone here traipsed into the tent unsure of what they would get, they're won over with a formidable cover of Bring Me The Horizon's Chelsea Smile that opens a yawning mosh-pit in the middle of the tent. This is awesome. (EW)

Lord Of The LostApex Stage

With the look of goth-metal Cenobites and sounding like a sexier Sabaton, Lord Of The Lost have no business going on under the glare of the midday sun. To make matters worse, late gates mean there's literally no-one here as they take Download's Apex Stage. Driven by adversity (and the absurdity of the situation) the Hamburg crew storm it anyway, jumping down to prowl the barrier and get in everyone's faces for the likes of Blood & Glitter and Drag Me To Hell. Truncated as it may be, it's a superb account from one of Europe's most promising outfits. (SL)

Fall Out BoyApex Stage

Fall Out Boy are a weird band. They always have been. Crucially, though, they’ve also always worn that like a badge of honour – and rightfully so.

Case in point: how they decide open up their headline debut tonight. Rather than trying to go a ‘heavier’ route to please the Download metalhead masses, come 9pm the stage screens flash up to show Patrick Stump, um, dressed in a hospital gown. Oh yeah, and he’s also wearing a 2003-esque peaked beanie, singing the opening to Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes.

It’s not necessarily the Metallica-inspired opening we were expecting…

The frontman (sans patient attire now) and his bandmates – Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley – then proceed to take to the Download stage to enormous excitement from the packed-out crowd, hurtling straight into Take This To Your Grave favourites Chicago Is So Two Years Ago and Grand Theft Autumn / Where Is Your Boy. To some here, it might not be immediately obvious what tonight will be, but as Fall Out Boy waste no time blowing minds early on with Sugar, We’re Goin Down and Dance, Dance, it quickly becomes clear that the band have planned out the ultimate celebration of everything they’ve done to get to this point…

…Following a monumental Centuries comes customary set-closer Saturday – but with the best twist of all. Instead of his usual excursion from the stage into the crowd, the wonderful weirdness reaches its peak as Pete floats high up into the air holding a big batch of balloons, before letting them go and drifting back down again to join the fans. Plus, there’s streamers. And confetti. And fireworks. It’s all just so much bloody fun.

“To be here is so fucking special,” Pete says at one point. “But beyond that, if you’ve got a dream like that – if you make art like that – keep making that fucking art. You’ll end up here maybe.”

Fall Out Boy are absolutely a testament to that, and tonight Download is all the better for it. Keep staying weird, guys. (EC)

Read the full review: What happened when Fall Out Boy headlined Download 2024

Billy TalentAvalanche Stage

Moments before one of the greatest emo bands of all time headline the Apex Stage, one of the scene’s most criminally underrated are closing the Avalanche to an ocean of mud-soaked diehards, spilling out the sides of the marquee, craning their necks to see perhaps the most dapper dressed band of the weekend. From the moment Devil In A Midnight Mass roars into life, Billy Talent are on formidable form, the wide-eyed glee from the crowd mirrored on the faces of Ben Kowalewicz and co. The solid-gold bangers (of which there are many) from that self-titled three-album run are amongst some of the most impassioned, poetic and infectious in the scene, connecting with seemingly every single person in the big blue tent on a primal level. In short: this band mean something.

Everyone here knows every single word. The deafening chorus of Try Honesty rattles the rafters, while Red Flag sends crowdsurfers hurtling through the air. Congratulating the sodden soldiers for “braving this horrible weather and still having smiles on your faces”, Rusted From The Rain comes loaded with added catharsis and pure, undiluted joy, enough to put a lump in your throat. Rounding off the stellar set with Fallen Leaves, it’s a visceral reminder of just how good Billy Talent are and why they deserve everything they have and more. It’s not the razzmatazz of a main stage headliner, but it’s one of the most impressive and heart-filling sets of the entire weekend. If you missed it, you missed out. (LM)

CassyetteDogtooth Stage

Everything about Cassyette’s flying visit to Donington Park, announced just days before people descended on the site, is immaculate. With the crispest sound the Dogtooth Stage has had for much of the day, she offers an impeccable soundtrack to the Saturday night ahead, soaring through September Rain and stomping through the emotional tsunami that is When She Told Me without a single waiver in her voice. If there’s one complaint, it’s that 25 minutes just isn’t enough, but at least there’s tons to be excited about when her debut album This World Fucking Sucks drops in two months’ time. (EW)

The OffspringApex Stage

Noodles: a great guitarist, but not so good with maths. “Oh my god, Dexter,” he turns to his bandmate during The Offspring’s sub-headliner this evening. “You’re not gonna believe this. We set another world record at Download – there’s 2,536,407 people here tonight!”

To be fair, it feels like he somehow isn’t actually that far off in his estimations. The California legends are a colossal draw right before Fall Out Boy, their high-energy punk rock more than hitting the spot during a welcome break from the rain. With an opening, ahem, smash of Come Out And Play, All I Want and Want You Bad – complete with epic a cappella sing-along – The Offspring start as they mean to go on, kicking off a set packed with utter classics. And whether it’s Noodles shredding In The Hall Of The Mountain King, sticksman Brandon Pertzborn somehow getting people crowdsurfing during a drum solo, or frontman Dexter Holland grinning that he hear the crowd from “all the way where the churros are”, everything about these 75 minutes feels fantastic. That’s not even taking into account the songs, either: from the seamless addition of new single Make It All Right through to the raging Bad Habit and a party-tastic Pretty Fly (For A White Guy).

“Not only is this the best festival we’ve ever played,” Noodles grins after Why Don’t You Get A Job. “But it’s also the best festival to ever happen in the history of mankind!”

The Offspring at Download, then. It just adds up. (EC)

Dying FetusDogtooth Stage

"Why not Dying Fetus?!" So asked a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek online campaign to have the Maryland death metallers headline Download's main stage a decade ago this year. Safe to say, it didn't entirely succeed. But since that bump John Gallagher and the boys seem to have surged from savage strength to strength, with last year's ninth LP Make Them Beg For Death marking a legitimate career high. There's no sign of slowing down during this Dogtooth Stage onslaught as aptly-titled buckets of bile like In The Trenches and Unbridled Fury melt through everyone in their path. Up against popular punk icons The Offspring on the Apex Stage, it's abundantly clear that Fetus still represent the heaviest end of Download's range, but they're not longer any kind of banter booking. They're just as brutal as it gets. (SL)

Holding AbsenceAvalanche Stage

It’s easy to see why Holding Absence are now on their fifth outing at Download. For one, the hunger from the fans is there, evident when they roar back ethereal opener Like A Shadow like the words are tattooed inside their skulls. On another note, they’re also some of the most dedicated performers we have, with frontman Lucas Woodland using every bit of his lung capacity while constantly darting about the stage (and high kicking), and guitarist Scott Carey’s due a shout out for his similarly huge screams. Later, Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keough dashes over from the other side of the site to add some aggression to Aching Longing as a means of returning the favour from earlier today. Even while clashing with While She Sleeps and The Offspring, the South Wales quartet are more than adept at holding their own. It’s pure loveliness, and the ideal occasion for a big happy cry. (EW)

While She SleepsOpus Stage

"Doooooownload!" cries Loz Taylor, laid flat on his back as if the effort of While She Sleeps' titanic Opus Stage sub-headline has taken it out of him. "Repeat after me: 'Doooooooooownload!'"

Exhaustion would be understandable. After an explosive start and subsequent decade or so of hard climbing, it feels like the Sheffield metalcore mainstays are finally where they need to be. And they grasp tonight like there's no tomorrow, loading on the speaker stacks, pyro jets and the kind of setlist that underlines the confidence in themselves. YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED. ANTI-SOCIAL. Silence Speaks. The Guilty Party. Like their brethren in Bring Me The Horizon and Malevolence, Sleeps have long mined metallic magic from beneath South Yorkshire's Seven Hills and it's testament to their quality that they could play thrice as long without running short on stone cold bangers. On this evidence, December's tour of relatively intimate venues could be a last chance to catch them in rooms that size. (SL)

Tom MorelloOpus Stage

"It's been a pleasure rocking you for all these years," grins Tom Morello as his Opus Stage showcase hits pace. "And it's going to be a pleasure rocking you for a whole lot more!"

Arguably no guitarist has worked harder or innovated more over the last 30 years of heavy music, and the Rage Against The Machine legend gets his dues in the form of a colossal Opus Stage audience. Packing fragments of RATM hits Testify, Take The Power Back, Sleep Now In The Fire (and more) as well as a wrenching cover of Bruce Springsteen classic The Ghost Of Tom Joad and John Lennon's Power To The People alongside his own choice cut Hold The Line, it's a performance that deserves the adulation. And announcing Killing In The Name as "an old English folk song" is big, big banter.

But then the kicker. "Audioslave actually headlined the very first Download close to 25 years ago," Tom smiles, bittersweetly at the set's emotional crescendo. "We were fronted by a man called Chris Cornell…" The sing-along version of that band's classic Like A Stone in honour of the late frontman – vocals largely supplied by the crowd – is a moment of nostalgia about as spine-tingling as music comes. Stunning. (SL)

Alpha WolfDogtooth Stage

The Dogtooth tent is warm with the heat of bodies, packed full of punters hankering to have their eardrums rattled before they queue for dinner. Melbourne mob Alpha Wolf’s chest-beating metalcore does a masterful job of it, their clattering drums and growling riffs imbuing the tent with an atmosphere of nerve-tingling tension. Frontman Lochie Keough is relishing the chance to stir the pot – “Let’s cool this down,” he suggests before the music spirals into a breakdown, and even threatens to not start another song until he sees a crowdsurfer. As chaotic as it sounds, there’s a burst of wholesomeness when Holding Absence’s Lucas Woodland rocks up to play their collaboration 60cm Of Steel for the first time with them both in the same space. This is definitely worth the long, long trip on the plane. (EW)

Enter ShikariApex Stage

Amazingly, in a career that spans almost two decades, this is Enter Shikari’s first-ever time on the main stage of Download Festival (not including Download Pilot). Having made their debut at Donington way back on the MySpace stage in 2006, they’ve headlined the second stage numerous times, and off the back of a sold-out Wembley Arena this spring, the St Albans electro-punks use today to stake their claim for the top spot.

A pared-down version of said Wembley show, it still boasts all of their new bells and whistles, including explosive fans of flames, giant screens and a even box for Rou to fall into – the previous underwater motif now replaced with an awesome infrared version of the vocalist, who is now on a mission to get in as many fans’ faces as possible, firstly appearing on the sound tower, then hurling himself into the crowd for their eponymous mega-hit, before the piece de resistance of falling flat into the mud after being egged on by the masses. Dripping in brown sludge, he casts quite a vision, with the rest of the band just laughing at their best friend, before he conducts the tens of thousands gathered through a 2024 update to Sorry You’re Not A Winner, ahead of the grand, technicolor finale of A Kiss For The Whole World.

Few bands this weekend can match the energy and connection that Shikari emit or indeed cultivate with their fans. In a just world they would have headlined this festival already, but in a definitive display of come and fucking get some, this is a clear indicator as any that given free rein they could put on an all-timer at the top of the bill. (LM)

NOAHFINNCEAvalanche Stage

Noah 'NOAHFINNCE' Adams throws out a quote of the day contender midway through his late-afternoon set – “Can I get a hell yeah for autism?” (for context, he’s just been diagnosed). He’s got a knack for zingers like those and it’s this sense of character that makes his live show – and his music – stand apart. There’s stacks of synth-flecked pop-punk bangers to dance in a tent to, but with a deeper, often cutting twist to make you freeze mid-move, particularly in an audiotape using clips of Margaret Thatcher and Rishi Sunak spouting anti-queer bigotry. Even when he’s defiance, he’s having a ball – “This song is not about JK Rowling, legally!” he insists as he launches into late set highlight Scumbag. When NOAHFINNCE is about, you’re bound to have fun. (EW)


BABYMETAL and Download are a combo as good as lager and more lager. Sadly, today cold water is poured on things when they're interrupted by a show stop, closely followed by the sort of downpour that a shark would call too wet.

But this is BABYMETAL as you've never seen them before: not with everything just-so. As such, watching them fight to turn the tide when they come back on gives them an edge and excitement you don't often get. True, their request to do the crouch-down-and-jump thing is wishful in the extreme given that the ground looks like a gateau, but the look on SU-METAL's face as she leads the band in ploughing through troubled times is that of someone who isn't going to let what should have been a slam dunk of a show wither and die.

It's very much a soaking wet victory being snatched from the jaws of defeat, but for a band where so much is so controlled as they, it's actually a refreshing scrap to the finish line. (NR)

GELDogtooth Stage

GEL are in blunt-force mode today. No chit-chat, no grandstanding, all business. It's a tack that steers the U.S. hardcore fivesome very well indeed. And don't under any circumstance mistake this for not having any fun. They are an absolute riot from the moment Anthony Webster's first chonky riff drops, launching a pit that doesn't stop throughout. Sami Kaiser is a devil up front, screaming and whirling and pouring out aggression and catharsis like a waterfall. It's a short, sharp shock, but satisfyingly so and waste-free, with their massive, occasionally groovy-as-Sabbath riffs pounding mercilessly and doing the talking as to why they're one of the most exciting hardcore bands on Earth right now. When you're this good, other bands should be GEL-ous. (NR)

RØRYAvalanche Stage

If you know RØRY, you probably adore her. This is the consensus from their Download debut, where she’s attracted an impressive crowd, especially since she’s clashing with BABYMETAL. She’s rather moved by it all, particularly the way they sing Help Your Friends Get Sober with their whole chests. While she doesn’t underemphasise that her take on nostalgic pop-punk is tinged with remarkable sadness – their own record label is called Sadcore, after all – there’s still a real sense of triumph about her living her dreams in real time after the setbacks of addiction and music industry ageism. “You’re the best record label in the world,” RØRY tells fans and given they’re left chanting “WE WANT MORE!” after the weather brings the show to an abrupt end, that certainly sounds true. (EW)

Guilt TripDogtooth

For years now, Guilt Trip have been the snappy underdogs of British hardcore, laying waste to basement squats and toilet stops up and down the country. This afternoon feels like a rumbling reward for all the miles trekked and endless graft: a massive showcase in front of a fired-up crowd with an arsenal of cast iron bangers capable of knocking loose every tooth in the place. Sure, there's little surprising about the white-knuckle grip of a song like Tearing Your Life Away or Broken Wings' limb-snapping attitude, but it's a truly affirmative experience to see them elevated to a stage of this magnitude. And though they mightn't yet have the dynamism to smash through hardcore's glass ceiling like so many contemporaries, this lot have clearly got the talent and commitment to hold their future in their hands. Download? Smashed. (SL)

Frank Carter & The RattlesnakesApex Stage

"Which one of you cunts stole my fuckin' chain?" demands Frank Carter. "I've had that for 10 years. And I've just sacrificed it to the mosh-pit at Download."

It is not a clever idea to be a thief from Frank Carter. And yet, as he dives off the barrier and ends up with his legs sticking up like a pair of antennae, you feel that if it's gonna happen anywhere, it may as well be here, at what he later screams is "the best fucking festival in the world".

Today, Frank is on fire. Arriving in a pink cardigan and strutting onstage to David Bowie's fame, at every turn he shows Download that he is Mr Bollocks, that he is King Shit Of Turd Hill. It's only a man of particular character that can pull such a thing off without looking like a tosser, and today Frank and the lads are all noisy jubilation and troublemaking charm.

At Download Pilot, his headlining slot was a much-needed, cathartic headbutt, a set made of screams and fists and tears and much-needed, urgent hugs. Today, he is a much smoother proposition, but no less fun. Taking the ego-ramp with the swag of a punk Frank Butcher, he delivers an atomic Juggernaut with the same passion as he does new sing-along Man Of The Hour, and rages through the joyfully caustic My Town, all while conducting exactly what chaos he wants beautifully.

"I swear to you, if these traffic cones don't start doing their job and directing people to the mayhem, they don't deserve to be traffic cones," he bellows at a bunch of suitably attired lads in the pit. But you don't need such things for Frank. You just need him and his band detonating like a fun-bomb. Frankly, 24-carat gold is a tiny price to pay. (NR)

Charlotte SandsAvalanche Stage

Charlotte Sands' Avalanche Stage slot almost isn't a festival set, but that is a compliment. Instead, it feels like her own show. Diving audaciously into proceedings with a soaring ballad, of all things, in the form of recent cut can we start over?, it's a half hour of power in which performer and audience constantly out-rival each other's energy. Bad Day is irresistible fun, Alright holds the crowd in a chokehold and the spiky Spite is brimming with grit and determination. This is how you do a Saturday afternoon at Download. (EW)

Bleed From WithinOpus Stage

As the tech issues of the morning continue to delay proceedings on the Opus Stage, one band had to be a sacrificial lamb in having their slot cut short, which sadly falls on beloved Brit metal mainstays Bleed From Within. Blasting through a rapid-fire slot that’s somewhere in the region of 20 minutes, it acts as a highlight reel for what the Glasgow metalcore mob are capable of, armed with serious amounts of pyro and heavy metal thunder. As the sun graces us with its presence for the first time today, the welcome warmth energises the fist-pumping crowd in a sodden melee for Levitate while The End Of All We Know kickstarts walls of death and circle-pits on either side of the crowd, sparring off for mud-flinging supremacy. And yet, just when you think it’s done, in typical It Could Only Happen At Download fashion, comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Rob Beckett join the Scottish warriors onstage for a rough-and-ready rendition of Enter Sandman, with both men wearing a mix of fear and astonishment on their faces, as they lead Donington through the unofficial anthem of heavy metal. Against all odds, Bleed From Within – and their newfound frontmen – come out on top. (LM)

The HunnaApex Stage

In some ways, The Hunna are a curious booking for Download, whose easy-on-the-ear alt. rock feels more like indie rock than emo crowdpleasers. With frontman Ryan Potter bashing his strings, having seemingly read the forecast for Spain and forgotten his shirt, their lunchtime slot is still front-loaded with bangers, especially of the horny variety (Bad For You, for one, certainly rips). That said, he sometimes slips off key and the whole band isn't fighting to win the crowd over, who stick around to the end but never really getting invested. As much as they try to appeal to an alternative crowd, the greebos haven't quite taken them in with open arms yet. (EW)

ALT BLK ERADogtooth Stage

ALT BLK ERA aren't even out of their teens, but there's nothing naive about the command they wield onstage. Sisters Nyrobi and Chaya Beckett-Messam are yin and yang (as their oppositely-coloured lacy costumes suggest) but it's a compelling dynamic, with the latter's quiet determination contrasting the former's brassy confidence, roaring orders to the crowd before them. Their genre-smashing anthems for the outsiders offer an assault on the senses with bass that could restart a heart and shout alongs for days, wrapping up in a triumphant coda with the crowd raising the middle fingers aloft for the feisty nu-metal number I'm Normally Like This. If they're owning it this much this early on, it's incredible to think just how tremendous they can be when they've got more years of performing under their belts. (EW)

DeathbyRomyAvalanche Stage

There are flashes of lightning over Donington's green and pleasant hills as DeathbyRomy arrives on the Avalanche stage but, for most of her set, the Californian singer-songwriter struggles to deliver any thunder of her own. Victim of loose wiring or a faulty mic, the vocalist is lost in an otherwise chunky mix, completely ruining the normally carefully calibrated balance of songs like Vicious Bliss and I Feel Like A God to the point some in the crowd are heckling the sound engineers. An interesting visual presentation – choreographed shape-throwing, gas masks – helps see a big audience avoiding the rain through. And they pull it together to massive applause just in time for a trademark shout-out to Los Angeles' iconic Hollywood Forever cemetery ("When I die, I know exactly where the fuck I'm going!") and some funny geographical confusion ("London, England… uh, Derby… thank you for bearing with me!"). All the same, it's an off-day for one of modern alternative's most intriguing new artists. (SL)


"Download, who would win in a fight: you or WARGASM?" It's an intriguing question from Sam Matlock as the electronic rockers hit full gear on a rain drenched Apex Stage. On one hand, there are a fuckload of people standing in front of them, raging away to unapologetically unsubtle slabs of synth-drenched mayhem like Venom and Fukstar. On the other, the London-based duo look hard as fuck, defying the plummeting temperatures in skin-baring beachwear and calling on mates such as Stray From The Path frontman frontman Drew York to lend their weight on thick cuts like Bang Ya Head. In the end, there's no need for fighting, mind. Bands like WARGASM are a perfect remedy for bogged-down days like these. (SL)

Bambie ThugApex Stage

Ever wondered what it's like to go to an underground fetish club at 11am in the morning while it's tipping it down? Parts of Bambie Thug's Apex Stage showing answer that unorthodox question – and it's a gloriously batshit way to kick off day two. In a costume that's a wacky cross between Maleficent, Medusa and your average Torture Garden get-up, the recent Eurovision finalist's show is sexy, twisted theatre at its finest, moving with their gimp-masked backup dancers like they have hexed them (and it gets rather NSFW too) and even at one point popping out of a recycling bin in a high vis jacket. But the standout moment is not their rapturous rerun of Eurovision entry Doomsday Blue, but something far more solemn: a lump-in-throat cover of The Cranberries' Zombie backed by a parade of flags of communities fighting for liberation – Ukraine, the Congo, the trans community and of course Palestine – in what will surely be the most affecting moment of the weekend. Whatever they're doing, they are absolutely astonishing. (EW)

HeriotOpus Stage

It’s cold, it’s wet, and a technical gremlin means Heriot are waiting to start long after their slot begins. When they do finally get things working and they burst into Foul Void, drummer Julian Gage is so wound up he plays like he’s trying to smash his kit through the bottom of the stage. This is probably the angriest gig the Brit metal maulers have ever played, but the extra charge of frustrated energy takes a flamethrower to any idea that rain might stop play for their metal steamroller. Debbie Gough sounds absolutely possessed as she scream over the gnarliest riffs of the weekend, demanding that Download “fucking move”. By the end, there’s a muddy pit going on, and what could have been a disaster is turned into another victory for one of Britain’s best metal bands. We like Heriot when they’re angry. (NR)

Celestial SanctuaryDogtooth Stage

Fucking hell, Celestial Sanctuary just will not be stopped. Delayed gates (to allow organisers to soak up some of the mud swilling around site) mean that punters are literally just beginning to spill into the arena as the East Anglian death metallers pile into the first riffs of a super Saturday, but everyone within earshot gets pounded into the muck regardless. There's a slaughterhouse callousness and smartbomb precision about Rid The Gormless and Glutted With Chunder that feels destined to emerge from the basements in which it was bred to wreak havoc on the wider world. And this morning's audience don't take long getting up to speed, opening the first pits of the day – and inflicting its first bust lips – within minutes. "Have we woken you the fuck up yet?" asks frontman Tom Cronin with a look of demented glee. Mate, this racket could wake the dead. (SL)

Knife BrideDogtooth Stage

Knife Bride have lucked out today. Seeing as it's starting to resemble a nasty brown slip’n’slide out in the field, the ponchoed masses have piled in the tent to escape the elements, so the Brighton newcomers have tons more people to introduce themselves to. They do so with style – vocalist Mollie Clack never stops moving even while stood behind a mic stand, injecting a heavy dose of sass into their nu-metal tinged post hardcore bangers. This lot are worth keeping your eye on. (EW)

Queens Of The Stone AgeApex Stage

“Repeat after me,” insists Josh Homme, “I am stoned and fucked up and I feel amazing.” The Queens Of The Stone Age mainman also promises that he and his bands are going to lead Download through “A night that you will never fucking remember.”

The sense of decadence may be more suggestion than reality, but what’s not up for debate tonight is that Queens Of The Stone Age are a fine fit for a headliner here. And this is a night not to be forgotten. Aggressively loud from the outset, with attitude firmly in place and a light show to scramble the brain, it also feels like a band prodded into fifth gear by having something to prove. It makes them absolute dynamite.

Opening with Little Sister, and chucking in a one-two of Go With The Flow and a staggering The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret, when they detonate the known quantity bangers, they are unstoppable. Elsewhere, newer stuff from last year’s rejuvenated In Times New Roman sounds ten-storeys tall.

Some questioned whether Queens should have been headlining this festival. Too long since they last played, they said, not quite in tune with the fest, they reckoned. Fuck that. Tonight they gave Download both barrels. “You cunts are alright,” laughs Josh, narrowly avoiding sounding like Rodney Dangerfield. Likewise, Queens. Likewise. (NR)

Read the full review: What happened when Queens Of The Stone Age headlined Download 2024

Funeral For A FriendOpus Stage

Lucas Woodland thought he’d be spending the night before he was due to play Download with Holding Absence “sitting drinking tea and watching television”. Plans changed, however, when Bad Omens dropped out a couple of weeks ago, meaning he’d get to reprise his special performances with Funeral For A Friend from Slam Dunk. And special it is, particularly with a cavernous stage and a stunning light show. Not only do they sound the cleanest they have done in ages, but Lucas’s note perfect delivery and always affable personality fits in beautifully, his sense of heart matched by the devotion with which the audience sings along. Charlie Simpson even dashes over barely half an hour after finishing his set with Busted to snap into Fightstar mode for All The Rage. Perhaps the biggest moment, unsurprisingly, is History, which when sung by a giant choir back to the band as the sky turns black is an absolutely divine occasion. This crowd is lucky to see this. (EW)

BiohazardDogtooth Stage

"There is no black and there is no white," declares Biohazard frontman Evan Seinfeld as the Brooklyn legends arrive on the Dogtooth Stage for a feverishly awaited headline set. "There are only shades of grey!" Arguably NYHC's most reliably rough-edged exponents mightn't be the obvious spokesmen for non-binary emotion in hardcore, but there's something about the mood of songs like Urban Discipline and Wrong Side Of The Tracks tonight that feels both unexpectedly subtle and uncompromisingly hard. That's not to say there are any fewer knees busy or teeth broken in this muddy pit, but there's an authentic humanity about them that only seems to increase with age. And although there are obviously raw emotions when they recount previous stops at Donington's hallowed turf, by the time we reach a climactic cover of Bad Religion's We're Only Gonna Die, it's clear this one will live long in the memory. (SL)

BustedAvalanche Stage

Download, we love you, but with all due respect, someone fucked up here. More specifically, someone sorely underestimated just how much these festival-goers want to see Busted – the tent has significantly overspilled and we’re struggling to get in even despite turning up 25 minutes early. Even with limited accessibility, however, it’s a party wherever you’re stood, with sing-alongs to Air Hostess, What I Go To School For and Year 3000 rippling as far back as the outer rows of punters who didn’t quite squeeze in. Hopefully they’re in earshot of some of their cracking lines, too – “Who wants to hear Charlie Simpson sing his fucking tits off?” Even if they were dismissed as just a boyband back in the day, this is certified proof that Busted have been reclaimed by the alternative crowd. (EW)

HeilungOpus Stage

Busted may have been to the year 3000, but Heilung are coming from somewhere nearer 3000 BC. With not a single electric instrument onstage, but utilising a human femur as a drumstick, a shaker full of human remains, insistent, muscular rhythms, throat singing, blood, nudity and no shortage of trance-like rhythms, they are at the wilder end of what Download has to offer. They’re also one of its most powerful experiences. Heavy on ritual and folky pageantry, they’re striking from the off. But as they go on, what’s initially a curio for many in the large crowd gathered at the Opus Stage becomes a shared celebration, as the drumming becomes ever more hypnotic and the vocals pull the listener in. Once a whole field of people are zoning out, they suddenly drop a beat so heavy it’s like an ancient techno club as people begin dancing like the woodland scene from The Devil Rides Out. It’s like nothing else you’ll see at Download. Or feel, for that matter. (NR)

Royal BloodApex Stage

Royal Blood are natural sub-headliners for Queens Of The Stone Age – indeed, their buzzing bass guitar wizardry and curled lip attitude suggests they’ve learned plenty from Josh Homme and co.’s songbook. While it’s not packed as such, they relish playing in front of an audience that gets them a bit better than Radio 1's Big Weekend (though, oddly, this is their first Download for 10 years) and despite two pauses to fix technical issues, their material sounds incredibly lithe whether they’re tearing through grittier old cuts such as Out Of The Black or Little Monster or the newer disco-infused Typhoons. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense display, but personality glints through in fits and starts – frontman Mike Kerr, in a sparkly black shirt no less, decries the “fucking horrible” downpour that gets punters reaching for their ponchos, while drummer Ben Thatcher goes to hang out with the people on the barrier when he’s not needed behind the kit. This is a rather fun way to warm up for later. (EW)

HEALTHDogtooth Stage

Darkwave feels pretty out of place in the daylight. That's the overwhelming verdict as HEALTH take to the Dogtooth Stage in a hail of pulsating beats and body-rocking rhythms, long before the sun has reached the horizon. Out of the deep shadows, there's a rattling hollowness they just can't shake. Thankfully, the resonant vocals of frontman Jake Duzsik lend them a weight above and beyond the other elevated DJs of their genre. And even as the more organic rhythms of Heilung lay their challenge across the Donington turf from the halfway mark, bangers like WE ARE WATER pay back a resilient faithful with far more dark technomagic than they can handle. (SL)

Mr. BungleOpus Stage

Mike Patton looks kind of like a cross between Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen and late hip-hop icon Coolio as he steps on with an impossibly tight pigtail plait and gold microphone to front Friday's early evening set from the legendary Mr. Bungle. It's a look worth turning up for in itself. Honestly, though, a weirdly sparse crowd and muddy sound scupper the experimental metal icons. This is music for listeners to tumble chaotically through and lose their minds to. That just doesn't happen with a crowd that's 90% rubbernecking casuals. Thankfully, the presence of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and inimitable drummer Dave Lombardo (with a xylophone in his kit) lends a thrashy edge to songs like Raping Your Mind and My Ass Is On Fire in between fragmented covers 10CC's I'm Not In Love, ensuring a deep impact regardless. Then Mike spins a head-melting story about alien abduction that led to his none-more-distinctive haircut. For hardcore fans, that's a weird feeling to walk away with. Given this band's methodology, mind, maybe that's no bad result. "Download, go fuck yourself…" Mike signs off. "Stay muddy!" Indeed. (SL)

The Callous DaoboysDogtooth Stage

At various points during their lightning-in-a-bottle Dogtooth Stage showcase, The Callous Daoboys feel like three different bands competing for the same 40 minutes of stage time. Brilliantly so. Like The Dillinger Escape Plan fed through the shitpost-heavy algorithms of the current social media age, bangers like Star Baby pack not only the cracked, angular brilliance of the Atlanta crew's mathcore forbears, but also a sense of chaotic, irreverent, socially-conscious mania as fresh as a tornado in a Febreeze factory. "This next one's a Metallica song," teases frontman Carson Pace before careering into a stunning Violent Astrology via the iconic intro to Fuel. It's one hilarious, crazed moment from a set full of them. Then it finishes before the band even realise their time's up. Kudos, too, for being the first artist we see to fly a Palestine flag on stage. Simply superb. (SL)

Black Stone CherryApex Stage

If you’re wishing to be away from the crappy English weather, let Black Stone Cherry help you out. With tales of how on their Kentucky home turf it’s cheaper to drink alone, and Chris Robertson congratulating Download on “Surviving the rain and cold and shit” in a drawl that makes Yosemite Sam sound like Margaret Thatcher, for an hour they turn Download into a hot day by a lazy creek in the Deep South. They do love it here, mind, this being no less than their eighth turn at Donington, and are so settled on Download’s stage that there’s a relaxed looseness that makes their hard rocking good times even more endearing. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s solid, fun stuff, particularly the one-two of White Trash Millionaire and the enjoyably dumb Blame It On The Boom Boom. Here’s to the ninth visit. (NR)


“Apparently we’re not supposed to get into the crowd today,” mocks SOFT PLAY's Isaac Holman, seconds before climbing over the barrier, wandering ever-deeper into the thousands gathered at the Opus Stage, who only moments before were asking him to “get his willy out”. Emerging from the hordes with a new pink tasseled cowboy hat – most likely from Scene Queen a few hours earlier – it’s the one moment of downtime in the Tunbridge twosome’s set, which is otherwise fuelled by pummelling percussion and gnashing vocals. There was originally an air of speculation about SOFT PLAY’s booking at ostensibly a heavy music festival, having ruled over a more indie scene for much of their career, but this is one of the most intense, ferocious performances of the day so far. Powering through golden oldies Sockets and Where’s Your Car Debbie, woven into newies Act Violently and the driving metal riffage of Mirror Muscles, the poignant scream-at-sky emotion of Everything And Nothing leaves a previously pit-ready crowd in captivated silence, while the evergreen bombast of The Hunter sends even those on the peripheral into a frenzy – not least Laurie Vincent with his triumphant crowdsurf ending. Soft by name, but this was hard as nails. (LM)

VUKOVIAvalanche Stage

It’s about damn time VUKOVI got their flowers. Technical issues might nudge back the start time time of their half hour on the Avalanche Stage – and still dampens the bite of the guitars in the mix – but once they slink through the pulsing opener Creep Heat, they’re on their way to raucousness. Frontwoman Janine Shilstone is a fierce performer, gyrating and snarling her way through the stomping Lasso and the defiant bounce of Hades as the crowd roar back, immediately filling any brief moments of silence. Naturally, there’s also a “HERE WE FUCKING GO!” chant too, because, you know, Scotland. Frankly, if anything goes to show here, they’ve been underrated for too long. (EW)

UrneDogtooth Stage

Sometimes it feels like Urne's music was built for days as grey as these. Off the back of massive, Joe Duplantier-produced second album A Feast On Sorrow – and with it's crashing monochrome artwork hanging ominously over the stage – the London trio drag us deep into dark depths and piercing maelstroms of machine gun riffs contained in songs like Becoming The Ocean and The Burden. Frontman Joe Nally interrupts the onslaught, however, to pay tribute to the more vibrant Monsters Of Rock (Metallica and Dio, Rainbow and Van Halen) who blazed the trail down which they follow, and it's the subtle glimmers of hope amongst the darkness that make this set truly special. "We work hard for days like this," Joe is looking visibly overwhelmed as they roar towards a remarkable crescendo. "We graft for it. And we are a good band, trust us." As monstrous closer Desolate Hear inspires one of the most savage pits of the day, there's violent proof they're one of British metal's very best. (SL)

PolyphiaApex Stage

“We’re gonna play a little game,” grins Scott LePage. “It’s called Sing The Fucking Riff!” This is as near as Polyphia get to a normal sing-along. But then, the Texas widdlers aren’t really normal in almost any respect. Scott and fellow axeman Tim Henson are genuinely brilliant and innovative guitarists, to the point where vocals are an afterthought on tape, if a thought at all, and for the thick end of an hour they give you guitar and plenty of it. For shred-heads, there’s no band currently giving you more notes for your buck. But on a stage like this, often sounding like Super Mario in a guitar shop, it struggles to keep the energy and interest up, even with the frequent calls for pits. For those thickening the air in front of the stage with weed smoke, it’s probably like watching hippie jam band legends Phish time-travelling into the future. For those not so refreshed, it’s often hard to catch a grip on their normally impressive wares, even with a likability radiating from the four of them. You wonder if it would have landed more hooks in ears headlining a tent. (NR)

DefectsDogtooth Stage

Tony Maue grew up listening to the bands who built Download. It shows through in every ounce of the Defects frontman's titanic performance in front of a wedged-in Dogtooth crowd this afternoon. The fury and fearlessness of outfits like Slipknot and Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage and Korn swirl in the circle-pit riffs and downward-spiralling melodies of songs like Dream Awake and Echo Chamber. Deep-set trauma and unspent suffering leak from every seam, but with devastating debut album Modern Error out in the world and several thousand like minds willing them on, this feels like a landmark step towards better days – and even bigger shows on the near horizon. (SL)

Dream StateAvalanche Stage

“This has been my dream since I was 14 years old,” Dream State frontwoman Jessie Powell tells the throng of people in the tent before her. It’s no surprise that today’s been 20 years in the making when she performs like she’s willing to turn herself inside out for this audience, screaming for them to sing back to her in a way that might make her throat red raw. Even if the bass and drums swamp the sound in the tent, it’s this sense of fire that carries them through, getting the crowd bouncing for the surging Chin Up Princess and gigantic older cut Primrose. They’ve got their fair share of loyalists here too evidently, since Jessie endearingly picks out and calls to the people she recognises down the front. “This is the best day of my life,” she says, and they all thoroughly deserve it. (EW)

Scene QueenOpus Stage

Loads of people want to be inducted into Bimbo Beta Pi this afternoon on the Opus Stage – and a few Pikachus do, too. With an arsenal of fierce sex-positive anthems that hit like a sugar rush, Scene Queen has all the makings of an instant festival hit at her first Download and predictably, it goes down like a storm. Strutting her way through the infectious wink-nudge of Finger and ferocious Pink Push-Up Bra, she’s a pink Molotov cocktail of sass and anger, but knows when to be serious, taking a moment to commend the acts boycotting Download – most of whom were meant to play today – while adding that she will donate her fee to the Palestinian Children’s Fund. Then, once “the elephant in the room” is addressed, she throws herself back into the chaos. Whether she’s gently bullying her bandmates into playing Whips And Chains’ outro faster or serving genius one-liners (“I need this side of the crowd and this side of the crowd to fuck… each other up!”), Hannah Collins is marking herself out as a future Download staple. (EW)

The StrutsApex Stage

Somewhere between Aerosmith and Austin Powers, you have The Struts. They look the part for both – all flares, scarves, matching white leather shoes and singer Luke Spiller pulling off what appears to be half a wedding dress – and provide a suitably shagadelic soundtrack. Playing just a stone’s throw from guitarist Adam Slack's house where as a teen he’d hear the festival from his back garden, today they take the Apex Stage and charm the arse off it. Luke is a mix of frontman, comedian and circus ringmaster, putting in a hell of s shift to get the party started in spite of the drizzle, nudging and winking his way through the set as he asks ‘Don’t you know who I think I am?’ (on Primadonna Like Me), and talks of ‘Sex so good it makes the neighbours smoke a cigarette’ (Too Good At Raising Hell). They even make the sun start shining again. “I wanna see each and every one of you having the time of your life,” he beams shortly before they exit to the theme from Only Fools And Horses. “You know why? Cos you fucking deserve it.” Frankly, we feel spoiled. (NR)

FrozemodeDogtooth Stage

For 20 years, early Friday afternoon has been the time for over-pumped excitement amongst the Download faithful. Like punters who've been shotgunning cider in the campsite all morning, Frozemode take that tradition onstage with a set that threatens to climax far too soon, but somehow keeps building over an adrenalised half-hour of power. From delivering a little of the "sit-the-fuck-down/jump-the-fuck-up" schtick during Maybelline right at the start of their set, to the seething fury of Jumpscare and Making It Up, and a pummelling barrage of bells and airhorns throughout, it's a performance that demands you sit up and pay attention. Grey clouds start pissing down, driving more and more punters into an already-packed tent as they into barrel into white-knuckle closer Asbo Boys. Fortunately, there's plenty of straight fire to dry everyone off. (SL)

HanabieOpus Stage

Trading the runny brown of the campsite for Hanabie's spiky neon onslaught is a hell of a trip. Rampaging onto the Opus stage as Download 24 gets properly underway in a storm of caffeinated handclaps, fluttering Union Jacks and chunky-as-fuck riffage, the Tokyo electronicore quartet feel legitimately unlike anything else on offer this weekend. Perhaps anything in Download's storied 21-year history. There are elements of home country heroes BABYMETAL in the rollercoaster energy and Kawaii-influenced eccentricity of songs like Ware Amatou and Warning!!, sure, but there's also far less choreographed predictability. Chuck in large doses of genuinely funny tongue-in-cheek pandering ("It was raining today... but now it's sunny!" "Do you like beer?!") and a dollop of punky attitude, and you've got a hell of a hangover cure to get the mud-crusted masses up and running. (SL)

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