Horns At The Ready: The Download 2018 Preview

Download festival will make its grand return to the hallowed grounds of Castle Donington this weekend. Clearly there is something about standing in the sunshine* and watching the hardest hitting bands that rock, metal and punk have to offer that brings out an overwhelming desire to become one with the dirt in people.

With over 100,000 people expected, Download organisers have cranked things up to 11 for 2018’s edition. Avenged Sevenfold, arguably the biggest band of their generation, return to top Friday’s line up, while two titans of the festival’s Monsters of Rock days – Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy Osbourne – will headline the Saturday and Sunday night respectively.

Naturally, some will already be muttering ‘worst line up ever’ to themselves, but here we go with our pick of the bands that will tread the boards across the weekend. Horns at the ready.

(*doubtless it will be pissing down with rain)

Cancer Bats – Avalanche Stage, Friday

Everyone’s favourite Canadian hardcore punks recently kickstarted the newest chapter of their career in sonic carnage with the sudden release of ‘The Spark That Moves’, their best album in a decade. Reinvigorated and raising a middle finger to any doubters who thought their spark had gone out, they return to these shores just months after a run of London dates celebrating the 10th anniversary of their second album ‘Hail Destroyer’.

The Bronx – Avalanche Stage, Friday

The Los Angeles party starters will wreak havoc upon anyone in earshot during their second to last slot on Friday night. Their fifth studio album and most visceral to date, ‘V’, made a huge impact with fans last year and with 16 years of experience battering the ear canals you can expect to see some of the most gnarly circle pits of the weekend.

Marmozets – Avalanche Stage, Friday

This Yorkshire outfit are one of a handful of young British bands making a giant leap forward in 2018. Having made their debut at Donington in 2014, there are few groups on the line up more deserving of a slot on the Main Stage. Riding the success of this year’s statement of intent, ‘Knowing What You Know Now’, their second LP on Roadrunner Records, Becca Macintyre’s trademark screams, distorted guitars and a smattering of blastbeats will get you talking about their pop-tinged anthems for the rest of the weekend.

Employed To Serve – Avalanche Stage, Friday

The British extreme metal scene has been well and truly spoiled for choice when it comes to exciting releases in recent years. This Woking hardcore quintet are leading the charge and will make their Download debut, capping an incredible 12 months since they unleashed their brutal 2017 sophomore record, ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’.

Napalm Death – Dogtooth Stage, Friday

To the untrained ear a set from the godfathers of grindcore can be quite the oppressive experience. Whether you’re a dedicated follower or an inquisitive first-timer, their short and not so sweet set is going to be something to remember. Their intense and angry music, accompanied by frontman Barney Greenway’s sociopolitical lyrics, make them one of the most brutal and relevant bands on the bill even though they formed over 30 years ago.

Knocked Loose – Dogtooth Stage, Saturday

The Kentucky natives have become one of the most talked about hardcore bands around since the release of their 2016 full length ‘Laugh Tracks’ and you can’t help but feel they’re on the edge of something huge. That’s why they’re here at Download, right? Numbers such as Deadringer and Counting Worms will tick all the boxes if you’re into bands who go in, smash faces and leave.

Shvpes – Dogtooth Stage, Saturday

The band’s vocalist Griffin Dickinson might be descended from Rock Royalty (his dad’s a certain singer from Iron Maiden) but the buzz around these Birmingham sonic alchemists hasn’t come from simply trading off famous parentage. This year’s debut ‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair’ has marked them out to be real contenders and with their upcoming trio of EPs giving them an opportunity to grow creatively, Shvpes’ future looks set to be something really special.

Rolo Tomassi – Avalanche Stage, Saturday

Since returning to Holy Roar Records, this creative force from Sheffield have continued to refine their sound into a heavier and darker beast. ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ is one of the best albums of the year so far and has gained them a significant increase in recognition. The band have come a long way since their debut at Download a decade ago and their set on the smallest stage could deliver the biggest slap in the face of the weekend.

Parkway Drive – Zippo Encore Stage, Saturday

Byron Bay’s merchants of mosh are no strangers to ripping apart Donington and are already tipped to deliver THE performance of the weekend. Returning to headline the second stage, having previously performed in 2009, 2013 and 2015, their no bells and whistles approach dropped jaws on their recent sixth full length, ‘Reverence’.

Greta Van Fleet – Zippo Encore Stage, Sunday

You’re going to need something pretty special to pull you out of a four-day hangover and you’ll struggle to find a more talented, rising young band than these Michigan-based throwback phenoms. They’re uncannily reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin but even with their roots planted deep in rock ‘n’ roll’s deepest traditions, their enthusiasm on stage, massive hooks and wailing vocals have made them a genuinely exciting prospect. Their debut album will arrive later this year.

All Them Witches – Dogtooth Stage, Sunday

Having emerged from the Nashville underground scene in 2012, the psych-rock band spun many a head with the spacey, hard-rock sounds on last year’s ‘Sleeping Through the War’. Their music is bluesy, trippy, littered with fuzzed-up riffs and will make for a welcome change to hurtling around in circle pits all weekend.

Hatebreed – Main Stage, Sunday

Led by hardcore godfather Jamey Jasta, Hatebreed last destroyed Donington nine years ago, which is madness when you consider the increased hardcore representation at the festival in recent years. They’ve spent the last two years celebrating the 20th and 15th anniversaries of ‘Satisfaction is the Death of Desire’ and ‘Perseverance’, so naturally you can expect a jolly good throwdown.

Zeal and Ardor – Dogtooth Stage, Sunday

If you think you’ve heard everything modern music has to offer, you might want to catch up with Manuel Gagneux. The brainchild behind this one-man project fuses black metal, delta blues, jazz, hip-hop beats, spiritual chants, soul and gospel to create a truly unique sound that will send the purists into meltdown. But who’s here to put a limit on imagination and combinations anyway?

Baroness – Dogtooth Stage, Sunday

Beautiful, brutal and heavy as balls. You should never miss a chance to see these Georgia sludgelords. Having brought us some of the 21st century’s finest albums, including the progressive-metal masterpiece ‘Purple’ in 2015, they’re back to get spacey at Donington.

Puppy – Avalanche Stage, Sunday

Rising from the ashes of vocalist and guitarist Jock Norton and drummer Billy Howard’s previous band, Polterghost, Puppy have earned a rep as an alt-rock trio who can win over any metal crowd with their heavy yet melodic riffs and grungy tunes. Their Download set is going to be the first chance people will have to hear songs off their upcoming album and if you like what you hear, you’ll be pleased to know they’re touring the UK in August with Grove Street Families.

Milk Teeth – Avalanche Stage, Sunday

Having toured for most of 2018 off the back of last year’s EP pairing of ‘Be Nice’ and ‘Go Away’, their rise continues with a step up to the Avalanche Stage for their second visit to Download. Not the heaviest band of the weekend but they sure know how to get a riot going with their grunge and punk ragers such as Owning Your Okayness, Brickwork and Nearby Catfight.

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