Returning to the hallowed grounds of Donington for its fourteenth year, the UK’s biggest rock and metal festival looks set to become a three-day haven for everything heavy this June. Boasting the strongest line-up yet across its four stages it is undeniable that there is something for all fans of rock music. Download could comfortably rest on its prestigious laurels at this point, yet the organisers and Head Booker Andy Copping have continued to improve the line-up year after year. Unlike some other festivals that have had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to create something worth attending this summer, Download has three of the biggest names in rock history headlining the gargantuan event. Rammstein bring the noise, fire and kitchen sink on Friday night with their monstrous live show. In case that wasn’t enough riff making legends Black Sabbath will unite the thousands of fans in one last blaze of head-banging glory on what is currently the only UK date on their farewell tour. Capping off the weekend in a way only they know how is Iron Maiden. Often debated as the most iconic band in the history of metal, Maiden are sure to send the 100,000 punters home with a grin from ear to ear after blasting through a legendary back catalogue.

It is clear that between the incredible headliners and the expansive undercard this line-up is a little overwhelming. As is often the case with a festival of this size, there are more bands than one could possibly hope to see as well as the standard extras you’d expect from a mammoth festival. To ensure you have the best weekend you can, without missing anything key, here is a guide to some of the key acts to catch:

The German metal titans are returning to Download to show the UK exactly how to put on a show. Sure they have the infectiously intense songs to back up their craft, but where Rammstein really excel is their live spectacle. Imagine Alice Cooper, only with considerably more fire. You can expect lightning, flames, dystopian stage sets, flames, and frankly more flames. Don’t believe me? Traditionally a Rammstein set involves the lighting of multiple men on fire, usually because they mess with frontman Till Lindemann.

Skinny Lister
In case German industrial metal and flamethrowers aren’t your thing, why not try a different kind of showmanship? Skinny Lister are sure to get your feet stomping with a fantastically energetic set of folk songs. Frank Turner’s labelmates will have the fourth stage singing and dancing like no-one is around. Be sure to watch out for a crowdsurfing double bassist playing his instrument or you might end up with a sore head.

“A three-day haven for everything heavy”

The Tribute to Lemmy
After the tragic loss of one of metal’s greatest heroes at the start of the year, Motorhead was officially no more, leading to the cancellation of their tour and Download festival appearance. In place of their set the organisers of the festival have promised a special tribute to the man that had such an phenomenal impact on the world of heavy music. This won’t leave a dry eye in the house and will be a truly special memorial.

Headlining the third stage on Friday night will be an act promising to be the ‘Loudest Silent Movie on Earth’. Wondering what that entails? A huge fairy-tale silent movie featuring Lemmy, Josh Homme, Slash, Henry Rollins and Iggy Pop, soundtracked by a live band playing some of the biggest songs in the history of metal. This will be a festival first that blows any normal cinematic experience out of the water.

Download_2016_A4_lineup LR

One of the greatest rock and roll bands of this generation have proven themselves to be a very bright future for the genre. Whether it’s the incredible wails of Lzzy Hale, or the mesmerizing drum solos, this is action packed rock music that you would be smart to catch as soon as you can. Continuing at this rate Halestorm could be in a comfortable position to headline festivals in a few years; for now you’ll just have to enjoy in them in the Sunday sunshine, perfect for blasting away any hangovers or tiredness on the last day of the weekend.

The second biggest of the ‘Big 4’ of thrash metal, Megadeth have had a fantastic career, one which has seen a resurgence of late due to the undeniably impressive new album Dystopia. Expect the hits as well as some of the new anthems that have been dominating rock radio since January. This set could provide a refreshing refill of riffs to blast away the cobwebs from a long winter of work.

In case the music wasn’t enough for you, and you feel the need for powerbombs to accompany your mosh pits, Andy Copping has you covered with multiple live shows from WWE’s NXT brand, even including an appearance from Triple H. The next generation of wrestling superstars will be performing in their own tent to give festival-goers the chance to experience something different. This is the perfect way to fill in slots if you find yourself at a loose end during the festival and is what separates Download from your average weekender. Between the shows the wrestlers are confirmed to be doing signings, so it might be worth heading down to meet the next John Cena before they become international personalities.

Iron Maiden
There isn’t much that needs to be said for one of the biggest bands in the genre’s history. This will be the only chance to catch these guys in the UK this year, as is the case for all of the headliners. In case the extensive history of classic song after classic song isn’t enough to entice you to the main stage at the end of the weekend (in which case what is wrong with you?), the band never fail to create magical rock memories with their performances. Goosebumps start to appear just thinking about standing in a field singing the intro to ‘Fear of the Dark’ with 100,000 other fans.

The festival takes place in Donington on June 10th-12th. If you haven’t already got one it would be wise to snap up a ticket for the festival here. See you in the pit.

Liam Fleming

Image: Richard Johnson – Downalod Festival 2016, courtesy of Fanatic.

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