25 Download festival happenings that’ll give you heavy metal FOMO this weekend (in spite of the rain)

If you're not going to Donington this weekend, this will make you wish you were

It’s that time again. The time of the year where the good people of Derby put in their earplugs and the rock world descends on a racetrack to make a bloody racket for three days straight. This year promises to be very wet (proof that the best music belongs to Satan and not anyone up above), very loud, and very, very brilliant. In fact, with such a strong bill as Download has to offer in 2019, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what to see. If you’re going, never fear. NME is here to help. These are the 25 bands you need to see this coming weekend. If you’re not going. Well… why not?!

Finally, Tool return to UK soil

Last time Tool played in the UK, Tony Blair was Prime Minister. Twitter had just launched. The Yangtze River Dolphin had just gone extinct. Sad times. Basically, it was absolutely fucking ages ago. It’s fair to say that anticipation for the esoteric LA band’s return is fevered. Rightly so. Their headline slot on Sunday is the must-see performance of the weekend.

As do The Smashing Pumpkins! The proper ones!

Yes, Uncle Fester is back with the third best band of the grunge era. But unlike the make-do-and-mend nonsense Billy has been dragging around the top end of festival bills for years now, this version is ¾ of the actual Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan. James Iha. Jimmy Chamberlin. Loads of really great songs. The absence of D’arcy Wretzky still detracts somewhat from what made the Pumpkins such an interesting band in their prime, but it’d be contrary to say that, should you choose to watch them on Sunday, you won’t have a thoroughly excellent time.

Speaking of good times, here’s Enter Shikari


You can always rely on Enter Shikari for a good time – which is surprising given all their songs these days are basically apocalyptic, environmentally concerned, wonk-rock anthems. Still, never mind. The ozone layer can wait until Monday. Today we build human pyramids! Altogether now Donington, “you fucking spanner!”

Summon Satan with Behemoth!

Satan is always at Download. It’s kinda his thing. A busman’s holiday. He can mostly be found backstage. Pulling the wings off beetles for lols. He doesn’t like to mingle with riff-raff. He’ll be out front for these Polish black metal heroes (and actual Satanists) though. They’re his favourite band (well, actually, Satan’s favourite act is Ed Sheeran, but he’s not playing).

Hats off to Slash, a rock‘n’roll legend

Slash is playing on the main stage on Friday. This in itself isn’t especially exciting. Slash solo shows are more often than not pretty fucking boring. But it’s Slash! From Guns ‘n’ Roses! You can’t be onsite and not go watch Slash. It would be like being in Bethlehem and not going to see the baby Jesus. What else are you doing? It’s Slash! Show some fucking respect!

Get your pillage on with Amon Amarth

Amon Amarth are a melodic death metal band from Sweden, named for the Sindarin name for Mount Doom in Lord Of The Rings. Which is incredibly heavy metal of them. Oh, and we should mention that the band genuinely seem to believe that they’re Vikings. In fact, their stage show normally features them playing in front of a Viking longboat. Grab a tankard of mead and get stuck in.

The happy punters at Download Festival

Get drunk and listen to Halestorm

If you’ve never seen Halestorm before, imagine that Jem from Jem and The Holograms put down the glitter, got into heavy metal, and grew up to form the sort of rock act that sound better and better with every beer chugged. Led by human firecracker Lzzy Hale (no ‘i’, obviously), this is old-school classic rock. The sort that snakes died to make boots for. Thirty-years-ago, Halestorm would have been the biggest band on the planet. Today they’re a portal to a wilder time.

Thought you knew Dinosaur Pile-up? Think again


Don’t ask us how this happened, but somehow Leeds grunge trio Dinosaur Pile-Up might have become the most tuneful group the UK rock scene has to offer right now. Their new album, Celebrity Mansions, should be renamed Welcome To Hitsville. Seriously. It’s stunning, like the sort of album Ash would make in the days before their knees hurt. Chances of you hearing a bad song during their set? Well, if you do, you’re stood in the wrong tent.

Let Whitesnake give you all the feels

These days, Whitesnake singer David Coverdale looks more like a Galapagos turtle than a rockstar. That’s the passage of time for you. Still, the idea of standing in a field, drinking beer and hearing 1987 pop-metal anthem Here I Go Again sounds extremely appealing, right?

Out come the wolves. And Man With A Mission…

From Shibuya, Tokyo come MWAM. Who, largely due to hailing from Shibuya, Tokyo, are basically the most batshit band on the bill this weekend. This is some claim given the inclusion of a band who play onstage alongside a Viking longboat. And yet MWAM – a band who play heavy, hard dance rock, in wolf masks; think a lupine Prodigy or Limp Bizkit with rabies – are more than deserving of that accolade.

Clutch are playing. They’re always, always brilliant

You know when you’re standing in the corner shop? You’re hungry. You’re thinking, ‘what will hit the spot, right now?’ And you always, always end up getting a pack of Cheese and Onion crisps? That’s Clutch. Since 1991, the grooviest, gnarliest band around. Last year’s Book Of Bad Decisions LP was one of the best albums of 2018. We hope they play all of it.

As are The Wonder Years!

Pop punk with brains. Emo with a social conscience. Pennsylvania’s The Wonder Years are a band capable of making your heart pop, such is their melodic wonder. Incidentally, that rumour about Marilyn Manson being in The Wonder Years TV show? It’s an urban legend. But a good one. Did you know that as a young man, Slash was once an extra in EastEnders? Feel free to get that one going on the campsite…


Say goodbye to Slaaaaaaaaaayer!

Think this weather is bad? At least it’s not Raining Blood. Arf. See what we did there? Raining Blood! Like the Slayer song! Anyway, the time has come to bid goodbye to the most consistently brutal metal band the world has ever seen. For almost forty-years the Huntingdon Park band have thrilled and appalled in equal measure. This is their last ever UK show. We’ll never see their like again.

See some genuine metalcore legends, Underoath

Four years since the legendary metalcore band reformed, the Tampa, Florida group haven’t come anywhere close to outstaying their welcome. For many, this weekend will be the first chance to hear songs from the band’s most recent album; 2018’s Erase Me. Not only their first record in eight years, but their first in ten to feature founding drummer (and ‘clean’ vocalist) Aaron Gillespie.

Will this be the moment Fever 333 catch fire?

Not literally, we hope. And certainly not considering the projected weather. But former letlive. singer Jason Aalon Butler’s new band, Fever 333, have been the band on everyone’s lips for a hot minute now. And deservedly so. They’re a thrilling, dare we say it, important band. But at some point they need to stop being the band people are talking about, and start being the band people are shouting about. This might be that moment.

Have a skanking good time with The Interrupters

Ebola. Typhoid. Ska punk. These are some of the worst things life on earth has ever spewed forth. And yet somehow, despite this, California ska punk band The Interrupters are one of the most exciting bands on earth right now. Feeling exhausted by a world on fire? We sympathise. And yet, led by superstar-elect Aimee Interrupter, The Interrupters inspiring, anthemic, agro-punk anthems might be just the tonic you need.

Let Beartooth give your soul a hug

Led by the charismatic Caleb Shomo – whose openness about his own clinical depression may well have saved more young lives than we’ll ever know – this band from Columbus, Ohio have, for three albums now, written the kind of melodic hardcore that never fails to reach those awkward, hard to reach parts. These are songs filled with PMA. Empathy. Love. All the good stuff. Expect the feel-good pit of the weekend.

Synthesizers? At Donington? It’s Simple Creatures!

Somewhere, backstage at Donington, the ghost of Saxon can be found floating around, eating a pie (beef and onion, obviously) moaning about “that bloody synth pop racket” wafting through the air. The Download lifers won’t find much to enjoy in this new emo pop collaboration between All Time Low singer Alex Gaskarth and the Blink-182-member-it’s-okay-to-like Mark Hoppus. But that’s their loss.

Fire! Fury! A shouty man in a mask that looks like he’s wearing a Wii remote dust cover stretched across his face. It can only be Slipknot!

The internet may have decided it doesn’t like singer Corey Taylor’s new mask, but you can always count on the Des Moines band to deliver when they arrive in DE74. Download has witnessed many a triumph from the boilersuited band over the years. With a new album primed for release late this summer, a new member swelling the ranks, and a renewed vigour all round, this year might be their best moment yet.

Slipknot are back with new album 'We Are Not Your Kind'

Find a new favourite band! Conjurer are our choice

Hailing from British metal’s spiritual home of the Midlands, sludge-doom-prog-death-black metal act Conjurer are a truly innovative proposition, worthy of your investigation. But really, Download 2019 is packed with opportunities to find a new favourite band. We’d also recommend Goodbye June, Yours Truly, Black Futures, PENGSHUi, Nova Twins, Palaye Royale and Those Damn Crows. Something for everyone! Unless you’re a fan of the nose flute. None of that this weekend.

Download residents Trivium. They never disappoint

Once regarded the future of metal. Now merely one the scenes most consistently good bands. The ascension to the top of the Download bill never happened for Matt Heafy’s thrash metal mob, though it’s not for their song’s quality. Here’s the truth. Each year at Download you will be stood eating a burger. You will hear some sweet riff in the distance. You will think, “that sounds good, what is it?” It will always be Trivium.

Pssst. Can you keep a secret? Don’t tell anyone…

Like Lamb Of God? A little bird told us that guitarist Mark Morton is playing an acoustic set of his solo material somewhere onsite on Sunday. But you didn’t hear it from us, right? If you want to blame anyone, blame the little birds. Shitting everywhere, eating the worms, telling you that an actual legend of modern heavy metal is playing a secret gig.

Overdose on fun with Royal Republic!

It’s impossible to watch this brilliantly gonzo Swedish band without smiling so hard your face will hurt. Sadly, not enough people know this and the band remain a cult concern. Wait until they play ‘Fireman & Dancer’. Shit will go off.

Pour some sugar on Def Leppard

Actual chances of you being able to get close enough to the stage to cover Joe Elliott in Tate and Lyle? Minimal. Actual chances of hearing back to back glam metal bangers? Well, that’s assured upon entry. The Steel City legend’s Friday night main stage headline is the place to be.

Watch Rob Zombie. He’ll be horribly good (sorry)

When Rob Zombie isn’t making terrible horror movies, he can normally be found making really very good horror-themed hard rock. Depending on how much of his fee he wants to spunk on production, he can often be seen on stage with dancing skeletons and b-movie monsters of old. Even if he isn’t, the songs are good. And Dragula remains great.