The Bands You Can’t Miss at Download This Weekend
By Madeline Ward
There’s no denying it: the line-up for Download this year is pretty spectacular. Even without headliner Ozzy Osbourne, who withdrew a few weeks ago due to health concerns, the festival is headlined by some of the biggest acts in heavy metal and hard rock: Slayer, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Alice in Chains and Ghost, to name a few. Sadly, the organisation of the set times is less than ideal: Ghost, Slayer and Sum 41 all overlap, and Judas Priest is sandwiched in between Alice in Chains and Slayer on a separate stage. (Though thankfully, the stages are next to each-other.) There are also a huge number of relatively unknown and up and coming bands that dominate the early hours of the festival. For these reasons, It’s important to discuss a strategy beforehand, and decide on which bands you absolutely can’t miss. Here are the bands that I’ll be heading for this weekend. See you in the pit.
These three teenagers are the coolest kids you’ll ever meet. Labelled by Revolver Magazine as “one of the most exciting young metal bands in the world right now” , Alien Weaponry combine thrash metal and Te Reo Maori to produce a sound that is entirely unique. Many of their songs are commentary on the historic and contemporary oppression and resistance of Maori people in Aotearoa, making them an important political voice in the thrash metal scene. More than just a warm up for the big daddies of thrash metal that are on later in the set list, ( Anthrax and Slayer) Alien Weaponry are probably the most interesting and exciting young band on the line-up. Alien Weaponry are on at 12:30pm and are well worth getting to the festival early for.
Listen: Ru Ana Te Whenua, Kai Tangata or Raupatu, the latter of which one them an APRA award.
For Lovers Of: Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax
Clashes: New Years Day, Redhook
Slaves lose points for an incredibly on the nose band name, but win points for the amount of noise they make for two people. If you like your punk British with strong garage influences, you’ll love Slaves. They’ve really only been on the up since the release of their 2014 EP, with two top 10 albums under their belt and plans to release more yearly. Though their name leaves much to be desired ( two white men naming themselves “Slaves” is cooked no matter which way you spin it ) they’re known for a no-tolerance attitude to sexual assault and harassment at their gigs, and publically support feminist groups like Girl’s Against. Slaves are likely to bring one of the most fun shows of the day, so hit them up for a boogie at 1:00pm.
Listen: The Hunter, Cheer Up London
For Lovers Of: Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes, IDLES, Cabbage
Clashes: Polaris, Redhook
War on Women
War on Women are one of several female fronted bands on the Download line-up, and have a long, genre defying discography of political punk and hard rock. The frontwoman for War on Women, Shawna Potter, is involved in feminist activism outside of the music world: in 2011, Potter founded the Baltimore chapter of Hollaback!, a feminist anti-harassment organisation. On tour in 2017, she ran workshops for fans on bystander intervention and preventing street harassment. Girls will be well and truly to the front at War on Women at 1:30pm.
Listen: Capture the Flag, Lone Wolves
For Lovers Of: Bikini Kill, Black Flag, Perfect Pussy, Sleater Kinney
Clashes: Luca Brasi, The Beautiful Monument
I was lucky enough to watch this band play at laneway in 2016 and they have an incredible live show. High Tension were formed in 2012 in Melbourne: nominated for an ARIA award in 2014 and the subject of high praise from Henry Rollins himself, the band are one of Australia’s most underrated hardcore acts. Their latest album, Purge, deals with the anti-communist purge of Indonesia from 1965-66, in which hundreds of thousands of members of the Communist party were murdered. Combining a political message with pure rage is clearly working for High Tension, and their vocalist, Karina Utomo, growls and screams better than any other on this line-up. See High Tension in the pit at 2:00pm.
Listen: Bite the Leash, Bully
For Lovers Of: King Parrot, Pagan
Clashes: Luca Brasi, I Prevail, The Beautiful Monument
This was a tough one, mainly because Behemoth are on at the same time as Eat Your Heart Out, another woman fronted band from Newcastle. If black metal isn’t your thing, make sure you head on over to Eat Your Heart Out as a very close second. If black metal is your thing: you absolutely cannot miss Behemoth. Formed in Poland in the early 1990’s, this band are everything you could possibly want in an entirely OTT European Death Metal Band: loud, dramatic, blasphemous, a little bit ridiculous. Frontman Nergal was recently quoted as saying that “ten seconds of the new Behemoth album would probably kill 100 emo kids.” Catch Behemoth and 100 dead emo kids at 3:45pm.
Listen: O Father O Satan O Sun!, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, God = Dog
For Lovers Of: Dimmu Borgir, Marduk, Vader
Clashes: Code Orange, Eat Your Heart Out
I don’t think I really need to sell Anthrax as a band worth seeing this Download, but I’m going to do it anyway. As influential in the emergence of Thrash Metal as Metallica or Megadeth, Anthrax are one of the most important acts on the line-up. Scott Ian once suggested that the band were especially keen to work with Lady Gaga (huge) and even if you’re ambivalent about thrash, it’s well worth seeing one of the most influential bands in the history of metal. Head down to Anthrax at 4:30pm.
Listen: Madhouse, Lone Justice
For Lovers Of: Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer
Me First and The Gimme Gimmes
Me First and The Gimme Gimmes are a bit of a dad band, but they’re also guaranteed to be the most fun show of the day. Punk’s most prolific cover band have covered artists such as John Denver, Cher, Dolly Parton, Celine Dion and Neil Diamond, to name a few. The only other major band on at this time is The Amity Affliction, so you have literally no excuse to miss it. Let Me First and The Gimme Gimmes take you home (country roads) at 5:00pm.
Listen: Jolene, Take Me Home (Country Roads), Sweet Caroline, Phantom of the Opera Song
For Lovers Of: literally anything. Nothing is safe from a Me First and The Gimme Gimmes Cover. Not even Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Clashes: Amity Affliction
Rise Against are probably the most obnoxious band on the line-up. Frontman Tim McIlraith is straight edge and the band actively promote PETA as an organisation. For this reason, I’m going to suggest that you use their set as an opportunity to stock up on food and booze before the major headliners start. If you’re into having the moral virtues of veganism and ethical consumption wined at you by America’s Most Woke Melodic Hardcore Band, you can hit up Rise Against at 6:00pm.
Listen: Architects, I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore
For Lovers Of: Sum 41, Pennywise, AFI, Veganism
Clashes: Thy Art is Murder, Twelve Foot Ninja, Devilskin
Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains are hugely important to the Seattle grunge scene that emerged in the early 1990’s. Their set is also an excellent opportunity for die-hard Slayer fans to exercise a little strategic scheduling: Alice in Chains are on the same stage as Slayer, who start an hour and 15 minutes later, meaning that you can get well and truly to the front in the meantime, if you’re not a huge fan of Judas Priest, Pennywise or Sum 41. Put your tactical timetabling to work at Alice in Chains at 7:00pm.
Listen: Man in the Box, Rooster, Would?
For Lovers Of: Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana,
Clashes: Pennywise, Halestorm, Justice for the Damned,
I’ve chosen Judas Priest over Sum 41 in this case because of the likelihood that they might not make it back out to Australia, and also because they’re another incredibly important band in the emergence of metal as a genre. I would especially recommend this to those of you that were stoked to see Ozzy Osbourne, and for those of you that are planning on seeing Ghost over Slayer. Rob Halford calls himself “the stately homo of heavy metal” and is a known fan of Michael Buble, making him ( maybe ) the coolest and most metal frontman at this whole festival. Fellow Buble enthusiasts can catch Judas Priest from 8:15pm.
Listen: Breaking the Law, Necromancer, Hell Bent for Leather
For Lovers Of: Black Sabbath, Motorhead
Clashes: Pennywise, Sum 41
Choosing Ghost over Slayer feels somewhat sacrilegious. Ghost are the ABBA of heavy metal ( of which they seem to be somewhat self aware, covering “I’m a Marionette” in 2013 ) but ABBA are a fucking fantastic band, as are Ghost. Personally, I’m ambivalent about Slayer, and an embarrassingly big fan of Ghost. Ghost might just be the narcissistic tendencies of Tobias Forge run wild, but honestly? I don’t care. Tobias Forge, like Benny and Bjorn, is a problematic fave. Those of you that aren’t huge fans of their latest release should at the very least be able to acknowledge that Ghost are one of the biggest names in Metal right now for good reason, even if they’re also among the most ridiculous. Ghost start half an hour later than Slayer, meaning that you can almost see both. Kneel at the altar of Tobias Forge ( sorry, Cardinal Copia ) at 10:00pm.
Listen: Cirice, Ritual, Dance Macabre, Elizabeth
For Lovers of: ABBA, Mastodon, Opeth