A look at the Download Festival 2023 headliners

We are a week away from Download Festival 2023! Here we take a look at the careers of the headliners for each day.

This year, for the first time in Download’s 20-year history, there will be four days of live music in the arena.

The extra day has had fans excited and it’s also an unusual move as it includes two headline sets from one act but it does provide something for most rock and metal fans.

Here we take a look at what you can expect from the headliners at Download 20!

Metallica (Thursday and Saturday)

Credit: Tim Saccenti

Metallica will be doing two sets at Download, one on the Thursday and one in the Saturday.

The band has been around for more than 40 years and are one of the few bands to return this year who played the first ever Download back in 2003!

We’ve been assured that both sets will be completely different and the band won’t be playing any songs twice – and in fairness with such an extensive back catalogue, who can blame them?

Metallica’s impact on the music scene is undeniable whether you are a fan of them or not. Alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, they have been described as being one of the founding fathers of thrash metal.

They formed in 1981 and released debut album Kill Em All two years later. It was followed by sophomore record Ride the Lightning in 1984 and then the band’s meteoric rise started in 1986 with the release of album three Master of Puppets which spent 72 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified six times platinum in 2003.

And Justice For All earned them their first Grammy nomination after its 1988 release which also charted at 6 in the Billboard 200. It certified platinum just nine weeks after its release. Their self-titled fifth album (also known as The Black Album) in 1991 was one of the best selling albums, debuting at number 1 in 10 countries. Sixth album Load debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 following its 1996 release and the following year Reloaded was released as album seven.

1998 saw the release of double cover album Garage Inc and in 2000, they began a lawsuit against Napster after a demo appeared online and all of their music was freely available on the site.

St Anger, the band’s eighth studio album, was released in 2003 and again debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The titular track won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance.

Album nine, Death Magnetic, was released in 2008 and became the fifth in a row to land at number 1, making the band the first to do so.

Metallica were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009.

Metallica and Lou Reed released a collaborative album called Lulu in 2011 and two years later, Metallica played in Antarctica, becoming the first band to play on every continent.

Album 10, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct came to fans ears in 2016, scoring yet another Billboard 200 number 1. They released 11th album 72 Seasons in March this year.

The band have also released a number of EPs and concert DVDs throughout their career but if we spoke about every single one, this would go on to be an extremely long article.

Metallica first played Download at the first festival in 2003 but also played the predecessor Monsters of Rock for the first time in 1985. BBC News wrote in 2003 that Metallica’s set was unannounced and not part of the original lineup and only 8,000 saw them with many more of the 40,000 strong crowd queuing to try and get a glimpse.

Metallica has also played Download in 2004 an hour late for their set, as drummer Lars Ulrich was unable to perform after being rushed to hospital with an anxiety attack, so Slipknot’s Joey Jordison and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo stepped in to help alongside drum tech Flemming Larsen. They also played Master of Puppets in full in 2006 and in 2012, headlined the main stage, playing The Black Album in its entirety.

Bring Me The Horizon (Friday)

On the Friday marks the return of Bring Me The Horizon to the Download Festival stage for the first time in almost a decade.

The band formed in Sheffield in 2004. The teenagers released a demo album called Bedroom Sessions before debut EP This is What the Edge of Your Seat Was Made For was released in September 2004. The EP was released through Thirty Days Of Night Records and the band were their first signing but in early 2015, Visible Noise re-released it and signed BMTH on a four-album deal. The re-release of the EP turned out to be a good idea, landing them the number 41 slot in the U.K. album charts and in 2006, they were named Best British Newcomers by Kerrang!

They went on their first tour in support of The Red Chord across the UK.

Debut album Count Your Blessings was released in 2006 in the U.K. and the following year in the US. The album wasn’t received well by critics and had a polarised response from fans.

Second album Suicide Season was much more of a success and led to tours across the US and Europe but third album There is a Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen it. There is a Heaven Let’s Keep it a Secret led to the band’s highest charting positions so far – 13 in the U.K. album chart and 17 on the Billboard 200.

The defining moment in BMTH’s career so far would come following their signing to RCA in 2012, and the April 2013 release of album number four, Sempiternal, which was regarded as one of the best albums of the period.

There was a lot of mystique around album number five, That’s the Spirit, with photos of an umbrella appearing as tattoos and stickers across the UK, US, Australia and Europe which turned out to be promo for the album which would be released in September 2015 after a number of singles. It was widely successful with both fans and critics and the following year, the band performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London with a full orchestra, with a live album being recorded and released that December.

The mystique around new music for the band was heightened after a similar campaign which started with posters in major cities in 2018 with the message “do you wanna start a cult with me?” And phone numbers on the posters which led to people being on hold for a while and believing they heard a snippet of new music.

On August 21 that year – the date that appeared on the website displayed on the posters – Mantra was released, which marked a shift of the band into more commercialised music. New album Amo was announced to be released in January 2019. It was released with mixed reviews from fans but the majority were in support of a more electronic sound. It also landed the band their first number one on the UK Albums Chart!

In December 2019, BMTH dropped Music to Listen to~Dance to~Blaze to~Pray to~Feed to~Sleep to~Talk to~Grind to~Trip to~Breathe to~Help to~Hurt to~Scroll to~Roll to~Love to~Hate to~Learn Too~Plot to~Play to~Be to~Feel to~Breed to~Sweat to~Dream to~Hide to~Live to~Die to~Go To an unannounced surprise EP.

New EP Post Human: Survival Horror was released in October 2020. The physical release in early 2021 also landed the band their second number one of their career.

Throughout the last two years, they have released a few singles but no news yet on the next EP release date.

BMTH first played Download Festival in 2006 and returned the following year in 2007. They also played in 2009, 2011 and 2014.

Slipknot (Sunday)

Credit: Anthony Scanga

Closing out the festival this year will be Slipknot. It will be the third time since I started going to Download in 2015 that the band will have headlined the main stage.

Slipknot formed in 1995 in Iowa and released demo Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. In October 1996. A second demo in 1998 started to get the band some attention from record labels and they signed a seven-album deal with RoadRunner Records that August. Their self-titled debut album was released in June 1999 and the band’s following grew quickly from their touring on Ozzfest and through word-of-mouth. The album was certified platinum a year after its release.

Second album Iowa was released in August 2001 and led to a world tour of the same name. It scored them a number one album in the U.K. and number three on the Billboard charts.

The band went on a short hiatus following this and returned to the studio in 2003. Album number three was aptly called Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses and was released in May 2004. During the subsequent promotional tour of the record, the band recorded a live album.

In 2005, after the tour schedule for Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses was finished, Slipknot went on a second hiatus. They won their first Grammy in 2006 for Best Metal Performance for Before I Forget.

In late 2007, they began work on album number four with All Hope is Gone being released in August 2008. It debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and included hit single Psychosocial. Following the touring schedule in support of the album, the band went on a third hiatus in 2009.

Slipknot came back in 2011 for a number of shows and in 2014, they released 5: The Gray Chapter, with album six We Are Not Your Kind coming in 2019. Seventh album The End, So Far was released in 2022 and marked the end of their contract with RoadRunner Records.

Slipknot have played Download Festival six times, with the first being in 2004. They played in 2005, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019.

The 2009 headline set was filmed for and released on video album (sic)nesses which was released in 2010. In 2013, they headlined for a second time and had to stop the set twice due to issues with the barricade.  Each performance since the 2009 set has been headlining the main stage.

Download Festival takes place at Donington Park between June 8-11.

Elizabeth Birt

May 31, 2023

Band management assistant. Goth princess and lover of all things music and sport.


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