In just over four days’ time, the gates open at Castle Donington for the twentieth anniversary of Download 20 Festival. Headlined by Metallica, Bring Me The Horizon and Slipknot with a supporting cast of nearly a hundred bands from all genres of alternative music, there really is something for everyone at Download 20. With that in mind, we’ve picked twelve bands we think you need to check out this weekend.

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12. Graphic Nature (Dogtooth Stage, Sunday)
Harvey Freeman, vocalist for Kent metallers Graphic Nature, uses his band as a platform for talking about mental health. His band recently unleashed their ferocious debut album, A Mind Waiting To Die, and their set on the Dogtooth Stage on Sunday promises to kickstart the final day with a bang. Named after a Deftones song and inspired by the day’s headliner Slipknot, the Kent band wrap their powerful message in a sound that, in their own words, “is nu-metal as fuck” making their half-hour set one not to be missed. [Graham Finney]

11. Lake Malice (Dogtooth Stage, Saturday)
The rise of alt-metal duo Lake Malice has been meteoric to say the least with their appearance at Download on Saturday being the next step to much bigger things. Earning her reputation online during lockdown with a cover of BMTH and YUNGBLUD’s “Obey”, vocalist Alice and bandmate Blake’s blend of blistering pop and brutal alt-metal is wrapped up in some eye-catching visuals. Exciting times for this exciting pair so you’d be a fool to miss jumping on this rollercoaster now because this is just the beginning. [Graham Finney]

10. Mammoth WVH (Apex Stage, Thursday)
Mammoth VWH made their UK debut opening for Alter Bridge in December 2022 and literally stole the show! Fronted by Wolfgang Van Halen, the son of the legendary Eddie Van Halen, This American rock band are seriously one to watch. Hearing their self titled debut record does not do them justice! You need to hear this band live in all their glory to really appreciate the stellar lyricist and vocalist that Van Halen Jr is. Do not expect any fancy stage props or psychedelic light show, just a man, his band and some of the best hard rock songs put to paper that would make Van Halen Sr proud. [Damian FitzGerald]

9. Hatebreed (Dogtooth Stage, Sunday)
In recent years, the Dogtooth stage has seen headline sets by the likes of Suicidal Tendencies and Testament but nothing can match what will happen when Jamey Jasta leads his Connecticut bandmates out on Sunday night and the metallic hardcore veterans barrel through the likes of “Doomsayer” and “I Will Be Heard”. Yes, they’re vying for space alongside Slipknot but those brutal riffs and call-to-arms choruses will surely be heard far and wide as Hatebreed show again why they’re top dogs. [Graham Finney]

8. Punk Rock Factory (The Avalanche Stage, Thursday)
Born out of lock down and made famous by TikTok, Punk Rock Factory showed the world isn’t all doom and gloom with their cover based approach to movie, TV and Disney anthems. It’s impossible not to have a good time at one of their shows and with the possibility of inflatable hotdogs making the rounds, the potential for childish humour will be overdrive. Family friendly and insanely fun, you would regret not taking the chance to see these guys gleefully chant the lyrics of “Let it Go”. Also, given their penchant for guest vocalists, you may even be in for a surprise guest or two. [Damian FitzGerald]

7. Fever 333 (Apex Stage, Saturday)
Still quite new on the scene having formed in 2017, Fever 333 took the world by storm with their distinctive rap metal style. In 2022 it looked like the band was to disband when guitarist, Stephen Harrison and drummer Aric Improta parted ways with vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, however, rather then call it a day Butler opted to continue. Regardless of the side you took on the separation, you would be amiss to not see Fever 333 live due to the pure unrestrained energy injected into their shows. Performing early in the day Saturday, if you need a strong pick-me-up where a jug of coffee simply doesn’t cut it, this will be the hit you need! [Damian FitzGerald]

6. Brutus (Dogtooth Stage, Friday)
In Unison Life, Belgian post-hardcore trio Brutus produced album of the year. An emotion-drenched offering, the album came completely out of nowhere led by the absolutely heart-wrenching single “What Have We Done”. Led by drummer/vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts, the band may yet still be on many people’s radar but, do yourself a favour, check out their set on Friday because you’re likely to walk away having fallen in love with your new favourite band. [Graham Finney]

5. Bloodywood (Apex Stage, Sunday)
Mixing metal, rap and traditional Indian folk music Bloodywood blasted onto the scene via YouTube and their single “Machi Bhasad” in 1019 and captured the planet with it’s familiar, yet fresh sound. It wasn’t until 2022 when their full and independently released album, Rakshak, hit the shelves. This was exactly what their fast growing fan-bass had been chomping at the bit for. Amazing live and always extremely humbled by the reception they receive, they will work for your admiration and put on what could be one of the best opening sets the Apex Stage has ever seen. If you were ever to be encouraged to get a good nights sleep at a festival ensuring you were up for an early band, this would be them! [Damian FitzGerald]

4. Kid Kapichi (Dogtooth Stage, Saturday)
Whatever your age, young or old, for the majority of people at Download, music is our go to when times get shitty and, let’s face it, times couldn’t be much shittier in the UK than they are now. Back in the 70s and 80s we had punk rock to vent our frustration but this is 2023 and the frustrated generation has a new voice. That voice is Hastings outfit Kid Kapichi who bottle that frustration up with a dash of indie, a splash of punk and a whole mouthful of attitude. If you want to let off steam and scream about how shitty life in the UK is, this is where you need to be. [Graham Finney]

3. Electric Callboy – (The Avalanche Stage, Sunday)
If you were to only see one band in your entire life, you could do way worse then Electric Callboy! The German six-piece will ensure that the party is in full swing from start to finish with their mashup of electronicore and metalcore. Although they have six studio albums under their belt, it was Tekkno, released in 2022, that made the world sit up and take notice. If your energy is floundering by the fourth day, Electric Callboy will either be the nail in your coffin or the boost required to make it to the end. This will be the cross breed 90’s rave / rock show to end it all! [Damian FitzGerald]

2. Ghost (Opus Stage, Sunday)
Despite the outstanding headliner lineup, it does feel that Ghost were robbed of one of these positions. The multi-Grammy award winning Swedes are renowned for their sensational live shows that have to be experienced. Mimicking the Roman Catholic clergy, vocalist Tobias Forge has donned many persona’s in the theatre that is Ghost including Cardinal Copia and several iterations of Papa Emeritus whist leading the army of Nameless Ghouls. Ghost are not to be missed under any circumstances which will also prove to be a challenge in itself given there is a clash with Electric Callboy. You will need to conjure up some Harry Potter-esque witchcraft to try and see both of these phenomenal acts! [Damian FitzGerald]

1. Slipknot (Apex Stage, Sunday)
Out of all of the headliners this weekend, Iowa metal titans Slipknot bring the curtain down on a mammoth weekend. It’s been a tumultous few years for the band but, as we all know, when Slipknot come to Download they bring their fucking A-Game. Expect their set on Sunday night to be no different. When Slipknot take to the stage at Download magic happens and as 80,000 fans lose their collective minds to some of the greatest modern metal anthems to have ever been written. So, their middle fingers raised high to the sky, Corey Taylor and Co will surely write another incredible chapter in the story of one of the most important bands in heavy music. [Graham Finney]

Artwork for Download Festival 2023 Poster
Artwork for Download Festival 2023 Poster

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.