Download Festival 2023 20th Anniversary Preview – 20 Bands You Need To See!

Download 20 2023 Sold Out Header Image

We are just a few days away from the long awaited 20th anniversary edition of the Download Festival aka Download 2023! There are over 100 bands appearing across the four full days of the festival, plus the five bands in the boardie takeover on Wednesday kicking off the festival. Not to mention loads of the best alternative DJ’s and Podcast hosts bringing you great chat and music across five days in District X in the Download Festival village. There’s a huge amount to choose from. With all that and more on offer, some of our team have…er…teamed up to bring you twenty of the best bands to check across across the Download 20th anniversary weekend. Let’s dive in!


Metallica – Apex Stage – 8:50 – 10:50pm (also Saturday – Apex Stage – 8:55 – 10:55pm)

Where else could we start but with Metallica?! The biggest metal band of all time who are making history by headlining Download 2023 not once, but twice?! With the band playing two completely unique sets over Thursday and Saturday Metallica devotees are going to get to hear something like 32 songs over two nights. That means plenty of time for new material from 72 Seasons, some deep cuts (would The Unforgiven II be too much to ask for guys?) alongside Master Of Puppets, Enter Sandman, One and some of the other mandatory hits. With James Hetfield looking happy and healthy again, something we can all be very thankful for, Metallica promise to make Download 20 something very, very special.

Alter Bridge – Apex Stage – 7:10 to 8:10pm

Download’s perennial “almost headliners” are once again forced to play bridesmaid to one of the legends of our world, but Alter Bridge are set to make sure Metallica have both the best possible warm up and a hard act to follow. Off the back of their at times blisteringly heavy last album Pawns and Kings and a hugely successful arena tour back in December, expect to hear some of the new songs like Silver Tongue and the title track from Pawns and Kings thrown into the setlist. They’ll fit in nicely alongside classics like Blackbird, Metallingus and Addicted To Pain, and Alter Bridge should have another Donington triumph on their hands.

Skindred – Opus Stage – 7:35 – 8:50pm

The house band is back! Stepping in for the injured Five Finger Death Punch, Welsh favourites Skindred return to Download for their biggest slot to date on the hallowed Doningfon turf. Of all the clashes this weekend, this is up there with the worst; to have Alter Bridge, Skindred and State Champs (more on them shortly) all on at the same time is going to make for some very hard decisions. Those choosing Skindred are pretty much guaranteed a great time. New singles Gimme That Boom and Set Fazers suggest that upcoming album Smile will be their best in ages. Oh, and they’re warming up to headline at Download by opening for KISS on their (latest round) of farewell UK shows. No Warning is needed, just Set Fazers to fun indeed!

State Champs – Kerrang Avalanche Stage – 7:30 – 8:30pm

Pssst. State Champs is having a party on the Avalanche stage but this time they’re inviting everybody AND you. State Champs… of what? you say. Well, the undisputed kings leading the new age of Pop Punk will be bringing their larger than life sing-a-longs, coupled with unwavering energy and buckets of  pure pop punk fun to Donington. Their setlist is likely to be jam-packed with a good mix of old school and new school tracks with extra toppings of 2022’s ‘Kings of the New Age’ and (we hope!) possible side dish surprises of acoustic State Champ’s awesomeness.

“We attract, what we’re ready for”, so goes State Champs’ bold and ballsy anthem ‘Losing Myself’ and it’s surely no coincidence that this year it’s a headliner slot on the Avalanche stage. So get your jaunty-angled baseball caps at the ready to channel your inner Derek DiScanio. And, be prepared to “lose yourself” in the best way with the Champs Fam, ‘cause it’s unlikely they’ll ever be playing a stage this small at Download again.


Bring Me The Horizon – Apex Stage – 9:20 – 10:50pm

For a while it seemed like the Bring Me The Horizon headlining Download ship had sailed already due to the band’s ever-evolving sound. Whilst they may have somewhat drifted away from the music that made them a shoe-in to play this festival for years to come, their popularity has never stopped increasing with each release. Whilst some would argue it’s overdue, BMTH are in a great place to headline right now having proven their ability to do so at All Points East and Reading and Leeds. That being said, this is a very different crowd, one that may be hoping for a slightly tailored set compared to those particular festivals. Whilst the reaction from a certain area of the Download faithful will be interesting, Bring Me becoming the first band of their era to headline the fest is a huge occasion and they always bring a dazzling spectacle.

Architects – Apex Stage – 7:00 – 8:10pm

Similarly to Bring Me The Horizon, it has been a long-time since Architects last played Download Festival and they’ve gone through a lot of changes since then. Not only are they far larger in terms of popularity, coming off the back of multiple UK arena tours, their sound has evolved over the years. If there’s one thing that they’ve proved in recent years it’s that their newer material is primed and ready for the biggest stages possible and it’ll sound massive in that main stage slot. Even without the recently departing Josh Middleton, Architects are one of the best live bands the UK has produced in some time and with a new catalogue of songs to debut at the hallowed home of metal that sound ready made for festival crowds, they’re the perfect band to take to the stage before the days headliner.

Pendulum – Friday – Apex Stage – 5:30 – 6:30pm

Aussie drum and bass heavyweights Pendulum dont visit the UK very often. However, the duo are responsible for easily one of the festivals most memorable performances ever. Ask any Downloader that was around in 2008 and they’ll no doubt remember Pendulums legendary set, that saw thousands of metalheads cram their way into the then concrete floored second stage. Turning it into an open air rave with some of the most damaging mosh pits of the weekend. With rumours of the bands first studio release since 2010’s Immersion steadily brewing over the last year. Download might be the perfect place for them to debut some new material too. So you’re going to want to make sure you have your glowsticks at the ready for their appearance on the main stage this weekend!

Epica – Opus Stage – 3:50 – 4:30pm

Fresh off their UK/European run earlier this year with Apocalyptica, and an unexpected trio of stadium shows opening for Metallica, Epica won’t be pulling any symphonic metal half strings on their return to Donington.

The Dutch Metallers are led by the stunning classical melodies of vocalist Simone Simons, contrasted with the growls of Guitarist Mark Jansen. Team this up with exquisite progressive and symphonic soundscapes plus  big orchestra and choir moments, and you end up with something proper… epic! The only downside for the Dutch metallers is that they’ll have just 40 minutes to hit their stride and unleash their soaring orchestral blend across the fields. So expect a short, but very sweet, musical journey from the flying Dutch.

As December Falls – Avalanche Stage – 2:50 – 3:15pm

Fresh from picking up their Best Breakthrough Act award at the Heavy Music Awards at Wembley Arena at the end of May, Nottingham pop rock / pop punk outfit As December Falls are definitely ones to watch. Flying the flag for excellent home grown pop rock against the International qualities of their peers like of Yours Truly and Charlotte Sands to name but two, “ADF” are set to provide one of the most uplifting, energetic and enthusiastic performances of the whole Download 2023 weekend. Go and join the party in the Avalanche tent early Friday afternoon and it is pretty much guaranteed you will leave with a big smile on your face.


Ice Nine Kills – Apex Stage – 2:15 – 3:00pm

Following their very well received performance in 2022, Ice Nine Kills are back for another blood-soaked year. Whilst having bands play consecutive years is not always ideal, INK feel like a band that are riding a wave of momentum right now, as proven by their support slot for Metallica. Taking inspiration from popular horror movies, their two previous Silver Scream albums have taken the bands to new heights creatively and commercially and it is clear to see live. Their stage show is fitting of the horror classics that they have built this era of the band on but this is no ‘wearing an iconic outfit whilst singing a song gimmick’. They back it up with huge choruses and some genuinely crushing riffs and breakdowns that make their shows some of the most fun you will have all weekend.

Casey – Kerrang Avalanche Stage – 3:30 – 4:00pm

The post-hardcore emo reunion that many hoped for but thought wouldn’t come. Casey made their comeback last year (having cleverly hidden the date of their return on a Twitter account that had been there for months but had no followers). Their UK comeback shows sold out in minutes. An initial return to the US has also proved extremely popular, and Casey recently broke the news that new material is being worked on in the studio. Where I Go When I Am Sleeping was one of the most brilliant, heart wrenching albums of 2018 and fans thought they’d never get a follow up. This is set to be one of the most emotional sets of the weekend.

Creeper – Dogtooth Stage – 8:05 – 8:45pm

Download 2023’s secret band turned not quite so secret anymore thanks to some t-shirt image leaks, Southampton’s finest modern goth rock superstars Creeper get their first Donington stage headlining experience in 2023. Not before time either. Recent single Cry To Heaven is a Judas Priest meets Depeche Mode inspired masterpiece to add to their extensive catalogue of hits. It’s quite unfathomable that the Dogtooth Tent won’t be bursting at the seams for this performance – and given the intimate setting, it will make it a very special performance. For those who want to see this in full, get there early, then get your running boots after to make it back to Metallica!


Bloodywood – Apex Stage – 12:00pm

Making their first appearance at Download, Bloodywood are one of the most unique and potentially devastating acts set to open the festivals Apex Stage. Their seamless fusion of Indian folk music and old school nu-metal has already gained them a massive following since their debut album, Rakshak dropped less than a year ago and with the band already having already cut their teeth on the UK festival scene with a show stealing performance at last years Bloodstock. Bloodywood are primed and ready to kick off Downloads final day with a bang. Making them a great reason to shake off your hangover and get into the arena early this Sunday!

Lorna Shore – Apex Stage – 1:10 – 1:50pm

Having a deathcore band play the main stage of Download Festival was simply not an option in the years previous but then came Lorna Shore. Bringing something new entirely for the 20th anniversary of the fest, Will Ramos and co aren’t going to be for everyone. They’re devastatingly heavy but what may aid them in winning people over is their ear for guitar melodies, incredible musicianship and of course, the amount of gnarly noises that come out of Ramos’ mouth. Their music certainly has the scope to play on huge stages, the big question is how will that translate to a big open air festival like Download. One thing is for sure, expect breakdowns that will screw your face up and lots of them.

I Prevail – Apex Stage – 5:00 – 6:00pm

I Prevail may have been catapulted to stardom thanks to their cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space back in 2014. However, there’s more to the boys from Michigan than the moment that made them go viral. Now packing a trio of Grammy nominated albums under their belts. Filled with anthems like Breaking Down and Hurricanes, both of which are certain to bring the proverbial house down and still riding high from the success of their latest release, True Power. It’s hard to deny I Prevail are a band on the rise and look ready to take the main stage by storm. Especially if their string of sold out UK shows last year are anything to go by.

Ghost – Opus Stage – 8:00 – 9:20pm

After illness derailed Ghost’s last Donington visit all the way back in 2016, Papa Emeritus’ and the Nameless Ghouls return – albeit with a new heir apparent at the helm. Light years away from their previous third stage and early bird second stage slot, expect a set and stage show like no other. Full of devilishly charming quips, showboating ghouls, obligatory hailing of Satan, melancholic riffs sprinkled with twinges of doom, big arena choruses and, maybe, just maybe, a cover or two. Taints are sure to be tickled and asses wobbled in Tobias Forge’s precision-perfect Phantomime. We’ll see you down on the square.

Parkway Drive – Apex Stage – 6:40 – 7:50pm

Australian riff and pyro masters Parkway Drive will arrive Sunday evening for the biggest UK performance of their career so far. As direct support to Slipknot on the main Apex stage, they are likely to give the Iowan masked favurites a VERY difficult act to follow. Last years’ album Darker Still split fans slightly more than other releases, but it’s jam packed full of tracks like Soul Bleach, Ground Zero and Glitch which are likely to be showcased next to favourites like Carrion, Prey and Bottom Feeder. This is very much Parkway Drive’s audition to be future headliners, and if you’ve seen them live before, you will know they are extremely likely to pass with flying colours.

Electric Callboy – Kerrang Avalanche Stage – 7:35 – 9:05pm

Wrap up your festival by getting hypa hypa and jumping aboard the Tekkno Train party with German outfit Electric Callboy. Experience Metal’s much cooler (and heavier) answer to Clubland with Electric Callboy’s furious fusion of Scooter and Cascada-esq trance/EDM with killer metal screams and heavy as hell riffage. Expect the unexpected at the Avalanche in a headliner set that will be loaded with comedy, a strong possibility of 80s themed gym attire and, of course, a tidal wave of mosh pits and crowd surfers. Just don’t forget your dance moves and glowsticks.

Slipknot – Apex Stage – 9:15 – 10:50pm

No strangers to the main stage, Iowa’s favourite nine man wrecking crew, Slipknot will be headlining their fifth Download Festival this year. There were many who questioned their ability to fill the same shoes as classic rock royalty like AC/DC and Kiss when the nu-metal pioneers transitioned to the big league back in 2009. Undeterred, Corey Taylor and Co. laid down an absolutely ferocious set, cementing their place at the top of the bill and as they say, the rest is history. Ten years later and the Des Moines juggernauts show no signs of slowing down either. With Knotfest still packing out arenas around the world every year and We Are Not Your Kind; one of their strongest albums to date behind them, Slipknot’s set this weekend is sure to be something special.

Of course, these are just twenty of the dozens of wonderful bands playing across four dates of the 2023 Download Festival. Shout out to Carcass, Halestorm, Clutch, Placebo, Municipal Waste, Stray From The Path, Coheed & Cambria, Evanescence, Brutus, Hatebreed, Jinjer, A.A. Williams and so many more of the fantastic artists playing Donington over the course of the event. Those attending truly are spoilt for choice! Any final re-sale tickets for Download Festival 2023 may be available from Ticketmaster on this link. Please also check Twickets for other fan-to-fan resale options for Download Festival 2023.

Stay tuned to Rock Sins for full coverage of the 2023 Download Festival across the website and all our social media platforms over the next week and beyond!

Words by Jamie Giberti, Kyle Dimond, Hank Layland and Claire Frays.

Download Festival 2023 Final Line Up Poster

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