Considering that today is the inaugural day of Download Festival 2016, I couldn’t help but have a peruse of this year’s line-up. Whilst as bountiful and as diverse as you would expect from the UK’s foremost rock and metal festival, I couldn’t help but look at the three headliners, Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, and think: been there and done that already. Between the three of them they’ve headlined at Castle Donington grounds 8 times (which includes Download’s predecessor: Monsters Of Rock). It just felt too safe- these bands have headlined before anyways, so there really isn’t anything new or adventurous to talk about. A new headliner would generate excitement, a new audience, or at the very least a bit of controversy (all publicity is good publicity). So I put forward to you, and to Download organiser Andy Copping, a selection of bands that I feel are worthy of that elusive headline spot.
For these choices I’ve decided to select bands based on two key criteria: they have never headlined before at any point, and they must have a large fan base (i.e. they can regularly tour in large to arena size venues).
Bullet For My Valentine
For a fairly long time, especially in the UK rock and metal media, Bullet For My Valentine were considered prime candidates to headline the pinnacle of British alternative festivals. They’ve established a sizable fan base for quite a while now and they were more than capable of headlining a venue such as Wembley Arena (with a capacity of 12,500). I think the door really opened up for them after Avenged Sevenfold had their chance a couple of years back. Here was a band that was in a very similar position to Bullet; they’d been going for a while, played a style of music that was popular and accessible, and are comfortable with providing a huge stage show. And you know what? They made it work. If they don’t get the chance to headline within the next 2-3 years then I fear their time to do so may be running out.
I know I’m bending the rules on this one but hear me out.
I decided to pair these two bands as they’re both in the same boat here- they’re both from the same mid-to-late 90s nu-metal movement, and they’re perennial nearly-men. Both bands have repeatedly found themselves on the main stage just before the headline act, without ever getting their time on the biggest slot of the day. They’ve also been around long enough now that you can cultivate both acts as being nostalgia acts (no disrespect intended to either band). What I mean by this is that because there has been enough time between now and when nu-metal had reached its peak there is going to be fans old enough to have experienced this and want to relive it, and there will be a younger generation of fans who will have missed it and will want the opportunity to participate. In fact, if you paired these bands together as a co-headliner, and they each played a seminal album in full (I’m thinking Korn’s self-titled debut and Deftones’ Around The Fur or White Pony), I’m sure it would generate a similar degree of hype as if an already established headliner like Metallica played one of their early works back to back.
It’s a crime really that one of metal’s all time biggest names hasn’t headlined at Donington. We know that Judas Priest can bring a kick-ass live show. We know that they’ve got classic tunes that all metal fans could get into (“Breaking The Law” anyone?). We know that they are more than capable of performing for large audiences for hours on end. And yet in spite of this, no one has handed them that golden opportunity. If you look at previous Download line-ups, there is always at least one band that is more established and ‘older’ (think of your Iron Maidens, Black Sabbaths, AC/DCs). So why not satisfy that usual requirement, but allow for a newcomer to add variety to it.
Five Finger Death Punch
Say what you want about them, but these guys have been steadily growing over the years, even to a point now where they can headline arenas off their own backs with relative ease. I think a big part of why they could really resonate with a Download audience and be successful is down to their songs. They’re not overly complex prog odysseys, they’re heavy with an old school style of riffing, and they write huge choruses that people can sing along with. To me these three simple but important ingredients can appeal to a broad spectrum of rock and metal fans, which is ideal in a festival environment where niche acts won’t garner a sufficient audience size.
Bring Me The Horizon
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the lads from Sheffield are now one of the UK’s biggest rock acts of today. They can command a seriously large audience- I don’t know of many bands that could play two nights at London’s O2 Arena (with its 20,000 capacity). Not only that, but their transition from a metal band to a rock band has allowed for them to become more adept at performing at big occasions- last year’s Reading & Leeds Festival performances showed that the chance is theirs for the taking.
The fact that there’s an equal amount of people who dislike them also works in their favour. An announcement like that would be a huge talking point, and Download would benefit from plenty of media exposure. The weight of expectation for an occasion such as this would ensure that, regardless of how it turns out on the day, that year’s Download line-up would be remembered for many years to come.
What do you think? Are there other bands that I’ve missed? Or do you think I’ve got my choices all wrong? Feel free to leave a comment, like this post, and follow this blog for more content.