Live Review: Download Festival – 4 Day Review

In its 20th year of the festival, Metalheads graced the hallowed fields of Donington Park for Download Festival 2023. Because of the celebratory year, the festival began from Thursday rather than the traditional Friday, here is our bumper review of the weekend!


Halestorm – opening with singer Lzzy Hale performing acapella to Raise Your Horns, the band strike into I Miss The Misery. The crowd already vibing the first song into their 45-50 minute set. A stunning rendition of A Familiar Taste Of Poison silences the crowd as they’re in awe of the stunning vocals of Lzzy Hale. The band depart the stage except for drummer Arejay Hale who entertains the crowd with a fantastic drum solo. At the end of the solo he produces some “big sticks” – giant drum sticks that he does another solo with. The band finish the set with The Steeple. The lyrics do compare to the moment – this is Halestorm’s kingdom. Future headliners surely!!

Always on hand to fill in whenever they’re needed, Skindred replaced Five Finger Death Punch after they had to pull out due to vocalist Ivan Moody was unable to perform. They brought out Lzzy Hale for the classic track Warning and everyone waved an item of clothing around in the air to do the famous ‘Newport Helicopter’, this is the type of thing Download is about!

Future headliners for sure, Alter Bridge never fail to put on a show. Myles Kennedy & Co are seasoned performers but unfortunately tonight they are somewhat overshadowed by the atmosphere building for the headliners tonight.

Playing the first of the two shows of the weekend, Metallica storm the stage and begin with Creeping Death. Referring to their set as a “no repeat weekend”, the band refuse to play the same song twice. Tonight we are treated to various big hits including Fade to Black, Nothing Else Matters and the classic Master of Puppets. If tonight is anything to go by, fans are going to have an equally, if not better setlist when they return to the headline spot on Saturday.


Setting alight the main stage early Friday afternoon, Nova Twins bring the energy and the bangers to the Apex stage. The sheer delight on both girls faces as the crowd are screaming along to their huge tunes is a welcome sight. Closing with their huge hit Choose Your Fighter, these ladies will be headlining a smaller stage very very soon.

After a delayed start due to a medical emergency, Demob Happy finally grace the stage. Their sound is reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age which should be taken as a huge compliment. The tent fills as the passers-by are intrigued by the sounds coming from in there. Chants of “Newcastle” echo around the tent, much to the delight of the band, a solid set from the British trio. 

“This is like when Katy Perry played warped tour” leader vocalist of Crawlers Holly Minto bellows. Amping up their song Come Over (again) for today’s show, the band are beloved by the thousands packed into the tent. There are big things destined for Crawlers, keep your eyes peeled. 

After 8 years of heartache, The Blackout triumphantly return the stage with the classic Children of the Night. It’s evident in the smiles plastered on vocalists Sean Smith and Gavin Butler’s faces that they’re so glad to be back. Smashing through 40 minutes of the hits, just before they leave the stage, Sean tells the crowd that they will, in fact, be touring in February (something we heard in our interview which will be posted online soon) much to the delight of the fan base. Closing with the always anthemic Save Our Selves, this was a dominant return for a band that was so sorely missed. 

With a crowd jammed in like sardines to see the legendary band Evanescence headline the Opus stage, the band grace Donington with their presence for the first time in over a decade. Classics like Going Under and Call Me When You’re Sober are sung in unison by the packed horde watching the show. Closing with the ultimate classic Bring Me To Life, it feels like the band could’ve possibly taken one of the headline slots from Metallica this weekend- something for the organisers to consider for the future.

Closing the Apex stage on Friday night and returning to the festival for the first time since 2014 are Bring Me The Horizon. Having changed up their musical sound in the last few years, (to some disapproval by those who like the heavier side of life). The band have teased a new era of BMTH with a pop up ‘Church of Genxsis’ that appeared on Friday. People dressed as monks were giving out ‘sacred literature’ that led to clues to solve riddles, all for a bit of fun!

Anyway back to the show, the band used the screens and had a personalised video message for the Download crowd and to tease the NeX GeN era. Opening with AmEN into Teardrops and House of Wolves, BMTH mean business. They’re here to prove to all the people questioning if they are good enough to headline the iconic festival that, actually yes, they are! So shut up and watch.

Bringing on Nova Twins for 1×1 then Amy Lee from Evanescence for the tracks One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death and Nihilist Blues, BMTH are blowing last nights headliners Metallica out of the water. The visuals accompanying the music are striking and make for an unforgettable live experience. Closing with Can You Feel My Heart, this set was a dominant performances from one of the new breeds of headliners we’ve so desperately needed for alternative festivals.


Opening up the Apex stage on Saturday were Polaris. During track Hypermania, circle pits are forming and the dust is beginning to swirl around the front of the Download main stage. Nothing really does compare to a Fever 333 live show. Front man Jason Aalon Butler is famous for climbing various bits of staging and (almost) injuring himself in the process. There is an importasnt message to their live show today, POC are underrepresented in the rock and metal community and the band want to highlight that they are valid and have a rightful place in the world of rock. I think everyone who saw the show fell in love with bassist April Kae who was visibly moved by the fact she saw someone who looked just like her in the front of the crowd. The band, the message and the music all incredible.

Ice Nine Kills are a bit of a phenomenon. Front man Spencer Charnas screeched for everyone to “get your shovels up“ during Funeral Derangements (because he obviously had a shovel as a prop). They centre their aesthetic on all things horror and use lots of slasher type props and even a Pennywise mask during IT is the End. In a strange turn of events, they also ended up ‘killing’ the Download Dog who appeared on stage during their show. A good bit of fun and an entertaining show, INK are a band to watch our for.

As the sun continues to burn everyone on the hallowed Donington turf, Motionless in White are here to bring some American cool to the stage. Hitting the crowd with bangers like Scoring the End of the World, Werewolf and Reincarnate the crowd lap it up. Closing with Eternally Yours, it feels like the band have slightly tamed their set- could this be because they were on a smaller stage and in the middle of the afternoon so maybe production wasn’t an option. It would be nice to see them higher up on the main stage or headlining on of the smaller stages to give them the chance to really showcase all the visuals that accompany the music of Motionless in White.

Legendary act Disturbed opened their set with Hey You, Stupify and 10 Thousand Fists. A powerful opening for the band who have the task to play right before Metallica. During A Reason To Fight, lead singer David Draiman sits at the front of the stage on a stool to sing. At the end he became visibly upset when speaking about demons (addiction and depression) and lists Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland and Keith Flint as people he misses because they lost their lives due to suffering from them.

Lifting back up the mood, the band play their cover of Genesis’ Land of Confusion that gets the crowd bopping but there is another moment of reflection with a sombre feel during their cover of The Sound of Silence. Closing the set with Down With the Sickness and Inside the Fire. A really strong set by a certain future headlining band.

Monuments packed out the smallest of the 4 stages on Saturday evening but it did not stop them from having one of the rowdiest pits of the weekend. Playing new track Nefarious for the first time ever live, the crowd were keeping security on their toes as there was an endless amount of crowdsurfers. The progressive metal outfit closed their set with Lavos from their most recent album In Stasis, a solid setlist from one of the most exciting bands of the weekend.

Closing the 4th stage as secret special guests Creeper packed the tent out. Having only seen the band a few weeks ago at Slam Dunk Festival showcasing their new era of the band, it was interesting to see what they would do at Download Festival. Luckily for everyone there, a new song was played called Sacred Blasphemy and is from their new album due for release on Friday 13th October. Tracks like Down Below, Cyanide and Misery always go down well with a packed tent with the latter feeling like a rousing choral anthem in the most gothic church imaginable.

Returning again for the second of their two headline slots were Metallica. Opening with Whiplash which was played for the first time on this tour straight into For Whom the Bell Tolls and Ride the Lightning. Metallica are here to showcase why they deserved to headline two dates of the festival. Closing their set with the triple header of Whiskey in the Jar, One and Enter Sandman, diehard fans of the band will have been delighted to watch their heroes play almost 4 hours over the weekend. For those of us who maybe only know the hits, could one of the headline spots been made available for a band who are maybe on the cusp of becoming headliners? That’s for another discussion.


Waking everyone from their hangover are newcomers to Download Lorna Shore. Cursed to Die and Into the Earth are crushing and truly get the crowd going on another sweltering day in the East Midlands field. In a contrast to Lorna Shore, SiM (or Silence iz Mine) are a bundle of fun. The Japanese alternative rockers are playing their first ever show in the UK and state they are desperate to come back and play on the biggest stage that Download has to offer!

Returning to the festival from Down Under are The Amity Affliction. Literal fire erupts from the stage as the band blast through a short 7 song set. Death’s Hand, Like Love and the classic Pittsburgh are huge crowd favourites. The set ends with a sing song of Soak Me In Bleach, but as the temperatures continue to rise, revellers are hoping for soaking in water! Swedish hair whipping metal heads Avatar seem to have a shorter set than other bands. They still manage to cruise through big hitters like The Eagle Has Landed, Smells Like A Freakshow and Hail the Apocalypse. It would be nice to see them on a bigger stage next year as they can for sure bring more production as they really as a visual band.

I Prevail are one of the bands everyone seems to be talking about right now. Playing third from the top of the main stage bill is a huge jump from when they last played the festival. Body Bag is a huge tune and gets the crowd moving immediately. They even managed to drop in a cover of Chop Suey! By System of a Down. Closing with a triple header of Choke, Scars and the massive track Gasoline, this was a dominant performance from the American outfit and stands them in good stead to headline a smaller stage in the next few years.

Playing their first UK gig post-lockdown are Parkway Drive. As always the band bring literal fire to the stage in the form of tonnes of pyro! They storm the stage, frontman Winston McCall dressed in a white stab vest and chug straight through Prey and The Void. The biggest reaction of the day from the crowd comes in the form of the riff from the huge track Vice Grip, everyone is moving and losing their shit- a fully valid reaction! McCall makes his way into the crowd and a circle pits forms around him, the dust swirling around the field*

*please do try and watch a video of this- it is incredible!

Closing the set with masses of fire during the track Crushed and then the legendary Wild Eyes, it is SO great to finally have Parkway back after what feels like forever. They are certain future headliners, it would be daft not to book them!

Closing the festival is never an easy task, but if there is any band that is up to it, it’s Slipknot. Returning to join his fellow brothers on tour is Clown. Unfortunately front man Corey Taylor’s voice is going but he doesn’t let it stop him trying to put on a solid show. Left behind gets its first appearance on the run so far, much to the delight of the Maggots! Dropping the pace slightly with the beautiful Snuff, the band really know how to perform- you cannot take your eyes off the overall spectacle. People = Shit and Surfacing are the perfect end to the main set before the encore.

Closing with Duality, Custer and Spit it Out, Slipknot have once again proved just how good they truly are and why they keep getting invited back to headline festivals over and over again.

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