Image Credit: Danny Howe

2021’s festival prospects are looking dim. With Glastonbury gone and the UK in no fit shape to reopen, the reaper will soon turn its attention to Download Festival; Nottinghamshire’s closest big-league music event. So, with this in mind, Alex Mace has decided to play God and devise his own fantasy line-up for the famed three-day haven of metal and hellfire.

 

Main stage 

Flipping the trend, I’m giving centre stage to a few of the names that fervently broke free from metal’s underbelly scene in 2020 but have yet to truly cut their teeth on the mainstream trail.

Friday: Svalbard 

When I Die, Will I Get Better? was Svalbard’s breakout moment, topping end-of-year lists and rightly claiming a position amongst the underground’s rising frontrunners. Their sound is one of harsh, fragile emotion played through an intriguing mixture of post-rock and black metal; give them the chance and watch them dominate that stage. 

Saturday: Orbit Culture 

Whilst fans were already chomping at the bit as the band drip-fed singles on the run-up to their record Nija, Orbit Culture truly kicked their ‘support’ status when they took their well-honed craft of savage melodeath to Slipknot’s virtual festival; Pulse of the Maggots 2020. Lord only knows the storm they could conjure on the main stage. 

Sunday: Palm Reader

Ushering in the weekend’s closing moments is Palm Reader. Simply put, Sleepless was by-and-large one of 2020’s saving graces and set the band on an entirely new playing field in which to operate. The mainstage is the ideal arena for them to deservedly attract more converts and the idea of a Sleepless playthrough setlist is more than enough to get the spine-tingling. 

Zippo Encore Stage 

I’ll admit this is a slight personal indulgence with prog metal stalwarts dominating my 2020 playlists; this is going to be a nerdy one. 

Friday: Psychonaut

Whilst they don’t carry the same profile as their stage mates, Psychonaut did well to clinch my AOTY with 2020’s Unfold the God-Man; a gripping 69-minutes of progressive sludge metal and post-metal that, given the audio technics available at the download stage, would undoubtedly melt minds and bang heads.  

Saturday: Caligula’s Horse

Beauty isn’t something that comes often in metal but when it does the results are often otherworldly. For a decade the band has joined the likes of Haken and Leprous in leading a new era for the genre and, in doing so, have emerged with a catalogue of elaborate and entrancing prog odysseys; their place on the stage is a given. 

Sunday: Haken

Another champion for baffling time signatures and unorthodox structures, Haken have quietly led prog metal’s surge in popularity and, aside from my personal love for them of course, that alone lands them a leading spot on the line-up.

Alex’s own line-up poster

The Avalanche Stage

Is it cruel to stick genre titans so far down the list? Not really. Anyone will tell you that the smaller the venue, the more intimate the gig; that spells chaos and that’s the way we like it.

Friday: Metallica 

Just imagine it, the biggest metal band in the world right now packed onto the modest surroundings of The Avalanche. This, if anything, would be a daring callback to the band’s late 90’s live heyday – a nostalgia trip for loyal fans and a welcome, albeit abrasive, slap in the face for newcomers.

Saturday: Slipknot 

After Knotfest UK was ripped from our grips last year it only seems fair that the masked marauders make an appearance. Fronting their newest material from 2019’s triumphant We Are Not Your Kind, this is the crash ‘n’ bash mayhem we all deserve right now.

Sunday: Rammstein

Very few things in life are a given, certainly nowadays, but what you can always count on is a phenomenal live set from Rammstein; as well as whichever assortment of fire and bionic penis’ they choose to bring. Why are they on the list? It’s a given.

The Dogtooth Stage 

Another slight indulgence, I think it’s high-time the cheese-fest that is power metal was given its fair representation amongst the download crowd. So take up your swords and Viking helms and prepare for battle!

Friday: Sabaton  

Sure, they may be ‘everyone’s first power metal band’ but there’s a reason for that; they’re damn good. You may need to do some extra history revision to keep pace with the lyrics but Sabaton is a worthy choice to lead the battalions on the Dogtooth stage. 

Saturday: Gloryhammer

Leaping from Sabaton’s tales of historic conquests and battles we have the fictitious workings of Gloryhammer and their chronicles of interplanetary conflict between space wizards and dragon-riding warriors; isn’t music great. Sporting outfits to match, this is a work of theatrics you would not want to miss.  

Sunday: Unleash The Archers 

While they could have easily joined the main stage ranks as a fellow meteoric riser, it would feel wrong to separate Unleash the Archers from their iron-clad brethren. With a plethora of new setlist material from 2020’s Abyss, what better way to round off the weekend of mayhem?