When the Download Festival Australia lineup dropped, the internet collectively lost its shit. Most of that was caused by the presence of almighty emo overlords My Chemical Romance appearing in the headline spot. For many, it was a proper celebration. A true generation defining band, the prodigal sons of the MySpace era, were back at a time of great need to lead us all into the black parade.
For a (rather vocal) minority though, the news was met with a collective middle finger and a whole bunch of internet haterade. “What about me?” they screamed into the endless void from their basement apartment in Hades (which is metal speak for typed into Twitter), sounding eerily like the whining emo kids they claimed not to be. We joke, we joke. Despair not, faithful metal hordes, Download Festival Australia is still home to more than enough “heavy stuff” to ensure your day out will be a riffsnorter of a time.
Better yet, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and compiled this helpful survival guide to keep you surrounded by a wall-of-death and protected from emo cooties all day long.
While not a traditional ‘metal’ band in any sense of the word, these Sacramento alt-metal demigods are near certainties to pull of one of the most sonically and emotionally heavy sets of the day. Come for the megahits like ‘Change (In the House of Flies)’, ‘My Own Summer’ and ‘Passenger’ but stay for the likes of ‘Doomed User’, ‘Rocket Skates’ and ‘Minvera’ and be taken back by the pure intensity of Chino Moreno’s otherworldly vocal chops as he pushes his way through one of modern music’s truly iconic walls of sound. This is your real headliner people.
Of all the subgenres in metal world, outside of hair metal, industrial metal is arguably the one best suited for the music festival setting. Thankfully, Download Festival bookers know this and so they’ve gone and booked none other than the godfathers of the whole bloody genre, Ministry! Spawn out of the mind of the absolute maniac Al Jourgensen, Ministry will bring their bonkers blend of thrash riffage, industrial stomp and alt-metal explorations to the Download stage as they tear through the likes of ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’, ‘Just My Fix’ and ‘Thieves’. There’s a fair chance you won’t have a clue what’s going on, but you’ll be having an absolute blast of a time, so it absolutely does not matter!
The most traditionally ‘metal’ sounding band here so far, Sweden’s melodic death metal pioneers, In Flames will bring their trademark monstrous riffs and infectious grooves to Download, where they’re sure to be met by a constant mass of moshing heads and intermittent wall-of-deaths. Undisputed icons of the genre, In Flames are credited as one of the originators of the hugely influential Gothenburg sound. They’ll whip the pit into a neck destroying frenzy with cuts like ‘Only For the Weak’, ‘Cloud Connected’ and ‘I Am Above’ as their undeniable melodies take your ears hostage.
You want metal cred? Try getting more credible than thrash metal legends Testament. Formed waaaay back in 1982 and often listed alongside Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer and Anthrax as being thrash metal titans, Testament fucking rip, and you can count on seeing me on the barrier as they shred through ‘Over the Wall’, ‘Electric Crown’ and ‘The Pale King’. For the uninitiated, Testament essentially sound like the first four Metallica records, but shoutier. What more could you want for from an early evening set at a metal festival?
Scottish pirate metallers Alestorm probably aren’t for everyone, but they should be on your Download itinerary. A sure bet for most fun set of the day, Alestorm write over-the-top metal-infused sea shanties about drinking beer, plundering things and other pirate behaviour in thick Scottish accents that are just begging to be impersonated poorly. You’re going to LOVE singing lines like “We are here to drink your beer and steal your rum at the point of a gun” in a field in the middle of the day. TRUST ME.
Creators of some of the most viciously heavy bangers on this bill, grindcore heroes, and ‘fab four’ members, Carcass will have you clinging on the nearest barrier or buddy for support as they obliterate anything and everything not concreted into the ground. Surrender yourself and let the music take you where it will as they deliver crushing renditions of the likes ‘Heartwork’, ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’ and ‘Keep on Rotting in the Free World’.
In Europe, Italian goth-metallers Lacuna Coil are a big fucking deal and even a solitary listen to ‘Heavens a Lie’, ‘Reckless’ or ‘Our Truth’ will make it immediately clear why that is. As haunting industrial/nu-metal tinged riffs provide a backdrop for metal queen Cristina Scabbia’s soaring vocals, you’ll find yourself in a trance like state, in which you will willingly remain. They’ve sold millions of records for a reason. You owe it yourself to find out. Also they’ll probably play their cover of ‘Enjoy the Silence’ by Depeche Mode and that is a VERY good time.
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, along comes Mongolian metallers The HU, blending traditional Mongolian throat-singing with heavy-metal to create a sound they call Hunnu Rock. If that sentence alone wasn’t enough to convince you to give them a look, check out the videos for ‘Yuve Yu’ and ‘Wolf Totem’ that made them a viral sensation, then do the only sane thing and catch their set at Download. It’s a different brand of heavy.
“They’re not heavy enough,” is what some people will tell you., Well some people are wrong. Baroness rule, they always have, they always will and no heavy festival is complete without catching a bit of Baroness magic. They’re heavy-metal titans for a reason and that reason is simple: they write fucking fantastic songs. Don’t overthink it, just let yourself enjoy the afternoon sun while being co-opted by ‘Take My Bones Away’, ‘Shock Me’ and ‘A Horse Called Golgotha’. Is it heavy? Depends on your perspective. Is it a great time? Always. Just go with it.
UK five piece Venom Prison have been given the label of “the new face of death-metal” by Metal Hammer and no one with ears could possibly dispute that claim. Venom Prison pump out a BLISTERING brand of death that’ll make most MCR fans in attendance piss themselves. Fronted by the frankly quite terrifying Ash Gray, their 2016 debut album Animus and its follow up 2019’s Samsara are flawless, fierce and frightening. A serious contender for the mantle of heaviest band on this bill, you do not want to miss the utter chaos that will be ‘Matriphagy’, ‘Uterine Industrialisation’ or ‘Abysmal Agony’ live. See you in the pit.
One of the finest heavy bands Australia has ever produced. Certified prog-metal geniuses. I’m not going to waste time selling them to you, just go watch them, the music will do the rest.
Also worth a look
Byron metalcore giants In Hearts Wake. Clowns aka the best punk rock band in Australia. Brutal Brisbane death outfit Disentomb. Ascendant Melbourne metalcore monsters in waiting Thornhill. Sydney nu-metal tinged party starters RedHook and Melbourne hardcore/nu-metal protagonists DREGG.
There you have it. A full day of heaviness. 100% free of any exposure to My Chemical Romance. You’re very welcome. Now excuse me, I’ve got some guyliner to apply.
Download Festival Australia will return to both Melbourne and Sydney in 2020, hitting Melbourne Showgrounds on Friday, 20th March and Parramatta Park on Saturday, 21st March. Head here for details on the first lineup announcement.