Download Festival 2018: Best Bands, Surprise Packages and Predictions for Next Year

Download Festival 2018 was an incredible event to witness, no matter what perspective you look at it from. The atmosphere was friendly, the bands were excellent and most shocking of all, the weather was exceptional! Here’s our rundown of this years event, which includes AC Rock Reviews’ Top 10 performances, bands to look out for in the future and what to expect from Download Festival 2019. All of our photos from Download Festival 2018 will be posted in a separate article.


Photo by AC Rock Reviews


Top 10 Bands (Excluding Main Stage Headliners)


10. Greta Van Fleet


Young Led Zeppelin inspired Classic Rock outlet, Greta Van Fleet, have been on an unstoppable rise to fame over the course of the past year. Following the release of their overwhelmingly successful debut album in 2015 and impressive exposure received by their single, ‘Highway Tune’, these guys are just beginning a huge journey to the top of the ladder. An early Zippo Stage (stage 2) spot on Sunday was all Greta Van Fleet needed to demonstrate their phenomenal talent both as individuals and as a cohesive Rock unit. Topping the performance off with stunning drum play and dazzling guitar solos, Greta Van Fleet were undoubtedly a highlight from the festival. Greta Van Fleet’s next Download Festival appearance may well see them promoted to the main stage, and deservedly so.

9. Babymetal


Having been all but rained off entirely in 2016, Japanese band Babymetal looked to put things right in 2018. Showing exactly how capable they are when the elements aren’t against them, Babymetal put on a blistering performance, both musically and theatrically. As one of Metal’s more divisive bands in terms of taste and opinions, the young group put their critics in place after this staggering set, showing that they are far from just another gimmick band. Playing their big singles such as ‘Gimme Chocolate’, as well as some newer songs helped Babymetal to bridge the gap between their debut record and the new era, which they seem to be heading towards. Maybe Babymetal will be returning to the main stage sooner than we expect…
8. Lawnmower Deth


‘In case you don’t know, we’re the UK’s latest overnight sensation… 30 years in the making’
It would seem the people who were most surprised by the turnout for Lawnmower Deth were probably the band members themselves. With their sixth Download Festival appearance, Lawnmower Deth finally moved out of the tent stages and proved to everyone that they have what it takes to tackle the bigger spots. Bringing an arsenal of unique and bizarre stage props with them, the equally unique Punk veterans put on an unforgettable performance to an electric crowd, who had turned out by the thousands. It really is difficult to describe what witnessing a set as original and spirited is like but, I can assure you that it will live long in the memory of everyone who attended for all the right reasons.

7. The Temperance Movement


Offering a break from the driving Metal force and Punk adrenaline of Download were British Soft Rock stars, The Temperance Movement. Now an established main stage by Download Festival’s standards, The Temperance Movement gave the festival a dose of calm, while also keeping the crowd engaged and eager for more. But, the genuine standout highlight of their set was the performance of ‘A Deeper Cut’, the title-track from their latest studio album. This meaningful, inspiring and tranquil acoustic track sparked the fires of passion during the set and told everyone exactly why The Temperance Movement are rated so highly within the Rock community.

6. Parkway Drive


Headlining second stage at Download Festival is now easy feat, but Parkway Drive looked like naturals in this high-pressure slot. Keeping it as cool as they did while blasting enough pyro from the stage to sink a battleship must have been hard for the band, but the exciting Metal outlet put everything into what can only be described as an amazing show. Parkway Drive cruised through the show with a mixture of old and brand-new tracks, which were all performed with a sting of adrenaline and staggering energy. Although Parkway Drive probably aren’t main headline level just yet, a return to main stage is certainly a strong possibility for their next spot at Download.
Photo by AC Rock Reviews

5. Bad Religion


What is there to say about these undisputed Punk legends that hasn’t already been said? Bad Religion are icons of the genre, responsible for some of best Punk albums ever recorded, and their legacy was clearly recognised by the sensational support they received from their booming Download Festival crowd. As Avalanche Stage (stage 3) headliners, Bad Religion were welcomed by a great ovation from the Download crowd and returned the positive response with a powerful Punk show. Playing all their classic song such as ‘Recipe for Hate’, ‘American Jesus’, ‘21st Century Digital Boy’ and many others, it’s easy to understand why Bad Religion are still such a well-respected band.

4. Volbeat


Despite having a number of great, well-received and respected albums to their name, Volbeat are still viewed as a band who are on the rise. This might be something do with the fact they are improving with almost every passing show and conquer every festival, arena and venue in their path, with Download being no exception. The Danish Hard Rock/Metal hybrid band looked unstoppable as they pulled one of the biggest non-headline crowds of the entire weekend and went on to show without question why they attract such a large audience. Volbeat included a vast variety of songs in their set in terms of both age and style, making this an exciting and refreshing set even for Volbeat’s veteran fans.

3. Black Stone Cherry


A band who seem to mature like fine wine, the spearheads of modern Southern Rock, Black Stone Cherry, left no doubt as to why they’re at the top of the mountain. Black Stone Cherry played Download Festival for the first time in 2008 and have seen a monumental rise through the line-up in that time, now just one step away from becoming main headliners. After witnessing their latest Download Festival appearance, it’s easy to see why they are considered the future faces of Rock music. The only question remaining is, how many more ‘almost’ spots do Black Stone Cherry have to take before they are given a shot at being a top headliner? If Biffy Clyro can do it, I see no reason why Black Stone Cherry can’t.

2. Rise Against


As the figureheads of Political Rock for over a decade now, Rise Against arrived at Download as an established band and left as fan favourites from the entire festival. Although out of the 100,000+ attendees, it’s a safe bet to assume that they were at least one person’s favourite band before they started but, they definitely won over countless new fans with a riveting, heartfelt and magnificent set, that was a top moment from Download 2018. As for long term Rise Against fans who watched, they were treated to spectacular performances of classic songs such as ‘Saviour’, ‘Re-Education (Through Labour)’, and ‘Prayer of the Refugee’, which all provoked a highly positive reaction from the huge crowd.

1. Avatar


Anticipation for this early festival main stage set was high, as Avatar came in hot off the heels from a solid European tour. Although I have not seen all of Avatar’s Download Festival performances, I doubt they have ever put one on as good as this. Supported by songs from their latest concept album, ‘Avatar Country’, the Swedish Metal group put on the most clinical, energetic and unforgettable performance of the entire festival. A host of exceptional bands followed, and Avatar outclassed every single one of them. From the choice and quality of songs played to the vibrant and dazzling stage show, Avatar were simply untouchable. After setting the bar set so high for themselves (and everyone else for that matter), where do Avatar go from here? The only reasonable answer is surely further up the bill, as they proved they have the fan base and confidence to fill some of the festivals most prestigious spots.

Download 2018 Bands to Look Out For in the Future


Milk Teeth


Over the Download years, many bands have progressed through the ranks and ventured from fourth stage to the glories of main stage. Bands such as Mallory Knox, Marmozets, and I can see Milk Teeth following in their footsteps. Having played fourth stage previously and third stage this year, the young Punk bands flight to Download stardom may have already taken off. Remember the name, because Milk Teeth will definitely become a force to be reckoned with.


Kaiser Franz Josef


Playing their first ever UK show, Austrian three-piece Kaiser Franz Josef stormed through a thumping Rock n Roll set, which saw them barely miss a place on our top 10 list. Led Zeppelin influences were brought to light by an excellent cover of ‘Whole Lotta Love’, evidently becoming a pinnacle moment from a glistening set. If this phenomenal performance was anything to go by then we have surely not heard the last of KFJ.

Death Blooms


This hard-hitting Metalcore band blew everyone away as they opened the Dogtooth stage on Saturday. If you’re playing a tent stage at noon and still manage to encourage mosh and circle pits for almost every song, then you’re clearly doing something right. Death Blooms are going the right way about establishing a promising reputation with showings as flawless as this. I remember seeing Death Blooms perform at Amplified Festival 2017, where they certainly deserved a much better turnout; so, seeing the reception they got at Download was one of the more fulfilling moments from the weekend. Despite how good they were, I’d like to think Death Blooms aren’t done here and that they have a very bright future ahead.


Predictions for Download Festival 2019


A long list of talented bands with recent and forthcoming albums has already been accumulated over the course of 2018. Many of these have experienced Download Festival in the past, and some are sure to experience it again next year. A few of bands I’m expecting to see make return appearances include Clutch, Alter Bridge, Tremonti and Halestorm. Where these bands play on the bill however is open for debate. Halestorm are surely worthy of a high spot on main stage but, are equally as capable of headlining second stage on one of the three days.


After not being picked for the line-up since 2014, Papa Roach are one of my hot favourites to once again crop up on the bill. Following two notable album releases since their last appearance, the former Nu-Metal superstars have now embraced a more modernised sound but, are still a suitable band for Download Festivals expectations. On the topic of modernised bands showing up, a more Pop Rock affiliated act will likely be a second stage headliner next year. With bands such as You Me At Six, All Time Low and Sum 41 have all been second stage headliners in the past so, perhaps a softer option isn’t as far-fetched as it initially seems. Papa Roach themselves could even fill this role.


Greta Van Fleet were excellent this year, likely surprising the organisers with both their talent and ability to draw a sizeable audience. An immediate return to Download Festival shouldn’t be ruled out for this promising band, and if they do return next year then main stage is surely beckoning.


This year Bad Religion showed that the old-school Punk bands have still got it and another group from a similar era may follow in their footsteps and become third stage headliners. A possible candidate for this spot could be newly reunited 2000’s Punk act, The Distillers. Although this is more of a hope from AC Rock Reviews as appose to an expectation, the thought of hearing timeless tunes from ‘Sing Sing Death House’ blasting out across Download is too good to ignore. Another legendary band (but this time from Metal) who would be at home in the environment of Download are Diamond Head. After being main second stage headliners at Amplified Festival 2017, it’s possible that the underrated icons are primed and ready for a step up to the biggest Rock platform in Europe. If they do, a third stage headline place would be unmissable, although slightly unflattering for the pull Diamond Head still have. A late second stage showing could be more appropriate for a band as acclaimed and respected as Diamond Head.


Some completely new bands who have had strong kick-starts to their careers such as Slaves (UK), Royal Blood and maybe even Nothing But Thieves must be considered as early afternoon main stage candidates. The new talent has got to be trained into the festival spotlight sooner rather than later; and with these great young bands beginning to bang on the glass ceiling of Rock music all at once, now would be a good time to let at least one of them crack it. Speaking of which, a main stage debut for Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes is another one of AC Rock Reviews’ top predictions in response to the bands immense 2017 album, ’Modern Ruin’, as well as a formidable third stage performance in 2016.


Photo by AC Rock Reviews


Headline Predictions:


Much like every other year, speculation about who will headline the next Download Festival is already running rampant. With names that regularly make the rumour-mill such as Pearl Jam and Metallica taking a spin once again, maybe it’s time Download Festival started looking for more modern alternatives to headline at least one of the days? Following the release of ‘Prequelle’, Ghost are surely dark horse favourites for Saturday night headliners. With immense album campaigns and a Grammy to their name, the Swedish innovators could be ready to take a big leap towards the Download spotlight. Failing this, another hardened Rock legend from the golden era of music would ideally fill Saturday’s headline place. Maybe Alice Cooper would be a fun bet; arguably an optimistic one considering the likes of Slayer have only managed to be second stage headliners in recent years. That being said, Alice Cooper still has phenomenal recognition across the entire music spectrum and is undoubtedly experienced when it comes to playing big shows. Guns n Roses showed that old school bands are still capable of being Saturday night headliners, so will Alice Cooper end up following in their footsteps? Only time will tell…
But, Sunday will always be a legendary band and there is a very limited population who are capable of filling such a demanding and coveted place. Which is why my personal prediction is going with the general consensus; Metallica. It’s been a while since Metallica graced Download Festival and whether you like them or not, you can’t deny the magnetism and crowd draw they possess as one of the most famous Metal bands ever. If you book Metallica, you’re going to sell a ton of tickets and Download Festival need at least one band who are skilled at doing just that. With a new album just days away now, the reincarnated Alice in Chains are certainly still at headline level as far as Download Festival is concerned, meaning it could be wise to keep them in mind as outside favourites. I’ve seen names such as Scorpions thrown about on social media; personally however, I don’t see it happening. But, after once again postponing their overdue new album, it seems safe to completely rule out Tool.
Finally, Friday night will definitely be another familiar face, as Download Festival would never showcase two totally new headliners in the same year (despite the volume of competition). As much I would like to see Lawnmower Deth blowing everyone away as Friday night headliners, I think Slipknot are a more realistic expectation. Slipknot seem to go through a 3-5 year cycle at Download and with new album details just beyond the horizon, it seems like prime time for the Metal powerhouses to bring the noise back to Donnington. My personal dream for Download Festival 2019 would be to see Misfits blowing this spot away next year. Even though they’re a band with a catalogue of past issues, they managed to play a handful of intimate shows in America recently and are possibly close to finding each other on the same pages. Well, if Guns n Roses can make up then surely Misfits can as well, right?

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Photo by AC Rock Reviews

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