A 3-hour GUNS N’ ROSES Not-In-This-Lifetime hits, hits, and more hits set?! The Prince of Darkness OZZY OSBOURNE’s first ever, and final ever, solo headline slot as part of his final world tour?! AVENGED SEVENFOLD flying the flag as the new kings of arena-metal post-The Stage?! What more could you possibly ask for from DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, the UK’s premier rock and metal festival that takes place annually at Donington Park, this year’s edition running from the 8th-10th June 2018. Whilst there’s a lot going on at the top of the festival, there’s a whole goldmine of glory going on in the labyrinth of the festival’s two smaller stages: The Avalanche and The Dogtooth.

With the likes of British pop-punk kings NECK DEEP, garage-rock loons THE HIVES, LA-Punk legends BAD RELIGION, djent pioneers TESSERACT, deathcore destroyers THY ART IS MURDER, and progressive-sludge hybrid BARONESS headlining the stages, there’s some big names bringing the noise, but there’s also some names you may not have heard of who you most definitely will wish you had heard of when everyone’s raving about their sets at Download. Here’s a handful of our picks not to miss:

EMPLOYED TO SERVE (Avalanche Stage, Friday)

Self-described as ‘Nasty Hardcore’, Woking’s EMPLOYED TO SERVE pummel your brain with a barrage of post-hardcore littered with infectious grooves, mesmerising tones, and the absolute Gdesolation of your senses from a earth-stomping vocal performance from vocalist JUSTINE JONES. Last year’s The Warmth Of A Dying Sun evolved their raw hardcore sound into an infectious, groove-laden machine without losing the integrity and intensity of their music. They’ve been destroying the live scene, and it’s now their turn to destroy Download.

FFO: CODE ORANGE, ROLO TOMASSI, VENOM PRISON

Listen to: I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away), Good For Nothing

TIGRESS (Avalanche Stage, Saturday)

It might feel like empowering raise-your-fists pop-punk imbued with alt-rock riffs is a been-there, done-that, got-the-t-shirt movement which we should all be getting over by now, but when a band like TIGRESS comes along, you’ve got to hand it to them, it’s brilliant. Picking up from where bands like Tonight Alive and Paramore left off when they took their sounds to islands elsewhere, their debut EP Human was produced by Zippo Encore stage headliner YOU ME AT SIX’s Max Helyer, and was followed by last years Like It Is. Alt-rock riffs groove with pop-punk prowess, giving you the chance to dance, sing, shout, and head-bang as much as you like.

FFO: TONIGHT ALIVE, PARAMORE, COURAGE MY LOVE

Listen to: Alive, Headaches

DREAM STATE (Avalanche Stage, Sunday)

In this day and age, few bands are daring enough to try something entirely new. So it’s a breathe of fresh air mid-way through DREAM STATE’s latest single In This Hell to find vocalist CJ ripping out a post-hardcore scream as a surprise departure from the pomp of their PARAMORE-tinged alt-rock-meets-pop-punk. Post-hardcore pioneers ALEXISONFIRE and alt-rock-via-math-rock flag-bearers MARMOZETS come to mind as complex looping rhythms wrap around your brain whilst interchanging vocals whisper honey into your ears as much as they pound them. With only seven songs under their belts, they’re already playing shows to crowds of a 100+ a night, and if you miss their set, all your mates will truly be laughing at you.

FFO: MARMOZETS, PARAMORE (2006-2009), ALEXISONFIRE

Listen to: In This Hell, Burn Them Down

LOATHE (Dogtooth Stage, Friday)

We’ve raved a lot about LOATHE here at BG, and if you haven’t wised up yet, now’s the time to do so. They sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before mixing progressive metalcore, death metal, nu-metal, mathcore, darkwave synths, big-beats, and orchestral sweeps together to obliterate your mind in a meltdown of your senses as the guttural and beautiful combine. Throw in a choose-your-own-adventure-styled conceptual debut – last year’s The Cold Sun – and a soaring white hot split-EP with HOLDING ABSENSE  – this year’s This Is As One – as well as a live show only the likes of the now-defunct-albeit-legendary THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN could pull off, and you’ve got a band who are well and truly going to cause chaos in the future.

FFO: THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, ARCHITECTS, SLIPKNOT

Listen to: It’s Yours, Servant & Master

SLEEP TOKEN (Dogtooth Stage, Saturday)

United by their worship of ancient deity dubbed ‘Sleep’, who once held great power by bestowing ancient civilisations with the gift of dreams and the curse of nightmares, SLEEP TOKEN are a masked, anonymous collective of musicians who create music that brings to the force our most submerged thoughts and feelings through genre-bending sounds as far-reaching as synth-led pianos, mournful folky vocals, fuzzy guitars, MESHUGGAH-like heaviness, and atmospherics that’ll lull you into a coma of sleep. SLEEP TOKEN aren’t making metal music, but they’re making music that is metal. If you want to discover one of the most captivating, complexing, and compelling bands on this year’s line-up, do not miss these cult-like beings.

FFO: SKYHARBOR, BLACK PEAKS, CALIGULA’S HORSE

Listen to: Calcutta, Jericho

ZEAL & ARDOR (Dogtooth Stage, Sunday)

If you’ve ever sat and wondered what it would be like if someone were to take the beauty and soul of gospel and blues and paint it in the bleakness of black metal, then wonder no longer for ZEAL & ARDOR are here to do just that. Debut Devil Is Fine captivated audiences with its mixture of musical vibes, and this years’ upcoming Stranger Fruit is set to further confuse and compel us. If you’re looking for a set at Download that is as spiritual as it is special, this is it.

Listen to: Gravedigger’s Chant, Devil Is Fine

 

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