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Here’s Who We Want To Headline Download Festival 2017

You’ve heard the rumours – but these are the bands we want to see headlining Download 2017

The first official Download 2017 line-up announcement is due at 7pm tonight. We’ve looked at the rumours flying around (will it be Guns N’ Roses? Metallica? Bring Me The Horizon?), but now it’s time for us to reveal our fantasy headliners. While we wouldn’t bet the house on all (or frankly any) of them materialising, we’ve given it our best shot. Deep breath, here goes…


Merlin Alderslade (Metal Hammer editor)

Is there an even remotely reasonable shout for a heavy band that could make the step up to headliner status in the UK that isn't Bring Me The Horizon? While their dramatic move away from heavier sounds on That's The Spirit left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans already wary of Horizon's 'metal cred' (we've all since long agreed that Sempiternal is a modern classic though, yes? Good), they are currently packing a stage show easily fit for topping massive bills, and now have a setlist stacked with enough anthems to fill that sacred 90 minute set. Perhaps they'd benefit from some extended time off before returning to make the Big Jump, but it's difficult to see past any other band as a legitimate, fresh contender for that Friday night Download slot.

As for the other bands in the mix, for me, System Of A Down are an obvious choice for that heavier headliner position – but only, and I mean only, on the basis that we finally have a new album from them. There are enough old farts endlessly doing the cash-grab rounds and reeling off the hits right now, and with the absolute shitshow that is Planet Earth 2016 at their disposal for some legitimate, angry inspiration, there's never been a better time for a new System album. Make it happen and prove the naysayers wrong.

Finally, there's the Legends Slot, and it's hard to see past Guns N' Roses as the biggest and most obvious option to see out the Sunday night. It's by a distance the biggest rock reunion of modern times, but will they bother with festivals when they could just smash out a few nights at Wembley Stadium on their own? If that's the case, then perhaps it's finally time for a Green Day or a Foo Fighters to make their debut on Donington's turf.

Anyway, enough of that; we have a new AFI album coming, so here's my annual SOMEBODY PLEASE BOOK AFI THIS SUMMER!!!! plea. Please? Anyone? Please...

Luke Morton (Metal Hammer online editor)

As much as I want Download to take a punt on new bands headlining the festival next year, there are so many rumoured upcoming releases and 'big' bands returning to activity that are too good to pass up. System Of A Down is a key example. After their mind-blowing performance at Wembley Arena last year, seeing them on the main stage at Donington will be a defining moment in the band and festival's history considering the form SOAD are currently on. And if there's a new album in the works, I'm all for it!

Another obvious shout is Tool. After I missed their 2006 headline set (I know, I'm a dickhead), I need to make amends with Maynard James Keenan and co. Their new album surely can't be far away, or it could already be out there in disguise, and they haven't played the UK since 2007, so surely the time is now for the alt-metal titans to return? Even if they play the exact same 10,000 Days set as last time, I'll be happy.

All eyes are on Metallica for festivals this summer, and after headline slots at Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds in their recent UK jaunts, Download is most likely next on the list. But there's another band I'd like to see first... GUNS N' ROSES! Having never ever seen Axl and Slash share the same stage, and being burnt on two occasions with the Axl And Friends version, seeing the LA heroes stroll out at Donington one more time will be a momentous occasion. The first ten rows will either shit themselves or get pregnant, that's how powerful an event it will be.

Of course, I'd also be happy with some of the other names doing the rounds. Bring Me The Horizon are looking ready to step things up a gear, and if Linkin Park fancy following their Hybrid Theory set with a Meteora one-off then that'll suit me just fine. Or how about bringing the Misfits reunion to the UK (although that's more likely to be a second stage headliner slot).

Fraser Lewry (Classic Rock Online Editor)

When Van Halen played at Monsters Of Rock in 1984 I was 18. I remember Dave Lee Roth's ludicrous patter more than I remember the actual music, which was dominated by Alex Van Halen's rattling toms rather than his brother's guitar. Later I bought a cassette bootleg of the show, which was dominated by the sound of some prick in the crowd blasting on a referee's whistle every couple of minutes. Either way, I'd like the sound fixed and be able to witness Van Halen in their full pomp and glory.

They'd need to headline the Saturday night, because Friday and Sunday are both given over to Axl Rose. On opening day he fronts AC/DC, reminding naysayers of what a great replacement he was/is for Beano, but with a fully-healed foot giving him extra bounce. On Saturday Axl rests. And he sticks around until closing day when the new, fearsomely well-drilled version of Guns N' Roses (he's clearly learned a thing or two from rehearsing with Angus) provide a explosive climax. They finish with the Coachella two-fer: Whole Lotta Rosie and Riff Raff, with Angus Young (another long weekend for him) guesting. Fireworks shred the sky, everyone goes home happy.

Clearly this isn't a bill for Axl haters, but we're over that by now, surely?

Eleanor Goodman (Metal Hammer features editor)

Download works best with a mixture of new and veteran headliners – someone fresh to get excited about, and a couple of bands you can rely on to deliver a string of tried-and-tested 'this will definitely sound amazing in a giant dark field' anthems. Bring Me The Horizon surely deserve that newcomer spot. In August 2015, they played right before Metallica at Reading & Leeds festivals, coming out like they had a point to prove: we could do this. During 2016, they've done a string of prestige gigs, including The Royal Albert Hall with an orchestra, following in The Four Horsemen's footsteps by taking metal to Glastonbury, and conquering London's 02 arena. Fuck the haters, it would be awesome. Less controversially, I'd love to see Tool return after a 10-year break from playing in the UK. With their album likely on its way now, they'd bring new songs and a new show, and judging by Maynard's recent London/Manchester Puscifer gigs, he's still on fine, theatrical form. Thirdly, System Of A Down would be epic. They headlined in 2011, and last April's Wembley date proved their songs have aged well, with the likes of B.Y.O.B., Bounce and Toxicity still sounding anthemic, urgent and quirky in 2016. But it would be even better if they brought out the new material that's been rumored for a while. Surely Serj has run out of ideas for solo projects by now? Will he bring influences from Orca Symphony No. 1 or Jazz-Iz-Christ to System's table? Hopefully 2017 holds the answers...

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Polly Glass (Classic Rock Assistant Features Editor)

When the weather is quite as unreliable as it is at Donington (and, let’s face it, this year it was truly godawful) you want headliners to carry you through the cold smiling – to make you glad you came, even when when the rain is turning horizontal.

Rammstein were headliners this year, and while it shouldn’t be too long before Andy Copping brings them back, it won’t be for 2017. Unless, like, EVERYBODY drops out. And yes, if that did happen everyone would moan about how unimaginative the Download committee are, but would it really be so terrible? The simple fact is that Rammstein always deliver an absolute blinder of a show. Theirs is one of the most commanding, pacy live sets in the metal world, and all that fire/heat is damn useful when the elements turn chilly.

Still, after all that industrial weight, pyro and penis canon-fire, we’ll need something a bit shinier. A bit more ‘80s. Alright, a lot more 80s. And who would fit that bill better than Def Leppard? They’ve headlined twice already, so we know they can hack it. Their excellent latest record was their best in years (one of those ‘new albums by classic bands’ you genuinely want to hear, alongside the old stuff). Plus, 2017 is the 30th anniversary of Hysteria. Wall-to-wall bangers pretty much guaranteed. Just imagine singing your heart out on Saturday night to Photograph, Dangerous, Pour Some Sugar On Me etc and try telling me that wouldn’t be the most fun ever.

Thirdly, in total denial of all that’s humanly possible, let’s have AC/DC to close. But with Brian Johnson, miraculously recovered from his ear trouble, back by Angus’s side. And Cliff back on bass for one last hurrah. Fuck it, let’s rewind the clock and bring back Malcolm too, before illness got the better of him. Maybe even raise Bon Scott from the grave for a blast through Highway To Hell… Well, we can dream.

Dave Everley (TeamRock+ Editor)

Putting together a fantasy Download bill? That’s easy. Just get Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC in a field and we’re laughing. Whaddya mean ‘budgets’? You’re just no fun.

Anyway, those bands are way too obvious. Let’s push the boat out here. These are the bands who should be headlining Download 2017*

Day 1: Nightwish. How come no one has mentioned Finland’s finest export since the reindeer burger yet? They were second on the bill to the Mighty Maiden last year, their everything-plus-kitchen-sink approach will fill the Download field, and they have friends in high places (well, notoriously cranky scientist and philosopher Richard Dawkins). Trust me. They’re a winner.

Day 2: Foo Fighters. Anyone who still thinks Dave Grohl is anything other than a true-blue rock’n’roller is a fool. The Foos have more hits-per-square-yard than most of the other no-mark names who have been bandied around (Bring Me The Who?), and Grohl could call in no end of favours from rock star friends like Paul Stanley, Dave Lee Roth and, uh, Cronos from Venom.

Day 3: Rush. One last hurrah before they retire. Of all the old guard, they’re the ones who have never even played Donington in any of its incarnations, which would make it even more special. The fact that a) they don’t normally play festivals, and b) they’re probably already retired may present an obstacle. But they’re still more likely to do it than Van Bleedin’ Halen.

*but probably won’t be.

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