Does Download Festival have the most predictable line-ups? – Predicting the headliners of 2021, 2022… and 2023!

EDIT July 2020: Well, this didn’t age well! I suppose I will have to give this another go next year – Downloads 2022 to 2024!

Today saw the first batch of performers announced for Download Festival 2020, including all three headliners – KISS, Iron Maiden and System of a Down. So quickly, how do I feel about it? First, I am very happy about the acts who are lower on the bill. I was never a huge follower of Deftones, and upon last seeing at Download, I couldn’t help but wonder how they had passed me by. It’ll be great to see them again with more educated ears. As much as I love Koi No Yokan, I admit that I’m shallow enough that I have everything crossed that I’ll get to see them perform ‘Back to School – Mini Maggit’. Somehow, I have kept missing Gojira whenever they come around, so I look forward to finally crossing them off of my list. Needless to say, Alestorm will be great fun. Korn and The Offspring will inevitably be a great nostalgic throwback for skate-punks and nu-metallers of the 1990. Disturbed top this off for me, because they stole the show at my first Download in 2008, where interestingly The Offspring and KISS headlined (and even Jonathan Davis performed a solo set). It’s a fun novelty for me, as 2020 will mark my tenth Download Festival.

However, there is only so long that one can milk nostalgia. That is where things turn a bit awry, and judging from the anguish on social media, I know that I’m not alone. A lot of regular Download goers aren’t impressed with the headliners. They are all great, but they are booked time and time again. This will be Iron Maiden’s fifth, System of a Down’s fourth, and KISS’ third Download headlining performances. Download Festival has been very good at booking up and coming acts (LOVEBITES, The Beaches, The Interrupters and Nova Twins were all great), but there doesn’t seem to be any leeway when it comes to headliners

One obviously has to consider that not everyone at Download Festival is there for the umpteenth time, but enough is enough. If even one legend was to disappear in favour of new acts, some festival goers might be peeved, but it has to happen sooner or later. The last time that a band headlined for the first time was Biffy Clyro in 2017, and before that Muse in 2015. Biffy Clyro had already headlined Sonisphere Festival in 2013, and Muse had headlined festivals worldwide and sold-out stadiums several times over, so neither seemed to be a big gamble. As there’s no one new on the top of this year’s bill, it will have been at least four years before a new headliner arrives, assuming one does in 2021 (more on that in a moment).

Muse at Download 2015. (Photo by Richard Johnson)

It is for this reason that I’ve decided to do a little experiment, although I’ll presumably forget to check whether I was correct by the time that we know the result. The festival has a habit of a cycle of acts who reemerge every three or four years. So… can we guess who will be seeing over the next three years?


Biffy Clyro

BIFFY CLYRO: They have performed at Download Festival six times, and headlined for the first time in 2017. They will be back. Biffy’s album frequency has been very infrequent over the years, but their touring still have a recurring pattern – unlike other bands who save the festival circuit for the end of an album’s era, they tour the festivals every year. There is no way that their return won’t be a headline performance. Their next album will be their first in at least four years, so will be eagerly anticipated, and presumably their third number one. They took no issue to headlining Download one year after the release of Ellipsis, so I expect them to do the same in 2021.

Queens of the Stone Age

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: Deviating from past bookings, but no more adventurous are QOTSA. They have performed at Download Festival just once – second on the bill in 2013, only fittingly behind Iron Maiden. They are due to announce their next album later this year, the summer of 2021 seems like an appropriate time to be touring the festival circuit. Given that they headlined Reading/Leeds in 2017, and they pretty headlined their own festival in Finsbury Park in 2019, there is no way that they won’t top the bill of any festival that they appear at from here forth. Download seems like a worthy candidate for their return to the UK.


METALLICA: Can you believe that it has been nine years since Metallica last performed at Download? Well, it hasn’t been, but it will be in 2021. They are apparently already toying in the studio with their next album. However, bearing in mind the eight year gap between Death Magnetic (2008) and Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016), fans could be waiting for a while. In that gap they performed several tours that weren’t attached to either album. One of these was a twentieth anniversary of their self-titled ‘Black Album’. I predict that they will perform a twenty-fifth anniversary tour of Master of Puppets.


Rammstein (Photo by Kreepin Death)

RAMMSTEIN: They have performed at Download Festival twice, both of which were obviously headlining shows, most recently in 2016. A lot of people assumed that Rammstein would be at Download 2020 having spotted a very convenient gap in their tour dates. It became apparent that this wouldn’t be the case when the nature of their stadium tour, taking their own stage from show to show, would not suit a festival stage. An entirely new show will need to be constructed for a festival circuit. While it is possible that this will be done, one also has to consider that Rammstein have not taken their latest tour outside of Europe yet. Though they performed a few scattered US shows in 2017, they haven’t actually toured the US since 2012. I am going to take the plunge and say that they will do this before they head to the festivals, therefore prolonging Download goers’ agony a bit longer.

Bring Me the Horizon

BRING ME THE HORIZON: Yes. I said that. Bring Me the Horizon’s 2014 set has gone down in Download Festival folklore as a disaster. Calling your audience “cunts” for not being as mobile as your ego would hope isn’t going to get you anywhere, and will even silence the barrage of squealing girls. However, this will be eight years ago, and since then their music has change substantially, they have shot up the charts and have received critical acclaim. Download Festival has taken the plunge on an infrequent basis slightly lower down, with Chase & Status and Die Antwoord appearing second on the bill, but as BMTH are on such a roll, one can only assume that they will be pushed to the top. If their next album is as big a success as Amo was, they will be at a similar chart status as Biffy Clyro when they first headlined. A very rare example of a legend being displaced by someone new, like them or not. This isn’t just some wildcard guess – it will happen sooner or later. While I imagine that it will cause upset in a similar vein to what A7X caused, but if they bring a flashy enough show with them, many might forgot the problem.

Black Sabbath (Photo from Big Beaver Diaries)

BLACK SABBATH: Even if only in jest, Ozzy has said he’d like to perform at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. If he’s up for that (who knows?), he might be up for this. Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne have headlined several times. Most recently was a solo set by Ozzy in 2018. Even though he will be ending his No More Tours II tour in mid-2020, he has stated that he will still be open to performing one-off shows. Both he and Tony Iommi have stated that Black Sabbath might not be over, and have also stated that one-off Sabbath shows might not be out of the question. As it was just two years between Black Sabbath’s last show at Download (2016) and Ozzy’s next (2018), I doubt that there will be any hesitance in booking them given the opportunity.

AND… 2023?!

Avenged Sevenfold

AVENGED SEVENFOLD: They have performed at Download Festival four times, and headlined twice, last in 2018. A7X have long been a controversial booking. In 2014, Download goers weren’t convinced that they fit the bill, even though they had their first number one album in both the US and UK (2013’s Hail to the King). Their second headlining show came two years after the release of an album that didn’t sell nearly as well an album that didn’t sell nearly as well (2016’s The Chase). Still, they’ll be back. They are currently working on what will be their first album in at least five years. If they release that album in 2021, and they are on the festival circuit two years later, this is perfect timing. They had solidified their status as a worthy of being a headliner, and due to the anticipation for the next album, I assume that it will chart better than their last, keeping them in the radar.

System of a Down

SYSTEM OF A DOWN: It will only be three years since they performed “all the way back in 2020”. They’ll do it again. And no, they still won’t have released any new material.

SLIPKNOT: They’re back every three or four years to remind us that Donington is their second home. It just will be, won’t it?

What are your guesses? Post in the comments below.

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