The Biggest Headliners At Download Festival

The Download Festival in Donnington is the biggest rock festival in all of England. Created as a successor to the Monsters of Rock festivals, Download Festival strives to connect fans of rock music with the bands that they love most. The festival has allowed many up-and-coming bands to take the stage, and a variety of rock legends have played there as well. There’s a reason that so many fans never miss a year! While there have been many amazing headliners over the years, here are just a few of the biggest ones that Download has seen.


Iron Maiden

The first year of Download, the festival’s organizers didn’t choose just any band to be their headliner: they booked one of the most impressive rock acts of all time, Iron Maiden. While Maiden had to share some of the glory with other great bands in the first year, they still put on an incredible show. Iron Maiden went on to headline the festival again in 2013, and they are scheduled to return once more in 2020.

Iron Maiden had a history with Download even before the festival began; they were regular headlines at Monsters of Rock. Playing at Download was a way for the band to continue their legacy.


Metallica volunteered to be the second headliner for the 2003 Download festival after Limp Bizkit dropped out, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out. Still, they shocked fans by playing an unannounced show on the second stage on the fest’s final day. The audience was thrilled to see Metallica, and even more excited to be surprised.

Since then, Metallica have headlined Download a couple of times, including the 2006 festival, where they played the album Master of Puppets from start to finish, and in 2012. To this day, Metallica are strongly associated with Download, having given some of their best-ever live performances on the Download stages.

Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses were a controversial Download headliner back in 2006. During a set, some fans threw bottles at the band while they were playing, one of which hit bassist Tommy Stinson. Axl Rose also slipped and fell on the stage. However, none of this seemed to deter the band while they were playing. In fact, Rose remarked that he was having “quite a good time.”

They returned to Download to play again in 2018 and had a less eventful performance. Over the years Guns N’ Roses t-shirts have proven quite popular with fans and the band has even inspired online slot games that people can gamble on such as the Guns N’ Roses slot game from

Black Sabbath

Metal fans were thrilled to see Black Sabbath take the Download stage in 2005. They played on the main stage on Saturday, where acts like HIM, Velvet Revolver, and Anthrax also performed. Black Sabbath went on to headline Download again in 2012, when they closed down the event on the final night.

Black Sabbath’s performances at Download haven’t been tinged in controversy like those of some of the other bands that have played there, but fans seem to agree that their performances have been spectacular. Many have campaigned for Black Sabbath to return to the Download stage again for future events despite the band claiming they won’t be performing any more shows.

Def Leppard

This band has headlined Download three times, and every performance has been one to see. One of their most popular performances took place in 2019 — a year where heavy rains scared many fans away from the festival — that saw the band play the classic album Hysteria from start to finish.

Def Leppard clearly love playing at Download, and fans expect them to return to the stage at some point in the future. They consistently deliver high-energy performances that no one wants to miss. They’re one of several music acts that are strongly associated with the festival.


German band Rammstein first played the Download festival in 2013. Their performance was a huge hit, and they went on to return in 2016. Rammstein have also played Download festivals outside of the U.K. as well, having headlined France’s Download in 2015.

Rammstein are known for their incredible live performances that feature endless special effects and pyrotechnics, and they didn’t disappoint when they played at Download, giving memorable performances both times. Many fans have asked for Rammstein to return to Download and play the festival again.

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