BMTH deliver three-headed devil dogs, superstar cameos and a new 2024 tour announcement as they finally take the headline slot
Ask any heavy music fan and they’ll tell you it’s been on the cards for some time now, but Bring Me The Horizon are now, at last, Download headliners.
Closing out the festival’s Friday night, they’ve never been a band to deal in half measures. The stage is adorned with red curtains and staircases, backdropped by a projection of a cathedral and satanic imagery. As the lights dim, a video appears depicting an AI representative of a seemingly benevolent company with dark intentions. A recurring presence throughout the band’s performance under the Projekt: Kingslayer guise, the robotic voice welcomes the audience to the ‘Bring Me The Horizon Post-Human Experience’ before questioning, “So, do you want to start a cult with me?”
The screen cuts to a pre-recorded video of the band as frontman Oli Sykes warns of the dangers of the company, “Download, you need to get the f*ck out of here right now, you’re not safe – you’ve been warned.”
With the warnings delivered, the battle begins, as recently released single ‘AmEN!’ kickstarts the spectacle. Sykes’ vocals are the strongest they’ve ever sounded, and he commands the crowd with a distinct northern charm. Mocking the size of the rapidly forming mosh pits and egging the fervent fans on to “push it back”, he grins between blood curdling screams as the crowd become caught in his trance.
With fan-favourite cuts ‘The House of Wolves’ and ‘MANTRA’ making early appearances, a brief interlude from the AI – named E.V.E.L – results in a three-headed dog bursting through the cathedral doors behind the band. It’s a remarkable visual feat, but as Sykes laughs after a ferocious performance of ‘Dear Diary,’, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.
A band set on constantly pushing the boundaries of their own greatness, ‘Parasite Eve’ sees creatures take to the stage on four-legged stilts, whilst their performance of ‘Shadow Moses’ is backdropped by a snow-capped cathedral as a red ‘Sempiternal’ logo shines in the sky. Even the night’s special guests are intertwined with the ongoing apocalyptic storyline, with NOVA TWINS joining the band for ‘1×1’ before a hooded figure is revealed to be Amy Lee of Evanescence, dueting with Sykes on a hauntingly stunning rendition of ‘One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death’.
With the Projekt: Kingslayer storyline still unfolding, a battle takes place in the background of the band’s energetic performance of ‘Kingslayer’, as Sykes delivers some of most powerful vocal work of the night before slowing down the pace. “Let’s make this look like a Bon Jovi concert,” he remarks as lighters and phone torches are raised and people get up on one another’s shoulders for a delicate performance of 2015 track ‘Follow You’.
Closing the night with the one-two punch of ‘Drown’ and ‘Throne’, igniting mosh pits that swallow the ground beneath them, Sykes walks along the barrier of assembled fans – delivering high-fives along his way. “I’m so sorry that this is it, I wanna stay all night,” he smiles as he introduces the band’s final song. “You don’t understand how much this means to us; I will never forget this moment.”
As balloons fly out from the stage and the band lead Download Festival in a final singalong to ‘Can You Feel My Heart?’, it’s clear that Bring Me The Horizon were always destined to be in this position. A testament to their evolution and their mission to push the boundaries of heavy music, what they brought to Donnington Park was so much more than a metal show.
A transformative experience and a visual spectacle beyond belief, to say Bring Me The Horizon are one of the best live bands in the UK right now feels like a gross understatement, and as tens of thousands of festival-goers leave their jaws on the floor in front of the stage – it’s certainly one for the history books.
Photo credits: Marie Ladisch