Slipknot close out Download’s 20th birthday party

The masters of chaos ring out the festival's legacy year with an explosive grand finale

As the final night of Download Festival’s 20th anniversary celebration reaches its climax, the air crackles with anticipation for Slipknot’s closing headline set. With fans donning masks and boiler suits despite the blistering heat of the day, it’s the band’s fifth time headlining the festival, and everyone is ready to celebrate.

An explosion rings out as the banner depicting the band’s logo falls behind the stage. The eerie ambiance of instrumental ‘Prelude 3.0’ blasts as the screens around the festival site cut to footage of a collection of mannequins lined up. Each one representing a member of the band, as the casts of their heads begin to explode, Slipknot appear on the stage lit in red hues, surrounded by flames.

Though tonight marks percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan’s return to the band’s line-up after stepping back to care for his family earlier in the year, there’s no time for reintroductions as ‘The Blister Exists’ sparks an explosive opening before newer cuts ‘The Dying Song (Time To Sing)’ and ‘Yen’ command the attention of the audience. Frontman Corey Taylor prowls across the stage surveying the crowd, his unmistakable growls and impassioned screams filling the air despite his early admission that his voice is “a little f*cked up”.

Unleashing a barrage of pure aggression with ‘Psychosocial’, the crowd – now a seething mass of bodies – unleash whatever is left of their weekend’s energy in a display of chaotic unity. Just as they’re catching their breath, Taylor asks, “If you’re 555 I’m…”, “666!” comes the impassioned response, as the frontman instructs turntablist Sid Wilson to lead them into ‘The Heretic Anthem’, with devil horns raised to the sky from the front to the back of the stage.

With the dust settling after a frantic rendition of fan-favourite ‘Eyeless’, Taylor properly addresses the crowd for the first time during the night: “Ladies and gentlemen of Download 2023, it is so good to be home”. Revealing that he placed a bet with the rest of the band that the crowd wouldn’t be as responsive if he didn’t speak for the first few songs he jibes, “I just lost 20 quid you f*cking pricks!” 

Dedicating the occasion to playing some songs they haven’t played in a long time, seldom-performed single ‘Left Behind’ sends shockwaves through the audience before ‘Wait And Bleed’ sparks a fervent mass singalong. Providing a brief respite from the chaos, 2008 ballad ‘Snuff’ gets its first ever play on UK shores, with Taylor’s emotive vocals taking centre stage. 

Deep cut ‘Purity’ also makes an appearance before the violent one-two punch of ‘People = Sh*t’ and ‘Surfacing’ leave a trail of sonic destruction in their wake as Taylor commands the crowd of over 100,000 to raise their middle fingers in the air and sing along. 

As everyone clamours for more, the Iowa metal juggernauts return for an encore that ignites the final flames of chaos with infectious anthem ‘Duality’ as Clown hits a keg with a burning baseball bat. A chaotic performance of ‘Custer’ follows, before Taylor asks the gathered crowd, “Are you ready to go down in history with Slipknot one last time?” A resounding ‘yes’ echoes back, “Then it’s time for all of us here to, spit. it. out!” 

Screaming along with his final three words, Donnington Park erupts as the track sounds out. Pausing before its final moments, the frontman smiles, “Whether you’ve been with us for twenty years or twenty minutes… I think you know what time it is”. With the majority heeding his commands before he’s even made them, the crowd crouches down to the floor before exploding into a frenzy to mark the end of the night.

With tens of thousands of bodies moving in unison, it’s a fitting finale for a night of true community. A band who have called Download Festival their home for many years tonight solidified Slipknot’s status as true masters of chaos, but also served as a testament to the unbreakable bond between the band and their fans. A remarkably special night to round off a weekend of celebration for the festival, as the lights dim and the crowd disperses, the legacy of Slipknot at Donnington Park remains etched in the annals of rock history. 

Earlybird tickets for Download 2024 are on sale now here.