Every single year a new band gets raised up to headliner status and every year some fucking keyboard warrior complains about it. Over the years at Download we’ve seen the likes of Audioslave, Linkin Park (the first time), Tool, My Chemical Romance, Slipknot, The Prodigy and Rammstein have all been bumped up to main stage headline status. Most of which is usually met with cries of ‘Oh, they aren’t ready’ or ‘They can’t do it’ or some such bullshit. This year saw Avenged Sevenfold throw their names into the proverbial hat and give headlining a shot, and once again the message boards lit up with angry nerds going mental, but little did they know what Avenged Sevenfold had up their sleeves.

As the massive curtain covering the main stage drops and the sheer spectacle of the Avenged Sevenfold stage is showcased for the first time, tens of thousands of jaws drop in unison. To clarify, the band has a giant church scene, complete with video screens in place of stain glass windows and a massive skeleton king that pops up periodically, and enough pyro and fireworks to go to war with a small country, yeah….

But aside from the sheer spectacle of their set, the band’s setlist itself is something of an Avenged fans wet dream. Opening with a gargantuan sounding ‘Shepherd of Fire’ from their most recent album “Hail to the King,” which sounds a lot better live than it does on record and is a stunning opening salvo. Similarly, the other two “Hail to the King” cuts ‘Hail to the King’ and ‘This Means War’ sound better live than on album, garnering huge crowd support.

The rest of the band’s set, sees them wheel out what is effectively a greatest hits set at this point, and showcases what a fine band Avenged Sevenfold have become in the ten years since the release of their breakthrough album ‘Waking the Fallen.’ It’s amazing how huge tracks like ‘Bat Country’, ‘Critical Acclaim’ and a particular brilliant rendition of ‘Beast & the Harlot’ all sound tonight, big shout out to ‘Nightmare’ as well, which gets the whole field shouting “It’s your fucking nightmare!!”

There was a moment during the band’s set, somewhere in the middle, where they address the absence of fallen drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, before playing ‘So Far away’ which is incredibly touching and left me in tears. The band goes one step further during their second encore when they play ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ a track penned entirely by ‘The Rev‘ which absolutely tears the house down and causes everyone in the field to lose their collective shit.

Long story short, Avenged Sevenfold completely rose to the occasion and showed the entire world that they are one the best of the new generation, and a band that is completely capable of slaying festivals the world over, having successfully dominated their first headline slot with ease. Each member looking every inch the star they are, and perfectly showcasing a master class of a live show to boot. Make no mistake about it, Avenged Sevenfold are a world-class, world-beating, festival headline band, who are going to take over the entire world in the next couple of years. You’ve been warned.

Avenged Sevenfold on Facebook

Download Festival – Official Website

Photo credit: Danny North