Download preview: Rock to expect

In less then a week from now Satan takes a weekend off, leaving the hell's gates open for the monsters of rock to storm Download Festival.

Here's an idea of what to expect and who to see at Donington – and if you haven't got a ticket, we suggest you read 'til the very end..

Now in its fifth year, Download Festival has quickly emerged as the undisputed highlight of the British rock calendar. An annual gathering that will see close to 80,000 fans descend on the legendary Donington Park in the East Midlands to witness three days of bruising hardcore, metal and outright dirty rock'n'roll. It's not all about the music though. Away from the three main stages festival goers can watch films at its cinema, take a ride on their choice of fairground attractions, shop at the abundance of market stalls or even watch professional BMX stunt riders at the bike ramp.

Big guns like Metallica, Guns 'N Roses, System Of A Down, Slipknot and Tool may well have helped shape an illustrious legacy for the festival despite its short history, but there's little doubt that the 2007 vintage is one of the strongest yet. Headlined by veteran Brit metallers Iron Maiden, New Jersey emo hotshots My Chemical Romance and nu-metal survivors Linkin Park, those names alone show that Download is a festival that's unafraid of mixing up the best of old and new.

This year has also seen organisers paying a fitting tribute to late Pantera/Damage Plan axeman Dimebag Darrell by naming the second stage after him. Recognising the fact that Download helps nurture new acts and yet also manages to bring together some of the very biggest names in rock today, Virtual Festivals has put together a list of 20 Must See Bands of Download 2007.

30 Seconds To Mars
As with all bands that have a frontperson with an already existing celebrity status, it is easy to be sceptical about their integrity and talent. However, Jared Leto is already impressing the critics with his performances in this hardcore meets softcore band! The kids will love it and there is guaranteed to be some full on crowd interaction which Leto is infamous for! Nosebleeds aplenty…

The Answer
The Answer
are Ireland's answer to Led Zeppelin mixed with Thin Lizzy. God knows why it's taken them so long to have made the impact that they should have by now, but at least this year, another appearance gives them another chance to hit the big time. It's impossible not to get caught up in this bands live enigma, and once you see them you'll forever be hooked by the 70's fusion of soul and Black Crowes-esque revival rock. This will be a band that everyone talks about after having accidentally stumbled upon half baked!

Veterans of good time rock'n'roll, Buckcherry top a successful year off after having stormed the UK with fellow pioneers, Sweden's Backyard Babies.
Having had somewhat of a revival after a quiet few years, they are back, stronger than ever, riding the wave of the impressive comeback album '15'. Soul laden vocals and blues riffs have earnt lead singer Josh Todd, comparisons to Steven Tyler, which is quite a mighty claim to make. Fortunately, they more than live up to the hype and when showcased live, are a force to be reckoned with.

Enter Shikari
Enter Shikari
are a phenomenon. From becoming only the second unsigned act to sell out London's legendary Astoria venue to turning down a host of desperate major labels to put out their debut album 'Take to the Skies' on their own label earlier this year, Enter Shikari are the ultimate MySpace generation band. Best caught in the live environment with their sets awash with lasers, glow sticks and stunning light displays, their late appearance on the Dimebag Darrell stage could be something very special indeed.

The only other new band to come anywhere close to rivalling Enter Shikari in terms of column inches this year are Watford bruisers Gallows. An altogether different proposition, Gallows specialise in a brand of in-your-face hardcore-punk that hasn't been seen since the glorious days of Black Flag. After recently inking a deal with Warner Bros, Download will be one of the last time fans can see them for a while before they set about wooing the US with a lengthy spell on the Warped Tour.

Hardcore Superstar
Hardcore Superstar
make a rare UK festival appearance, representing their brand of native Swedish glam rock that Scandinavians seem to have nailed more so than anyone else. No doubt their infectious energy and storming stage presence will awaken unfamiliar ears and show them what all the fuss is about. A post millennial AC/DC for this generation, loud , hard, fast and relentless. Definitely believe the hype.

Hayseed Dixie
And now for something completely different. Since forming back in 2000, Hayseed Dixie have gone on to win over thousands of fans on both sides of the Atlantic with their unique takes on rock'n'roll classics. Yes, a covers band but not as you know it. Hayseed Dixie tackle everyone from AC/DC, Queen to the Scissor Sisters in their own Hillbilly style that simply has to be seen to be believed.

Head Automatica
Head Automatica
are a darling band, destined to attract a huge, loyal crowd to which they will churn out hit after hit. Catchy, melodic hooks ensure that they're exposure has been immense and yes in a great sense, they could be classified as a generic teen scene emo band, but they are so much more! This is the greatest pop-rock you will see in this years line up.

Job For A Cowboy
Job For A Cowboy
are living proof that MySpace isn't just good for churning out cookie-cutter emo bands. Having been the talk of the internet for months, Job For A Cowboy lived up to the incredible hype surrounding them when they recently dropped their new album, 'Genesis', which provides a spectacular lesson in modern grind and death metal. Having been booked before all the dust had been kicked up around them, expect a ludicrously packed out tent for their performance.

Lamb Of God
Regarded by many in metal circles as the rightful heirs to the thrones of Slayer and Metallica, Grammy-nominated five-piece Lamb Of God had one hell of a 2006. Not only did they have the outright gall to repeatedly steal the show from Slayer on the Unholy Alliance tour but they also produced their greatest work to date with their 'Sacrament' release. Not bad at all for a band who've been around for close to two decades now.

Machine Head
Machine Head
were wrote off by many following their 2001 flop 'Supercharger', but its 2003 follow up showed that their was still some life in the old dog yet. However nothing prepared the metal world for this year's stunning 'The Blackening' album which is being widely hailed as their finest work since their legendary debut. Back on the main stage where they rightly belong, Machine Head will surely use Download to show that they're fully revitalised and back to their very best.

Marilyn Manson
Looking to put his recent well publicised martial woes behind him, Marilyn Manson will be aiming to remind rock fans at Download that he's still as vital as ever with a long overdue UK performance. Rising above the obvious shock rock antics, Marilyn Manson shows are renowned for their spectacular theatrics and elaborate stage productions, and with new album 'Eat Me, Drink Me' due out the same week as the festival, expect some new and exclusive tracks to go alongside the rock club staples.

Arguably the finest metal band in the world today, Mastodon left many a British rock fan with their mouth ajar in sheer wonder following their Spring tour. As technically mesmerising as they are heavy, with their prog-rock tendencies, long instrumental interludes and jazz-infused drumming, Mastodon are conclusive evidence on the contrary to anyone who still maintains metal is still the sole preserve of knuckle-dragging neanderthals. Prepare to be amazed.

Motley Crue
Motley Crue
make their Download debut with all original members still remarkably live, well and ready to kickstart some hearts! (excuse the pun!) Mick Mars, legendary bass player with degenerative bone disease will be championed like the legend he is for still managing to sound as good off record as he did twenty years ago, and indeed on 'The Carnival Of Sins Tour'! Will Vince still be looking as trim and nip tucked fresh from his MTV reality TV show? Will Nikki's hair still be indestructible? Will Tommy have his titty cam? Will Pam make an appearance? And most importantly, just how did they manage to stay alive and look this good into their 40's? An absolutely untouchable, staple band that everyone is there to see. Wouldn't miss this for the world!

My Chemical Romance
If there's one line-up announcement that's caused controversy at this year's Download it's that of Friday night headliners My Chemical Romance. Despite their 'Welcome to the Black Parade' opus making them household names around the world, few bands, if any, polarise the opinion of rock fans as much as New Jersey's My Chemical Romance. Bottled heavily at both Reading and Leeds last year, their reception at Download 2007 could well be even more hostile.

My Vitriol
Having taken a considerable absence from the UK scene, this band will be warmly welcomed back for their atmospheric, layered rock which can only be described as nothing short of beautiful. With tinges of 90's inspired My Bloody Valentine, with harmonies adding to the ambience. 'Finelines' was a massive album back in the day. It will certainly be interesting to see if they are still as mesmerising today and if newer material is as moving.

Satellite Party
Satellite Party
have nothing to prove, considering how much of a legend Perry Farrell is. This is merely a fabulous excuse for an already magnificent peacock to display his feathers and toast an eager crowd.

True legends of the metal world, many fans with be going to Download for Slayer and Slayer alone. Widely credited as being one of the front runners of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands along with Megadeth, Metallica, and Anthrax, despite the fact that they're approaching their third decade together, there's still little evidence on offer to suggest their tank is anywhere near running dry just yet.

Velvet Revolver
Having stormed the main stage two years previously on the strength of hit album, the mighty 'Contraband' VR have a lot to live up to.
A lot of expectation is dependant upon this set in the shadow of such strong deliverance last time they hit the UK, not to mention the mystery that surrounds the new material. Forthcoming album 'Libertad' is to be released this Summer so hopefully more than a few treats will be in store regarding these fiercely protected tracks. Essentially, this is a band that have always thrived and succeeded based on controversy and divided press and public opinion, so prepare to be blown away by the one and only Slash and Weiland's snake hips!

The Zico Chain
Despite being just a three piece and a relatively new one at that in terms of longevity, The Zico Chain already have quite a reputation for being the loudest, ballsiest new kids on the block! Recent exposure for Metal Hammer's 'Get In The Ring' has seen their popularity sky rocket and for good reason. Their roots are firmly carved in being an above par live act, and their recent experiences recording with the finest LA producers only confirms this. Having toured with a wide variety of bands including Wolfmother, they should draw an equally as eclectic crowd.

Right, you're really going to thank yourself for reading through all that – here's the bounty. Tuborg, the official beer of Download, is offering three Virtual Festivals readers a pair of VIP weekend tickets to the festival. All you need to do is email stating the name of the band, picked out by us as a must see, which includes the guitarist Slash. Just write the name of the band in the subject box. First three entries win. Easy. 

Download Festival takes place at Donington Park, Leicestershire, from 8-10 June.