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This year’s surprise reformations were System Of A Down who came back to headline after a six year hiatus, and The Darkness reforming and performing at Download for the first time since 2003. The Classic Rock day made a move from Sunday to Friday with Def Leppard returning to top the bill for the opening night over such luminaries as Black Stone Cherry, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, Alter Bridge and a reinvigorated Thin Lizzy featuring former The Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick filling Phil Lynott's shoes. Avenged Sevenfold, Skunk Anansie and Down gloried in the sun, with Bullet For My Valentine, Disturbed and Bowling For Soup having to contend with less than favourable conditions.

One of the main stage highlights of 2011 was undoubtably Skindred with Benji Webbe leading a full arena in robot dancing and introducing the world to The Newport Helicopter. Having said that. overshadowing them all steward 836 threw the horns when patrolling the front of stage area getting so many YouTube hits that he was rewarded with his own entry on the Download Festival website artist pages!

2011 was a classic year for the second stage too. Legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper brought his Theatre Of Death to Download, ably supported by Twisted Sister, Cheap Trick and Mr Big. Sunday saw the hotly anticipated arrival of Rob Zombie who brought his full stage show - burning robots and all - following on from The Cult's sing along selection of hits. Turisas got painted up and ready for war though the award for the most outrageous set of the weekend must be the irrepressible GWAR! The present was represented on the Friday by Pendulum, Korn and Bring Me The Horizon.

There was no shortage of big hitters on the Third Stage this year either - with Danzig, Funeral For A Friend and Frank Turner all taking top spots. Times Of Grace, Evile and Hell rocked the house with a solid slab of riffs while Letlive's vocalist took to the stage via the audience - unfortunately no one had told security and mayhem ensued!  But the band to see were the ethereal Ghost. Modestep, Dangerous! and H.E.A.T topped the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage with such diverse attractions as OAF, Dripback, October File and Illuminatus to fill the day.

The Jaegermeister Acoustic stage was back again with such treats such as Bowling For Soup and Skindred, as well as Maiden United proving that you can play Iron Maiden covers acoustically! Hyro Da Hero made his third appearance of the weekend here too, breaking the record for the number of appearances at a single Download.

Corey Watch: Corey misses Download for the second time! Once more and tt'll be detention.

Forum View: Fallen Fate returned for the Boardie BBQ and even brought guest vocalist Sy Keeler from Onslaught, while the Takeover saw DJ Soundwave return and another rammed tent rocking to Nya, Bull-Riff Stampede, Stone Circle and Aceldama.
Did you Know?

Black Stone Cherry almost didn’t make it on to the stage for their Download 2011 set thanks to a hiccup with their transport to Donington. They made it to the Arena just in time, performing songs from their new album, and a storming cover of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep.

Black Veil Brides were giving out their very own BVB cupcakes to all the journos backstage during the festival. More of thaty in 2012 please!

Words by Phil Hull (HullHellHalifax)