It’s here, its finally here. The familiarity of the northern chill in Leeds paired with thousands of metal fans who make their way to Leeds university in what has become a ‘diehards’ yearly tradition that shows no sign of ending any time soon. It’s a beautiful feeling for those that have become the festivals regulars.
There is an array of bands playing on this day that bring the absolute best to the four stages that remain consistently packed throughout the day right from the word go. A little too packed some might say with stages that are hard to get into, corridors experiencing some bottlenecking issues as fans frantically try to navigate from one stage to the other in order to see as many bands as they want and security guys who, at times are a little confused. That being said, everything except the latter is a good problem to have for the
festival organisers but one can’t help but feel the sheer awesomeness of the festival may have outgrown its long-term home. Those small issues aside, nothing, we mean nothing can take away from the quality of the bands across the day and it all begins for us with Svalbard.
The band are crushing and what a start to the day. The terrorizer stage is instantly packed for the band as they make their way through their set. Its an incredible sight to see so many people so early on for the band and its only a sign of things to come as all knobs are turned to full as the day goes on. More people, more music, more everything (including a gloriously hot pasty for lunch which is always nice)
Two bands we were eager to see kick things off on the main stage included Hark who really did explode onto the main stage and welcome in the throngs of folks who were still making their way into the venue. Regardless of if you intended to watch the band or just couldn’t get into the other stages, those in attendance were given a treat that showed no signs of letting up as the beginning of the end starts with Hang The Bastards very last show. It’s a sad occasion but what a send off for the guys who played to a full room of those hoping to catch the bands history making final performance. Bon voyage guys! It was an absolute pleasure to have shared the moment with you.
We like to say that we watched one of our favourites at the moment, Darkher, but we ended up listening to them outside of the stages doors as we couldn’t get in. That being said, nothing made us happier to not only hear them playing on form as usual but to see just how many people turned up to see them. They’re a band that absolutely deserves such crowds and they got just that! A band we did manage to see unintentionally however was over on the Terrorizer stage. Venom Prison didn’t take too long to turn the area into a bit of a warzone. The welsh death metallers were a stunning fit for the stage and were a treat for the fans, some of which come to the festival purely for that stage. The band are as brutal as can be and rip through a set like its nothing to them. Consider the death metal fans in the room more than appeased.
At this point it feels like we are at full capacity as fans make their way to the main stage for the first of three
whopping headlining acts and it all begins with the mighty Cult Of Luna. Of course if you had read our preview article you’d know this isn’t just any old Cult Of Luna, this is the band playing their 2016 masterpiece ‘Mariner’ live and in full with Julie Christmas. A visual display of a back lit band with many strobes treat the fans as the band powers through the album and one thing must be said. These songs are even more epic live. It’s a larger than life sounding show of biblical proportions and one that those in attendance are not likely to forget. Things got from red hot to icy cold quickly as Abbath takes to the stage. A UK exclusive treat for the Black Metal fans did not disappoint. The tracks ‘Warriors’ and ‘Winterbane’ in particular are standout on this set with Abbath being his usual weird self on stage. We couldn’t help but feel that after Cult Of Luna we had seen the best the day had to offer but if there without a doubt, Abbath’s set came out swinging and did not fall short at all.
Of course the day is drawing to a close. The hustle and bustle of the venues hallways continues and much to the dismay of all in attendance, the realisation that damnation Festival is done for another year starts to set in. But if things have to end here, then the festival organisers have ensured that it ends on a seriously heavy note. Enter Electric Wizard who finish things off nicely on a dimly lit main stage with their slow and heavy music. There’s a quite obvious smell that fills the air as the band makes their way through ‘Witchcult Today’, Blackmass’ and ‘Return Trip’ just to name a few it’s a good strong finish to what has been to another successful year.
Damnation festival 2016 continues to exceed expectations every year in what has become an important part of the UK music scene. Something that started all them years ago has become a monster and whilst we feel the festival may have outgrown its current venue choice, we can’t wait to see how the festival organisers top themselves yet again next year.
Photos courtesy of Tim Finch. Be sure to check out his work further HERE