Winter is coming!
Every year Damnation Festival signals the start of the cold season and a trip up to even colder Yorkshire for The Revival’s team. But before the white walkers break through the wall and destroy us all we have the small matter of an all day festival with 27 of the most extreme bands you can think of to feast on.
The 13th edition of the festival opens with Australian brutal death metalers Disentomb. Front man Jord has a down and dirty, guttural vocal sound and my bowels quiver to the sound of the down tuned guitars, slower than a traditional death metal assault but just as aggressive. The Aussies provide a fine start to what will be the most intense musical day of our lives.
Next up on the Terrorizer stage are a band from the Church of Ra collective. Wiegedood, returning to the festival after a few years break, feature members of Oathbreaker and Amenra. Their traditional black metal sound has an added progressive twist, a dark side, an intensity that makes you think, and shiver with fear. They play with an aggression that at times has a more thrash related feel but the intensity of the imagery keeps you on your toes throughout the short half hour.
It is not until mid-afternoon that the Jägermeister main stage does open until with Arkansas’ own Pallbearer
given the honour of kicking off affairs in the main hall.
Touring off the back of the critically acclaimed new album Heartless. The quartet offer a refined doom sound, lighter in feel than traditional doom, mildly sludgy in tone but full of energy and delivering a highly polished set that makes you wonder why they are not higher up in the billing.
Yorkshire’s own Paradise Lost bring their whole family to the festival today. Not only do they play later in the day, but Gregor’s Vallenfyre project and Nick’s Bloodbath are also on the bill. First up in the family trio are the aforementioned Vallenfyre featuring PL guitarist Gregor Mackintosh on lead vocal duty. The death metal super group go on full scale assault from the first note with My Dying Bride’s Hamish Glencross providing ferocious riffing to accompany Mackintosh’s unmissable growl.
Myrkur are surrounded by hype in the industry, their sophomore album, Mareridt, released earlier this year has come under the praise of highly critical acclaim across the board. But can the live show really live up the expectations set before it? The progressive black metal project is the brain child of Amalie Brunn with a plethora of talented musicians helping her deliver the unique sound she has created. The band spend the entire set bathed in a creepy green light with incredibly dark background creating an ambience in which the music can thrive. Terrorising vocals from Brunn compliment the music she has strived to create. A spine-tingling performance that left me wanting more.
Following the maze of corridors and stair ways down for what seems like an eternity I find the Tone Management Stage in the depths of the Leeds University’s basement. Ginger Wildheart readies to take to the stage with his Mutation project. Packed to the rafters, the small room is a buzz, some not knowing what to expect, but the Wildhearts this is not! Thrash and punk sounds melded together by the three piece with Ginger at the helm produces a blend of angst and aggression. Ideally suited to the Damnation Festival line up, if you thought Ginger Wildheart was out of place here you are sadly mistaken.
The doors to the Terrorizer stage are closed long before Nails arrive, the anticipation surrounding this performance means it is a ‘one out one in’ policy in the 1500 capacity room 15 minutes prior to stage time. If you weren’t there early you would miss out! Billed as playing the festival last year before the band mysteriously cancelled their European shows, they made it back this year and the fans are expectant. From the opening note the crowd go mental, literally! The barrier at the front shakes violently as pits form and hundreds of surfers breach the front line. With only a 45 minutes set time, the band are relentlessly and ferociously destroying our senses and leaving us battered and bruised. By far the stand out set of the day, Nails will be back in the summer – I urge you to check them out.
The festival main stage is co headlined by three big units this year, starting with Paradise Lost. Peaking in the late 90’s with Draconian Times and One Second, the band have produced numerous quality albums since, but never seemed to have the draw in the live arena that they did back then. The hour long set is full of melodic doomy goodness, but struggles to get going at times. Highlighted by Enchantment, Embers Fire and finished off with Say Just Words - the only number with any real pace. Somewhat of a come down following on from Nails set, wonderfully dark but could do with an injection of pace, if only they’d add Once Solemn to the set list.
Proving that the Terrorizer stage is really where it is at this year, Dying Fetus take the honours of second best band of the day, finishing closely behind Nails. Modern American death metal done to perfection. Thrashy riffs and an overall down right dirty aura feeds the fans need for that brutal sound they yearn for. Tracks from new album Wrong One to Fuck With slot perfectly into their set, their sound not wavering over the years and giving the punters exactly what they want.
Second co-headliner on the main stage are German thrash icons Sodom, a band you never know what you’re going to get from. Sometimes the live show is wonderful, sometimes you wonder why you turned up. Despite technical issues on the guitar early on the band plough through with the professionalism you would expect. Tom Angelripper has turned up with the intention to slay and that’s exactly what the three piece do. In a performance which equals Sodom at their peak, the hour-long set, fast paced throughout, never fails to please. A magnificent return to form and long may it continue.
I can’t think of many bands who could cope with the pressure of following that Sodom performance, but now to close the festival Swedish death metal super group Bloodbath have to step up. The ensemble, fronted by Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost, take to the stage with each and every member covered in blood. Giving everything from the off, ensuring that all the fans will walk away with just them as the lasting memory of this annual event. Nicks growl of a voca, differing from those he delivers in his other band, help drive a unique sound, but it’s the dual guitars of Nystrom and Eriksson that define the bands direction. Aggressive riffs and throbbing bass, the band power through for a solid hour and show why they were chosen to close out the festivities.
Year on year, Damnation festival grows. From its humble beginnings in a small Manchester venue, it has grown over 13 years to the annual behemoth it is today in Leeds, covering 4 stages and thousands of fans. For me Damnation Festival is the point annually half way between the summer festivals that tides you over quite nicely. The unique line up they offer annual brings a varying set of fans and all of this makes the event what it is. I cannot recommend the festival highly enough and encourage you all to make the trip next year. The best indoor festival on the market and long may it grow from strength to strength.
EXCLUSIVE GALLERY BELOW!