Damnation Festival 2008 – Leeds University, UK

December 18th, 2008
by Hanntu

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DAMNATION FESTIVAL

22nd November 2008

Leeds University, UK

All live pics and review by HannTu


The Damnation Festival has a proud history of serving up quality metal to metalheads in the British Isles for quite a few years now. It has come from humble beginnings to currently span three indoor stages, and attracting big names in metal as well as breaking newer independent bands is its aim. Mille Petrozza of Kreator called it right, he said that “this isn’t a festival for scenes and trends”. Indeed, and with this year’s varied line-up, ranging from Carcass to My Dying Bride to Berserker to Sigh, there was something in it for everyone.

Red Mist


We kicked off with the youngsters from Exeter, Red Mist, on the Terrorizer stage. They played an impassioned set of deathcore metal with the tiniest dash of melodic DM thrown in. The music isn’t anything you haven’t heard before to be honest, but the guys play hard and they play well: GibbZy in particular, their vocalist, bounces around the stage like a helium filled wrecking ball. Inciting the meagre crowd, still trickling in from the mile-long line outside in the cold, proves to be slightly harder, but the 10-man pit puts a smile on the band’s collective faces. Great way to kick off Damnation 2008!

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Onslaught

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The veteran thrashers from Bristol remain one of my favourite live bands to watch; they just bring a smile to the faces of those fans watching them, and there were many of these fans packing the Jagermeister stage!

I’d seen them twice before with guitarist Alan Jordan, so the mop-topped bundle of fun was dearly missed (he couldn’t commit to touring, fair play to him). Thankfully his replacement Andy Rosser-Davies stepped up and totally rocked out. Unfortunately they seemed plagued with sound problems, which is never a good thing when you’re recording a live album. That’s right, fans can look forward to a Live in Leeds album, hopefully soon-ish!

 

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The band was their usual intense self, with frontman Sy Keeler in commanding form. His screams need to be heard to be believed – ear splitting doesn’t even begin to describe them. The band sounded really organic and natural, and getting the crowd to yell “Burn! Burn! Burn!” never fails to excite.

Unsurprisingly the setlist is made up of numbers from KILLING PEACE, their latest and 1986’s classic THE FORCE. To tell you the truth, I expected nothing less than utter mayhem from ‘The Slaught’ and they delivered the goods. One of the best comeback stories in the past few years, and the story ain’t over yet. Fucking good news is what I say!

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Setlist

Killing Peace

Let There Be Death

Destroyer Of Worlds

Metal Forces

Seeds Of Hate

Demoniac

Burn

Onslaught (Power from Hell)

 

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Sigh

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I never know how to categorise Sigh, so I’ll let you listen and decide for yourselves. They haven’t been to the UK for 13 years apparently, and that’s way too long for a band of Sigh’s stature. Japan’s favourite black metallers have a surprisingly sparse stage set-up for the complexity of their music – suppose they’ll let the music do the talking…duh.

Although the brains of the band is frontman/keyboardist Mirai Kawashima, saxophonist/backing vocalist Dr Mikannibal has to be the main eye candy. Coming onstage dressed austerely in a full length trench coat, she undoes it and flings it away as soon as the first song kicks in to reveal…well, look at the pictures. As guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa and bassist Satoshi Fujinami are pretty much content to let the good doctor and Mirai take the spotlight, it’s no wonder that the pictures are heavily skewed towards certain members.

 

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The sound was probably the best of all the bands that I saw that night, and Sigh’s complex and atmospheric music could not have had a better setting to be showcased in. Unfortunately, they sound nowhere near as epic as they do on the CD, which is no shame, considering that they put on an amazing performance regardless. Complete with bible burning (from Mirai) and fire breathing/wax dripping (Dr. Mikannibal), the inhuman growls and screams emanating from the throats of these two was simply astounding. You’d never have thought that such a growl could come from a lady as sweet-looking as her. Angela Gossow, step aside! (although to be fair, Angela doesn’t have to adjust her bra strap every couple of minutes…)

It was an intense performance from the Japanese band, and replicating every note and nuance on the albums was never the point of this band. It was a feast for ears and eyes alike, and hopefully Sigh return to these shores before long. Ending the set with Venom’s ‘Black Metal’ as well as an acknowledgment of black metal’s origins just capped off a great night.

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Setlist

Introitus

Shingontachikawa

Dreamsphere (Return to the Chaos)

Hail Horror Hail

Death With Dishonour

Shikigami

A Victory of Dakini

Bring Back The Dead

Me-Devil

Black Metal

 

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My Dying Bride

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These guys recently played in London on a death/doom bill that featured Anathema and Paradise Lost. Unfortunately it was on the very same night that Nile and Grave were playing in the Underworld – knowing that Nile rarely come by London, that My Dying Bride were playing Damnation and Anathema would be touring soon, I plumped for the death metal bill. Unfortunately the conflict didn’t end there; they clashed with Napalm Death on the Terrorizer Stage. But I was pretty stoked to finally be able to see My Dying Bride, one of the so-called Peaceville trio that kickstarted the unholy alliance of death metal and doom metal.

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Singer Aaron Stainthorpe is an interesting frontman, not least because he seems to be in permanent anguish. The handwringing melodramatics go well with the mournful music, backed up with the haunting violin courtesy of the lovely Katie Stone. With their songs extending well over five minutes each at least, it takes some impressive musicianship and showmanship to hold the crowd’s attention, which My Dying Bride do with ease.

 

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Aaron seems on the verge of tears at times, falling to his knees and eyes cast up to the heavens, arms folded over his breast – it’s an amazing show and it looks like he’s absolutely feeling every word of the melancholic dirges he’s singing. In contrast, foxy bassist Lena Abé is enjoying every moment onstage as she thrashes during the faster moments and encourages the crowd to do the same.

The boys are practically local, coming from Halifax, a wonderfully historical and beautiful town in Yorkshire, or so I’m told. The crowd gave them a fitting welcome, and were rewarded with a magnificent show.


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Setlist

Here In The Throat

She Is The Dark

From Darkest Skies

And I Walk With Them

The Snow in My Hand

The Cry of Mankind

Vast Choirs

The Dreadful Hours

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Carcass

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Annoyingly, doom legends Cathedral were on at the same time as Carcass, and again it was agony to choose between the two. I’m glad I went for Carcass, although there is a twinge of regret that I didn’t at least pop by to see a few minutes of Lee Dorrian and Cathedral.

With so much press surrounding the much-publicised reformation of Carcass, there really isn’t anything new I can add to the countless live reviews other than “They FUCKING ROCK!” For the cynical, it’s really not a case of daddies with midlife crises doddering around on stage looking for a brief glimpse of their glory years. They are tight and aggressive and they kick copious amounts of arse. With the talents of younger guns Daniel Erlandsson and Michael Amott, Messrs. Steer and Walker really are a live band to reckon with, and no amount of snickering will diminish their worth.

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The setlist consists of at least half the HEARTWORK album, their most easily recognisable work, but also sprinkled liberally with 2 minute bursts of their illustrious grind past – and Jeff Walker aids the transitions between songs with Scouse witticisms that are as incomprehensible as they are funny. Only someone like him can take the piss out of Amott, Erlandsson, Steer AND Ken Owen and get away with it. Speaking of Ken, again I have to reiterate how wonderful (and how touching) it is that the band recognise him as an integral part of the band’s history. It was with lumps in throats that we watched him play a drum solo, and it was with aching hands and blistered tongues that we cheered and clapped him off. Best of luck to the man.

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Ending with ‘Heartwork’, the band replicate the intense and violent performance I saw at Wacken. It was my privilege to see them at close quarters for much of their set at Damnation, and with the hint of a new album to come, they provided a fitting end to the festival.

 

Setlist

Intro

Inpropagation

Buried Dreams

Corporal Jigsore

Carnal Forge

Incarnate Solvent Abuse

No Love Lost

Edge of Darkness

The Mortal Coil

Embodiment

Reek of Putrefaction

Keep On Rotting

Genital Grinder

Rotten To The Core

Death Certificate

Exhume to Consume

Ruptured

Heartwork

Carneous

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Final words

The spirit of metal is very much alive and kicking in Damnation, with wonderful bands giving it their all. Unfortunately, I wish I didn’t have to make the choices I had to make: between Benediction and Sigh, between Napalm Death and My Dying Bride, or between Carcass and Cathedral. But a sold-out crowd and many happy metalheads later, no one’s left unhappy, least of all yours truly. May Damnation continue to flourish and grow.


Thanks to Graeme Johnston for making everything possible!

Damnation: http://www.damnationfestival.co.uk/

Red Mist: http://www.myspace.com/redmistuk

Onslaught: http://www.onslaughtfromhell.com/

Sigh: http://www.sighjapan.com/

My Dying Bride: http://www.mydyingbride.org/

Carcass: http://www.myspace.com/carcass

 

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