Damnation Festival 2017
@ Leeds University Student’s Union, Leeds
November 4, 2017
Review by Nathan Slack
Photography by Miguel De Malo
“This year we are doing it right,” I announce after seeing the hard hitting lineup for this years Damnation. Last year we arrived late, barely had time to eat anything and had to drive back to Birmingham afterward and ended up so damn tired we were swerving all over the bloody road.
This year we booked a hotel which turned out to be a godsend as some heavy moshing was had down in the pit at the Terrorizer Stage on this first Saturday of November and the last weekend we can deny that Christmas is just around the corner.
So putting all dread for Xmas songs aside we head straight to the Terrorizer Stage for Aussie Slam group Disentomb with their kitchen sink vocals and hard hitting brand of Death Metal, they slap the crowd out of hangovers and beat them over the head until they take notice. It’s a good opener for a stage thats the heaviest the organisers have ever put on for us, but a lot of people where holding back for the carnage to come and where happy to stand arms crossed and watching them in the usual stern ” come on, entertain me” metal fashion. Check them out! (7/10)
This early on in the day the large Jager Stage is yet to open so the smaller stages like the Tone Stage are always pretty packed so instead of trying to squeeze in for Wren we make the decision to cram in some food and beer. I hate to diss the kitchen outside but last year we stood out in the arctic wind for ages for a stone cold burger (it was freezing last year and the ingredients where so cold that they cooled down the burger so bad it was almost inedible) so this year we were thankful to Leeds Uni for expanding their food court whilst giving us extra space. Had a massive box of noodles and seafood from a stall there and I have to say it was some of the best Asian food i’ve ever had and hearty too. So! set up and lubricated we get there early for the opening of the Jagermiester Stage to get a good spot for the emotive Pallbearer from Arkansas,USA. Reviewed them earlier in the year back in the Big Smoke at Camden’s Underworld as they toured their new proggy album Heartless and was excited to check them out again.
They open with their best song and my favourite, Worlds Apart off their last studio album and I’m ready to turn on the tears. My excitement turns into disappointment as the vocals kick in and its made clear to me that theres an issue with the microphones and you can barely hear the vocals. Even the announcer struggled to be heard and I spend most of their set with a finger in my ear so I can drown out the bass and actually hear Brett Campbell singing which Isn’t off at all. It’s a shame, but we enjoy their set none the less as they played old tracks like Foreigner off 2012’s Sorrow and Extinction and newer tracks I Saw the End as well as EP title track Fear & Fury. Its a short set and we vow to catch them in a headline show where the sound would be a bit better for them. (7/10)
And now for something completely different….Vallenfyre over at the Terrorizor stage. I missed them on their recent UK tour and was pretty gutted about that so I was really happy to see them on this years bill for Damnation. Their crusty death metal was exactly what was needed for me personally and some tentative moshing erupted to their Old Skool thrashings. They were pretty solid live, if a little samey and not enough to truly ignite the crowd. (7/10)
Technical issues dogged the Tone MGMT stage all day and it was pretty evident during Beyond Creations set. The Tech Death band from Canada have some pretty technical guitar work that overlays everything else and from their first song Omnipresent Perception we could tell that their set was going to be a muddy affair as we couldn’t hear their guitars at all. (5/10) We gave up in the end after only a few songs and decided to head to the main stage again for something completely different, Denmark’s Myrkur. Singer Amelie Bruun is pretty vocal about the abuse she gets from the…lets face it, uptight/elitist black metal crowd and has even had death threats..all because she made some pop video’s and music for commercials before she found her stride. Honestly these guys have to lighten the hell up because her music is pretty damn beautiful and I’m glad I managed to catch some of her set. I would have liked more variety though as I know she plays some traditional scandi folk instruments and did feel that each track was more and more like the last one. I wanted more raw earth goddess from her but I enjoyed it none the less. (6/10)
A Lamb and Mint pasty then saved my life as we skipped Dragged into Sunlight who I’m told we’re pretty damn good. Sorry guys…maybe next time!
Next up down in the Tone stage was Mutation which is fronted by Ginger, frontman of the pop punk band The Wildhearts and I have to be honest I was dubious at best about the project but upon listening to their debut album, Dark Black I was pleasantly surprised. They are an interesting mix of Industrial, Punk and Metal. Sounding like if Devon Townsend/ Atari Teenage Riot and Godflesh had a deformed baby. They come on stage a bit late as the guitars are again a problem but when they do finally do take to the stage they blow everyone away. Ginger himself is all business and doesn’t speak to the crowd (probably for the best as he was sectioned back in August under the mental health act after an altercation with a heckler) and go through most of their album, opening with Authenticity, which is in my opinion, their best track and reminds me most of Nic Endo’s and Alec Empires ATR. If you dig that stuff then check out Mutation. (8/10)
We then high tailed it back over to the Terrorizor stage and what came next was completely unexpected. The room was packed out for one and the most full I’ve seen it and the whole place was buzzing with excitement and chaotic Grind as last years cancellation, Nails let loose onto a excited crowd. The pit was going crazy as I somehow managed to squeeze down the steps and practically leap off the last step and into chaos. Crowd surfers nearly brained me in the first few minutes as I struggled to stay upright in the seething mass around me. Their set was blisteringly good and the crowd reacted in such an explosive way that I get goosebumps now thinking about it. Brilliant (9/10)
After that sweaty surprise I have to have a little sit down, with a beer and a bottle of water. I started the day with every intention of catching Paradise Lost but the next band up on the Terrorizor stage is one of the main reasons I wanted to come this year, so I thought I should conserve my energy for the madness to come as the next band is arguably the best Tech death band ever, along with Nile in my opinion.,USA’s Dying Fetus.
I’m there down in the pit before they come on stage and even before the first riff, the pit starts to kick off all by itself and they go batshit crazy as Fetus go through their brutal set. I’m not to great noticing what songs are being played, especially when I’m in a mass of sweaty mosh pit crazy loons but I do recognise one of my favourite Death metal songs of all time…Grotesque Impalement, with its nasty tempo changes and brutal guitars and it was damned marvellous. Phones, wallets, shoes, dignity and my press pass wristband are lost in the maelstrom of the mosh pit to Dying Fetus. Top notch guys! (9/10)
Again I collapse into a plastic coated sofa seat and wish I was 10 years younger and about 3 stone lighter. Again, I had every intention of catching Sodom but Agoraphobic Nosebleed are they main reason I wanted to come so I had to skip the German Thrashers who put on a great set I’m told and who had a massive crazy mosh pit during their whole set too. Sorry!
I then limp back down into the pit at the Terrorizor stage for Agoraphobic Nosebleed, the off shoot of Pig Destroyer. I totally love this band with a 80’s grunge/punk element like early, Chuck(RIP)-era Faith No More to chaotic Grind and Sludgy Doom of the Gnaw EP. You really don’t expect such aggression from the short blonde woman on stage but personally, its Katherine Katz’s tracks like Deathbed and Not a Daughter that really hit me hard. It takes most of their set for me to realise that they don’t have a drummer and for the first time…I didn’t really care! I saw people shacking in the mosh pit going totally crazy and screaming in reaction to hearing them live, like they where so overwhelmed with the sheer brutal emotion they invoked. This is going to be a hard one to top personally…(10/10)
We finally mooch over to catch a bit of Bloodbath, who I do really like but by this time we are totally spent and like last year are completely disinterested in the headline act. This is a great testament to the awesome lineup that Damnation gave us this year that the headliner was out shone yet again. We staggered back to the hotel and was glad for a hot shower and a warm bed. Will definitely be back next year, well done guys!