Damnation Festival 2023 review: Europe’s biggest indoor metal extravaganza

Nathan Melvin checked out Damnation Festival in Manchester, a huge celebration of underground metal in Manchester. Here’s what he thought.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 7th Nov 2023

If monstrous riffs, guttural screams and flaming samurai swords are your thing, Damnation Festival this past weekend would have been the perfect place for you. 

Europe’s biggest indoor metal festival returned to the BEC Arena in Manchester for the second year running. Boasting three stages and a plethora of acts to fill them, metal fans were able to get their fill all day long. 

On Saturday, the action began as soon as the first two bands took to the stage at 12:00pm, with Coffin Mulch and Laster opening on the Holy Goat Brewing stage and the Eyesore Merch stage respectively. The crowd then flocked to see Nordic Giants open the Pins & Knuckles stage, which would later play host to Enslaved and legendary doom metal band Electric Wizard

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The timings of each performance allowed fans to see at least one band every hour with staggered start times between the Pins & Knuckles stage and the two other stages. Liverpool band Crepitation encouraged the crowd to unleash their best dance moves during their performance just after 1 o’clock. Guttural pig squeals and the macarena were features of this performance that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Each stage was jam-packed all day long, each with bars to keep festival goers hydrated - mosh pits are thirsty work! Merch stands were scattered throughout the building and outside with each act represented. Fans could even purchase shirts and posters supporting the event itself, and there were a number of food stalls and vans open all day to keep energy levels high for more moshing.

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Returning to the action, Khemmis made their return to the UK. Hailing from Denver, Colorado they brought a passion-filled performance to the Pins & Knuckles stage, performing several tracks from their back catalogue including hits such as Sigil. Glasgow band Ashenspire followed up on the Eyesore Merch stage bringing a unique energy to the festival. Their difficult-to-describe, avant-garde metal style with hints of jazz brought an eye-opening performance that certainly gained them some new ears. Meanwhile, High Command made their UK debut on the Holy Goat Brewing stage. Blowing the crowd away with tracks like Beyond the Wall of Desolation, the thrash metal band certainly made an impact from across the pond.

The first three hours of the festival showcased a range of styles and warmed moshers up for Unearth’s full playthrough of their sophomore record The Oncoming Storm. This performance had the Pins & Knuckles stage full, reinvigorating the crowd for what was to come. Following this performance, the stage was lit up, quite literally, by Julie Christmas. Donning a light-up dress, it certainly set the tone for what was going to be a highlight of the weekend. Playing new songs from her solo projects along with classics from her past, she certainly put on a show.

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Excitement was building in the venue as it got later in the day. The next heavy-hitters to take to the Pins & Knuckles stage were Belgian metal band Amenra. The best way to describe this set was simply a clinic in metal music. With long instrumental sections and an intense atmosphere, the band had the crowd in a trance for the whole performance. The cinematic performance provided a welcome shift in atmosphere, leaving fans hanging off every note.

The best way to make an immediate lasting impression on a crowd of metal fans is to walk out on stage with a flaming samurai sword. That is exactly what Tokyo rockers Sigh achieved from the Eyesore Merch stage. The legendary Japanese metal outfit brought an energy like no other with their experimental style, incorporating world music, progressive styles and even saxophone solos. This performance was a highlight of the festival, with the stage full to the brim with eager fans hoping to catch a glimpse of a fiery set.

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As it got later into the evening, Swedish heavy metal band Katatonia brought the attention back to the Pins & Knuckles stage. Despite some minor technical issues at the beginning of their set, the band put on a solid performance, playing tracks that aren't featured on their album Dead of Kings, played in full the night before. Katatonia had 11 albums and countless tracks to play for the crowd.

Rounding out the night with a bang was a trio of epic performances. Enslaved and Electric Wizard brought the action to a close on the Pins & Knuckles stage, the latter being their only UK show of 2023. On the Holy Goat Brewing Stage, British extreme metal band Anaal Nathrakh closed out the action from that stage. 

Overall, Damnation Festival was a celebration of a plethora of styles and eager moshers. It was a night to remember in the lives of everyone in attendance.

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Damnation Festival returns to Manchester’s BEC Arena in 2024. Currently offering bargain blind bird tickets, including a payment plan option, metalheads can secure their place at the fest for just £7.50, followed by nine payments of £7.50 to help spread the cost. If, like us, you can't wait for Damnation '24, secure your tickets now at the bottom of this page. 

 

Nathan Melvin

 


 

Check out our What's On Guide to discover more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.

 

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All image credits: Damnation Festival / Facebook.com

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