Review: Damnation Festival 2012

November means one thing only in the extreme-metal calendar: Damnation Festival in Leeds. Joseph Sheridan-Ruddy gets stuck in for Skiddle.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 8th Nov 2012

Now into its 8th year, Damnation concentrates on the oblique end of the heavy metal market, catering for grind, black metal and death metal fans and a number of other underground-music crowds.

There is no average Damnation festival-goer. There are kids as young as 10 and folks who probably used their free bus-pass to get to Leeds, which made for an incredibly relaxed atmosphere; reflected in the attitudes of the bar-staff, organisers and security from the off-set.

First band I caught were Terrorizer Stage-openers The Atrocity Exhibit, who made the most of the opportunity to reach a large audience with a cracking set, waking the early crowd up with hardcore-laced grind.

Eventually hauling myself around the maze that is Leeds Student Union, I found the largest room which housed the Jagermeister Stage which was kicked into gear by Leeds locals, Hawk Eyes. These were certainly the band which could have been the sore-thumb of the day, with a sound a lot more focused and mainstream than the others on offer. However, Hawk Eyes delivered a direct-hit, pleasing the crowd with their Black Sabbath meets Oceansize, alt-metal sound.

UK Black Metal’s saviours Winterfylleth changed the mood completely.  The Manchester band had the densest crowd of the day, soaring via uplifting post-rock melodies to find a sound-scape that was cold, tense and yet almost beautiful.  They were certainly a tough act to follow and John Peel’s grind heroes Extreme Noise Terror almost managed that with a little help from John Loughlin from Raging Speedhorn on vocals.

An accidental visit to the smallest room containing the Eyesore Merch-stage brought a fantastic set by Bossk to our attention.  Bossk produce wonderfully polished, atmospheric-sludge and the room was the perfect setting to house this.  They are a band that could please both shoe-gaze and heavy metal fans equally and are definitely a highlight for me.

After filling myself from various food-vendors, I caught ten minutes of Aura Noir delivering a blackened-thrash-dropkick to the faces of the Damnation crowd before returning to the Jagermeister stage to catch a sombre set from My Dying Bride, who indulged their fans with a mixture of new and classic tracks.

Inevitably when there are three stages at a gig, there's going to be the odd clash. The biggest one of the day came near the close, with Pig Destroyer and Electric Wizard both given headline slots on different stages. I went for the latter, and find UK doom-legends Electric Wizard bathed in a sea of lights and knocking out one of the best performances of the day.

Words: Joseph Sheridan-Ruddy

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