FESTIVAL REVIEW: DAMNATION FESTIVAL 2016 Live at Leeds, UK
On Saturday, 5 November 2016, I travelled to Leeds, UK for the first time for the city’s annual Damnation Festival – an extreme metal festival held since 2005. For a relatively underground event, Damnation’s name is held in high regard due to its ability to book bands such as Carcass, Napalm Death, Cannibal Corpse, Kreator and Entombed for surprisingly low ticket prices, alongside a plethora of other acts.
The first band I saw over the course of the day was Conjurer, who drew a noticeably large crowd despite performing quite early on in the afternoon. Their brand of sludge metal with a doom-type atmosphere was generally enjoyable to watch, although the best bits of the set were when the band’s music ventured into more death metal elements on certain tracks. Furthermore, bassist Andy Price’s towering stage presence was also notable and particularly effective.
After Conjurer, the next band I saw was Mithras. Their blend of prog meets death metal was a fairly good thing to book for this type of event, as the Terrorizer stage was packed for their set. Unfortunately, the sound was quite disappointing for their performance, which while having nothing to do with the band themselves did affect the experience somewhat – but not so much that their set was off-putting in any way.
Up next was Venom Prison, a new force on the UK death metal scene who have been making strides in popularity due to their publicity in both the mainstream and underground heavy metal press in this part of the world. This year’s Damnation Festival had been hailed by many as an example of how far female-fronted bands have come in terms of reverence, and Venom Prison’s set was a genuine example of that. Brutally heavy music performed by a band that you could just tell were 100% passionate about what they’re doing, which is great to see – a band to keep an eye on in 2017, as far as I’m concerned.
Just like what I said about female-fronted bands in regards to Venom Prison, Employed to Serve were one of the most crushing bands I saw the entire day. Having seen them rise from virtual unknowns opening for Funeral for a Friend in March 2015 to one of the leading lights in the UK extreme metal scene, Employed to Serve drew a big crowd considering they were playing the event’s smallest stage – the Mine stage – and many in the audience were evidently pre-converted fans of the band. While they didn’t sound nearly as ferocious as they did the first time I saw them, it is awesome to see a band like this gaining more and more positive publicity, which they deserve in my opinion.
A quick walk back to the Terrorizer stage prepared me to watch Ne Obliviscaris, an Australian progressive metal act founded in Melbourne. Since I started working for Metal Wani, I had heard many great things about this band, so I obviously was looking forward to seeing them live. While the violin sections in their songs definitely did not come across as a flashy gimmick and rather a vital part of their musical compositions, it was the death metal growls that took me by surprise, considering I thought they were just a standard progressive band. They were another band I really enjoyed on the day itself.
Time for Akercocke! I’d only recently discovered this band and was unaware of their relevance in the contemporary UK death metal scene, like supporting Morbid Angel for example. The first time I saw them live was just this August at Bloodstock Festival, which was their first show together in 5 years, so it was good to see them again. This time, however, they felt and sounded much tighter and precise, even from where I was standing at the back of the standing area at the Terrorizer stage. Akercocke has new music on the way in the coming months, so be on the look-out for that! They were definitely one of the highlights of the day for me. Brilliant stuff.
As the day drew to a close, Norwegian extreme/progressive metal band Enslaved were the band I saw next. They were performing on the Terrorizer stage as Mithras, Ne Obliviscaris and Akercocke had graced earlier on in the afternoon. Their blend of black metal with progressive and traditional heavy metal overtones drew a large crowd, and their set was one of the best I saw all day, despite one unrelated incident involving a particular member of the audience. I left their set just before it ended to get ready to see the final band I had planned on my itinerary.
UK slam/death metal favourites Ingested were the final band to play the Mine stage, and it was great to see so many people hold out to see them perform. Without a doubt, they were one of the most filthy-sounding bands to be booked for the entire event, so the fact that they managed to fill the entire room was wonderful. Unfortunately, their set had to be cut half an hour early due to drummer Lyn Jeffs injuring his hand, which was quite disappointing. But the 30 minutes of music up until that point was fantastic. Ingested were a great way to end the day, and my first Damnation Festival experience.
In general, my first experience at Leeds’ Damnation Festival could not have been more enjoyable, aside from a few minor niggles here and there throughout the day. I also managed to catch a bit of Abbath, Cult of Luna, Hang the Bastard and The Infernal Sea, but unfortunately didn’t see enough of them. But in closing, if you have the chance to attend Damnation Festival next year, make sure you do so!