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Damnation Festival 2016 - Leeds, England, 5th November 2016

Event: Damnation Festival 2016
Written by: Baz Anderson
Published: 08.11.2016


Damnation Festival 2016 - Leeds, England, 5th November 2016 by Baz Anderson (35)

Remember, remember, the fifth of November! The air has turned cold; the winter is on its way - which means it must be time for our annual taste of Damnation. Would the twelfth instalment of the Damnation Festival be one to start a fire over? Let's see...!

The festival sold out some hours before the doors opened, so by the early afternoon we were all ready to kick off with Attan from Norway on the second stage. The festival would be spread over four stages at the Leeds University Student Union, which has been the home of Damnation for now the past ten editions. Attan were somewhat of a wall of chaotic drums and screaming vocals, the band's frontman couldn't help himself climb around the stage area attempting to entice more people over.

Kroh over on the cosy fourth stage up next enjoyed a packed room as they filled the unique slot of not having to share stage time with any other band. Drinks in hand though, and back over to the second stage Svalbard were the first of many female-fronted bands to make an appearance at the festival. The vocalist screamed along to their metalcore style in front of a much busier room. Plenty of people on the floor and around the balconies, it felt like the festival had properly started.

Venom Prison / Oceans Of Slumber
Pictures courtesy of Damnation Festival

Next up on the same stage, Mithras were back at Damnation after their performance back at the 2009 edition. The band haven't been the most active over the last few years, but finally back with a new album and mastermind Leon taking over main vocal duties for this live performance - Mithras gave us a really impressive slab of bombastic, galactic death metal. Asking anyone to replicate live what Leon does on the drums in studio is an almost impossible task, but by the time the set was closing with "Worlds Beyond The Veil" and "Thrown Upon The Waves", we'd witnessed one of the festival's standout sets.

The main hall was open by this time, and London-based doomsters Hang The Bastard were tearing through a monstrously heavy set in front of a receptive audience. The main hall has a huge, overbearing sound system, which really does heavier bands such as Hang The Bastard here justice. Back to the second stage though, and Wales' Venom Prison were about to put another case forward for female-fronted extreme metal. The room was packed, and audience clearly enjoying what they were hearing, but it was a little difficult to put a finger on exactly what we were hearing. A few blastbeats here, a breakdown there; it wasn't the most concise performance ever, but the passion of both band and audience couldn't be questioned.

Ne Obliviscaris / Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas
Pictures courtesy of Damnation Festival

"Eclectic" has always been the word for Damnation Festival, and Oceans Of Slumber on the main stage certainly fit the bill here. Black female singers are not common in metal, yet here we were watching this American band break the barriers down with their brand of impressive progressive metal. The soulful vocals captivated the audience, most of all with the haunting Moody Blues cover of "Nights In White Satin" - while the impressive drumming on songs like "Apologue" meant the audience were engrossed by both ends of the spectrum. Oceans Of Slumber took it to the next level.

From the other side of the world, Australians Ne Obliviscaris took the second stage to a packed room. These guys clearly have a sizeable following, which began to make sense hearing their super clean, hit-every-base kind of lukewarm extreme metal. Two cheery vocalists to keep the stage active, thin blastbeats, a violin for the sake of it - the majority loved it. In this time, the main stage filled up to probably the busiest the festival saw this year in anticipation of Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas. Playing the full Mariner album - this is one of the most intriguing collaborations. The stage smothering in smoke, Julie's almost ethereal, unique vocals played off the oppressive, crushing Cult Of Luna auditory landscape to provide quite the experience.

Pictures courtesy of Damnation Festival

With the huge draw on the main stage ending, Akercocke made their Damnation return to a quieter room than their previous 2009 performance. The band had split up a few years ago, but thankfully has been busy putting a new album together and just toured the UK marking their return. Early worries of a subdued set were soon put to rest as the room filled and the band blasted their way through some of their most loved songs. It really felt like the band had listened to the fans and selected the ones we actually did want to hear. From "The Dark Inside" to "Becoming The Adversary" and "Son Of The Morning" - it hasn't felt so good to hear David Gray's crisp blastbeats for a long time. Set of the festival.

Abbath doesn't come to the UK very often. One London date earlier this year was the first since Immortal's 2011 set at Bloodstock. It was therefore somewhat of a big deal for Abbath to be here. Unfortunately the set was delayed twenty minutes, and when the black metal legend finally did take the stage, something seemed off. The sound wasn't great; way too much bass, and it's hard to tell where the Abbath character ends and where real life begins, but he didn't appear too thrilled about... anything really. Visiting his solo material as well as a few Immortal classics, Abbath really is one of the greats of the genre. This should have been a triumphant launch for the Abbath band - but unfortunately this set just wasn't it.

Pictures courtesy of Damnation Festival

Fellow Norwegians Enslaved on the second stage probably had more people packed into the room than Abbath had left at his stage at this point. Enslaved have become one of the most interesting extreme metal bands around in the last decade. Forming as a black metal band in Norway, these guys have matured into a progressive force like no other. The old cliché of the old songs being the best doesn't necessarily apply to Enslaved, as no one would have complained at a set of all newer songs. Still, we were taken back to 1994 for "Fenris" and even further back for "Allfǫðr Oðinn" to close the set - which sounded just as good next to new songs like "One Thousand Years Of Rain". The only nitpick is the omission of anything from the sublime Axioma... album. The band joked with the audience; there was a great atmosphere, Enslaved felt like the festival's headline act.

Dorset's Electric Wizard were back to repeat their 2012 headlining set on the main stage. It felt like a repeat performance too, as they played a very similar set. Even still, Electric Wizard will always be one of the heaviest bands you'll find. The main hall was nowhere near as full as it was for the likes of Cult Of Luna, so it felt appropriate to visit the smallest stage again for a wake up slap. Ingested were closing the festival from the fourth stage, to what felt like some kind of festival after-party in the basement downstairs. Even at this hour, the brutal, slam death metal had people crashing about in the pit - until things came to an end half an hour earlier than scheduled.

Enslaved / Electric Wizard
Pictures courtesy of Damnation Festival

Not the most gracious of endings for the festival then. It had felt as though Enslaved were the real headliners of the festival, which is still certainly not a bad thing by any means. For the twelfth year Damnation Festival was coming to a close, this time with a few fireworks in the air on bonfire night. Enslaved, Akercocke, Oceans Of Slumber and Mithras certainly gave us something to remember on this fifth of November. We'll see you next year Damnation, for another great celebration of diverse and eclectic metal!


Written on 08.11.2016 by Member of Staff since 2006.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 22 users
13.11.2016 - 03:00
Bad English
Nice review and I think if Abbat cant sing immortal songs it will weakens bands performance or maybe Enslaved tock them just to be able speak in Norwegian on the road lol
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
20.11.2016 - 07:12
Kurty Wurty
Amatsu Mikaboshi
Interesting read, It was enlightening to learn about Mithras and their whistling spacey echoing.
Unquestionably Cult Of Luna were the most strongest output there that evening.
I must volunteer to intervene and disagree about Abatth since he was seeming to be on the cynical funny side and just being entertaining. You've seen him more then I have up to now so I can't argue that much about that.
You were on target about Wizard's Psyduck set. Impendingly dissapointing, you could tell that they just don't care anymore not rven allowing their trademark feedback flow between songs and that Jus has got nothing new to say anymore, you could see that they have turned into an unmotivated fucking fart completely wallowed in their own setlist ever since well... 2012 and only contemplate by adding recent album material over the previous one despite keeping the half always Witchcult Today, Return Trip and the always looked Dopethrone tracks, you could tell that it was clear they were there just to pick up a paycheck to wrap up the night. I even tried to escape down to Ingested but nope, they were finished early! I never thought I'd say this about them too to my shock and horror, you could tell they wern't even heavy...

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