Damnation Festival 2010 - Leeds, England, 6th November 2010

Event: Damnation Festival 2010
Written by: Baz Anderson
Published: 08.11.2010


Damnation Festival 2010 - Leeds, England, 6th November 2010 by Baz Anderson (45)

When the days get short and the air turns cold, Damnation Festival is always around the corner. A chilly November day in Leeds is home once again to the festival, this time for the sixth edition. Damnation Festival still maintains its title as being the most eclectic event in the calendar, hosting a wide range of bands that explore the darker sides of metal. It is certainly an event that year after year delivers diverse line-ups and a good reason to make the journey, however far, to sunny Yorkshire.

This year's edition of the festival offered a few changes due to an unfortunate downsizing. The most apparent change was that smaller stages were used compared to previous years to compromise the smaller volume of people. What used to be the second stage in the last years became the main stage this year, the usual third stage became the second stage, and so the third stage this year found itself in a cupboard with an en suite bar.

The new third stage was absolutely packed for Fen. Possibly the busiest it was the whole day, it was uncomfortable, hot and impossible to see more than a few faces on the stage. The music sounded great though. The British band brought their moody, atmospheric black metal to the stage to the appreciation of the audience. It was almost trance-like, being broken only by the songs ending and a sedate applause following. An enjoyable if not a little self-indulgent set from one of the countries more interesting extreme metal bands.

After leaving Akercocke, Matt Wilcock along with the band's still present drummer David Gray formed his new three-piece project The Antichrist Imperium. After taking to the stage a fair amount of time late due to technical problems as well as what appeared to the roof leaking, this new band finally exploded with a flurry of blasts. Musically the band are quite similar to Akercocke taking influence from their earlier albums, but with the concise technicality of the more recent material. The material is certainly ambitious, perhaps a little too ambitious as David made one or two uncharacteristic slips on the drums amongst his barrage of blastbeats. Overall, the band certainly satisfied the urge for real extreme music.

Over on the new main stage, Lawnmower Deth were delivering their comedy performance to a busy room. Not so much a metal show, as such, more like a variety comedy act with musical accompaniment. Pete Lee and chums are certainly at home on stage and aren't afraid to make people laugh. Lawnmower Deth cannot be judged as a metal band, their music leaves much to be desired, but it is the musical, metal accompaniment to the comedy that makes a Lawnmower Deth show what it is. Entertaining, if not a little simple.

Back to the second stage, and the technical problems were about to get worse. The sound guy seemed unable to fulfil the exasperated band's requests to hear some guitar and vocal in the monitors, which lead to SSS starting their set over twenty minutes late. When the band eventually started, a great thrashy release of straight-up, intense hardcore tension was unleashed upon the audience. Unfortunately due to the band starting so late, it soon became time to move on to the main stage.

English thrash legends Sabbat were about to take the main stage hostage and transport us all back to the late eighties with their unmistakeable style of thrash with great guitar riffs and Martin's distinguishable, venomous vocal style. The band plundered through a great set of these classic songs, with the surprising edition of the song "Blood For The Blood God" which comes from neither of the band's first two albums, but was issued on a flexi-disc with the White Dwarf magazine in 1987. Martin was constantly demanding the audience gave more and more, as the band sounded as great today as they probably did all those years ago. As always, Sabbat were a real pleasure to watch. With the promise of the band's return at some point in the future, it shouldn't be the last time.

On the third stage, Esoteric were about to tear down the walls of reality. The room wasn't quite as packed this time, but the suffocating nature of the band's sounds almost had the same effect. The vocalist with his microphone strapped to his head made some distressing, echo-y sounds over the most oppressive and depraved sounds the Damnation Festival saw this year. This was quite an experience, scary almost, certainly haunting. Songs were long, droning, tortured howls of sonic oblivion. Not everyone's cup of tea, but in its own disturbing way, Esoteric were intriguing to say the least.

Hecate Enthroned are one of those bands of the English extreme metal underground that just always seem to have been there. With a new album around the corner, there weren't exactly a legion of people waiting to see the band. Nevertheless the band came forth, complete with vocalist Dean in rather peculiar attire, and started to belt out some of their blackened hymns. The band's style ranged from a symphonic or melodic black metal to having more death metal elements thrown in there for good measure too. The band sounded great, especially when the drummer got his blasts up and going. The band's enthusiastic giant of a bass player also did his best, but the set lacked something memorable. The audience enjoyed a somewhat understated, but worthy show of solid extreme metal.

Back from headlining the Damnation Festival in 2007, Anaal Nathrakh found themselves in the intimate environment of the second stage. When the band exploded into the set with "In The Constellation Of The Black Widow", it soon became apparent that this is what the festival had been lacking until now. The sheer insanity of the speed of the drums, Dave Hunt's intense, other-worldly vocal eruptions, this was nothing like any other metal show. There is something philosophical about Anaal Nathrakh, not just in musical themes but with Dave Hunt's honest and real dialogue between songs, this band really do bring the feel of absolute, untamed, uncontrollable chaos to wherever they play. The band played a range of material, but it was the earlier songs such as "Submission Is For The Weak" and "Pandemonic Hyperblast" that created the biggest movement. This intimate room turned itself into a volatile, violent mass of hostility that set the chaotic atmosphere apart from anything else this day. Anaal Nathrakh stole the show. The best band of the day by a long way.

Closing the third stage were French group Alcest. Again the room was packed, as the smooth sounds of this quite soft and sweet black metal came forth. After the sheer extremity of the previous band, Alcest didn't have the pulling power to hold attention. A fair few people were glad of the opportunity to see this band, but it seemed as if it was music only for these insiders, where outsiders were left bemused. The band aired some interesting sounds, but sound of the room and how packed it was didn't help matters.

And so for another year it was time to leave Damnation behind, after an event that had both its ups and downs. Overall the festival remains a success; a handful of fantastic bands offered their particular branch of entertainment for the auditory pleasure of the good people. With such an eclectic, scoping range of bands, you would have been hard pushed to find something that didn't push your buttons.

The rearranging of stages may have caused somewhat of a slight initial confusion, but the main problem of the day originated from the new room used as the third stage. Hot, stuffy, busy, it was at times almost seemingly impossible to physically enter the room. Those who managed to find a place at the back were delighted only by a view of a mass of heads, and a fairly poor sound coming from the front. The new second stage boasting a brand new barrier due to expensive damage done during the last UK Deathfest, made the jobs of photographers and security alike much easier, but also put a bit of chaos-dampening distance between band and audience. The new main stage remains a fantastic room, and also boasted a new barrier at the front. Technical problems also played a part with the second stage preventing bands getting started when they should, ultimately reducing the time they could play. Overall the festival didn't feel as if it had such a tight organisational grip on it, keeping it running as smoothly as previous years.

Regardless of these things, Damnation Festival is always a fantastic opportunity to meet people from around the country, and also delve into and explore new musical territories. This year was no different, holding a good atmosphere with good bands. This year may not have been the best edition the festival has seen, but by no means was it un-enjoyable. There is no doubt that Damnation Festival will be back next year for another day of all things dark and cold.

Thanks to Lisa at Damnation for the accreditation.
Written by Barry Anderson.
Photos by Barry Anderson.


Written on 08.11.2010 by Member of Staff since 2006.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 69 users
08.11.2010 - 19:39
Great article. Thanks for letting me know what I missed. Would've loved to be there again

Also great to see you made it in time for Fen. And while reading the Esoteric part I felt like I was there. Still regret that I passed them on the last time they were in Frankfurt.
All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu... This is the truth! This is my belief! ...At least for now.
- The Mystery of Life, Vol. 841 Ch. 26
08.11.2010 - 19:54
Darkside Momo
Seems it was a nice fest, even with the problems...
I didn't know that Sabbat had a song released by Games Workshop (the White Dwarf magazine). Funny... I thought only Bolt Thrower had a deal with them in the past... Anyway, I surely hope they'll be at Hellfest next year, that would be great.

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" - Ray Bradbury

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I'm awake now"
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