Well, here we are at Damnation, the brilliant one day heavy music festival held annually at Leeds University. Each Damnation festival is unique, with the only common theme being the faithful Damnation regulars, who see the one day festival as a chance to see some of the best extreme bands in the world. The 2014 festival line up is stronger that ever, and we can’t wait to get started.
Leeds University is an excellent venue for the Damnation Festival; although it is vast, its easy enough to flit between the stages. After stumbling through what feels like endless stretches of corridor, we eventually find our way to the Terrorizer stage to see Amputated. Brutal-death metal with plenty of moshing is exactly what we need to shake off the hangover cobwebs. The room is packed, and Amputated’s set is extremely fun, and the band bring a solid, professional and tight show. An excellent start to the day! (7)
2014 has been a ground-breaking, redefining year for doom, and girl…sisters are doing it for themselves! Although they have yet to be picked up by the mainstream media, Black Moth are certainly making their mark at grass roots level with good old fashioned hard work. Today the Leeds quintet perform a perfect set to a full room of hometown fans. Their sound combines all the best elements of Sixties heavy rock with modern prog riffs. Black Moth perfectly balance the powerhouse sound of big chords and subtle yet intricate details. (8)
UK hardcore heroes Stampin’ Ground make a glorious return to Damnation after ripping the place to pieces in 2006. Even festival organiser Gavin says “The highlight in 10 years? I tell you Stampin’ Ground today was as close as I’m going to get. They played in 2006 and actually did break the stage, but they’re a wee bit more professional now. I prefer the stage to be in one piece so that was a nervy moment”. Its excellent to see that, although Stampin’ Ground have certainly matured over the years, their brand of brutal hardcore has certainly lost none of its lethal potency. Colossal circle pits flare to ‘Officer Down’, and the crowd do their very best to invade the stage. Excellent. (9)
UK metal heroes Raging Speedhorn follow Stampin’ Ground. This is their third time performing at Damnation, which as Gavin comments makes them “the band that have played the most out of anyone…and that’s three times in 10 years. That makes them one of the most booked artists in the festivals 10 year history”. Back together this year after a six year split, we can’t help but feel emotional as we watch the six piece give us one of the best sets of the day. Frank and John are so together vocally that they actually sound better than ever with duel screams that are so firey they could melt an ice cap. Frank Regan stands at the front of the six men on stage and screams at the moshers in the crowd to get moving as the circle pit grows wider and wider. Damnation is truly the spiritual home of Raging Speedhorn, and as the telltale riffs of ‘Thumper’ blast out the hairs on the back of our neck stand up. This is metal how it is meant to be, we’re so happy you’re back Speedhorn- now lets get raging! (10)
Then its on to British heavy metal heavyweights Orange Goblin over on the main stage. Lemmy’s recent ill health has demonstrated that Motörhead are not going to be around forever. The gods of metal are getting older and finding touring tougher to sustain. So if you want to hear some bloody good biker metal before its too late, you better get fist pumping to Orange Goblin, now! The British metal institution that is Orange Goblin have been decimating audiences for nearly 20 years, and eight albums later they are finally at the top of their game. Tonight they play to a packed Jager stage, battering us with ‘Sabbath Hex’, ‘Some You Win Some You Lose’ and ‘The Devils Whip’ to name just a few. We salute Orange Goblin with a raised whisky, well done Ben and co! (7)
Next we headed back to the Terrorizer stage to see death metal titans Cannibal Corpse. The band have been around for a long time now, always doing the same thing. Fortunately their trademark sound does not get old, and frontman George makes a visible effort to give us an enjoyable show. Opening with classic ‘Staring Through The Eyes Of The Dead’ followed by ‘Fucked With A Knife’, the band then gave us some new songs from the Skeletal Domain album. Cannibal Corpse are the ultimate professional musicians – they really steal the spotlight….for now…. (9)
Closing the festival are UK death metal titans Bolt Thrower, and their headline set at Damnation has been a long long time coming. As Gavin tells us, “Bolt Thrower are the oddest band you’ll ever book because they’re not part of the industry. They don’t have an agent who is wanting to haggle, they are not interested in the fee, they’re “We’re going to play it or we’ll not play it”, so I asked them 12 times because we asked them for the 10 Damnations each year. I almost didn’t even ask this year. I just thought what’s the point, I mean you’re sending emails, they’re very polite but they send back, “No it’s not for us” but I thought, “You know what, fuck it, nothing to lose, it’s just an email and at least I’ll get a polite knockback” but then they actually said they were thinking about it, so for two months I sit going “right okay well is it happening or not?”, and then they came back and said yes.” As we stand on the balcony watching Bolt Thrower tear up the main stage, we can’t help but thank the metal gods for Gavin’s perseverance. This is Bolt Thrower’s only UK date this year, and their first UK show in 2 years, and they are bloody amazing. Its actually a really tough experience to put in to words and do it justice. You either saw it, or you didn’t. You either get it, or you don’t. They are Bolt Thrower. That was Damnation. Thank you very much and here’s to the next 10 years! (10)
Reviewed by Lisa Fox
ps – It wouldn’t have been Damnation without Gavin McInally, thank you so much for your hard work and taking the time to chat!