Sat 6 Nov – Damnation Festival 2010
Leeds University Union, Leeds, United Kingdom
6th November 2010
Originally taking place at Jilly's Rock World in Manchester upon its inception in 2005, before upgrading to Leeds Metropolitan University in 2007 and finally to the University Of Leeds in 2008, Damnation Festival has gone from strength to strength. Despite undergoing a downsizing and a reduction in ticket numbers this year, the event itself was an absolute success.
Having last attended Damnation in 2008 (a stellar lineup which included My Dying Bride
, Napalm Death
, among others), I was eager to discover how the downsizing would impact on the atmosphere in and around the Leeds University Union. It turns out that the large hall previously used to house the Jägermeister Stage was out of bounds, and this year said stage was situated in the more modest room previously used for the Terrorizer Stage. As a result, the Terrorizer and Rock Sound stages were placed in small rooms, essentially the size of a nightclub. However, this did not mean that spirits were dampened. The mood at this year's festival was as vital as it was two years ago, and this is surely down to a strong lineup and an exemplary festival experience.
Now, I'm only one person, and thus was not able to see all the bands. Far from it, in fact! If that were possible then of course I would've taken that opportunity, for the sake of a damn good review, if nothing else! But no, in order to see every band, I would've had to constantly move from stage to stage, at carefully timed intervals, always missing a significant portion of every band's set. That would not have been a problem with certain bands, but there was no way I was missing even a second of Paradise Lost
After spending some time re-familiarising myself with the university building and making myself feel important in the press area, I made my way to the Terrorizer Stage to watch Colonel Blast
(sometimes abbreviated to Clnl Blst). Consisting largely of former members of Onsetcold
, Colonel Blast served up a powerful mix of death metal and progressive elements. The band was on top form, with frontman Darryl Jones the obvious focal point, tearing shit up like there was no tomorrow! (There was a tomorrow, incidentally. It consisted mainly of me sleeping.)
To be perfectly honest, I found The Antichrist Imperium
- formed early this year by two members of Akercocke
- to be thoroughly boring and completely uninspiring. This was especially disappointing after two of my friends had been raving about them, and I had always enjoyed Akercocke. I just wasn't moved at all, and found nothing of interest in the music whatsoever. "Prepare yourself for the prophecy of the satanic apocalypse", says their MySpace. Next!
Actually, 'next' wasn't for another hour or so. I went and bought a veggie sausage roll (and ate it, obviously). I hung out with some friends, then went and hung out with some others. I wandered around and took in the atmosphere, and noticed various Leeds University students wondering who the hell all these sweaty metalheads were, and why they were infringing on their territory. Then I went and met four fifths of Paradise Lost at their signing. Met more friends. Paradise Lost signed a photo for me. Nick Holmes needs a better pen. His signature had nearly disappeared by the end of the night! I felt the need to shake Greg Mackintosh's hand, so I requested this, and my request was granted. Hurrah!
Next, I headed for the Jägermeister Stage for some Sabbat
. Featuring at least two metal legends, vocalist Martin Walkyier and guitar/producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap, it was time for a healthy dose of old school metal. Martin led the band through their hits, regularly battling balloons emblazoned with the logo of UK Metal Underground, no less. The man certainly knows how to rally a crowd, and band and audience seemed to feed ravenously on each other's energy. Inevitably climaxing with 'For Those Who Died
', the band promised more UK dates in the near future, so go out and see them if you appreciate top quality old school metal! Bands just don't do it like this anymore.
Back on the Terrorizer Stage, Hecate Entroned
brought their brand of melodic brutality to Damnation. Guitarist Andy Milnes had already impressed with Colonel Blast earlier, and certainly delivered again with Hecate. I'd seen Hecate in Liverpool only days previously, and based on that experience, their performance this time was a tad more restrained than I was expecting. Still, the material itself is excellent, and was delivered with more than enough quality to keep the fans happy.
Next came the reason I was there in the first place: the mighty gothic metal pioneers Paradise Lost. They were only allowed a one hour slot, and with twelve studio albums behind them, it was not an enviable task to pick a good setlist. Some personal favourites, like 'Gothic
', 'Forever Failure
' and 'As Horizons End
' were absent, but that was to be expected. As it happens, the band managed to cram in about as many of their classics as was feasibly possible. 'Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
', 'Pity the Sadness
' and 'As I Die
' demanded audience participation, while other highlights included 'Erased
', 'The Enemy
' and closer 'Say Just Words
'. My personal favourite was 'Enchantment
'. I was not expecting that one, and it's always been one of my favourites by Paradise Lost, so nice one lads!
Importantly, it was very apparent that the band were enjoying themselves. This is not something that could always have been said about Paradise Lost on stage. Quite the opposite in fact. They are sometimes criticised for being relatively dull and lifeless as a live act, but this was not the case at all this time around. Greg Mackintosh was visibly engrossed in the music, and this was particularly noticeable during 'One Second
' and 'The Rise of Denial
'. Meanwhile, Nick Holmes' dry Yorkshire humour was on full display. "Back from Damnation, my favourite show in 45 years, Im serious. man & boy.Thanks to all that didn't throw sharp objects at me for been shit", he Tweeted that evening. Nice!
After that, I'd have quite happily gone home. I did want to check out Alcest
though, so I did. At least, I went to hear them...I was not able to see them. The Rock Sound Stage was not even a stage as such, as it was barely an inch off the floor. The room was full by the time I got there, and I had to stand at the back. Being a short arse, that meant I couldn't see a thing. Still, Alcest's blend of shoegaze, post-rock and black metal (for want of a better description) did not fail to hit the spot. In fact, it was a great way to end the festivities. Wind down metal! Having said that, I did attempt to watch the remainder of The Dillinger Escape Plan
's set, but was whisked off somewhere else. The rest of the evening was spent being very tired and talking to other people about how tired they were. We were all so very, very tired.
Anyway, in conclusion, Damnation is a great day (and night) out in Leeds. It was in 2008 and that hasn't changed since then. I suspect I will be in attendance next year and I suggest you show your face too! This year's downsizing is almost certainly a temporary measure, so any complaints you may have just read above about the Rock Sound Stage presumably won't apply. The University Union is an excellent location, positioned close to Leeds city centre, with a handy shop and an ample selection of band merch available. All in all, not bad for 27 quid!