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Damnation Festival 2017 – Preview

Fire and Damnation…

Paul Castles sets the scene for Damnation 2017 and offers a few suggestions to those travelling to this year’s sold out festival at Leeds University.


21764910_1694606330571571_5731926837294139792_nThe first weekend in November means bonfires and fireworks to some. But to followers of extreme metal it represents something altogether more compelling. There’s nothing wrong with the odd Catherine Wheel of course, but the real fireworks will be going off at Leeds University where around 3,000 dedicated metalheads will make the annual pilgrimage to the Damnation Festival.

If you dine at the more far-reaching end of the metal table there will be something here to set your musical taste buds racing, and those seeking a crunching blow to the midriff are sure to find Dying Fetus in obliging mood. The Maryland veterans have already chalked up appearances at Bloodstock and more surprisingly, on the back of an inspired social media campaign, Download. Now it’s time for Damnation feel the full force of Fetus. They have just released their first album in five years in Wrong One To Fuck With and it’s as bloodied and brutal as anything they’ve carved into your cranium before. No doubt they’ll be inflicting further carnage with old favourites such as ‘Grotesque Impalement’ and perennial crowd-pleaser ‘Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog.’

Dying Fetus are currently touring Europe with Tasmanian devils Psycroptic and Beyond Creation and both of these will be joining Dying Fetus in Leeds. Psycroptic have flown the flag for Antipodean aggression for 18 years and will revel in bringing some Southern Hemisphere hostility to Yorkshire. Canadian crushing crew Beyond Creation will be equally uncompromising as they dish out a lesson in Montreal menace.

Monstrous Massachusetts grind giants Agoraphobic Nosebleed are another act set to experience Damnation for the first time. ANb, as they are sometimes referred to have been around for over 20 years and the graduates of grind are respected as leaders of the genre through albums such as Altered States of America which shoehorns 100 songs into less than 22 minutes, with several speed of light tracks lasting five seconds or less. Blink and you’ll miss it!

Sticking with the heavy-hitters, and we’re likely to find Nails on a mission to make up for lost time. Twelve months ago the hardcore Californian quartet had to pull the plug on a UK tour which was set to include a visit to Damnation. So festival goers at Leeds Uni will finally be able to feel the weight of their punch when they perform on the Terrorizer Stage. No less savage will be Belgian brutalists Leng Tch’e who will be unleashing a mighty sonic storm with material from their recently released album Razorgrind, featuring tracks such as ‘AnarChristic’ and ‘Guinea Swine’.

Not every artist performing at Leeds University sees it as their mission to turn your brains to mush, the mercurial Myrkur for one. The Scandinavian solo performer certainly has her dark moments but on her much-loved second album Mareridt, these are nestled between passages of beautiful vulnerability. The Danish singer is one of the most unique female singers of her generation, but she’s not the only noteworthy female artist performing at Damnation this year.

Carrying the baton for unadulterated Sabbath doom will be the Italian quartet, Psychedelic Witchcraft, who be making their first ever UK appearance at Damnation. Hold on tight for a hallucinogenic ride into the darkness with singer Virginia Monti casting bewitching spells straight from the band’s forthcoming album Sound of the Wind.

There will be plenty of festivalgoers keen to check out Mutation, the latest incarnation of iconic Wildhearts’ frontman Ginger. The Geordie favourites have had a turbulent time of things down the years but their heavy melodic sound has always earned them a faithful following. Mutation will be tearing things up with material from new blitzkrieg album Dark Black, and there’s always a chance an old Wildhearts’ favourite may be thrown in for good measure.

Dragged Into Sunlight and Wiegedood are both capable of stirring up a sonic duststorm through which clear thought and vision is almost impossible, the latter Belgian trio playing fresh on the back of a UK tour in support of Winterfylleth.

Damnation is a great opportunity to catch bands on the verge of a breakthrough and this year Leprous and Agent Fresco fit into that category. The Scandi cousins will be stopping in deepest Yorkshire midway through an extravagant two-month jaunt of Europe. Norwegians Leprous, known as the backing band to Emperor’s Ihsahn, will paint a striking progressive canvas while expect some alt-rock from Icelanders Agent Fresco.

Notable doom doom acts this year include Pallbearer, who will be bringing their unique songs of Arkansas angst to the Damnation stage for the very first time. Their three albums have taken emotion levels to heights that would have most bands standing on tip-toe to reach and their appearance will be one not to miss. If Pallbearer are close to the pinnacle of the current generation of doom bands, we will also get a chance to be pummeled into tearful submission by one of the elder statesmen of the genre in the form of the wonderful Warning, who returned from what many feared was a permanent hiatus of seven years at Roadburn in April. The trio will play a UK exclusive heavy heart-ripper of a set focused on the gut-wrenching Watching from a Distance  album (2006) which they will perform in its emotion-charged entirety. Hankies at the ready.

Damnation always like to place a super large cherry on the cake with at least a couple of hefty headliners and they’ve come up trumps again this year with the veteran double header of Sodom and Paradise Lost. The former have been flying the flag for Teutonic thrash for 35 years while Paradise Lost will be very much on home soil in Yorkshire where no doubt a smattering of hits from the past three decades will pepper their set, no doubt including a handful of tracks from their superb new album Medusa. Another act who will be able to just hop on the bus to Leeds are Vallenfyre, who made their live debut at Damnation in 2013 and will be warmly welcomed back.

Paradise Lost drummer Waltteri Väyrynen will also be behind the kit for Vallenfyre while PL  frontman Nick Holmes will also be performing with the Swedish ‘super group’ Bloodbath allowing him to exorcise a few of his death metal demons.

Damnation this year promises more highlights than your local hairdresser. Leeds, we’re coming for you.

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