by Paul Castles
Paul Castles sets the scene for this year’s Damnation Festival at Leeds University
Damnation Festival should be ringed on the kitchen calendar before family birthdays and anniversaries. The indoor extreme metal fest at Leeds University is a must-see event for anyone who likes their metal taken to the limits.
So for those heading to Yorkshire on November 7 who are some of the bands to look out for? Well among the 40 or so acts playing at Damnation this year, there will be a quite a few who should be familiar to regular gig goers in Birmingham.
Essex boys The King is Blind and Londoners Voices both shared the Rainbow stage with Winterfylleth recently and the chance to get reacquainted with both these rising talents should not be passed over lightly.
The King is Blind are an abrasive metal core powerhouse while Voices conjure up some exhaustive riff patterns that can simultaneously disorientate and delight your musical senses.
No Damnation line-up is complete without at least one raging black metal ensemble and this year it is the turn of the interesting Belgian newcomers Wiegedood who will be making their UK debut.
Ireland’s Altar of Plagues are not quite so easy to place in the black metal in tray but when they roll out their blackened carpet of menacing ambient grooves the atmosphere will be as dark as night.
Norwegian duo Keep of Kalessin and Vreid are touring together under the ‘Indie Recordings’ banner and this 10-year celebration tour will include both bands stopping off at Damnation. Both are well worth catching.
There are four separate stages spread across the campus site – all indoors – and the Electric Amphetamine stage will host most of the doom acts among them this year Hampshire’s finest harbingers of doom, Witchsorrow, fresh from their recent headline slot at Fearfest at the Birmingham Asylum.
“To be invited back to bring heaviness on Damnation once more is a very special thing for us,” they said. “It’s a truly great thing to be counted among such fine bands, and to be able to bring doom armageddon to such a unique festival. Prepare for total doomination!”
The doom platform never disappoints at Damnation and this year will also feature the return of The Wounded Kings, now back again as an all-male unit, with original singer George back in situ. It will be interested to see his interpretation of some of the shuddering doom numbers from the Consolamentum album, following the departure of former singer Sheree. The Electric Amphetamine headliners are London trio 40 Watt Sun.
Another recent visitor to Birmingham was the spaghetti western favouring Solstafir, who played to a surprisingly small crowd at the Institute. Last year on the second biggest Terrorizer stage the clamour to see them was such that a one-in one-out policy had to be operated, similar to multi-story car parks on Christmas Eve! For those who did make it inside, the Icelanders certainly delivered one of the most emotive sets of last year.
This year they’ve been ‘upgraded’ to the main Jagermeister stage and in doing so become the first band ever to play back-to-back Damnation Festivals, quite a tribute in itself. They are currently touring Europe with Mono and The Ocean, both of whom will also be performing at Damnation.
The Japanese outfit Mono are probably among the more eclectic acts appearing this year while German band The Ocean have more prog tendencies. The pair have just linked up for a split album release Transcendental, out soon.
The Terrorizer stage is this year headlined by Ireland’s pagan protagonists Primordial, who last performed here in 2012. Few frontmen build such an instinctive rapport with the crowd as AA Nemtheanga, who said: “We are delighted to return to Damnation this year to headline the Terrorizer stage. Our last show there was a great one and we look forward to more of the same this time around as we continue to support our Where Greater Men Have Fallen album.”
Thrash fans are catered for by the likes of Savage Messiah and if you’re a metal fan but can’t find anything for your taste on this bill, then you’re probably in the wrong place. Equally, California power trio High on Fire will be bringing some of their rasping riffs to the party.
This year’s Jagermeister Stage headliners are At The Gates, who played at The Oobleck in Birmingham earlier this year alongside Triptykon. The Swedes are enjoying a renaissance having slipped off the radar for a number of years following their explosive early days in the xx.
This is the only UK show of the year for the melodic death pioneers who will bring down the curtain on the day at the Jagermeister Stage. The band said: “We are very happy to be heading back to Yorkshire soil where it all started for us back in the day on Deaf/Peaceville Records. See you there folks!”
n For full ticket and travel information along with stage times please visit www.damnationfestival.co.uk