Damnation Festival 2014 – Leeds University Union – 01/11/2014

Lots of metal heads were waiting for this year’s Damnation festival, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Ten years and this year’s installment was totally sold out.  Leeds was full of black and camouflaged creatures, ready for what was supposed to be a really good event for sure.

Loads of different legendary and less known names in the festival line-up looked quite interesting and I was up for digging discoveries next to the bands I already knew and liked. Once I  arrived at the festival I headed straight to see Atlantis, Dutch heavy instrumentalists who where letting rip on the PHD stage. People were slowly gathering at the stage and after  hypnotizing musicianship for 20 minutes (which was 2 songs) the patience and expectations of many reached the limit.

I headed to check the Terrorizer stage for Xerath – yet another interesting band, worth checking out, but instead of hearing ear catching tunes, all pretty much everybody could hear was a rubbish mash of guitars, drums and something called vocals without any deeper sound in it. It did not take long to get disappointed and while the promise of the band warrants checking them out again at home. This time I had leave Xerath to their own devices on stage.

After a not very successful beginning to the festival there was some time to check the smallest stage of all – The Eyesore Merch stage where Obsidian Kingdom were ready to start. These Spanish conquistadors were supposed to play with Solstafir in Glasgowl but they could not and that made me even more curious to see them this time. Their music is quite diverse so I expected a quite interesting and adventurous set live. The stage seemed slightly crowded when five guys came on it and people seemed to gather quite fast as well. Despite the readiness for yet another discovery  I got poor sound with the feeling that we all were in a wooden barrel. Ironically, at that point of time, I did not know that soon it will be possible to feel that in other ways rather than sonically.

After the short break there was time for something definitely way more crushing and heavy in the form of Aeon. These death metallers from Sweden brought really amazing energy with them and were trying to give as much to audience as they could. After struggling to get a better sound for half of the show, the second part of it was at least bearable and left us with some understanding of what was happening on the stage. As is usual in these kind of concerts, there was a  moshpit, crowd surfing and stage diving. It was just a question of time with the  amount of brutality coming  from the stage. Aeon’s neck cracking death metal triggered a small but still brutal moshpit in the middle of the audience leading to one guy jumping through the pit straight onto the stage. He was warmly welcomed by Aeon’s vocalist who gave him the mic to join the whole process. That didn’t last long as the guy was brutally taken down from the stage by security. As if that wasn’t enough, later on this guy was found again by the same security guys in the audience and led away from it. Such a mood killer.

My adventures at the Damnation festival continued while trying to check Terorrizer stage again where UK black metallers Winterfylleth were occupying the stage. Unfortunately, due amount of people it was impossible to get to see anything. The feeling of being in the rammed wooden barrel came back and never left after that. A totally sold out festival meant super crowded spaces leaving some people, who came in after the start of the show,  left outside in the hall or next to the bar. Because of the Winterfylleth gathering, there were much less people checking out  <code> at the smallest Eyesore Merch stage. Their nicely built melodies, mixed vocals and distinctive sound caught the attention and was definitely worth checking them out. Another band added to my discoveries list.

After 20 minutes of <code>, the understanding that if one wanted to see Revocation at the Terrorizer stage, one must leave at this instant so as not to face the same Winterfylleth fate. A  good position for Revocation was taken and the American technical death metallers were greeted with an instant moshpit in the crowd  and ovations. With the raging energy and technical guitar parts, this quality death metal team presented their new album “Deathless”, including “Madness Opus” – a dark and crushing tale inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Music Of Erich Zann’. Time simply flew and the show was no less than brilliant.

The sound at Terrorizer stage got slightly more bearable during the Revocation show and then then Anaal Nathrakh prepared a mind blowing surprise with probably the best sound I heard at Terrorizer’s all day. The guys took their time to prepare and stormed onto the stage like a pure apocalypse. This extreme powerful energy brought an especially big crowd, triggered wild moshpit and totally blew minds. The band presented lot of tracks from their new album “Desideratum”, which sounded so much better than on record. Their industrial elements gave them extra evil and solemn sound, with riffs that crushed and broke necks. Anaal Nathrakh was the first band at the festival that actually made remarks regarding the crowd surfing to the security, so once given permission, the conveyer began and security guys were busy fishing out crazy AN fans for the whole show. The band seemed in extremely brilliant mood; lots of laughs and grins were clearly visible, especially after panties thrown onto the stage. Conclusion: unleashed apocalypse, it seemed that Hell was really empty because the devils were on the stage at Damnation!

After this storm, with spirits raised, one headed to check out old good St. Vitus’ set at the biggest, Jagermeister stage. This company of grey haired guys playing their old school doom made it clear why they were one of the headliners in the first place. They filled the venue with amazing energy and atmosphere, great quality of music and an overall entertaining band of brothers!

The last band I saw was the almighty and so much anticipated Bolt Thrower. All the energy I had left after a trying day was for the few first songs, to get the picture of this band playing live. They looked great: top quality sound and riffs with engaging group of musicians on the stage. The room was totally packed and one could barely see much. After a pleasant St. Vitus show, Bolt Thrower seemed to be overusing the quantities of the sound, which was even more tiring to listen to. After several tracks one tried checking out the Eyesore Merch stage, where Fen was spreading the darkness but after seeing the queue on the stairs I gave up and went out into the night.

Highlights: Anaal Nathrakh, Revocation and Aeon.
Disappointments: Horrible sound quality during the most of the sets, overcrowded venue, which led to missing a lot of bands I wanted to see.
Mixed feelings: Security. Quite organized but nevertheless with little understanding of how metal people enjoy the music they like.
Discoveries: <code> , Xerath, St. Vitus.
Atmosphere: Sweaty and stressful, like a giant in a barrel with a few hints of positive sunlight through the cracks.
Thought of the day: Something definitely has to be changed for 2015.

About Jurga Kalinauskaite

Photographer, journalist, curious wanderer.