Live Review | Damnation 2015 – Featuring : At The Gates, High On Fire, Asphyx
11th November 2015, 13:00
Posted by Tristan
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With festival season being very much behind us and a plethora of new events to look forward to in 2016, we haven’t quite escaped just yet. Saving the best for last it would seem Leeds all dayer returns once again for another whirlwind year and for the first time The Metalist was able to see just what makes Damnation so special to the most blackened and decaying of hearts.

November 7th 2015
University of Leeds Union
Leeds
Support Bands: At The Gates, Mono, Primordial, High On Fire, Asphyx , Amenra, Keep of Kalessin, Altar of Plagues, Solstafir, The Ocean, Maybeshewill, Vreid, Oathbreaker, Savage Messiah, Voices, Undersmile and many more

The seemingly overwhelming locations of the various stages temporarily stuns us but an hour or so in Damnation actually has an incredibly smooth operating system. Prior to the opening of the largest stage we are treated to doom mongers Undersmile. Appearing as part of the first wave of bands, the stage is perhaps not as full as you might want it to be. Nevertheless this does tend to be the case with the early shift. However the band perform an interesting and varied show that set’s the stage for our bands that shall be appearing throughout the day.

Navigating through the throes of black we work our way out of the smaller Electric Amphetamine stage and move into Terrorizer stage where predominantly the most kvlt of today’s acts seem to lie. Appearing as second batter Wiegedood deliver Black Metal goods to a far from  sparse dance floor. A set that is exactly what you would expect from Black Metal. No doubt pleasing the hordes of fans of the more frosty tastes of music but nevertheless not entirely owning the stage themselves. Opening up the proceedings for the first performance of the day on the Jagermeister stage our British born Savage Messiah confidently arrive on stage. Previously having seen the band perform on an early slot at Bloodstock Festival it’s clear that the group are getting tighter as the years go on. Performing their blistering trademark Thrash Metal the band run through “Hellblazer” announcing that they shall be releasing a new album in the coming year the band treat us to a rendition of “Scavenger of Mercy” before quickly exiting. Leaving the crowd reeling after their full on Thrash assault.

 

 

Moving back downstairs to the Terrorizer stage we see London born Voices once again appear at Damnation. Having previously seen the band support the truly unholy Anaal Nathrakh just this year at the intimate venue of The Black Heart in London seeing the band perform on a larger scale is to see the band in a different light. Their abrasive tracks resonate with the Damnation crowd, lapping up their performance making for yet another successful show. Before heading quickly upstairs to catch a small amount of Crown a band that had atmosphere in their spades. Virtually packing out the smaller Eyesoremerch stage there wasn’t much room physically particularly with the oppressive tones coming from the band.

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Quickly glancing at the time and heading over to our Jagermeister stage greeted with the shrill howls that could only be Oathbreaker. Taking to the stage without so much as a word the band instantly create an atmosphere, though slightly sullied with the afternoon beer drinkers being louder than the performance itself, particularly in its softer sections nevertheless the band deliver a fantastic performance. Hailing from Belgium the band bring their mystique in its masses ending the set on compelling high note of “Glimpse Of The Unseen” where the anvil heavy guitars gave way to a solitary and show stopping punctuation  snare hit. Exiting without a word knowing full well that their crowd this year at Damnation had increased.

Vreid, photo courtesy of Damnation

More acrobatics for myself as I ran down to the depths of the Terrorizer stage to see one Vreid deliver a set not dissimilar to the Black Metal prowess witnessed just a floor up. Releasing their brand new album Solverv the band are on fire this afternoon delivering an air tight performance culminating in a rendition of the album’s title track quickly followed by classic “Pitch Black” currently main support on the Indie Recordings 10th Anniversary tour the band are not one to miss and judging from the massive crowd much of Damnation would agree.

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Polarising on the musical spectrum however post rockers Maybeshewill entertain on a more subtle level upstairs on the vastly smaller but no doubt just as packed stage of the Eyesoremerch stage. Taking to the stage the band deliver not only the most POLARISING set of the day but one of the most mesmerising. Being an instrumental outfit the band soared with tracks like “The Paris Hilton Sex Tape” from their early incarnation. Combining the performance  with the fantastic light show led the band to temporarily become transcendental. Culminating in London show the band will be saying their goodbyes all over the globe and we for one will be incredibly sad to see them go. An absolutely flawless performance today going out on the highest of notes possible on their last Damnation.

The Ocean, photo courtesy of Damnation

From saying goodbye’s to new beginnings, heading back over to the Jagermeister Stage we see German geniuses The Ocean arrive to devastate and amaze Leeds today. Kicking things off with Precambrian number “Rhyacian : Untimely Mediations” the crowd are instantly caught in the band’s tide. As we delve deeper below the surface the more tempestuous of tracks along with the sound of bubbles signals our Pelagial section of the show. “Hadopelagic II : Let Them Believe” not only astounds from a muscial standpoint but with the stage being as busy as it is with seven members our flight footed singer decides to reenact the opening scene of Casino Royale. Scaling up to the balcony area whilst the band are musing instrumentally the singer sits atop with a look of glee until the build up is simply to much and launches himself into crowd. Bellowing out with phenomenal force the songs climactic pinnacle the singer has stolen the show today. Tailing off with their brand new track from Mono split “The Quiet Observer” definitely already the word on people’s tongues The Ocean have now won the festival altogether. Delivering air tight musicianship from all members whilst delivering an energetic and courtesy of our singer Loic, unpredictable live experience The Ocean always make waves but today everyone is stunned in their wake.

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Moving once again to the deeper depths of Damnation we greet our more theatrical of bands. Storming the stage Keep Of Kalessin begin their onslaught delivering their terrific brand of Extreme Metal. With drummer Vyl previously away recording with Gorgoroth it’s nice to the solidified line up take on Leeds with such gusto. As the final notes of “Dark Divinity” ring out the band launch straight into another Epistemology number “The Grand Design” met with uproarious approval. Often mired by sound tonight the Sound desk is not against the band delivering crisp quality. Making an incredible amount of noise the band are a tight knit unit and are perfect headliners for the current Indie Recordings 10th Anniversary Tour.

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Crossing borders once again to hear Icelandic revelations Solstafir, with this being their final date supporting Mono and The Ocean the band indeed make the most of it. Their atmospheric Post Rock, dipped in Black Metal begins with “Dagmal” as the crowd instantly warm to the band. Bringing a marauding sense of doom with them as they come, working through “Fjara” sadly the band don’t have as much time as some might want. Yet despite this the band make the most of their time on the stage ensuring that every member of the audience is enraptured. As the evening continues on it seems it’s time for something a little more boisterous…

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Arriving off the back is a South American tour we greet our Dutch Death Metal visionaries Asphyx with a bloodsoaked grin. Thrilled to be for once not playing bloody London the band are absolutely on fire. Dedicating their set here today to Bolt Thrower immortal Martin Kearns after the drummer sadly passed. Delivering deadly cuts “DeathHammer” from their later years discography the band are positively gleaming tonight. Despite part of singer Martin van Drunen’s vocals being drowned out for “Wasteland Of Terror” like the lyrical armies the man defiantly soldiers on, with pitch perfect sound the band are on top form but the fuse is lit with the announcement of war as the Terrorizer stage collectively loses its mind. No doubt a fantastic addition to the already hallowed Damnation history tonight we got classic Death Metal, the brutal way.

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As we move into the final part of the day’s festivities some might be beginning to feel slightly lax. Dispelling this feeling of tiredness High On Fire, easily the loudest band of the day erupt on stage to new ripper “The Black Plot“. Met with a roar of approval the band absolutely tear thrgh Leeds’ Union destroying all in their path, with much of the night’s setlist formed of Luminiferous material “The Falconist” and “Carcosa” going down a treat. Adding title track “Luminiferous” is no wonder that even so far into their career the band can still deliver and absolutely devastating new record. When the band do hit they hit hard, immediately the no nonsense approach the band take is reminiscent of the classic acts. Known for their tempermental sound, tonight works perfectly with the band’s aesthetic. A shirtless Pike hurling his vocals out whilst completing fairly dextrous guitar work as the set comes to a close the band pull out favourite “Snakes For The Divine” to administer the final killing blow. Regardless of how many people you might have on the stage the stoner Motörhead make enough noise to drown out Damnation in its entirety. A loud, brash and ultimately excellent performance.

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Despite High On Fire’s no holds barred approach for those seeking something a little slower look no further than giants Primordial. Having released their brand new album Where Greater Men Have Fallen last year the band have capitalised on their destructive discography headlining the Terrorizer stage this evening.  The boys take no prisoners opening the performance with “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” owning in an instant the sect of Damnation brought down to the basement one last time for good reason. “Babel’s Tower” and “No Grave Deep Enough” satisfy most fans here tonight as the band slowly forge forwards leaving dust in their wake. Culminating in a performance of the classic “Empire Falls” the band say goodbye to yet another year of Damnation.

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Quickly learning throughout the day that Damnation is a festival that celebrates diversity an appearance from Japanese quiet observers (sorry) Mono sees the Eyesoremerch’s grand finale. Taking to the stage the band are not your normal penultimate act. An absence of rousing first track to make everyon truly aim to utilise all their energy, instead it’s more of a calm before the storm approach. Opening with “Recoil, Ignite” the band speak hardly a word remaining distanced only enhancing the music’s decidedly heavier delivery  in a live setting. Drawing in the masses the small Eyesoremerch is at capacity as the band move into new EP track “Death In Reverse“. Though their gazes might suggest an aloof state the band are anything but, with evy single inch of the band getting under your skin to build a sense of understanding that transcendes the confines of language that despite the almost mute appearance in their songs Mono say a thousand words. The perfect ying to Damnation’s yang.

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Few bands on this planet will ever match the genius of our closing act. Releasing their exceptional comeback album At War With Reality in 2014 the band have been striving forward. Able to gain the seal of approval from even the most headstrong  Metal head, At The Gates are a metalhead’s lifeblood. As the introduction of “El Altar Del Dios Desconocido” sets the scene for our philosophical onslaught, members trickle out. Posterboy for banshees, Tomas Lindberg turns his back, raises his hand and as the snare hits for “Death And The Labyrinth” instantly animates into life. Igniting Leeds in one fell swoop the band deliver the goods of “Slaughter Of The Soul“.now twenty years on stands as one of the best Death Metal songs ever written. In keeping with their sleek and streamline delivery the band return to their waging war summoning “At War With Reality” by the steel anvil  encapsulates the devastating capability of this band. Interchanging between the classic album and their new incredible comeback it’s a testament to the bands limitless ability that the both lapped up just as eagerly.

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Today might have held some fantastic acts but with a performance like theirs and a legacy as fierce At The Gates simply demolish anyone in their path. Giving the band their headline stature they so sorely deserve instead of the 1′ o clock Donington appearance, the entire crowd tonight is loving every moment. Performing almsot all of their seminal release the band blister trough “Cold“, “Under A Serpents Sun” whilst interchanging between the more melodious “Circular Ruins” and “Heroes And Tombs“. The band know exactly what to deliver and when, as the beautiful “City of Mirros” parts and Lindberg softly whispers “World Of Lies” the crowd once again explode into a convulsive maelstrom. Twenty years may have passed since their last recording yet the band embody the spirit if their ’95 genius now with wise understanding. After the unbeatable cries of “Kingdom Gone” the band slink back to the shadows with the arrival of final track “The Night Eternal“. As the final notes slowly dissipate Damnation once again sinks into the void. Offering a fantastically eclectic choice of bands genre wide in an accessible venue, no doubt next year will be just the same.

Keep your eyes open for interviews with The Ocean, Ashpyx, Maybeshewill and Vreid coming soon!