I went to Leeds. I have done this many times in the past.
It is a fine city. Filled with blackened churches stained by the ravages of time, black roads coated in the finest tarmac, and black metal, which is not visually black but still pretty on theme.
Yes, Saturday the 6th of November saw the exciting return of Damnation Festival. The UK’s premier extreme metal indoor all-dayer at Leeds Student Union. It also saw the send off too because next year it’ll be returning to Manchester for a much bigger venue.
Anyway, on with the recounting of the day. My day started much earlier than I was expecting with EVILE on the Jagermeister stage. Any gig goer knows that the first few bands of the day tend to have difficulty in creating the best atmosphere. Ultimately however they whipped the crowd up into a storm ending in rapturous applause.
After a few minutes milling around the stage, the next band of the day were the post metal band BOSSK. I’ve listened to their albums and let me tell you that the proper way to experience them is live. I will admit that they are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but there was something relaxing about watching them on stage and exciting about the soundtrack. It was a bit like watching a nature documentary while explosions were happening next door.
Annoyingly I missed a few of the bands I came up to see, this always happens. So shout out to PARTY CANNON, GAMA BOMB, CONJURER and REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER. I’ll catch you sometime in the near future.
Ok, back on track. The next band were ONSLAUGHT who frankly don’t really need much of an explanation. By this point the festival was in full swing. The mountain of empty beer cups was growing at a rate slightly faster than Usain Bolt and the crowd was really feeling the excitement of live music once again. When they played 66’fucking’6 the entire crowd joined in. It was then that any fears I had about live music not returning to the way it had been before the pandemic were completely blown away.
It was somewhere around here that I lost track of time and ended up within the depths of the union watching CONAN. I’ve seen them before and whilst they were good I greatly enjoyed watching the crowd bathed in red light move to the beat of the music as one. There’s something really quite special about watching a group of like minded individuals feel the same thing as you.
Next up were PARADISE LOST who performed their magnificent album Gothic. Overall the performance was fantastic but I couldn’t help but think back to previous iterations of the festival. Having recurring bands like this really helps the festival feel like it’s continuing without a break. So many threads woven through this year that are binding the festival together like a rich tapestry rather than distinct embroideries.
And then… The final band of my day, CARCASS. I’ve been a fan since I was 12 or 13 when my friend showed me some songs that included Keep On Rotting In The Free World and Rock The Vote, as well as some demos by a local band. And now, many, many years on that local band is no more, I know the guitarist now and…I’ve finally seen CARCASS live. It was worth every day I waited. The disappointment of narrowly missing out on seeing them in Edinburgh a few years ago. They played everything I wanted and it felt like the perfect send off to a well loved venue.
Overall I’d recommend Damnation as a festival. I can’t speak for the new venue but Leeds Student Union has been something of a home for the UK’s extreme metal fans for around 15 years and I’m sure we’ll all miss it. I’ll see you all in Manchester next year
Words: Jacob McCrone
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