It’s that time of year again. Leeds is swamped with figures in black heading towards Leeds University, ready for a night of music and mayhem, except this year we are also celebrating 10 years of Damnation.
This years show is completely sold out and we look forward to a fantastically varied line up with legends Bolt Thrower headlining. It’s going to be one hell of a day.
Straight to into the venue after breakfast at the Dry Dock I was quite excited to see London based Bast and so I headed for the Eyesore Merch Stage. Being the first band of the festival and an anticipated act after the release of their first full length album, Spectres this year the area in front of the stage was crammed full.
If you haven’t been to Damnation before, there is a set of steps just before the bar at the Merch stage which makes it impossible to see the band when it is busy. Their ambient set was not only invisible to me but it was quite hard to hear what was going on as well. I did at one point hear parts of Outside the Circles of Time. Slightly disappointed I didn’t get to enjoy their set nevertheless I was glad they had a good turn out.
Swedish Death Metal was next on my list by the name of Aeon. The larger Terrorizer stage was packed but I managed to get down the front early. The crowd appreciated their relentless fast paced set and responded by a series of circle pits. The lyrics for Aeons Black worked particularly well in that setting especially when introduced by Zeb as “a heavy one”. The crowd were crushed alive in their wake. I found the sound wasn’t great though as the guitar riffs were lost, they could have done with turning them up quite a lot.
After Aeon I had a couple of interviews so I unfortunately missed Winterfylleth.
Solstafir from Iceland were next on the PHD Stage. I had been introduced to them on the drive to the festival and was quite interested to see how their sound would perform live. I was really disappointed that due to the crowds the stage was impossible to see. The queue was out the door and up the stairs so there was no chance of seeing them.
I then attempted to see A Forest of Stars, Orange Goblin, Monarch, Wodensthrone and Saint Vitus. I was able to get near enough to the latter two to see the stage and watch parts of the sets due to them being on the bigger Jagermeister stage which had speakers on the pillars but I couldn’t get a sense of the set as I was so far from the front. The other bands were impossible to enjoy as the venue and the sound didn’t lend itself to the large crowds.
I had been looking forward to seeing Cannibal Corpse again as they always put on a fantastic show and get the crowd moving. One of the best bands to headbang to as well. Unfortunately again due to the crowds the set was pretty hard to enjoy. I had no room to headbang or to see the band despite leaving other sets early to get there in plenty of time to secure a decent spot. They played a brutal set however with a mix of old classics such as Devoured by Vermin, Staring through the Eyes of the Dead and newer tracks such as Kill or Become.
Last but not least, the headliner, legendary Death Metal force that is Bolt Thrower on the Jagermeister stage. They opened their set with War,Remembrance and to my delight also played World Eater and No Guts No Glory which are my personal favourites. Thankfully the opening up of the back of the room and the speakers on the pillars meant that the crowd were able to stand comfortably and at least hear what was going on. They played an awe inspiring set which made it worth the blood sweat and tears of the last few hours.
Most of us came away with mixed feelings about Damnation this year. While the staff and Gavin are undoubtedly in it for the right reasons and created yet another exciting and varied line up the venue completely ruined it for myself and many others. I don’t mind being shoved or getting covered in man-sweat and beer, that’s part of the fun, but waiting for a band you really want to see, fighting your way through the crowds to actually get into the same room as the stage to find that once again you cannot hear or see them is quite frustrating.
Even leaving a previous set half way though to get a decent space for the next didn’t always work. It is always worth the trip to Leeds because of the fantastic atmosphere it generated, but it could have been a better experience if the venue wasn’t so restrictive.