“Do you know where you’re going?” asks the taxi driver who dropped me off outside Leeds University ahead of my first ever Damnation Festival. “I’m sure I’ll find it, I’ll just follow the parade of black tee-shirts with unreadable logos…”
Damnation Festival is back for its 11th year and, while the line-up may not be jam packed with the biggest names from the extreme metal world, there is still something for everyone at this extreme metal all-dayer. So, heading into the University, the first thing that hits me is how much like an old-school underground metal gig this is. There are stalls selling t-shirts, CD’s, second hand stalls, even backpatches and the few thousand fans wandering around the various stages are lapping it up.
Musically the Damnation organisers have got it sewn up whether you’re a black metal fan, a grindcore fan, a death metal fan or you like something a little more progressive, Damnation has you covered. Our first port of call is the Terrorizer stage where The King Is Blind are battering through their brutal grindcore to a more than appreciative room. It may only be just after lunch but I can tell already that by the time Swedish ragers At The Gates bring the day to a close I’m going to be needing the Nurofen!
Opening up the main stage are London thrashers Savage Messiah and they certainly raise a few devil horns with their brand of crushing, classic thrash. Elsewhere Wiegedood may not look like your typical black metal band but there is very little about their relentless onslaught that doesn’t put them firmly in that pond.
She may not say much but Caro Tanghe vocalist for Belgian grinders Oathbreaker unleashes an almighty roar to match the aural soundtrack of Convergesque mayhem. By now the need for Nurofen was growing. Bringing a more progressive element to proceedings, The Ocean return to Damnation Festival and, despite a more melodic aspect to their sound, are still a hit with those who like their music to be a little bit more challenging.
The dial is kept at eleven though on the Terrorizer stage though as Keep Of Kalessin bring their brand of Finnish death metal before extreme metal titans Asphyx grace the stage and, quite frankly, batter the room into submission with their unrelenting, uncompromising blast of death metal.
The night is heading to its conclusion with High On Fire tearing up a riot on the main stage with their hairy, grotty blast of Motorhead inspired punk rock. Noisy as hell, the Matt Pike led outfit are one of the highlights of the day warming the Damnation crowd up nicely for the eagerly anticipated headline set from Gothenburg legends At The Gates.
Ahead of that though, we jam ourselves into the Terrorizer stage for the return of Irish black metal heavyweights Primordial who have the honour of closing the stage. It’s hotter than an oven in here as Alan leads the Irish band out to a hero’s welcome before charging straight into their set. Heads bang, fists pump the air and flags are waved as the Irish band pound through the likes of ‘Gods To The Godless’ and, while it’s been a mixed bag here on the Terrorizer stage today, extreme metal fans couldn’t have wished for a more glorious way for the stage to close.
It started nine hours earlier with the brutal assault of The King Is Blind and, through grindcore bands, black metal bands, punk rock bands and death metal bands, it’s left to Gothenburg titans At The Gates to bring Damnation 2015 to a furious finale. As clinical as you’d expect, the Swedish genre-definers live up to their reputation with a stunning set. Blasting through old classics and tracks from their most recent offering At War With Reality, the Swedish band bring the curtain down on Damnation 2015 in style.