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Damnation Festival Organizer Gavin McInally Picks His Five Essential Sets at this Year’s Fest

In just over two weeks Damnation Festival returns to Manchester so, this year, we got Gavin McInally to pick his five essential sets…



Damnation Festival by Graham Finney Photography

As far as heavy music festivals go in the UK, Damnation Festival has to be one of the most eclectic. Spread across two days and multiple stages, year after year, Damnation organizers put together a festival that features a fantastic spread across the world of extreme music along with a few special sets to really give fans bang for their buck.

Last year saw the likes of Converge, Pg Destroyer, Misery Index, Pallbearer, and more lay waste to their new home in Manchester. This year, the likes of Akercocke, Enslaved, Unearth and Electric Wizard are heading up the line-up and hope to do the same.

With just over two weeks to go now until the walls of the BEC Arena in Manchester shake to the sounds of two days of extreme music again, we spoke to one of the brains behind the festival, Gavin McInally and got him to pick his five essential sets that you must see in November.

5. Deadguy


“Metalcore pioneers Deadguy are so cult they make Botch look like Top of the Pops icons, so it was little wonder there was equal excitement and confusion when the New Jersey outfit – who broke up in 1997 – were announced for their first show ever outside North America, at Damnation.

“Those who knew, knew, and those who didn’t soon found out what all the fuss was about with their first listen to the incredibly sinister Fixation On A Co Worker. The iconic record, which inspired the likes of Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan, will be performed in full on the Friday before the promise of new material during a second set on Saturday.

“This one-time glimpse at the origins of metallic hardcore wasn’t supposed to be on the cards, but it is. Don’t miss it.”

4. Julie Christmas


“The voice of Made Out of Babies. The voice of Battle of Mice. The voice of Mariner.

“Demented genius Julie Christmas finally makes her UK debut as the banshee of her own project, and with an arsenal of classics in her back catalogue, alongside a captivating stage presence, it will be a masterclass in noise rock and post-metal.

“And yes, a suitably eccentric dress has been commissioned for the occasion.”

3. Unearth


“For an event that regularly books curveballs like Maybeshewill, Jo Quail, We Lost The Sea, etc, it was the surprise inclusion of modern metalcore heroes Unearth that caught Damnation fans off guard.

“The fact that they’ll play their moshpit masterpiece, The Oncoming Storm, is what changed the reaction from ‘ah, nice’ to ‘ah, I need to go damage myself’ as 40-year-old men and women rewind the clock two decades and prepare to throw limbs.

“Deliberately booked early enough on the main stage so old people would still be active, it’s going to be a wild 43 minutes.”

2. Katatonia


“Pack the tissues and strap yourself in for an emotional rollercoaster as sad dads Katatonia run through one of their finest hours, Dead End Kings, in full.

“Ten years ago, Katatonia performed Viva Emptiness at Damnation, and it’s still talked about a decade later. This one-off show will be no different.

“And for those who enjoy the full collection of Katatonia, they’ll play a second set over the weekend of hits, not on Dead End Kings. Win. Win.”

1. Enslaved


“It’s a big, and often very expensive, deal to land an exclusive album set for a festival, so the fact Damnation has both Vikingligr Veldi and Below The Lights over the weekend should not be overlooked.

“To put those sets in context, black metal debut VV headlined the 10,000 capacity Party Sans Open Air in Germany while Below the Lights isn’t just a UK one-off, but a world exclusive performance.

“Be part of black metal history, not once, but twice, with these very, very special performances.”

Damnation Festival 2023 takes place at the BEC Arena in Manchester on November 3rd and 4th. Tickets and more information is available from the Official Damnation Festival Website.

Damnation Festival 2023 Poster

Damnation Festival 2023 Poster

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.