As the cold weather finally sets in for the year, Leeds University is once again host to the Terrorizer Damnation Festival. For the devotee of intense and experimental metal, ten hours within the corridors of the university union building is a small price to pay for a feast of extremity. Facilities are however, plentiful, and there is no shortage of bar or food space from which to take solace. Adjusting to the layout of the festival, and familiarising oneself with the amenities done, the first aural treat of the day was on the Terrorizer Stage. The Atrocity Exhibit are based in Northampton and Milton Keynes, and to an already crowded venue, performed a ferocious display of high-speed and hostile grind. Those lucky enough to get hold of a copy of their limited seven track EP “What Time the Hidden Death?”, available at the festival, will be in possession of a magnificent reminder of their performance. Bands who appear early on a festival line up may suffer from depleted audience numbers, but The Atrocity Exhibit did an admirable job of engaging the eager. The same can be said for London’s Hang the Bastard who, again on the Terrorizer Stage, performed a frenzied and brutal set. There is intense, and there is intense, but Hang the Bastard almost leaves the listener violated. A number of attempts were made to investigate the activity on the Eyesore Stage at this point, but due to its elongated shape and the volume of people packed inside, any meaningful evaluation was virtually impossible.

Back to the Terrorizer Stage then for Manchester based black metal giants Winterfylleth. With material influenced by the English heritage and landscape, their performance this afternoon was tight and exhilarating, and will no doubt send many young (and old) consumers out looking for their latest release “The Threnody of Triumph”. As their name is derived from “winter full moon”, the first full moon of the winter and the end of summer, this event at this time of year made their show all the more poignant. As a resident of Leeds, it was felt crucial to return to the crowded Eyesore Stage to take in the joyous racket that is Leeds based Blacklisters. Soaked in the beer and sweat of a number of dates supporting Pig Destroyer, Blacklisters confronted the audience, grabbed them by the throat and beat them about the head with thirty minutes of unhinged and disquieting tunes. Stalking the audience with microphone wire wrapped around the limbs is the way forward in engaging the audience, as is hanging at the front of the stage shouting the lyrics to ‘Trickfuck’. A spectacular set, as usual, and in no way a biased review. Back again to the mighty Terrorizer Stage for a set by the grindcore legends Extreme Noise Terror. There are extremes in music and there are extremes in music, but Extreme Noise Terror take aggression and speed one step further. Dedicating a tune to the sadly departed Phil Vane, the band also displayed warmth and camaraderie with audience, crew and fellow band members which appeared touching in its honesty. Passing their supply of beer around the audience only goes to reinforce the respect that the band have for their followers.

After your intrepid reporter being reinforced with a cheese and onion pasty, the Jagermeister Stage was the scene for the Irish thrash metal titans Gamma Bomb. Not only purveyors of fine, intensely driven, tunes, there was also an element of enjoyment to the band which can sometimes be lacking in a performance, and was sure to lift the mood of the weary punter who has been on their legs for the last few hours. Engaging the audience as old friends is nearly always indicative of a confident band who remembers why they are on the stage in the first place. As can so often be the case at a festival event, there are several bands playing simultaneously who spark curiosity. Ten minutes of Irish extreme metal from Primordial, followed by the last ten minutes of a set on the Eyesore Stage from the emotionally charged 40 Watt Sun, led to a murderous set on the Terrorizer Stage from Norway’s black thrash heavyweights Aura Noir. If their latest album “Out to Die” is indicative of their performance at Damnation, then the reader would be well advised to seek out a copy. If old school thrash, such as that delivered by Slayer or Venom is of interest, then look no further.

Returning to the Jagermeister Stage and there is high expectation for gothic doom stalwarts My Dying Bride. Absolutely wrought with passion, My Dying Bride did not disappoint those at hand, whether or not they were actually familiar with the material. The riffs on display were authoritative and the emotions were holding the audience captivated. The band has managed to forge their own brand of achingly poignant chord progressions, interspersed with passages of melancholic angst, and it is a truly distinctive sound that defines their being. Dual guitar lines pierce through monstrous walls of doom, over which Aaron Stainthorpe narrates tales of heartbreak and desolation. Austria’s Belphegor, back through the warren of tunnels that is the university union, were as sinister and blasphemous as anyone would want them to be. With a stage bedecked in pagan imagery, the set was both exhilarating and petrifying, and those of a strong disposition may wish to investigate last year’s “Blood Magick Necromance” album as evidence.

Tension was palpable prior to Pig Destroyer taking to the stage as the headline act on the Terrorizer Stage. This was their first visit to the UK in eight years and on the back of the praise heaped upon their latest release “Book Burner” this was going to be a very special show indeed for many people. The intensity of the performance tonight did not dishearten those around the stage. Sadly, the momentum of the set was broken by recurring technical problems, which caused some frustration. Technical issues aside, Pig Destroyer created a sheet of sound and vehemence which would have been difficult to follow on any stage.

Throughout the event there was a conspicuous mood, amongst most participants, that extreme music of the kind on display today, has a subculture which is held together by companionship and respect. This was evident both on stage and off. Hopefully anyone reading these words, who has not so far engaged with this subculture, will be inspired to investigate some of the most candid and ardent music on the planet.

Damnation Festival 2012 Official Website

Photos taken by Sabrina Ramdoyal.

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