As the gloom falls across Leeds it is once again time for the annual northern gathering of all things brutal, crushing and sometimes unlistenable, yes once again it is time for Damnation Festival. Celebrating its ten year anniversary, Damnation Festival 2014 proved to live up to such an occasion supplying an excellent array of varied metal across all genres, from Black metal to the best in death metal.
First band of the day on the PHD stage were scouse extreme metal titans Corrupt Moral Alter (8/10) who kicked off proceedings in fine form with a frantic blast of extreme noise that could chisel away even the most damning of hangovers. Soundings like the bastard love child of Pig Destroyer with the sludgy end of the Acid Bath spectrum, Corrupt Moral Alter provided the early benchmark for the day and they set it rather high.
Following Corrupt Moral Alter on the PHD stage were Dutch ambient doom metallers Atlantis (6/10) whose doom metal mixed with elements of post rock peaked some interest in the crowd, but in truth they were on far too early for the still vastly sober crowd. After their first track of fourteen minutes of astral oblivion is finished, the crowd already seems to be restless and fading away from the bands ambient sound scopes.
After news broke that October File were forced to pull out at the last minute, UK death metal behemoths Dyscarnate (9/10) were called upon to fill the vacant spot on the mainstage and what a job they did. Opening with ‘The Promethean’ the Horsham three piece deliver a master class in modern death metal, resulting in a mess of hair and banging heads to appear across the floor.
Back on the PHD stage, Black Moth (6/10) pull one of the biggest crowds of the day, resulting in queues going up the stairs. After getting into the venue the band hold the crowd in the palm of their hands throughout and their occult tinged Black Sabbath riffs do have their charm, but following Dyscarnate their lack of pace results in their set feeling in a bit of lull.
British hardcore maniacs Stampin Ground (7/10) are up next on the Jagermiester stage. After breaking the stage following a stage invasion the last time they played Damnation, today’s set of just aggressive chest beating hardcore can’t help but feel slightly tame in comparison. Saying that the bands brand of metallic tinged hardcore whips the crowd into frenzy and results in a massive wall of death during their set.
The best band of the day on the PHD stage arrives next in the form of Welsh three piece Hark (9/10). Packing enough stoner vibes and massive riffs to appease even the most deranged groove connoisseur, the band plough through tracks from their new album “Crystalline” including a crushing rendition of ‘Scarlet Extremities’. Front man and guitarist Jimbob Isaac has really grown as a front man over the months, with his vocals only improving as he nails the Neil Fallon verses from their track ‘Clear Light Of…’ with relative ease.
After a short trip in a DeLorean, we arrive back in 2002 for the return of the mighty Raging Speedhorn (8/10). If you were a child of the 90’s and early 00’s this is an exercise in pure nostalgia, with all the bounce and down tuned riffs being thrown out just as you remember them. The vocal tradeoffs on tracks like ‘The Hate Song’ and on the monolithic rendition of ‘Thumper’ are absolutely fantastic to see once again.
Back on the Jagermeister stage, British stoner legends Orange Goblin (6/10) play a set to their converted audience, who scream every word to every track, but for the uninitiated their brand of stoner rock fails to hit the mark with those not in the patch jacket crowd. The band was certainly not bad, but they just seemed to come across rather average on a bill of such quality.
On the PHD next was one of the most divisive bands on the bill, French –American drone outfit Monarch produced one of the most unpleasant, horrible and possible tormented sets I have ever seen. Monarch is not something you can really give it a score or an opinion on really, it is almost like one of those expressionist performance art pieces that is supposed to protest a cause, but is really just far too bleak or fucked up to put into words, like the man in Russia who protested against capitalism by nailing his bollocks to a paving slab in St Peters Square. Like that Monarch was a painful, bleak and downright intense experience, but not something I would ever want to experience.
Performing their seminal 1987 album “Born Too Late” in its entirety, Doom legends Saint Vitus (9/10) steal the show with a magnificent performance of some of the best doom ever written. Coming onto stage after a marathon set of Phil Collins’ Greatest Hits (no really!) and an ECW!!! ECW!! ECW!!! chant for guitarist Dave Chandler’s shirt, the band plough through their seminal album which sounds so much more sinister and dark live than on record. Front man Wino looked a staggering mess on stage but his vocals were absolutely spot on, nailing every sinister vocal line with ease despite looking absolutely blazed.
So there goes another Damnation Festival, to paraphrase Bill Murray in the film Ghostbusters, It came, We saw, It kicked so much ass!! See you all again same time next year.
Photo Credit: Gobinder Jhitta Photography