So in 2012, Damnation reached its 7th year of providing Leeds and its visitors a strong dose of extreme metal and underground rock music, and what a line-up to celebrate it with!
Sporting headliners consisting of Electric Wizard, Pig Destroyer and Amenra; while joined by the likes of My Dying Bride, Extreme Noise Terror, Belphegor, Primordial, Winterfylleth and more – possibly the bargain of the year considering that a single ticket only cost around £32.
The day started with The Atrocity Exhibit, who warmed up the Terrorizer stage with their filthy grind, armed with head-banging grooves and ferocious vocals. Despite the band being pretty fun (the bassist constantly flickering his tongue like a rabid man couldn’t help lighten the mood), the crowd remained still for the most part; perhaps still suffering from hangovers or early hours of travelling. Otherwise The Atrocity Exhibit seemed just right to open the stage.
Thirty minutes later, Hang The Bastard walk on to plenty of cheers, soon rolling into their sludgey hardcore as vocalist Michael Carver jumps around the stage, winding himself into the crazed man that appears during songs, at times staring into the crowd as if everyone had just offended him for the last time. Meanwhile, inbetween songs and during a moment of technical difficulties, Carver is more polite, thanking the crowd for watching or apologising for the wait while one of the guitars is dealt with – providing a humorous mix of dual personalities. That said, the band were tight and managed to stir a moshpit with little effort.
Devil Sold His Soul began playing at the Jagermeister Stage shortly after and provided a great setlist as well as a hypnotic performance as they mixed their soft-loud dynamics and syncopated riffs, playing a range of tracks from each of their albums, the most striking moments during The Starting and Sirens Chant from their debut “A Fragile Hope”. The band were incredibly on point, proving that they had more than earned their right to play the main stage.
Next up were noise-pushers Blacklisters on the Eyesore Merch Stage. Playing to their home city, the band did Leeds justice and they undoubtedly made it one of most talked about sets of the day. If you’ve listened to their debut album “BLKLSTRS”, you might be prepared for what could happen, but even then band managed to throw wilder and messier versions of their already chaotic music at first time viewers of the band – myself included – they took many people by surprise. While guitarist Dan Beesley looks like he’s trying to break his instrument in half, vocalist Billy Mason-Wood shakes and spasms like a man possessed, pouring cans of lager down his throat between songs, even making his way through the crowd during Ok47. They played a few new songs too; as well as announcing a new album in the works. A ridiculously fun band to witness live.
Darting towards the Terrorizer stage, I managed to catch the majority of Extreme Noise Terror‘s crust-ridden set from the safety of the balconies, witnessing the most energetic crowd yet – a moshpit taking up the centre of the crowd below and frequent crowdsurfers, some grabbed from the front barrier while others fell back into the crowd. The band themselves were a constant flurry, rocking back and forth or storming around the stage while managing to maintain a clear sound, inciting the audience to give it their all. The coarse Dean Jones gave his opinions on religion, wishing he had more beer and dedicating one song to the late Phil Vane (RIP); but looked like he was having a great time throughout.
Unfortunately, I left ENT a bit later than expected to see sludgey post-rock titans Bossk back at the Eyesore stage, who had already managed to fill the whole room and so it was a difficult job to wade through the crowd in order to get a decent view. Although hearing the likes of Truth and Define in person was a chilling experience, it felt slightly underwhelming with them being on a small stage, and seemed they would be more suitable for a larger stage with a bigger light show to accompany their heavy atmosphere. After Bossk, I spent an hour to replenish and headed to the Terrorizer stage to catch Aura Noir; who were nothing short of entertaining. Even though the band plays heavily thrash-influenced black metal with a serious demeanour, the slightly cheesy style and the seriousness itself couldn’t stop me from smiling or chuckling – not in a negative light, just that it was… well… unexpectedly fun.
I then left the Terrorizer early again to head over to the Eyesore stage to witness and enthralling set by Maybeshewill. No words could justify just how intense they were; especially during fan favourite Not For The Want Of Trying, the sample of Network (1976) inspiring a few shout-alongs before the band burst into human-shaped balls of energy, yet never missing a note. Maybeshewill proved that having a vocalist isn’t necessary to keep your audience engaged in a live setting and were simply brilliant. Thirty minutes later, Amenra took to the same stage, swamping the audience in their progressive doom/sludge, with help from a projector displaying grim images on the band themselves. Although hardly injecting a whole lot of energy into the audience, the set was mesmerising and crushing, making me feel guilty when leaving early in order to catch one of the headliners…
Speaking of which, at the Terrorizer stage, the audience is noticeably fidgety and impatiently hungry – men and women are staring as the band casually go through soundcheck on stage, and this is what strikes you: Pig Destroyer look like average guys, humble in every sense, seeming like friendly regulars at your local pub or local labourers that you recognise. As the lights dull down and a monologue from Tropic Of Cancer (1970) plays, the anxiety of what these guys will be like kicks in. Just a few moments ago, vocalist J.R. Hayes looked like a friendly woodcutter smiling at the crowd while noise/sampler Blake Harrison looked like someone who had accidentally wondered on with a beer in hand; but when the sample ends and Adam Jarvis blasts into Rotten Yellow and the band start swaying, jumping and looking downright scary, especially Hayes.
The setlist covered a fair range of their material too: Piss Angel, Starbelly, Thumbsucker, The Bug, Deathtripper, Alexandria and Pretty In Casts were all played as well as a handful of others. Unfortunately, a portion of the band’s set was taken up by trying to fix a problem with Hull’s guitar, resulting in three false starts, breaking the onslaught so far and killing the mood slightly. The band also finished the set a few minutes early, which was a bit of a disappointment considering the time lost with the guitar issue, but otherwise it was a mighty set, leaving a lot of battered people wandering slightly concussed afterwards, unable to comprehend what they’d just been through during the past 55-minutes. Even though the band admitted themselves that they’re plagued with the bad luck of technical difficulties live, which became reality on the night, they’re definitely worth seeing if the chance arises. Unmissable.
Some highlights from an hour long video found on Youtube:
Written by Rich Reviewz