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Damnation Festival 2012 - Leeds University - 3rd November 2012 (Live Review)

Monday, 05 November 2012 Written by Ben Bland
Damnation Festival 2012 - Leeds University - 3rd November 2012 (Live Review)

Another year gone and another awesome line-up chock full of metal rolls into Leeds at the beginning of November. Arriving just as the wind starts to chill and the skies start to darken early, this is always a top quality event. Always reliable curators, the team behind Damnation are consistently good at getting a top selection of the heaviest bands around, and this year quickly proves to be no exception in that regard.

ImageCertainly Ravens Creed are more than heavy enough to get things off to a suitably headbang-worthy start on the Eyesore Merch Stage. Taking a big leaf out of the Venom handbook, their sound is unrefined metal at perhaps its most predictable, but nonetheless enjoyable for many. The Atrocity Exhibit are more about the rage than anything else. A deluge of grind fury emanates from the Terrorizer Stage like there’s no tomorrow (there won’t be if this lot come to a town near you any time soon). By comparison to these two, local lads Hawk Eyes should seem like featherweights in the field but instead their punchy alt-metal lands the perfect punch opening the main Jagermeister Stage. The likes of 'Witch Hunt' and 'I Hate This, Do You like It?' are ruthlessly efficient blasts of savagery from one of the best up and coming British guitar bands of the moment.

If anything it is Devil Sold His Soul who sound a little lightweight. On the Jagermeister Stage their sound alarmingly veers into soggy incoherence once or twice, rendering their grandiose vision sadly reined in. A charismatic and determined performance it may be, but unfortunately not their very best. Blacklisters don’t have ‘best’ and ‘worst’ performances. Instead their aural chaos is just effortlessly vicious all the time. Frontman Billy Mason-Wood prowls the small stage, and indeed the floor, like a deranged velociraptor whilst his bandmates behind him unleash seas of discordant noise to back him up. No wonder there is such a buzz about them at the moment. Bossk aren’t doing badly either. A la Refused, the band split in near obscurity but seem to have reappeared with everyone having finally caught up. Their crowd at the Eyesore Merch Stage is possibly the largest of the day. Luckily then, their lengthy post-metal soliloquies have lost none of their impact, and new track 'Pick-Up Artist' is a treat to the ears.

Gama Bomb are incredibly silly, even by some of the outrageous standards of thrash metal, but that seems to be lost on many of the people watching them on the Jagermeister Stage. The Irishmen have a certain charm perhaps but their lumbering riffs are nothing on the masters of the genre. The blackened stomp of Vreid over on the Terrorizer Stage is far more engaging, but of even more not is the immense subtlety and emotion inherent in the music of 40 Watt Sun, whose songs are almost as heart-wrenching in the flesh as on record. As they send the Eyesore Merch Stage crowd into fits of weeping, Primordial are stirring up rebellious spirit on the Jagermeister Stage. Ever triumphant and ever powerful, it is always a privilege to have them back on British shores again.

Following on from Primordial many lovers of atmosphere over pure brutality watch Maybeshewill bring their ever joyous post-rock to the table. They may not be as heavy as other bands on the bill in theory, but the main riffs to 'The Paris Hilton Sex Tape' and 'To the Skies from a Hillside' are every bit as worthy of horns in the air as anything else on display. Headlining the Eyesore Merch Stage after them, Amenra are truly something else. Too long a secret to the majority of the UK’s metal lovers, these Belgian sludge kings are in a league of their own at times, and this set proves it. The room is almost completely dark as eerie projections beam across the room over the quintet’s searing sermon. Without a doubt the best set of the day, and possibly (probably) the best that Damnation has ever witnessed.

Anyone who moves on from Amenra to Pig Destroyer and Electric Wizard must share similar feelings. The grindcore legends are suitably intense over on the Terrorizer Stage but one has to question whether they are really still bringing anything definitive to the table. Meanwhile, the Wizard are seemingly all too reliant on a psychedelic light show to be as crushing as one would hope. As the hordes of metalheads leave Leeds this evening though, few will be dissatisfied with their day. This is an event that truly deserves support and praise. It really is up there with the very best days out on the heavy music calendar.

We interviewed 40 Watt Sun, Amenra, Devil Sold His Soul and Hawk Eyes at Damnation. Check back soon for the results.

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