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Damnation Festival - Leeds University - November 2 2013 (Live Review)

Thursday, 07 November 2013 Written by Ben Bland

With a move to four stages and the event’s most impressive bill to date making the build-up to Damnation 2013 one of genuine fervour, it could be said that the pressure was on the annual Leeds-based event more than ever this year.

Typically, though, it was a success right from the off. The atmosphere at Damnation this year was the best yet, with fans packing out each stage almost from the get-go. A genuine air of reverie permeated proceedings, despite the increased capacity meaning that the venue was noticeably busier than last year.

The Eyesore Merch Stage saw French sludge architects Dirge opening proceedings in suitably heavy fashion, although it was a shame that technical problems seemed to rob the trio of a bit of confidence.

Confidence was no such issue for Iron Witch on the tiny Electric Amphetamine stage. This was doom at its scuzzy best. In stark contrast, Polish post-rockers Tides From Nebula were too shiny and clean to make much of an impact. Sadly, they failed to stand out from the pretty post-rock crowd.

The Afternoon Gentlemen didn’t really stand out either, but the local grind squad looked like they were having such a good time in the new venue for the Terrorizer Stage that it scarcely mattered. Following them, Voices made for a more esoteric, serious proposition, but their progressive blackened death stylings proved original enough to make their set a highlight for the more forward thinking extreme metal fans in the audience.

Shining are nothing if not esoteric. The Norwegian industrial jazz metallers delivered a pummelling Jagermeister Stage set. Latest album ‘One One One’ may have been a bit less interesting than their previous work, but live cuts from that record, like I Won’t Forget, were among the most devastating moments of the show. Year Of No Light pummel through droning waves of sound rather than anything as standardised as mere riffs. On the evidence of their hypnotic afternoon set, their new album should be a significant step up from 2010’s ‘Ausserwelt’.

Back down in the cramped basement, Palehorse delighted and bemused in equal measure. From the start of the set it was clear that some in attendance lacked even a basic understanding of what makes the London sound terrorists so brilliant, but for many who persevered the rewards became obvious.

Rosetta and the Ocean both received more consistently rapturous receptions for their hardcore-touched post-metal shenanigans. The latter were in more progressive mode, with film footage accompanying their performance of latest album ‘Pelagial’, although vocalist Loïc Rosetti was more than happy to dive into the crowd on occasion. Negura Bunget, meanwhile, attracted such a large crowd to the Terrorizer Stage that disappointingly some were left stood at the door.

God Seed are a curious live proposition. Shorn of the theatrics that made Gorgoroth such a fearsome (and controversial) touring machine there’s more emphasis on the quality of the music, which is unusually high for 21st century Norwegian black metal. This should have been a good thing but the crowd seemed to have been expecting something more intimidating than interesting. Admittedly, one of the poorest sound mixes of the weekend was not of much assistance to creating a rabid reaction among the Jagermeister Stage fans.

Crippled Black Phoenix also suffered sound issues, going through three bass amps during their set. Tracks like Troublemaker and Laying Traps still impressed, but their decidedly non-metal style split the crowd down the middle between those whooping every track and those who wandered off disinterested halfway through. Afterwards, Katatonia and Moss both delivered regulation sets, the former performing ‘Viva Emptiness’ in full, but neither were as enrapturing as may have been hoped.

Enrapturing is the perfect word for Cult of Luna (pictured). Headlining the Eyesore Merch Stage, the Swedish septet were in blistering form, making it clear just why ‘Vertikal’ has widely been considered one of the best metal albums of 2013. Nobody envied Carcass following the Swedes on the Jagermeister Stage, but since the grind/death legends returned they have wowed audiences with ease and this was no exception. Their bond with the fans deserves great praise, and tracks new and old were received with rapture, bringing the most successful Damnation yet to a convincing close.



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