Damnation Festival 2015
Venue: Leeds University, Leeds
At The Gates And Primordial wage battles in the North
Celebrating its 11th year, and having recently expanded to four stages, Damnation has become one of the most progressively minded festivals on these shores, illuminating a bond between classic metal acts and sonic voyagers that’s drawn thousands to another sold-out all-dayer.
Opening a festival isn’t easy, though, which may explain why TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE DISASTER  are so horribly out of time, robbing their post-metal of any impact. The doomy, death-laden grime of THE KING IS BLIND  hits far harder, and unsurprisingly goes down much better as a result. In the basement, the reliably weird UNDERSMILE  can’t quite create the gloomy atmosphere their dissonant doom aims for, but that’s more the sunlight entering the room and the cheerful chatter of the crowd than the fault of the band themselves. The jagged-edged instrumentals of TALONS  are diverting, but the questionable intonation of the violin playing and the slightly aimless feel may explain the obviously wandering crowd attention.
WIEGEDOOD  start off Amenra-based collective Church Of Ra’s residency at the festival on the second stage, and their cold, harsh soundscapes are shot through with a beauty that affects many bearing witness to their power. On the third stage, OHHMS  are noisy, loud and their low, dirty grooves are punctuated with howls wrenched from the bowels of the Earth. The band are fierce today.
Opening the main stage, SAVAGE MESSIAH  fall way short of their usual thrash standards, lacking verve while Dave Silver’s voice is sounding very stretched. Meanwhile, C.R.O.W.N.  may be a man down, but their heavier-than-God industrial post-metal still packs an enormous punch and provokes many banging heads. VOICES  have issues of their own, as their whole bass rig comes crashing down to the stage halfway through their set, but the London crew don’t let it deter them and their psychosexual black metal proves a winning sound. Belgium’s OATHBREAKER  pack out the main stage and in Caro Tanghe the band have a vocalist who can command a crowd without even looking at them, never mind talk to them. Many new fans are found today. The turgid muck of doomsters SEA BASTARD  doesn’t fare so well. They creating a murky pall in the basement room, but can’t articulate it, and become tiring fast. MAYBESHEWILL  grace Damnation for the final time and the euphoria that accompanies their instrumental wonder is felt keenly throughout the room.
It helps that THE OCEAN  singer Loïc Rossetti goes up to the balcony and dives backwards onto the crowd, but the band are hit and miss tonight, with an atmospheric opening that’s not capitalised on fully throughout the set. Having added a third member to their live lineup, GHOLD  sound more monstrous than ever, but it’s not as exciting as usual, which is a darn shame.
When they played here four years ago, ALTAR OF PLAGUES  were a force of nature, a thunderous, emotive, mesmeric terror. This half-lineup reunion is still great because the songs are amazing – especially Neptune Is Dead, all 20 minutes of it – but the fraught, urgent energy is missing.