Live Coverage || Damnation festival 2022

 On November 5th I found myself in Manchester, to see the best lineup that Damnation festival has showcased to date. I had been eyeing the festival for quite a while and decided to book quite late but I knew it was something I couldn't miss. Despite some line-up changes over the past few months, the bands that completed the billing are the creme de la creme in the metal scene and four among them came with an armory of surprises, namely performing their iconic albums in their entirety. Legendary Swedish melodeath masters At The Gates would be playing "Slaughter Of The Soul", industrial veterans Godflesh would get people riled up with "Streetcleaner", Pig Destroyer were set to demolish the BEC Arena with "Prowler In The Yard" and last but definitely not least, hardcore pioneers Converge would headline the festival with "Jane Doe". Not bad, right?

Seeing as the billing relied heavily on the post, death and doom genres, I was curious to see how these sounds would combine in a setting where two smaller stages clashed, and they both partly overlapped with the main stage. The day before the festival there was only a handful of tickets left so when the previously announced train strike was suspended, as expected those were gone too. I managed to get inside the arena just as Oceano was finishing their set. The Holy Goat stage was full, as the Illinois noisemakers thanked the crowd for turning up. Quick peek into the equally packed Eyesore stage, where Bruit were pouring their hearts out, while familiarizing myself with the premises, and off to the main (Pins & Knuckles) stage I went. Austria's Insanity Alert brought their thrash metal party and got a very warm welcome in return. While the band members were fully energetic, the vocalist held signs with messages, from inviting people to mosh, to just plain "shit" written on them. For anyone unfamiliar with their style, their tongue in cheek humor would have been almost offensive but thankfully the crowd enjoyed their banter. Back at the Eyesore stage for So Hideous, whose emotive music filled the room from the first note. The band's passion was overwhelming, perfectly balancing heaviness and feeling, as the guitar leads juxtaposed the out-of-this-world blasts. My only complaint of their performance is the lightshow, mainly because it consisted of borderline epileptic strobes.

Back to the Holy Goat stage for Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch, performing as Stygian Bough the songs off of their 2020 split album. It's one thing to listen to the Stygian Bough album and another to actually witness the project. The ambience was amazing as the trio bulldozed the space. Their sound was excellent, fully allowing all facets of the collaboration, despite the length of the songs, to shine on their own merit. Off to the main stage to witness the war that Full Of Hell was about to unleash. And a war it was. When the quartet stepped on stage, they got straight to business with "Halogen Bulb". Vocalist Dylan Walker was going up and down the stage so erratic, he resembled the human incarnation of a Jack Russell, as he was spewing his lungs out. Admittedly sound wasn't always on his side but this didn't diminish his dynamic in the slightest. The crowd was responsive and by the end of the show they appeared more engaged, with the occasional crowd surfers. Incantation, who is currently on the 'Primordial Arcana' tour with Wolves In The Throne Room and Stygian Bough, was next on the Holy Goat stage. Needless to say they brought the heat up. The band unleashed their furious death metal with majestic headbanging -although it felt a little choreographed at times. Despite that, the groove was contagious and my personal favorite was the guitarist, who was posing for photographers while looking effortlessly cool.

Quick pit stop for the Pig Destroyer set on the main stage. I didn't stick around that long but damn, this band is something else. There were crowdserfers from the get-go, while the band was as tight as one would expect. Waiting for Wolves In The Throne Room felt like an initiation to a mystical ceremony. The red lights, fog and burning incense set the mood but if you're new to their show, they don't really foreshadow what is to come your way. The band took the stage by storm with "Mountain Magick" and pummeled the eager audience, which was quickly immersed in the engulfing atmosphere. WITTR was the only black metal band on the billing and they made sure that their performance stood out. The room was at capacity, the attendees devouring their dark melodies of the band's liturgy and masterful buildups. I honestly don't think anyone could go on after WITTR and expect to win an audience over, definitely not after this performance. After a break to catch up with friends, I made another quick stop at the main stage for Misery Index, whose energy and nerve were unparalleled. The band are veterans who know exactly what they're doing -and they're bloody good at it! The crowd was efficiently inebriated warmed up at that point and it didn't take them long to start moshing and crowdsurfing, all while Misery Index delivered an astonishing show. 

I opted to take a break and have a look at the merch tent until Despised Icon was scheduled to play. The Canadians went on with "Furtive Monologue" and "A Fractured Hand", igniting immediate reactions from the crowd. It soon became evident that Despised still means a lot to their fans, who were moshing throughout the set and couldn't hide their smiles when the band played their older hits. In turn, the musicians were smiling so wide that vocalist Alex Erian later commented that "[they] were smiling way too much for a death metal band". Their sound was quite clear, with both vocalists on point, scathing guitars and hammering drumwork, courtesy of Alex Grind. On "MVP" Adam Warren of Oceano joined Icon to sing a few lines and the setlist ended with "Purgatory" just on time for At The Gates, who the band had previously said they wanted to check out. Mad respect. 

Now I'm not gonna lie, I discovered "Slaughter Of the Soul" in my formative years and it became one of the most influential albums in my musical education, so one of the main reasons I wanted to attend Damnation this year was listening to the Swedes performing the album cover to cover and drown in waves of nostalgia. Naturally, when the "Blinded By Fear" intro "we are blind to the world within us/waiting to be born" resounded, I got goosebumps in anticipation for the iconic guitar riff. At The Gates took no prisoners in what was, hands down, one of the most incendiary shows I've seen them playing. The intensity of the band was at 101%, despite some minor technical difficulties early on in the set. Getting to hear the anthems on that album was a haunting experience for everyone involved, of that I am certain, and it definitely exceeded all my expectations for this set. 

At that point my battery was running out so I opted to sit out until Converge went on. The Massachusetts outfit was headlining the main stage gathering the biggest attendance of the festival. Converge performing "Jane Doe" was something that a lot of people had been eagerly waiting for and the band most certainly didn't disappoint. Their stage presence was immaculate, and all members seemed to be lost in the moment. Vocalist Jacob Bannon may have faced issues with his microphone, resulting in mainly his high screams being audible, but it didn't stop him from giving an absolutely captivating performance. Converge's iconic dissonance kept a wave of people moving/crowdsurfing/moshing at the front throughout the set, making clear why they hold such a revered status in their scene and why an entire generation of musicians tried to copy their music style.

The only downsides for me -actively refraining from mentioning the clashes of the smaller stages- were, one, that the food stalls and merch tent were outside, on a day that it was supposed to rain, giving attendees the option of only one caterer inside the premises, and two, how slowly the bartenders were moving, despite the tens of people lining up at any given moment. These aside, overall Damnation festival was an exceptional experience. While my teenage self had multiple meltdowns during the At The Gates set, I had a great time taking everything in, managing to see about half the lineup against the odds I set, and catching up with friends. My ears are metaphorically still ringing but one thing's for sure; I am very excited to see what the upcoming editions of Damnation will bring our way and how the organizers will take things to the next level.

All pictures courtesy of Dearohwell photography

Share on Google Plus

0 σχόλια :

Post a Comment