Damnation Festival wasn’t an event I was aware of until Hang The Bastard announced they would be on the 2016 lineup playing their last ever gig. The rest of the lineup, consisting of 26 other bands across four stages, looked good, but Hang The Bastard were the act we bought tickets and drove 200 miles for. After the fun drive up to Leeds and joining the swarm of battle jackets outside the venue at the student union we caught Svalbard on the Terrorizer stage, whose cold, tremolo–picked post–hardcore was a good angry start.
After Hang The Bastard’s set at Holy Roar X in May a band member told me that they would be playing another gig with both vocalists performing. As they took to the Jägermiester stage black metal shrieker Tomas Hubbard was sighted but not original vocalist Chris Barling, hardcore yeller extraordinaire. I don’t like to say it, but their set turned into mush and ultimately fell flat. I stand by my earlier sentiment that Barling was the better vocalist for them, and was glad to have seen them as such at Holy Roar X.
After a blast of death metal from Venom Prison on the Terrorizer stage everyone and their grindcore sideproject shuffled into the basement to the Mine stage for Employed To Serve, who played a set that was a magic triangle of mental, caustic and catchy.
Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas put on an intense and immersive performance of Mariner on the Jägermeister stage, accompanied a great light show.
Although Black Tusk’s sound on the Eyesore Merch stage was a bit too reverb–heavy, much the same as their sound at their set at The Boston Music Room on Thursday 3/11, their energetic performance of high–energy songs was great and I really enjoyed their set of motorbike anthems.
I’m generally not a big fan of black metal – I generally prefer bands who mix it up with something else (Alcest, Deafheaven, Kvelertak, Wolfmangler) – so I found Abbath, on the Jägermiester stage, wholly unremarkable. My friends said that it was a pretty sloppy performance. I couldn’t tell. I don’t care. Back to the Terrorizer stage, and Enslaved, on the other hand, was a rewarding mix of black metal and prog.
I missed Ingested, but I did manage to get a guest review from a super enthusiastic hesher in the line heading out of the Mine stage:
MDFF: Did Ingested just play?
Hesher: Ingested were awesome, absolutely brilliant, I have no musical talent but you can just tell how good they are as musicians.
MDFF: …I’m sure you do, y’know, everyone has a talent –
Hesher: – No, no, I have no musical talent, I work in I.T, but Ingested were awesome.
Needless to say, he was very happy and super enthusiastic. I took him for his word.
Back up all the stairs to the Jägermeister stage to catch Electric Wizard. They only played around three songs, but these were the best three songs of the day. It was deep, barrelling, hazy and hypnotic doom, and I would have gladly listened to another set of it, and then another.
Despite the band I bought the ticket being a bit of a let down, it was more than made up, particularly by Electric Wizard, Cult for Luna and Black Tusk. A good day of damnation.