If there was ever a first Damnation Festival to attend, it would have to be the last to take place at the famous maze that is Leeds University Union. Alright, calling it a maze might be a bit hyperbole but there is no better way to describe it for a first timer… which was us. Once you get to know the layout, location of stages and meandering corridors, it’s actually pretty fun to be in. Especially when you have a massive hall dedicated to band merch alone and it’s the first thing you walk into.
Take note festivals… Damnation Festival 2021 did band merch right, but that’s not the only thing they did right.
We had a blast. A drunken, heavy and hilarious blast. Damnation Festival 2021 was a packed day of heavy freaking metal and we loved it. We’re so glad we got to experience the last time it would be in Leeds as next year it moves to Manchester.
We totally understand why Leeds locals are unhappy about this. Damnation is their baby and it moving to Manchester will hurt. However, it’s happening because Damnation has outgrown the Union. That much is clear based off this year alone. Which sold out months in advance and had reportedly over 1000 people on the waiting list for resold tickets. Don’t forgot either that this was a drastically changed lineup following the year that wasn’t… 2020.
So, while it might suck to not have it as local to you as it once was, be proud that it’s growing like it is. If we can travel to Leeds from London, you can travel from Leeds to Manchester to keep supporting this excellent festival.
So, bands! This is a review after all and as tempting as it is to just keep reiterating how awesome the day was, that’s not really what we do.
Our day started with Abduction on the Cult Never Dies stage. The smallest, most awkward and packed stage of the entire festival. If you’ve tried to get to this stage once a band has started on it, you know exactly what we mean. Get there early, or be prepared to see very little.
Thankfully, we were nice and early for Abduction and caught a band clearly on the rise. Abrasive and downright deafening, the black metallers are fearsome. Not just in sound but sight too, the ritualistic look fits the tone of their blackened heaviness perfectly.
Up next for us was the wonderful Boss Keloid, a band that can do no wrong in our eyes. Album after album of brilliance, it’s been far too long since we’ve seen them play live and just as long for them playing. The Eyesore Merch stage is rammed and we have a warm can of horrible Red Stripe but it doesn’t matter once the progressive rockers get going. A band that can be rightfully called weird but in the most captivating way possible. Musically, tighter than ever and the new music sounds so good. If you’re not entertained by what you hear (as if such a thing was possible), you will be by the gurning facial expressions.
A rammed Cult Never Dies stage killed any hope we had of getting down to see Urne so we trotted over the Jaegermeister stage for a bit of Evile. A band that might be hitting their musical stride for us. Following their outstanding Bloodstock 2021 show, this is just further confirmation that Evile are stronger than ever and thrash is undying.
Following that, we divided our time watching a bit of Bossk’s post metal heaviness. A nice palette cleanser that has the floor, walls and roof of the Jägermeister stage shaking. Before dashing off to the rammed Cult Never Dies stage to catch the last part of Video Nasties, a band that could bring a room full of corpses to life. Although, that’s hardly an issue with the heaving and sweating mass in front of that stage.
With the festivals most anticipated band (for us) being pulled due to COVID, we decided to spend some time in the company of Gama Bomb on the Tone MGMT stage. A decision we were glad we made (even though we do love Svalbard) as the thrashy fun we had made it so worthwhile. Maybe the set responsible for the neck-ache that followed the next day.
We then took a nice long break and did the sensible but uncool thing of leaving to eat some proper food. Yeah, we know but the food at the Union just didn’t appeal and we had been motoring on a 9am McMuffin up to that point.
Full bellies, beginning to sober up, we headed back in time to catch some of Godflesh on the Jägermeister stage. The heaviest band we heard of the entire day. It sounded immense but something just isn’t resonating with us. Not the fault of the band, more us just not connecting with the industrial metal legends.
With that in mind, we set about getting drunker and seeing a band we knew very little about, Regards Les Homes Timber on the Eyesore Merch stage. A band that had our attention from the very start with a cold, dark but fascinating assault of black metal. They’re a very watchable band but we decided to split our time by going to watch the second half of Conan on the Tone MGMT stage. Where their brand of doom washes over the heaving crowds like waves at the beach and everyone is loving it. Have we ever seen a bad Conan show? We don’t think so.
The night is coming to and end sadly but not before we hilariously tried to join the crowd at the Cult Never Dies stage for Hellripper, We say hilariously because there was no getting near it, let alone a decent position to hear and see them play. We gave up, grabbed another handful of drinks and hung around the Tone MGMT stage ready for Memoriam and their phenomenal brand of death metal.
The band of the day for us. Memoriam were on absolute fire here and it was an hour that flew by for us. We were enthralled by what they produced on the stage, the only distraction being the guy who knocked himself out falling down the stairs near us. Props to security and staff who were on hand so quickly and were heard since that he was fine, aside from a mild concussion.
Which brings us to the end, where the only band we were ever going to see was the death metal legends Carcass. The Jägermeister might be rammed but it doesn’t matter, such is the immense sound of the hall. I’m fact, we’ll take this moment to praise the sound on all the stages. Although we heard of some issues (mainly around Winterfylleth), we didn’t experience any.
So, Carcass… what do you think? Of course they were fantastic. In fact, this might have been our favourite show of theirs. Bearing in mind they’re not a band we’ve seen loads either. With a ton of new music, old favourites and a fire in their bellies that betrays their age as a band, Carcass make sure everyone leaves happy. We sure did.
See you in Manchester. You can pick up tickets for the 2022 event here.
Damnation Festival 2021
The Final Score - 10/10