DAMNATION FESTIVAL 2010
Words: Matt Benatan Photos: David Spickett
Damnation festival has a reputation for showcasing some of the biggest names in metal, hosting giants such as Raging Speedhorn, Skindred and My Dying Bride. This year was no exception. With a roster ranging from black metal alchemists Anaal Nathrakh to mathcore goliaths The Dillinger Escape Plan, Damnation 2010 was doomed for success.
Opening the festival on the Jagermeister stage were London-based metallers Mutant, though it took the likes of festival favourites Panic Cell to summon the crowd from their state of nonchalant lethargy. Striding to the centre of the stage, frontman Luke Bell bellowed, “Wake the fuck up people!”, and wake up they did. Now at the mercy of the band’s brutally energetic mix of thunderous grooves and storming riffs, pockets of energy began to spread infectiously through the crowd.
Following Panic Cell’s ruthless sonic assault, it was hard to ignore the swelling congregation around the main stage. The room, barely at half capacity until this point, was now filled with anticipation as fans eagerly flooded in. After watching sound checks by a number of seemingly un-metal indie kids, I for one was surprised to see a young woman in red take centre stage. My surprise then swiftly turned to shock as she proceeded to launch into a shrieking, growl-fuelled vocal performance that would put most male thrash frontmen to shame. Safe to say, Rolo Tomassi had instantaneously captivated the crowd. With their elaborate fusion of chillingly atmospheric synth melodies and beautifully orchestrated dissonances, the band demonstrated effortless command of their art. Their set also inspired the first circle pit of the festival, irrefutably demonstrating that Damnation 2010 was now in full swing.
Energy and enthusiasm were not however reserved solely for the main stage. While Rolo Tomassi brought the Jagermeister crowd to form, the Terrorizer and Rock Sound stages shook under the sonic force of Fen and Bonesaw. Soon after, experimental Leicester-based instrumentalists Maybeshewill geared up to face the audience. With an incredibly dynamic sound ranging from electronically augmented shoegaze to progressive metal, there’s no doubting that Maybeshewill are set to go far.
Back at the Jager stage, the crowd endured the aural revelry of deafening bassoons embellished with the iconic vocal of none other than… Kermit the frog. Embracing the theme tune from the Jim Henson classic as their intro music, Lawnmower Deth entered the scene. For a band that date back to the late 80’s, their reputation for live entertainment has grown to be legendary as the most successful parodists of the genre. Their performance included a number of particularly ridiculous antics, including a crowd surfing race that involved a sombrero toting, poncho clad metalhead, as well as a rendition of their track ‘Satan’s Trampoline’, for which a member of the crowd was subjected to trampoline duties. All in all a thoroughly entertaining experience, and a testament to the sheer variety that the festival had to offer.
Accompanying the likes of The Mire and October File on the Rock Sound stage were Esoteric, who brought a hefty dose of doom metal to the stage. Donning what could only be described as a ‘Britney mic’, the vocalist and guitarist Greg Chandler led a brutally atmospheric performance. The crowd swayed appropriately, falling motionless at times as they submitted to the intense ambience that exuded from the aptly named Esoteric, who, though clearly masters of their genre, orchestrate a sound reserved for a select few.
Following the comedic departure delivered by Lawnmower Deth, the crowd at the main stage were assaulted by an impressive display of killer riffs courtesy of Nottingham-based rockers Earthtone9. Having recently reformed to “remind everyone just how good they were” the band did not disappoint. Their blend of harsh metal hooks and Tool-esque dynamics injected pure adrenaline into the crowd, who were now moving as one single insurmountable pillar of energy. The savage ecstasy was not reserved only for the main stage, as witnessed by British hardcore metallers The Ocean. The primal vigour enveloped their crowd as they gave a final high-octane performance, a suitably carnal finale to their tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan.
While the onslaught continued on the sub-stages, the main stage saw the likes of Paradise Lost bring a slightly more melodic tone to the crowd. The goth rockers walked on to a suitably dramatic orchestral intro, before breaking into fan favourite ‘The Rise of Denial’. Vocalist Nick Holmes was perhaps not as physically dynamic as some of the earlier frontmen, though this worked favourably, contributing a sense of modesty which aided the bands’ unfaltering connection with the crowd.
Finally, the end of the festival was nigh. With sweat dripping from every pore, and the stench of beer dominating the festival air, the festival-goers descended on the Jagermeister stage for one final profoundly intense performance. Long before the band were due to hit the stage, the crowd had been anxiously chanting in anticipation, eager to bear witness to the tonal an rhythmic onslaught that is The Dillinger Escape Plan. As the band hit the stage, the crowd exploded into a cacophonous display of cheering. As the band propelled into their first track, ‘Farwell, Mona Lisa’, they launched themselves rigorously around the stage, into the crowd, and amongst the rafters. This indomitable display of aggression formed the backbone of a visually intoxicating performance. The crowd inherited the performers’ insuperable zeal as the band hurled forth fanatical dynamism in the form of mathcore favourites such as ‘Milk Lizard’ and ‘Sunshine the Werewolf’, as well as exploring more melodic aesthetics through the likes of ‘Black Bubblegum’. As the headliners made waste of the stage, the festival finally came to an explosive close.
With the guitar cabs ripped from the amplifiers and the drum kit in disarray, the desolate stage stood analogous to the physical exhaustion of the festival goers. Now ravished by the day’s festivities, and finished off by Dillinger’s aural and visual assault, thousands of contented metal fans made their way home. Damnation Festival successfully marches on through another year – continuing its tradition of championing diversity and eclecticism in music, and ensuring that metal fans have a damn good time.