Every year I make the pilgrimage from Somerset to Leeds like a pigeon flying magnetically north. The key difference is that I get to see a stack of siq bands and pigeons get streptococcosis. Round one to me, pigeons.
Damnation has always been a fantastic event; more than any other UK festival, you get the sense that they’ve got their nose to the ground for solid upcoming acts but also relevant headliners. They also hit a great balance between artsy, out-there acts and solid, satisfying bands; at so many fests there are acts who are a little bit past-it and Damnation is always free of this. This adjusts every year to reflect the current climate; it’s always a stellar selection.
But as ever, some stand above the rest – here are the five bands I’m most keen to see this year:
Playing: 2pm - Eyesore Merch Stage
It doesn’t seem that they’ve been around for long, but Conjurer’s ferocity has already scored them a place in Holy Roar’s hallowed ranks – and with good reason; when did the UK last have an act that was so ferocious, so caustic and belligerent as Conjurer? When did we last have an act that flirted with hardcore just enough for it to inform their skin-peeling, teeth-grinding black metal?
You could draw comparisons with Anaal Nathrakh and you’d be right to do so, but if anything it’s more exciting to see a younger band with so much to conquer. They’re having a pretty good year; go make it even better by seeing them and losing yer shit.
Playing: 2:30pm - Jagermeister Stage
Hark have a really cool aesthetic to their art and lyrics; lots of crystals and mystical imagery. This is surely thanks to the influence of legendary stoner/ sludge artist and vocalist/ guitarist Jimbob Isaac. It helps them to present a united package; they’re already a dynamic, melodic band, and by drawing attention to themselves as visually interesting establishes their quirks in greater detail.
They’re also classically fantastic; ferociously energetic, heavy-as-balls and rhythmically engaging. And the riffs! Man, Hark are ace. Go see them.
Playing: 5:50pm - Eyesore Merch Stage
Bossk went from an underground gem to one of our strongest post-metal exports with the release of Audio Noir earlier this year. Rarely is a record released that’s so aggressive whilst remaining coherent or twinkly without losing the point. Rarely is a post-metal release characterised by such colour or by such subtle textures. Rarely does anything so elaborate have a straight-up banger like Kobe.
Go for the performance, go for the atmosphere – go for a stellar band celebrating one of the best releases of the year.
Playing: 7:40pm - Terroriser Stage
The extreme metal reunion of the year, Akercocke’s off-kilter take on blackened death metal is refreshingly bizarre – by turns gentle, flowery and absolutely punishing. They were a band for people who read fancy, flowery books when they were getting into death metal; for the kids who got onto Dickens at the same time as Bolt Thrower, this is the band for you.
In any case, this band is special to a lot of people and following a few select performances this is likely to be a Big Deal; one of the final shows before their split was Damnation. I genuinely never thought I’d see Akercocke; I’m overjoyed to be proven wrong.
Playing: 8:30pm - Jagermeister Stage
One of metal’s great entertainers, you could easily not know a note of any of his new material and have a great time. It helps that his new stuff is much more accessible than the Immortal material – fantastic though the older stuff is it’s interesting to hear those key themes and ideas with mad, new-fangled ideas like production values.
Contrary to Abbath’s trve kvlt status, his new band would be a great introduction if you’re interested in black metal but find the whole ‘actual murder’ thing a bit of a turn-off. In any case, this promises to being one of the most fun acts of the weekend. Don’t you guys like fun?