Damnation Festival 2019 - The Bands To Watch
Damnation Festival returns to Leeds for its fourteenth edition this weekend and it's another dense and varied bill with metal royalty Opeth and the iconic blackened sounds of Mayhem atop the bill. Taking place at Leeds University Saturday 2nd November the festival, which was held in Manchester at Jilly's Rockworld, where a Tesco Express now stands for its first two editions, has raised in notoriety and prestige every year thanks to the plethora of bands, from big names and veteran pros down to exciting up-and-coming acts they invite to play across their stages.
We've sieved through the 2019 line-up to bring you our top picks; these are the bands we'll be seeing so let us convince you why you should too.
Finnish/English prog metallers Wheel (14:00, Eyesore Stage) released their debut EP, Moving Backwards early in 2019 to great acclaim. Drawing heavily on the bass-driven clangour of Tool, alongside their beautifully delivered, apathetic lyrics which raises its collective magnifying glass at censorship and institutionalised mind control; something they cite as a worldwide epidemic. It’s an intelligent and imaginative release that saw them tour with Soe in support of it. One of their first English dates, their 2pm start might be an early one, but for those who like explorative and explosive metal, they are a band you need to witness.
Death metal titans Blood Red Throne (15:15 Tone Mgmt Stage) are into their third decade as a band now, clocking up nine cut-throat records in that time. Seasoned pros at seasoning their bludgeoning music with extra brutality and vitality, the Norwegian troupe aren't a band for the faint-hearted, hence why they are such a perfect fit for this unapologetically heavy festival.
Mgla and Earth Ship (17:25 Jager/The Cult Never Dies Stages) then have us split like the atom. The former is a black metal band from Poland, whose name translates to “fog” while the latter is an up-tempo (??) German sludge outfit and together their musical styles provide a complimentary juxtaposition, injecting variety into the day. If you want bleak, haunted and atmospheric black metal then Mgla is well worth your time, whilst the thick, treacle grooves of Earth Ship are the band to kick up a more positive, party-like atmosphere in tighter confines of the Cult Never Dies Stage.
Jo Quail’s (16:40, Eyesore Stage) mysterious, loop pedal swathed orchestrations, which all build from one innovatively used cello isn’t a thrilling act to watch, but to listen to her music is a delight. With so much barraging music at the festival, here set on the Eyesore Stage will provide an artful break; this is the perfect time to grab a beer and be swept away by her ethereal tones.
Labelled as black metal but distinctly much more diverse and divergent into a myriad of styles, from ambient textures to the cruelest, most crushing and cannoning riffs and squawking vocals, Voices (17:25, The Cult Never Dies Stage) are set to be one of the most intriguing performances of the festival. Formed by former Akercocke members and on a mission to forever remain unprecedentedly unpredictable, their approach may be avant-garde at times but it's also hypnotically advantageous too.
French hardcore punk act Birds In A Row (18:20, Tone Mgmt Stage) channel Converge style aggression and breakneck tempos with moments of reserved contemplation, which work to make their heavy hit harder. A power trio by design, there's a resonant fury that ices their music, making their evening set one to be excited for.
Another band from Norway's icy climes, the fact Mork (19:10, The Cult Never Dies Stage) emblazon a logo that looks like a bleeding bat/tempest flattened spider tells you all you need to know and what to expect. This is the kind of heart-warmingly cold black metal we have come to expect from Damnation so watching them do their thing will be a real treat.
Vintage Caravan (20:05, Eyesore) would make a great addition to any rock festival; they’re prog smattered classic rock sound is powered spicy guitar chops, steadfast drumming and hook addled vocals and is, in short, undeniably fun. They’ve been touring their impressive third album, Gateways tirelessly since its 2018 release, so by this point the new songs have embedded themselves well within their ruthlessly road tested set list. Expect a set toyou’re your beer drowned blood pumping and your feet moving.
Not much needs to be said about Mayhem (21:00, Jager Stage). A band whose grim, primal black metal sound has provided the blueprint for hundreds, if not thousands of bands to follow their crooked path, they arrive at Damnation with some sublime new music in tow, augmenting their chilling, classic packed back catalogue. 2019’s Daemon – the first Mayhem album to be penned by the exact same line-up as its predecessor – sees the band finding new ways to reshape and reimaging their bleak, gritted compositions. Tracks like Agenda Ignis encapsulate the fury and fever of winter in Yorkshire whist Falsified and Hated curls its ritualistic fingers around one of the year's finest extreme metal riffs. Add in the expected classics and this promises to be absolutely anarchic.
Sandwiched between the two main acts, Venom Prisom (22:00, Tone Mgmt Stage) aren’t the band to see if Mayhem leave you a little breathless, but if you want your head continually pounded by joyously barbaric music, then the British stalwart’s take on death metal will provide you with just that. For those that saw one of their defining moments opening the main stage at Bloodstock 2017 then you’ll know how impressive this band’s stock is, but their ascension has continued at a chaotic pace since that day, culminating at a spot at this year’s Glastonbury festival which shows you how far their appeal is reaching. Catch them while they’re (relatively) small and boast about the show for years to come.
Whilst Opeth (23:00, Jager Stage) have been polarising opinions which each of their releases since 2011’s landmark moment, Watershed, their latest effort, the politically charged In Cauda Venenum has seen the band successfully infuse their modern, prog rock majesty with elements of their more brazen past. It’s something that they’re keen to reflect live, with the band looking back to some older, lesser-heard cuts for their new look setlist, having toured with the same batch of songs since Sorceress’ release three years ago. So then, expect moments of cranium crushing death metal, the atmospheric, epic vivacity of Blackwater Park and Still Life era Opeth through to their 70s honouring, genre-blending material that has seen many critics hailing In Cauda Venenum as one of 2019’s finest metal albums. Their metamorphosis over the years has disappointed and angered many, but for the more open minded a modern day Opeth set has become a celebration of metal’s diversity and adventurous, journeying reaches. It makes them an ideal final band for a festival that plucks bands from each of the metallic sub-genres Opeth have plucked motifs and methodologies from across their glittering career.
Set times are subject to change, given times are deciphered from the embedded clash finder image