The Damnation Festival at the Leeds University Union was completely sold out this year, on its 10th anniversary. A significant milestone in the growing reputation of this event, which unflinching celebrates extreme metal. Across its four stages, the crushing and creative sounds of death, black, doom and post metal reverberated, in the heady, exciting and fast moving atmosphere, which flows through the labyrinth floors of Leeds University Union. Here are Room Thirteen's highlights from an amazing day.

Early good impressions were made by Atlantis (9/13) on the PHD stage, unleashing their soaring post metal onto an almost full hall. Their trademark gradual building of gentle melodic themes, and then letting go, with the three-guitar front line hammering the musical theme, was immense, and filled the hall with an astonishing sound. A real standout moment was early in the set, where there was the most elegant and ambient use of guitar feedback you are ever likely to hear, creating the most immersive of sounds.

Winterfylleth (10/13) on the aptly named Terrorizer stage, showed the creativity latent within the black metal genre, with their atmospheric build up of musical layers, punctuated with fierce black metal growls. The combination of intense blast beats, a guitar led wall of sound, and often-emotionally growled vocals, make for an involving musical experience. This is often punctuated with some surprising musical moments, such as a beautiful Cocteau Twins like coda they played during one song. A beautiful black metal meets ambient musical twist!

Revocation (12/13) to no-one's surprise set the Terrorizer stage alight with their awesome mix of death metal, thrash, and tech death. Invidious from the Revocation album is just incendiary, with a real power driving the music, and a great precision driven and inventive guitar solo. The head banging on the floor of the hall is completely mad at this point. When Revocation launch into the HP Lovecraft influenced Madness Opus from the new album Deathless, the pits decidedly opened up in the audience, and the playing got heavier to match the mood. Towards the end of the set, guitarists David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo really let loose, playing off each other and smiling. Just brilliant, and a massive and deserved crowd reaction!


What can one say about Anaal Nathrakh (12/13)....nothing can prepare you for being sledge hammered live by this band. Easily the most ferocious blast beats to be heard live in metal! The mixture of black metal, grind core, and industrial, underpinned with melody, is impossible to resist. Dave Hunt, their vocalist, was even presented with a pair of pants, embroidered with a request to marry the donor, apparently a regular occurrence at their gigs! In amongst the mad pace of the blast beats and atmospheric and almost impossibly fast guitars, the band will surprise you, pulling out some melodic clean vocals, as on Forging Towards the Sunset. Submission Is For The Weak from The Codex Necro album, is a set highlight, with its epic feel and evil cacophony, and even a groove like section; the band completely hammer the song. A perfect set, and the band are really in their element at this festival.

Saint Vitus (11/13), from the USA, surely deserve their reputation as the godfathers of doom. They received a rapturous and affectionate reception as they stepped onto the main Jaegermeister stage, to play a set, including a complete run through of their Born Too Late album. Their doom sound is infused with southern blues and psychedelic influences. When Dave Chandler lets out his screaming guitar work, drenched in wah-wah, its completely killer. Then of course there is the incomparable Wino, whose drawled vocals are so much of the wonderful sound this band makes. Room Thirteen understands he was a little anxious about such a big show. He needn't have been, it was a simply amazing vocal performance. It was even at one point 'back to punk rock days' Dave announced, as they launched into White Stallions, proving these guys can do fast as well.


Cannibal Corpse (13/13) mounted their assault on the Damnation Festival with deadly precision, taking no prisoners with their master class in sonically perfect and bludgeoning death metal. Icepick Lobotomy from the new album A Skeletal Domain, has the most amazing breakdowns, like a squalling creature from hell, shaking your whole body; and surprisingly a dash of groove in the mix too. 'Are you having a good time' asks vocalist Corpsegrinder from the stage, following this quickly with 'I'm hear to ruin it', a refreshing barbed contrast to the banal stage banter one often hears! There is of course only one place to truly experience the finessed brutality of Cannibal Corpse's music, which is on the venue floor with the pits happening all around you. Yet amongst all the madness one also experiences the best of the metal community, as one metal head looking decidedly unwell sitting on the floor with his head in his hands, is gently guided off the floor by fans, before Cannibal Corpse hit the stage, to avoid any serious injury.


Scourge Of Iron that follows is the heaviest track of the set, completely relentless in its marching time riff, and with a magnificent squealing guitar solo. One thing it's very difficult to take your eyes off during the set is Alex Webster's blistering bass playing, with his fingers flying up and down the fretboard. It wouldn't be Cannibal Corpse without his astonishing playing. During Evisceration Plague the band's whole front line is head banging in unison, it doesn't get much better than this, and without doubt the best set of the festival.

Bolt Thrower (11/13) are headlining, and given the rarity of their live UK appearances, there is a real expectant air of anticipation permeating the Jaegermeister stage. Two songs in with Mercenary, and their epic death metal is proving completely irresistible, with a sea of head banging dominating the audience. World Eater from the 25 year old album Realm of Chaos shows a really unique guitar sound, with the two guitars playing slightly behind the rhythm, creating a great jagged form of death metal. Karl Willets, the vocalist announces from the stage, 'We started this....a celebration of life through death metal', and as ironic as it sounds, articulates the life affirming nature and feeling of extreme metal. The relentless enveloping riffing is unleashed again, as a great set rages on.

So that was the Damnation Festival, full of a fabulous diverse spectrum of extreme metal, played with passion and an undying energy, by a great crop of bands. It is though, the real sense of connection between the masses of metal heads and the bands, that makes this festival so special.

Look out for Room Thirteen's interviews at the festival with Revocation, Saint Vitus and Anaal Nathrakh. Meanwhile put Damnation into your music calendar for 2015 and give yourself a real treat, but be warned you will need a couple of days to recover!