Damnation Festival 2018

3 November 2018. Leeds University Union.

The second I stepped out of Damnation Festival last year I already decided I would return again in 2018. The atmosphere and variety of bands for this awesome in-door festival is unparalleled and it does feel lovingly unique. Each new line-up announcement throughout the year whetted my appetite more until the day finally came where I would once again be at Damnation. As soon as doors opened, the positive energy of extreme metal’s finest punters poured into each of the venues and the merch area.

The bars were already heaving with battle-jacket-clad metal fans as I wandered down to the Tone MGMT Stage to witness LEECHED opening the festival. The band’s debut album You Took The Sun When You Left is a gritty and dark affair, so it was no surprise their set was equally as suffocating. Backlit and shrouded with smoke, the hardcore metallers from Manchester were an intense group with their gruff vocals, blackened riffs and power violence elements. It’s hard to keep your eyes off drummer Tom Hansell; one because of his impressive myriad of tattoos and two, because it becomes clear he’s the secret weapon for LEECHED with his ferocious drumming and hardcore vocals. An excellent start to the day.

It would have been rude not to catch progressive darlings CALIGULA’S HORSE on the Eyesore Merch Stage as they did come all the way from Australia, but also because they’re one of THE most exciting progressive metal bands on the planet right now (they’re better than LEPROUS, there I said it). Starting their set with Dream the Dead off last year’s In Contact, the Aussie troupe mesmerised and stunned the crowd with their majestic set. On record they can sound quite soft, but in a live setting they’re surprisingly heavy. It’s clear they made new fans this afternoon judging by some of the expressions of delight in the curious crowd.

I sneaked off before the end of CALIGULA’s HORSE’s set to make my way to the Cult Never Dies Stage to get a good spot to witness MØL strut their stuff. The venue was already packed full with people, endorsing a one in, one out policy when the set started. I was close enough to see frontman Kim Song Sternkopf scream in the faces of the people down the front, in his madman-godlike state throughout the set. The Danish blackgaze group have rapidly gained a fanbase this year after the successful release of their debut album Jord and judging by the volume of people in the room, it proves there is a real buzz about this band right now. Having seen them at their debut London show earlier in the year supporting SVALBARD, I knew what to expect but their intensity and sheer blackgaze perfection still astounded me. It’s just a shame the fire alarm interrupted the set…

Once all the fuss (and annoyance) of the fire alarm had died down I headed to the Jagermeister Stage to see NE OBLIVISCARIS absolutely tear up the room with their extreme progressive metal. Their tight sound cut through the room like a knife; they were absolute perfection. The guitars sung and clean vocalist and violinist Tim Charles could do no wrong. The professionalism of the band resonated round the room, proving they were masters at their craft. Clearly owning the biggest stage in the students’ union, I wouldn’t be surprised if the band headline a few years down the line.

Having said this, I’m surprised Birmingham’s ANAAL NATHRAKH are yet to headline a Damnation as their set is always a killer. Easily whipping up the most brutal crowd of the day, the black metal veterans prove their worth with their stellar set of songs old and new. Forward! off new album A New Kind of Horror sounds equally as punishing as older classics Forging Towards the Sunset and Depravity Favours the Bold. The fighting pit in the middle of the room showed the fans’ appreciation of the band’s unforgiving music. Throw in a pair of knickers on the stage and you got yourself a legendary Damnation performance.

If I wanted to find something a bit more soothing then I was never going to find it with CELESTE on the Tone MGMT Stage. The French experimental metallers hypnotised the crowd with their unique aesthetic. Lit only by a red light strapped to each member’s head, it created an eerie – heck- celestial atmosphere which superbly suited the dissonant tones of their music. A severely underrated band, I was especially pleased to see a large turnout for them.

It was truly special to see death metal legends ENTOMBED A.D. tear up the Jagermeister Stage. They sounded bigger and more badass as ever with frontman L-G Petrov pacing up and down the stage commanding the crowd with his epic growls. Death metal never sounded so good but I needed to hop along to the Tone MGMT Stage to get a decent spot to see BATUSHKA deliver their sermon. I wish I hadn’t bothered and gone to see MONUMENTS instead as the room was absolutely packed to the brim for BATUSHKA. The majority of people couldn’t see the stage, let alone move and the band came on late so a lot of the crowd were getting agitated and impatient while people pushed past to try and find a better viewing position. The set was a prime example of the wrong choice of stage for a band, but from what I could see (very little) the black metal band from Poland were visually stunning. I’ll try and see them another time when I’m also not being crushed slowly to death.

To recover, I went back to the Jagermeister stage to see the mighty IHSAHN play an utterly mesmerising set. A legend in the black metal scene and a respectable solo artist in his own right, IHSAHN proved his worth tonight playing the best selection of songs from his albums. Songs from new album Amr sounded fuller live than they do on record, but a personal highlight for me was hearing Celestial Violence from 2016’s Arktis resonate around the room. His black metal vocals have always been perfection but tonight his clean vocals also got the recognition they deserve. A stellar set of magical proportions, IHSAHN just keeps getting better when it wasn’t thought possible.

I regrettably missed THE OCEAN’s set but before I stumbled back to the hotel I couldn’t leave without seeing grindcore legends NAPALM DEATH smash some skulls and rip up the Jagermeister Stage. Excluding the fire alarm earlier, today has truly been a fantastic day of metal. The festival already promise their biggest band yet for next year and I can’t wait to see who will be announced first. Damnation is a festival I’d recommend to everyone. See you next year.

Metalmance Top 20 Albums of 2017

Our hottest albums of 2017…beware…there’s a turkey in there…

No. 20  THE ROYAL – Seven

The Royal

Metalmance have mentioned THE ROYAL a lot this year, and once again they feature in one of our posts. This time they kick off our Top 20 albums of the year list! In a scene which is becoming overwhelmingly full with bland groups and so-so tech, these Dutchman are slowly but surely gaining a reputation for themselves as a talented and promising metal act. Seven sees THE ROYAL gain confidence and the nurturing of a signature sound. Once the band finally have a firm footing in the metal world, who knows how high they could climb?

“A seriously blinding effort, Seven will hopefully propel THE ROYAL to the forefront of the burgeoning scene.”

The Royal – Seven

 

No. 19  EMPLOYED TO SERVE – The Warmth of a Dying Sun

Employed to Serve

One of 2017’s breakthrough bands, Britain’s own EMPLOYED TO SERVE rightly deserve all the attention they’ve been receiving this year. Their sophomore release The Warmth of a Dying Sun is proof they are worthy of your time. With a gloriously sludgy, nu-metal-ish, heavy hardcore energy, they throw together old and new influences into a melting pot of riffy joy. If new kids CODE ORANGE and OATHBREAKER were bred with old daddies WILL HAVEN and BOTCH, then you will more than likely achieve the perfection of EMPLOYED TO SERVE. These are the new masters of British forward-thinking metal.

 

No. 18  NORDIC GIANTS – Amplify Human Vibration

Nordic Giants

Since Metalmance first discovered the intriguing and mysterious NORDIC GIANTS last year, we’ve been utterly in love. You can’t treat Amplify Human Vibration as a continuation of A Séance of Dark Delusions however, no, no, it is a much deeper and a more thought-provoking affair than that. Predominantly using spoken word samples to accompany the duo’s stunning soundscapes, Amplify Human Vibration is about re-awakening the human spirit, to realise our true potential as a power together on this planet. The songs do summon some kind of deep inner-awareness, a feat which not all of NORDIC GIANTS’ peers and contemporaries would be able to accomplish.

“Their last album released in 2015 A Séance of Dark Delusions is a truly spellbinding record, with each listen exposing something missed before.”

Weekly Roundup #9

 

No. 17  VIPASSI – Sunyata

Vipassi

This instrumental effort from the progressive metal supergroup VIPASSI unfortunately seems to have slipped under the carpet a bit this year. Hopefully this could mean Sunyata could become a sleeper hit in the prog metal world. A sprawling mass of complex rhythms, heavenly bass and stunning soundscapes, VIPPASSI have created a blackened beast of complexity. All tracks seem to merge into one, allowing the listener to be transported to a progressive paradise. More please.

“With only seven tracks, Sunyata feels a bit like a tease, a bit like a punishing starter before a main course. Go on, indulge.”

Weekly Roundup #18

 

No. 16  CODE ORANGE – Forever

Code Orange

This year has certainly been the year of CODE ORANGE. At the end of 2016 they were threatening the world with something special, then in January they dropped Forever, and the rest is history. Dark, disturbing, modern and unpredictable – their energy is infectious. Their arrogant swagger in the scene make them an unstoppable and untouchable force. In our Weekly Roundup #8, Metalmance said they were a band to watch. We weren’t wrong. Will you join forces with them? Or be part of the wreckage they’ll leave behind?

“If the band are able to maintain this rawness then the future of hardcore is bright, the future is CODE ORANGE.”

Weekly Roundup #8

 

No. 15  LEPROUS – Malina

Leprous

Back in 2016, Metalmance hailed the Norwegian progsters as a band to watch, and rolling off the back of 2015’s The Congregation and this year’s Malina, the band have been growing from strength to strength. Malina sees the band stretching the term ‘progressive metal’, with their stupidly catchy and melodic songs, the band seem to be veering towards a lighter approach. They have always been good songwriters but with Malina, LEPROUS finally seem to have hit the nail on the head. One of our qualms with The Congregation was the songs didn’t know really when to get going or where to end, but Malina is far more of an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

“There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack.”

Weekly Roundup #3

 

No. 14  NORTHLANE – Mesmer

Northlane

Remember earlier in the year when NORTHLANE shouted ‘SURPRISE!!!’ and dropped Mesmer with no warning? Well it certainly paid off as it got people talking. And for good reason! Mesmer is easily the most focused and accomplished work by NORTHLANE to date. Savage, yet emotionally heavy, the feels the listener experiences during the Mesmer sonic experience is plenty. Each member has improved as a serious musician and the sound created is a mature one, with oodles of depth. Heart-felt songs which still drop hard, NORTHLANE seemed to have mastered the knack of combining emotion and heaviness.

 

No. 13  ENTHEOS – Dark Future

Entheos

A bit more of a progressive affair than previous album The Infinite Nothing, ENTHEOS are definitely gaining momentum as their own entity rather than some sort of supergroup (with ex members of ANIMALS AS LEADERS and THE FACELESS). Vocalist Chaney Crabb once again proves she is a force to reckon with because of her impressive performance and aggression. Hopefully in 2018 Chaney will gain more recognition as one of extreme metal’s finest vocalists. Dark Future isn’t an album you can absorb and process in one listen, its complex design and dynamics each come into their own individually after numerous listens. This is one album we will still be exploring into the new year.

 

No. 12  IGORRR – Savage Sinusoid

Igorrr

You either love this intriguing French group, or they leave you thinking what on earth??? Metalmance is the former and we witnessed them live at Tech Fest and were very glad to find this eclectic troupe were just as weird and as intense live as they are on record. One of the amazing aspects of the band and the album is the ‘samples’, each individual part is played and recorded which gives Savage Sinusoid an impressive depth. Full of heavy, yet charming tracks, the classical vocals sit surprisingly well among the more, er, primal screaming. And if we ran an award for best album opener of the year, we’d sure as hell choose Viande.

 

No. 11  GHOST IRIS – Blind World

Ghost Iris

As soon as these techy Danes released their catchy single Save Yourself back in February, Metalmance have been hooked. They released Blind World a week later and it is still on heavy rotation even now in December. A more focused effort than their previous releases, they seem to have their fingers well on the pulse of European tech metal. The album boasts tracks which are upbeat, heavy, melodic, yet deceivingly complex. GHOST IRIS really seem to have finally found their sound, and it’s a winning formula. Each song is a standout track, making Blind World an album you can happily listen to all the way through and return to again and again. Trust us, you won’t get bored.

“An album which keeps you on your toes yet constantly brings the fun, Blind World is sure to launch GHOST IRIS into the tech metal stratosphere.”

Weekly Roundup #19

 

No. 10  MUTATION – Dark Black

Mutation

In a time of super slick production and programming overload, it’s refreshing to hear something with a bit more of a raw approach (oo-er!) in the form of MUTATION’s Dark Black. With an organic and nostalgic feel, Dark Black has been one of 2017’s surprises. A thoroughly enjoyable and chaotic listen, you can read more about the band and the making of the album (which also features the one and only, DEVIN TOWNSEND) in our recent interview with Scott Lee Andrews from MUTATION.

“Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.” – Scott Lee Andrews

Q&A with Mutation

 

No. 9  CALIGULA’S HORSE – In Contact

Caligula's Horse

You may remember we featured CALIGULA’S HORSE in our Prog Down Under feature last year (which reminds us, we never did finish a second part) and 2017 saw these Aussie chaps release the breath-taking In Contact. From the stunning opener Dream the Dead to the sax-fuelled epic Graves, this is without a doubt CALIGULA’S HORSE finest work to date. Heavier than anticipated, In Contact also charms with the delicate compositions and expertly executed flourishes. Jim Grey once again impresses with his distinct voice and lyrical magic. Expect big things in 2018.

“No two songs sound the same, with CALIGULA’S HORSE mixing up the styles; a hint of folk here, a little indie there, but it’s all wrapped up in their own brand of infectious melodic prog.”

Prog Down Under Part 1

 

No. 8  ALLUVIAL – The Deep Longing for Annihilation

Alluvial

At the very beginning of 2017, we were spoilt immediately with the release of The Deep Longing for Annihilation, the instrumental masterpiece by metal greats, Keith Merrow and Wes Hauch. If you remember BLACK CROWN INITIATE were our album of the year last year, then you can understand why we were thrilled to begin our year with ALLUVIAL. Dark and brooding, the album hones both Merrow and Hauch’s signature styles, so much so they raised the bar so high for other instrumental albums this year.

“Imagine BLACK CROWN INITIATE, DECAPITATED and GOJIRA all rolled into one. This album is proof progressive metal does not necessarily need vocals to make it heavier.”

Weekly Roundup #14

 

No. 7  LOATHE – The Cold Sun

Loathe

One of the darker albums featured on our list this year – The Cold Sun has the same atmosphere as its namesake. A deep, stunning, yet unpredictable slab of British tech metal, this album is proof of why you should be paying attention to LOATHE. Astonishingly heavy, yet fiendishly melodic in places, they throw all sorts of extreme elements into the pot; the blackened influences, the instrumentals and the electronic/orchestral parts all pay off massively. Each listen unveils new layers you were unaware of before, and that demonstrates a maturity and love for the craft which will hopefully keep them ahead of the pack.

 

No. 6  EMMURE – Look At Yourself

Emmure

Look At Yourself indeed. Who would have known you would become an EMMURE fan in 2017? Metalmance in all honesty never really gave EMMURE the time of day, but after the announcement that members of GLASS CLOUD and TONY DANZA TAPDANCE EXTRAVAGANZA were joining the ranks, curiosity got the better of us and we’re very glad it did! Look At Yourself is the aural equivalent of ejecting bile and defecating over your enemies. The album is one of the heaviest featured on our list this year. If we gave an award for heaviest track of the year, then Natural Born Killer would win hands down.

 

No. 5  WITHOUT WAVES – Lunar

Without Waves

Earlier in the year, Metalmance labelled WITHOUT WAVES as a band to watch and once their album Lunar was released, we stood by our decision. Listening back to it now, the diversity and variety of genres the band squeeze into their song writing is still mind-blowing; progressive metal, grunge elements, some post-rock tinkles, lots of nostalgic sounds in the same vein as CAVE IN and Say Hello To Sunshine-era FINCH. Yet, somehow WITHOUT WAVES stamp all over these styles with their own sound. How these chaps haven’t blown up in the scene yet is one of 2017’s greatest musical mysteries.

“Anthony Cwan’s vocals really come to light here, his mesmerising voice runs the risk of being contemporary metal’s most alluring warble.”

Weekly Roundup #17

 

No. 4  DEATH FROM ABOVE – Outrage! Is Now

Death From Above

Metalmance are so, so happy DEATH FROM ABOVE are back on top form as we were massive fans of 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, but Outrage! Is Now has completely surpassed all expectations. The Canadian duo deliciously create bass and drum fuelled rock, yet the music they produce is heavy in its own way. Addictive, with a punk energy, Outrage! boasts an impressive array of irresistible riffs, beats and croons. DEATH FROM ABOVE have always had a mainstream sound, sounding a bit like JACK WHITE and MUSE here and there, but with Outrage! the band sound like they are confident in themselves and finally ready to take over the world.

 

No. 3  THE RASMUS – Dark Matters

The Rasmus

You’re probably disgusted by our choice for the no. 3 spot, but bear with us. We all have that one band who were our gateway into rock and metal, it just so happens our feathery friends THE RASMUS were ours. Dark Matters manages to achieve a similar atmosphere to 2004’s Dead Letters, and we can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. It’s a much poppier affair than their more recent releases, but we would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit it’s one of our favourites this year. Still full of catchy choruses and a healthy dollop of European cheese, we almost feel compelled to dig out our old wristbands, beanies and crow feathers, but we’re respectable adults now so we’ve managed to refrain…ahem…

 

No. 2  EIGHTEEN VISIONS – XVIII

XVIII

The biggest surprise of the year was the news that our metalcore heroes EIGHTEEN VISIONS had reformed AND were releasing a new album after ten years apart. We thought our 2017 couldn’t get any better than that…until we heard the actual album that is. It was everything old school EIGHTEEN VISIONS fans could ever dream of. Harking back to their glory days, XVIII is an incredible gift to the metal community and tribute to the late Mick Morris who played bass in their heyday. They’ve borrowed elements from their most popular albums; Until The Ink Runs Out, Vanity and Obsession, and have created a fresh new sound with subtle nostalgia. We hope they’re back for good.

“…there’s no doubt about it, EIGHTEEN VISIONS are back and ready to rejuvenate the metalcore scene again. Welcome back chaps.”

Eighteen Visions – XVIII

 

No. 1  DYSCARNATE – With All Their Might

Dyscarnate

We threatened back in August that With All Their Might could end up being our album of the year – and it bloody well is! No other album this year has been better in our eyes. An absolute corker of a beast, DYSCARNATE are a stupidly talented trio who know how to the bring the groove and the brutality. We don’t think we’ve heard any riffs this year which top what can be heard on With All Their Might. This album has WINNER stamped all over it and we seriously cannot wait to hear the songs live. Congratulations DYSCARNATE!

“If With All Their Might doesn’t cement DYSCARNATE as Britain’s heavyweight heroes then we might just have to crack our skulls in disgust. With their no-nonsense attitude, DYSCARNATE will have you gagging to join their ranks.”

Dyscarnate – With All Their Might