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 2016

A great year for metal! Who took the top spot?

Welcome to the first Metalmance Top 20 Albums! 2016 has been a hell of a year for metal this year, with lots of reunions and surprise releases. Not all entries will have a blog link due to Metalmance only being a third of a year old. So let’s get straight to it…

 

sleeping  No. 20  CANDIRIA – While They Were Sleeping                     

It’s good to have CANDIRIA back isn’t it? While They Were Sleeping is the band’s eighth album and their first on Metal Blade and it’s a reminder of the band’s refreshing metal mix of hardcore, prog, hip hop and jazz. If you’re new to CANDIRIA, then this album is a good start. Check out the link below to see what Metalmance said about the band’s video for the title track.

Weekly Roundup #4

 

a3458996965_10  No. 19  INCITE – Oppression

You can always rely on INCITE to provide some straight-up, relentless metal, and with their fourth album Oppression, the band continue to carve their own niche in the scene. This isn’t easy when you’re the stepson of metal god Max Cavelera, like frontman Richie Cavalera is, but INCITE are more than capable of thriving on their own. With an intense live show to match, INCITE should be one of your bands to watch.

 

kvelertaknattesferd  No. 18  KVELERTAK – Nattesferd

Every KVELERTAK release is an exciting bag of rock n roll, black metal and punk. This, being the Norwegian’s third album is no different but includes a glorious classic rock tinge to proceedings without losing any the original ferociousness the band are known for. Still raw, fast and exciting, KVELERTAK are still on the rise.

 

mortiis_cover  No. 17  MORTIIS – The Great Deceiver

Another welcome return in 2016 was MORTIIS with their new album The Great Deceiver. After a hiatus of almost five years, the new material was like reuniting with an old, industrial friend. The album has the timbre of Downward Spiral era NIN, but with a contemporary twist, all resulting in a pretty impressive album for the revival of industrial metal.

 

14040057_10154510824634759_8534743349618738043_n  No. 16  NOCETM – Haeresis

Stumbling upon Spanish extreme metallers NOCTEM was an excellent discovery this year. Their album Haersis is still bludgeoning the ears of Metalmance. Read a snippet of the review below and follow the link to the full review.

“Introducing NOCTEM, a black metal band that have more tricks up their sleeve than you might first perceive. They sound like all of your favourite extreme bands rolled into one delicious, morbid package, each track offering a new twist to proceedings.”

NOCTEM – Haeresis Review

 

nails_-_you_will_never_be_one_of_us  No. 15  NAILS – You Will Never Be One of Us

Probably the most unforgivingly brutal release of the year, NAILS winded metal fans around the world with the absolutely punishing You Will Never Be One of Us. Twenty minutes of sheer face-ripping, ear-pummelling metal, it never gives up for a second. This is how metallic hardcore punk should be done.

 

annisokay  No. 14  ANNISOKAY – Devil May Cry

One of Germany’s most promising metal exports, ANNISOKAY makes metalcore exciting again with their pure passion for their craft. Not afraid to include massive choruses, this young band can only get bigger with their irresistible melodies and crushing riffs.

“With the aggression of newer PARKWAY DRIVE and the melodic sensibilities of bands like SAOSIN and SILVERSTEIN, ANNISOKAY will appeal to fans across the melodic metal spectrum.”

ANNISOKAY – Devil May Care Review

 

lacunacoildeliriumcd  No. 13  LACUNA COIL – Delirium

Italy’s finest never disappoint. Still churning out masterpiece after masterpiece, LACUNA COIL have set their own bar high in the form of Delirium, their eighth album and heaviest to date. Based on narratives surrounding the abandoned asylum near to where the band live, the album is full of intensity and emotion. It still packs a punch over half a year later.

“The subject matter helps to shape the band’s most intense album to date with opener House of Shame bursting in kicking and screaming with the heaviest riff and vocals we’ve heard from LACUNA COIL in a long, long time.”

Weekly Roundup #2

 

textures-phenotype-artwork  No. 12  TEXTURES – Phenotype

Four long years since their last release, TEXTURES finally dropped fifth album Phenotype back in February and it’s still a rewarding progressive metal album. Vocalist Daniël de Jongh is proving his worth with the absolute belters of New Horizons and opener Oceans Collide. Recorded simultaneously with the album Genotype which will be released next year, don’t be surprised if TEXTURES also feature on the list next year.

 

wallsofjerichonoonecd  No. 11  WALLS OF JERICHO – No One Can Save You From Yourself

Yet another band returning from a hiatus, Detroit’s WALLS OF JERICHO released No One Can Save You From Yourself and it is a perfect return to form. The hardcore greats are as ferocious and as angry as ever and could easily show younger bands how it’s done. Welcome back.

“Candice Kucsulain, along with the rest of the band WALLS OF HERICHO, delivers such straight up, no nonsense hardcore punk, it’s mind boggling this hardcore troupe from Detroit do not receive more credit and recognition.”

Weekly Roundup #3

 

brutai  No. 10  BRUTAI – Born

2016 finally saw the release of the debut album by London’s BRUTAI. It was well worth the wait, with its refreshing approach to the melodic metal genre making the band one to watch. With big riffs, big ideas and big choruses, BRUTAI pulls it all off with aplomb and passion. One of the UK’s brightest metal hopes.

“The future of British metal has indeed been born.”

BRUTAI – Born Review

 

a0651344947_10  No. 9  ANAAL NATHRAKH – The Whole of the Law

A band who never disappoint, ANAAL NATHRAKH returned this year with ninth album The Whole of the Law, which is quite possibly the band’s most punishing album to date (if that’s even possible). The brutality ramps up with each song, making The Whole of the Law an intense listen which rewards you with mutilated ears.

“A new ANAAL NATHRAKH album is always a joyous occasion – if joyous means the same as the sensation of having your face battered off by a shovel.”

ANAAL NATHRAKH – The Whole of the Law Review

 

dreamshade  No. 8  DREAMSHADE – Vibrant

A late treat in the year, DREAMSHADE’s third album Vibrant is a gloriously melodic affair with a whole lot of heart. Their passion for their music overspills in each song, ensuring you get wrapped up in their infectious metal and melodies. A great discovery for Metalmance this year.

“An album which shimmers with melodic metal perfection, this third offering from Swiss band DREAMSHADE is indeed a vibrant effort.”

DREAMSHADE – Vibrant Review

 

evergreythestormwithincd  No. 7  EVERGREY – The Storm Within

EVERGREY…dark, emotional, intelligent, melodic, heavy, progressive…and catchy too. Is this an album with everything?? Guest appearances from Floor Jansen? Check. Songs with a big heart? Check. Dark and moody atmosphere? Check. Intense and beautiful video accompaniments? Check!

“If you want some progressive metal which you can belt out around the house, then look no further than EVERGREY.”

Weekly Roundup #9

 

vola-inmazes-album-art  No. 6  VOLA – Inmazes

Technically a reissue through Mascot Label Group, it’s such a treat of an album it would have been rude not to have featured it in this year’s list. VOLA’s Inmazes features most of the year’s catchiest melodies and big choruses, with Stray The Skies still owning the most memorable keyboard hook in recent memory. A young band full of promise and potential, VOLA are ones to watch for sure.

“The young band from Copenhagen have already fine tuned their sound which incorporates chugging guitars giving way to soaring vocals and catchy keyboard hooks.”

VOLA – Inmazes Review

 

animalsasleadersmadnesscd  No. 5  ANIMALS AS LEADERS – The Madness of Many

Modern metal legends ANIMALS AS LEADERS dropped The Madness of Many a month ago and it is captivating and mesmerising audiences worldwide. Just listening to a few seconds of opener Arithmophobia will make you understand why. An album bursting with a stupid amount of musical talent, ANIMALS AS LEADERS have outdone themselves again. How will they ever be able to top this?

“The diversity of sounds on this album demonstrates how far the band push the boundaries of progressive music and composition itself, as far as utterly breaking free of limitations and creating the most mesmerising music which doesn’t seem possible by man.”

Weekly Roundup #11

 

0045778746064_png_1200x1200_q90_crop  No. 4  SAOSIN – Along The Shadow

Another band who ended their hiatus and released an album this year. With Along The Shadow, SAOSIN have created a modern, post-hardcore classic. There was always a risk of sounding run-of-the-mill or sounding too similar to CIRCA SURVIVE, but the band thankfully pulled out all the stops and released one of the year’s most surprising highlights. Heart wrenching songs, big riffs and even bigger choruses, they’re the kings of the new post-hardcore generation.

“The album is one hot nostalgic trip to the glory days of post-hardcore, but somehow they sound timeless.”

Weekly Roundup #13

 

ihsahn-arktis-e1450461123634  No. 3  IHSAHN – Arktis

Ihsahn needs no introduction. This year he almost reached perfection with Arktis, an album so full of twists and turns in extreme styles it is spectacular from start to finish. There are plenty of unexpected elements which feature in the album, including SHINING’s Jørgen Munkeby providing a cheeky bit of saxophone on Crooked Red Line and LEPROUS’ Einar Solberg providing the stunning vocals on closer, Celestial Violence. A modern classic, Arktis will astound listeners for many years to come.

 

635902518368165120  No. 2  PORT NOIR – Any Way The Wind Carries

Possibly the most exciting discovery for Metalmance this year, PORT NOIR is a band which is almost impossible to pigeonhole. With songs bordering on pop, then others edging towards CULT OF LUNA-esque riffs (see Black From the Ink) each song is a different melodic beast. Elements of funk, jazz and metal complete with the distinct vocals of frontman Love Andersson, make Any Way The Wind Carries a rewarding listen each time. For a trio, PORT NOIR have such a rich and deep sound you wonder at how they haven’t already cracked the mainstream. An album so diverse and well executed, Any Way The Wind Carries deserves its high ranking in this list.

“The level of melodic goodness doesn’t detract from the heaviness on the album, instead you feel like you’re listening to all of your favourite genres as they are all sprinkled into one tasty package.”

Weekly Roundup #5

 

blackcrowninitiateselves

No. 1  BLACK CROWN INITIATE – Selves We Cannot Forgive 

And here we have it! Metalmance’s album of the year! BLACK CROWN INITIATE’s Selves We Cannot Forgive has been on frequent rotation since its release. A truly spellbinding example of progressive death metal and its very best. An absolute beast of an album, it pummels you with its devastating riffs and ferocious drumming, then revives you through the utterly compelling clean vocals. The band mix slow and brooding, with fast and aggressive with such zeal the album is a seamless triumph of modern metal. Standout track Belie the Machine pulls you in with its entrancing introduction, you think you’re safe for a few minutes, then the band absolutely crush you with a catastrophic riff GOJIRA would be proud of. The title track shows the more melodic side of BLACK CROWN INITIATE, with its soaring vocals and piano accompaniment. A diverse and ambitious album, it deservedly owns its place at the top spot.

“This, being the band’s second album released through eOne Music, is such a varied beast with  each track harnessing its own surprising little nugget.”

Weekly Roundup #4

Weekly Roundup #3

3 is the magic number

Band to watch: LEPROUS. They’re about to embark on an extensive North American tour but it’s most likely you haven’t heard of these Norwegian fellows. Four albums into their career and they’re finally gaining momentum and praise around the world. Deliciously on the melodic end of the metal spectrum, LEPROUS’ beautiful melodies are made the more spine tingling thanks to the incredible vocal talent of Einar Solberg. You might have heard his voice recently as guest vocalist on IHSAHN’s track Celestial Violence on this year’s Arktis. In fact, LEPROUS used to be the backing band for IHSAHN. The haunting Nordic sound is ever present in LEPROUS’ songs, but their influences range from MASSIVE ATTACK to GOJIRA. The heavier side of metal unexpectedly is unleashed now and then in their compositions which further emotionally charges the music. Most recent album The Congregation boasts elements from a variety of genres, everything from prog to djent and jazz. There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack. You can catch them on tour in the UK with prog contemporaries TESSERACT and DEVIN TOWNSEND next March. Expect to hear more about these guys in the coming months!

https://www.facebook.com/leprousband/?fref=ts

Video to watch: SKYHARBOR. Last year SKYHARBOR released the track Out of Time which show cased new vocalist Eric Emery, proving he is more than capable of filling the shoes left behind by Daniel Tompkins (now back in TESSERACT). Now with new video Chemical Hands released last week, SKYHARBOR are prepared to take over the world with their new line-up and their own strain of progressive metal. The song itself is a stellar piece of melodic, proggy, technical goodness, fully demonstrating Eric’s vocal capabilities. The video accompaniment itself can only be described as a glorious sci-fi vision akin to films The Matrix and the Riddick trilogy. The stunning visuals compliment the heart wrenching melodies to create an all encompassing sensory experience. Director Michael Di Lonardo sets out a barren, futuristic landscape occupied by machines, with the band appearing like a transmission from outer space. SKYHARBOR, we read you loud and clear, we’ll see you in the UK next week!

Most anticipated release: WINTERFYLLETH. New album The Dark Hereafter will be released this Friday!

https://www.facebook.com/Winterfylleth/?fref=ts

Still in the stereo: WALLS OF JERICHO. When you think of female fronted bands you probably think of your pop punk types or your metal ARCH ENEMY like bands. But Candice Kucsulain, along with the rest of the band WALLS OF HERICHO, delivers such straight up, no nonsense hardcore punk, it’s mind boggling this hardcore troupe from Detroit do not receive more credit and recognition. Easily just as relevant and ferocious as contemporaries HATEBREED and SICK OF IT ALL, it is refreshing to hear a band so passionate and aggressive minus all the poser bullshit the scene can be now guilty of at times. So when WALLS OF JERICHO released No One Can Save You From Yourself back in March this year, it was gratefully received by fans as it had been roughly 8 years since last album The American Dream came out. It was well the worth the wait with the band sounding angrier than ever but also aiming to reunite people across not only their fan base, but across the scene, especially through tracks such as Relentless and The Anthem. It is a solid piece of honest work by a band who obviously still have a lot to say. They announced a UK/EU tour this week, so let’s hope they stick around for a little while longer at least.

https://www.facebook.com/WallsofJericho/?fref=ts

Band to rediscover: BYZANTINE. I must admit, I thought BYZANTINE were long gone, dead and buried in the metal graveyard, but lo and behold, they are now signed to Metal Blade Records with a self-titled album available in stores and a new record underway! 2005’s album …And They Shall Take Up Serpents rippled a few waves in the underground metal scene, then they seemed to vanish. To be fair, they can be pretty hard to Google, but now it shouldn’t be hard to find them and fall under their spell once again. Their progressive thrash metal, reminiscent of bands such as TESTAMENT, LAMB OF GOD and PANTERA, also incorporates instrumental sections, tribal drumming and killer solos bordering on progressive jazz. Now the band are back and stronger than ever, it is time to punish our ears once again!

https://www.facebook.com/Byzantinewv/?fref=ts

Band yet to listen to: PORT NOIR. I keep hearing about this band and their ability to mix up all sorts of genres to create their own brand of gorgeous metal. Next on my list to check out.