Due to a significant surge in ticket sales Damnation Festival formerly held in Leeds on the first Saturday of November has found a new home at the ginormous BEC in Manchester. Though made up four rooms, tonight’s pre-Damnation event – Night of Salvation – on Friday fourth of November, will be held in just one of them, the more humbly sized Holy Goat Brewing stage. Tonight features an exciting and diverse line up or some of the best current UK bands who will also be joined by Australia’s We Lost The Sea playing the entirety of Departure Songs. The climactic finale will also see blackened post hardcore outfit Celeste, France performing their blinding release from the beginning of this year Assassine(s.) After missing this opportunity at the beginning of the year in London, this reviewer is positively chomping at the bit to see one of the best releases of the year in full.
The opening act is the misanthropic Mastiff, a quintet from Hull who jump start a night of intense music with sludgy blackened hardcore. Pummelling out hefty riffs with brutish drums and bass that dredges the depths, they joke about being as miserable as their hometown but the visceral mix of everything from doom to grind core results in a sound more aggressive and seriously pissed. Mid-tempo, repetitive chugging, scorching riffs that could take your head off switch to blast beats, d beats and rolling fills, while the vocals veer from drawn out macho growls to unhinged howls. They threateningly lurch between fast and slow while sometimes layering pace and tone like a galloping mammoth. A tectonic start from the self-described juggernauts.
Pupil Slicer, the increasingly well known extreme metal quartet from London have a vigorous and swirling, miasmic energy with pulverising vocals from Katie Davies backed up by blast beats and speedy, experimental, jangly guitarwork to contrast the shredding riffs and moody chord progressions. Like Mastiff they toy with a blend of extreme genres, this time from an angular mathcore perspective. Davies is captivatingly menacing, bouncing around the stage, grimacing, and grinning at the crowd and emitting piercing shrieks while playing off kilter colliding chords and searing riffs with precision finger picking and slides. The slowed down crawling sections add impact to the dynamics, and layers of shimmering tremolos guitars that soar and sear are quite mesmerising. There is a lot to digest- but the overall feeling is more akin to being chewed up and spat out.
Dubbed as metalcore, the London quintet Ithaca are so much more – vibrant and explosive fronted by the take no prisoners, sultry, fireball of energy, Djamilla Azzouz Boden – who could easily be likened as a female answer to Chino Moreno. Belting out tracks mostly from the quartets incendiary They Fear Us, it is aptly a merging of Deftones with post hardcore/screamo. Azzouz Boden’s impressive vocal range blends drawn-out throat shredding and short sharp screams with soaring vocals, and a backdrop of steadily progressive and chugging guitar and twiddly, decorative, and discordant hooks with backing vocals complete the sound. The Triumphant build ups maintain a perfect balance of melodic but intricate textured interludes behind the clean singing. This mix of soft and heavy makes them a far more accessible band that should see them reach a widening audience but still appeal to the more discerning metal head- all while smashing down the barriers of inequality and the stigma of mental health.
There has been a lot of hype for the Australian sextet We Lost the Sea and rightfully so as tonight they will be performing the whole of the critically acclaimed 2015’s Departure Songs – a stunning tribute to a lost band member. The dynamic, grief ridden journey through the desolate and celestial post metal soundscape begins with the building of scintillating threads of guitars and choral harmonising. Though the overall sound is a sorrowful one – it is captivatingly hypnotic and crafted in a such a way to allow the nuanced textures of decorative finger picking, groovy bass lines, glitchy electronic effects, dialogue sound bites, jazzy drums to stand out against the repetitive, subtle background. Dipping and diving with an ever-rising ascent, picking up pace, and increasing in volume – like a gathering storm in an epic conclusion of grandiose crescendos. It is a stunning rendition that is even more powerful than on record, and while the desolation and despair of loss is heard in much of the music there are moments of uplifting triumph.
Expectations could not have been higher for the French black metal quartet Celeste, from the rumours about their minimal lighting pictured by the most intense strobes and adornment of their customary red headtorches that add an eerie, other-wordly or hellish aesthetic to the relentless onslaught of horrendous noise that they are known for. Holy shit, they are met, no, surpassed – by far, and upon further reflection result in an ongoing toll of both purging and feeling intense emotions.
The anticipation is high after having already being blasted by a trio of visceral bands, the tension is high and when the Frenchmen finally enter the stage and launch into the intro of Assassiné(s) in terms of that visceral cathartic theme of the evening it is a figurative, “hold my beer” moment. From the first note ominous, resonating notes and complex drum fills of ‘Des Torrents De Coups’ through crashing cymbals and tsunami like waves of razor sharp lightning tremolos and anguished howls to the last bludgeoning riffs of the yearning ‘Le Couer Noir Charbon’. It is safe to say they devastate the Holy Goat Brewing stage with with their remorseless blackened post metal and no crowd interaction to break the spell, no soul goes unscathed. Despite all the lyrics being written and sung in their native tongue, they do not fail to cut to the core with the melancholic tone. Aptly enough, The performance is an absolute “tour de force” and, as is the “raison d’etre” of the band themselves, this experience will linger in the memories of the shellshocked crowd for a long time.
Words and photography : Abi Coulson – Darktones Photography