So where were we? Oh yes, I was being a pervy old man. Yeah, that was good. But we’re only only halfway through the day, although we are now at the point where it seemed only sensible given the levels of alcoholic intake and the business of the other stages that your scribe park himself in one spot at the main stage. Next up on the main stage are Lawnmower Deth (9) who I previously know only from seeing their logo on a few T shirts when I was younger and a dim recollection that my best mate as the time had a big Lawnmower Deth poster up in his room, although I don’t really recollect hearing him play me any, so it may have been a posture, in the same way I think most maiden fans only get into them initially because they know the posters and the T shirts would shock their mothers when it came time to iron their tops or clean their room. Because we are all pathetically middle class white boys obsessed with safe rebellion at our cores. I remember my Mum refused to iron my Nirvana T shirt that said ‘Motherfucker’ on it, which made me happy as it meant the print on it lasted a bit longer.
Lawnmower Deth seem to provoke nostalgia even if you are not familiar with them, and given that they have clearly never hit the big time in the way some of their contemporaries might have their enthusiasm and sheer joy at playing to this crowd is one of the more infectious things I have had the pleasure of witnessing live. A mix of Anthrax showmanship and fun and Exploited attitude, from the moment they stride on stage they have the audience enraptured, at turns pogoing like it’s the mid eighties and the next guffawing like a Michael Macintyre crowd at the sight of a trampolining Satan or a crowd surfing Black Metaller in a poncho. That I don’t know the tunes matters not a jot, and doesn’t seem to matter to the crowd either, who lap up every second.
If Lawnmower Deth provide an exercise in how to handle the mantle of ‘potentially has been old guys act’ in this sort of setting, then Sabbat (3) seem hell bent on doing the opposite. First off there is the look. Lawnmower Deth dress appropriate to their relative ages, jeans and t shirts that cover the occasional beer belly, fair enough. Sabbat on the other hand, come out dressed like they’re auditioning a retirement home production of Hellraiser, all wrinkled skin poured into tight leather that causes this writer to let loose an involuntary giggle before they even open their mouths. The lead singer, a bug eyed old man with a mane of greasy greying black hair, little neat goatee and a stare that could explode the tyres on a Fiat 500 at fifty yards is so bizarre looking that if he stood next to Peter Stringfellow and Richard Madely in a ‘who looks most like a sex offender‘ contest he would be a shoe in.
While the band start peddling their bog standard out of date thrash he scowls at the room with a look on his face that makes it quite plain that he is very upset that we haven’t greeted them like the all conquering gods they so clearly are. And then, as if to prove his point, he begins to bellow into his theatrical skull covered microphone like a bewildered tramp who has just has his special brew removed. If Lawnmower Deth were funny then Sabbat seem to be a parody so hilarious that Spinal Tap would bow down in admiration. When the singer takes a break in between sons to launch into a gravel throated ‘and the blackened sun sets on the orcs’ style tirade I cannot hold it any more and fall about in a fit of giggles, which earns me a look so furious that I may have turned to stone right there and then, and all the rest of this is just a figment of my imagination. I have since learnt that Andy Sneap is in Sabbat, however, so I may have been completely wrong, because Andy Sneap produced the Iron Monkey albums, and they are both better than anything that I will ever achieve in my worthless little life, so it may well be the case that his band are amazing and hid it from view on this particular occasion.
After I pick myself up from laughing I remember that the next band on are earthtone9 (9), and suddenly I am reduced to the sniveling fan boy that I was in the 90’s. If you are not familiar with earthtone9 then you need to go and listen to some right now. Quite simply the best British band of my generation, they mixed Tool’s sense of mood and tone with a ferocious sound and performances that used to reduce me to a whimpering mess regularly over the course of their reign. And now they’re back, a little older, a little less wrapped in clingfilm and it has to be said a little less tight than they used to be but quite honestly I couldn’t give a monkeys because they are brilliant. The setlist is mainly culled from their last album, with a few oldies thrown in for good measure, Karl‘s voice is as impeccable as ever, and for forty five minutes I am on cloud nine. They play a new song as well, which is enough to make me swoon like Katie Price at a cage fight.
Paradise Lost (5) are an institution here in Yorkshireland, local heroes who people bow down to like the bearded long haired Jesus lookalikes they are. I have no idea why, but this is mainly because their brand of gothy doom is as appealing to me as stubbing my toe on a moving tank. I am sure they are very good at what they do, and every now and again I catch a riff that has me nodding my head in appreciation, but for the most part it leaves me colder than a goth in a graveyard. I am clearly in the minority with this one, however, and given that I live in Yorkshire and don’t want a braying mob at my door I won’t say any more about them than that.
Once the floor clears of cider and black and flowery shirts all that is left to do is watch Dillinger Escape Plan (Dillinger/10) absolutely destroy everything with a performance that is quite a lot better than not only every other performance in this room today, but every other performance that anyone has put on since Elvis did the shaky hips. Fucking hell this band are astounding.I mean, fuck it, everyone knows by know that I love this band far too much for me to be objective about them but quite honestly if you were at this gig and didn’t feel the same way then you and I can never be friends. And I know how much you all want to be my friends. Quite how Dillinger manage to bring the levels of intensity that they consistently do while never playing a note out of tune or time no matter how technically mental the source material is beyond me, but as the lead hammer of 43% Burnt rings out across the room and the band leave the stage the looks that I see in the faces around me are ones of utter bewilderment and joy.
So that’s the bands, a mixture of excellent performances, good performances, average performances and Sabbat, but before I go I would just like to point out that Damnation Festival has to be one of the better things that are in this world we call metal. I think you’d be hard pressed to find better value for money, from the ticket price to the beer prices in the venue itself. The venue is excellent and (some sound issues notwithstanding) this was a brilliantly organized shindig all round. It’s rare to find a gig with such diversity of bands and fans where the overall atmosphere is so utterly without tension, and kudos has to go to absolutely everyone involved. All told it was a bloody good day.