Live Review: A Night of Salvation
5th November 2021
Featuring: Ackercocke, Svalbard, Orange Goblin and Raging Speedhorn
Words: Dan Barnes, Richard Oliver, Paul Hutchings & Tim Finch
Photos: Tim Finch
There’s a feel to Damnation 2021 that is partly triumphant and partly gloomy: triumphant because of its return following last year’s cancellation and gloomy due to it being the last festival at this venue, before moving back to Manchester for 2022.
Talk had been happening for many years as to whether Damnation would benefit from the addition of an extra day; from a personal point of view, I was generally against such an idea at the time, but with the upcoming changes it could be worthwhile revisiting the feasibility.
Billed as A Night of Salvation, this Bonfire Night preliminary was a fine way to gauge the reception an expanded Damnation would receive and it’s fair to say such a reception was resoundingly positive. One stage, four bands and tailor-made sets means the refectory is suitable busy when Akercocke take to the stage.
Kicking things off at A Night Of Salvation were London based blackened death metallers Akercocke who were performing a very special 'The Goat Of Mendes' set. Some of these songs appear in Akercocke set-lists from time to time but this may be the first time that the album has been played in full. The nostalgia was in full effect with Akercocke donning their suits again for what was a very special set especially for the old school Akercocke fans in attendance. Songs such as A Skin For Dancing In, Horns Of Baphomet, He Is Risen and Ceremony Of Nine Angles erupted forth ensuring horns were raised, heads were banged and pits were formed. The band seemed to enjoy every second with this being their first live performance for a good long while. Jason Mendonça’s vocals were in truly vicious form but no one could take their eyes off keyboardist Sam Loynes whose infectious enthusiasm on stage was a joy to watch. By the time the set had come to a close it was very much evident that Damnation was back in business. [RO]
With the Refectory still reeling from the ferocity of Akercoke’s aural assault, the task of following it fell to Bristol based Svalbard. Playing their 2020 album ‘When I Die Will I Get Better’ in full for the first time, this promised to be an emotional set, and so it proved. Drenched in a glorious light show that matched the intensity on stage, Svalbard demonstrated why they have become one of the UK’s most sought-after acts. Their blend of post punk and black metal doesn’t work for everyone but if you get it then this was a delicious and heart-wrenching set. Smiling with joy at the reception the audience provided, vocalist and guitarist Serena Cherry roared through the album, sharing vocal duties with fellow guitarist Liam Phelan, himself working into a frenzy of sweat. Riding some minor technical issues with ease, this was a triumphant set which culminated in Cherry declaring that final song ‘Pearlescent’ was too painful to sing before leading the band through an instrumental version which concluded a stunning set, leaving more than a few punters claiming that something had got in their eye. [PH]
I’m fast running out of superlatives for the might of Orange Goblin. Having seen them twice already this summer, one wondered what the quartet of Ward, Hoare, Turner and Armstrong could possibly bring to improve even a fraction on those performances. Well, it’s called ferocity for this was an OFGB show that went straight for the jugular. One of the class moments was Goblin’s dedication of their set to the late Malcom Dome, one of several bands who acknowledged one of metal’s finest journalists. There may have been few surprises in a set that spanned their entire career, but when you have such live staples as ‘Saruman’s Wish’, ‘Quincy the Pig Boy’, ‘Made of Rats’ and ‘The Devil’s Whip’, why change it? As always, Ben Ward took centre stage, his black shirt quickly soaked in sweat as he prowled his domain, constantly urging higher action from the pit that was in full flow from the first few chords.
It’s hard to measure the impact that Harry Armstrong has had on the band, but he looks part of the furniture now, his ever-lengthening mane of blond hair a blur as he shook his head, restless and never still, adding bite to the backing vocals. His link with drummer Chris Turner is rock solid and allows Joe Hoare the freedom to play some of the best guitar of his life. His shredding on ‘Scorpionica’ and ‘The Ballad of Solomon Eagle’ amongst the highlights. Ultimately, you know what you get with Orange Goblin. They are a band who could play at your birthday, your wedding, your divorce or your funeral and they’d kick the arse out of it regardless. With a UK tour to come in December, there’s a chance for a fourth viewing before year end! [PH]
Raging Speedhorn arrived early in Leeds on Friday and ran up a £300 bar bill in a local hostelry prior to heading to the venue. During sound check a few technical issues hampered the set up which meant when the band took to the stage to kick off their set there was a tension in the air, the band ready to explode with volatility, and that is exactly what we want from a Raging Speedhorn show.
Tonight they perform their debut, self titled, album in full in a very special set. It's an album that means a lot to many of us in the audience, I've been a Speedhorn fan since the very beginning, since they broke onto the scene playing small sweaty venues to a crowd wanting something different to the mainstream metal on offer back in 2000. The bands aggression and intensity, teamed with their battering ram of sound was exactly what we wanted back then. It's an album that still on regular rotation to this day and sounds as fresh now as it did back then.
So as the lads take to the stage in Leeds this evening the tension is the air is palpable, the crowd expectant and the band as intense as ever with a feeling that everything is about to kick off!
And as the opening notes of 'Superscud' ring out everything does indeed kick off. From the front to the sound desk the pit is writhing with sweat drenched bodies taking out their frustrations on each other in some good friendly violent fun. Through 'Redweed' and 'Knives and Faces' the energy continues both on stage and off it, our very own editor sailing over the barrier followed quickly by festival promoter Gavin McInally and many others keeping the security team busy!
On record the album never lets the listener relax and this translates to tonights live show as both Dan and Jim dive into the crowd. 'Thumper' and 'Necrophiliac Glue Sniffer' highlight the set, the continuous presence of Gordon on drums steadies the ship alongside bassist Andy, they give the band that down and dirty undercurrent upon which the volatility sits. As Dan climbs the speaker stack and Dave steers us through 'Dungeon Whippet' and towards the end of the set we rejoice in all that is Speedhorn.
Tonight has been a trip down memory lane through the four sets on offer but Speedhorn highlighted just how good they are and what an impact they made on the music scene twenty one years ago! [TF]
As the evening rolls into the early hours, with hangovers to be worked on or beds to sought, A Night of Salvation draws to a close and future damnation looms.
Check out the rest of our Damnation Festival coverage!
A Night of Salvation
Gavin McInally - Festival Director
Damnation Festival - The Unmissable Bands
Damnation: A Fans Retrospective - Part 1
Damnation: A Fans Retrospective - Part 2