It’s the night before Damnation Festival 2012 takes place at the Leeds Union and walking through town alone, you notice a good number of people wearing extreme metal t-shirts, and it seems that they all end up at one place on the night: the Santiago Bar.
A Night Of Salvation (III) is the pre-show for Damnation Festival yet doesn’t seem remotely overshadowed by the event – people are excited for the bands playing on that pre-show; discussions are in full force in some areas of the bar and outside it. The place itself is full of eye-catching memorabilia – a poster signed by the Foo Fighters (Dave also seems to have gained a blacked out tooth and a unibrow from a pen fiend) and a signed drum skin by Torche hung up on one of the walls/rafters – and so it seems fitting that a night like this should take place in a bar like that.
First up was BongCauldron, and as their name might tell, they inflicted a set full of dirty, bass-heavy riffs along with some solid drumming and vocals taken in turns by the guitarist and bassist – the former roared as the latter was more guttural and throaty. The three-piece made a punishing wall of noise and even though the majority of the set consisted of the doom/sludge mid-to-slow-pace tempo, the band got a lot of heads banging, leaving a lasting impression on the crowd (who seemed under a weedian haze throughout the set).
Next was Liber Necris, perhaps an unlikely band to hear on the night, being of the deathcore influence, but actually held their own really well, even intimidating due to the crazed vocalist who churned out some insane vocals immaculately – screams, growls and pig squeals in regular rotation. Plus, instead of the expected breakdowns that deathcore is famous for, the band seemed to flourish in blastbeats instead – definitely showing a bigger death metal influence than anything else. The band put on a hell of a show and were a great surprise.
Diascorium soon followed and despite showing some technical prowess and black/death metal influences, the band fell short of really engaging with the crowd or moving them in any way as the previous two bands had managed. The performance itself was tight and scarily flawless, but there was just something missing from the performance, which is a shame for a clearly talented band. It just felt there was just a lack of genuine excitement; or that it just didn’t transcend very well on the night.
Then there was one band left, the one that a large portion of the crowd had obviously come to see, the great Humanfly. To describe Humanfly musically is like trying to argue what Mona Lisa is feeling – not that the music is blank, but the band venture into so many styles that you never know whether to mosh or gently sway; mixing sludge, progressive, post-rock, hardcore, drone and even more into their undefinable sound. To add to the confusion, even during moments of crushing riffs where the aggression was sonically ripe, the band looked like the happiest people ever, clearly enjoying the moment. It was also unbelievable at times with the sounds the guys were producing with their guitars, as a few seconds of staring at their array pedals confirmed – the band could not stick to one sound if their livelihood depended on it; which is a good thing.
Simply put, they gave a stellar show, and were absolutely hypnotising. It’s almost a shame that they weren’t playing on the day of Damnation (again, having made an appearance on the bill last year), but to see the band on such an intimate level was a great experience in itself – a band definitely worth seeing if you have the chance.