Damnation 2023 + A Night of Salvation Review

Words by Olivia Matthews & Rob Goulding

Photography by Olivia Matthews


This was the second time Damnation was held in Manchester’s BEC Arena this time around. The lineup was strong and A Night of Salvation was just as jam packed as Damnation this year, with three stages full of bands making it more like an extra day of the festival as opposed to a smaller event. Firstly, it was very easy to move between the three big stages which was great as several of the bands we wanted to see were spread between them. I’d heard some complaints that the sound from different stages bled together at times but that was not my experience and is most likely inevitable. I also felt that the positioning of merch stalls, food trucks and bars was well thought out. Our only complaint was that the vegan food options sold out quite quickly. This review will be of what we managed to see out of the two days so apologise if we missed out some of the bands, there was a lot to see!

A Night of Salvation

Unfortunately we arrived slightly later than expected so ended up missing Hornthrowers Podcast alumni Celestial Sanctuary. This meant the first band of the weekend for us was Ninkharsag. The Liverpool quartet were a fantastic start to the festival with their Dissection-esque brand of black metal. The ‘Dread March of Solemn Gods’ album cover illuminated the backdrop combined with the animal skulls and chains evoked the spirit of 2nd wave black metal. All in all they were a great start to the weekend for us and will definitely check them out again.

The next set we caught was one that I had been looking forward to since it was announced; Enslaved performing ‘Below the Lights’ in full. This year marks 20 years since the album was first released so it was a fitting tribute for them to play it in full. Enslaved were in fine form from the moment ‘As Fire Swept Clean the Earth’ began with its haunting lead melody to the Rhythmic chanting of ‘Havenless’ and finally the album closer ‘A Darker Place’. What was interesting about their two sets was that the more recent album was played first, so watching both days was a cool way to see what the band have become and where they have started. ‘Below the Lights’ left me wondering how Enslaved were going to top this performance on the actual day of Damnation where they would be performing ‘Vikingligr Veldi’ in full.

We managed to find a good post for SIGH’s performance of their 1993 classic album ‘Scorn Defeat’ in its entirety. I (Rob) have been waiting to see SIGH for over 10 years and it was definitely worth the wait. This set was understandably more of a traditional black metal sound, mixed with SIGH’s usual over the top stage theatrics burning chalices and bibles etc. It was a fantastic set and kept the audience captivated throughout.

I managed to see SIGH’s second set the following night ( though from a great distance as they were placed on a stage far smaller than the demand for SIGH could accommodate). This set featured the stranger and more avant garde music SIGH have been known for in more recent years , it sounded AMAZING and I still lament the fact I couldn’t be closer.

Leprous were celebrating the 10 year anniversary off their seminal album ‘Coal’ by playing it in full. This was our second time seeing Leprous, the first being way back in 2017 when they supported the Devin Townsend Project. Usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Leprous are Einar Solberg’s iconic vocals. It’s hard to believe but Einar’s vocals are even better live. Nothing shows this more the than the section in ‘Foe’ where they all sing unaccompanied, truly breathtaking. The angelic vocals are contrasted with the crushing prog laden guitar riffs which add an extra layer of complex musicality to their incredible sound. Leprous were also a perfect bridge between the sets of Enslaved and Katatonia.

Finally, Katatonia headlined A Night of Salvation with a performance of their album ‘Dead End Kings’. This was the highlight of the weekend for Olivia, as Katatonia are one of her favourite bands and ‘Dead End Kings’ is an album she has listened to countless times so experiencing it in full is now a treasured memory. Filling in for Andes Nyström on guitar, who has been absent from Katatonia live shows as of late, was current member of Ghost but former member of Katatonia and Bloodbath Per ‘Sodomizer’ Eriksson. Jonas Renske joked that whilst ‘Dead End Kings’ couldn’t have been made without him, he was more well known for his current band. When Katatonia were announced as playing this album in full the first thought was, how are they going to play ‘The One You Are Looking for Is Not Here’ without Silje Wergeland. So to see Jonas invite her onto the stage for that song just added to how great the experience was.

‘Dead End Kings is an iconic album so hearing songs such as ‘The Racing Heart’ , ‘Buildings’ and ‘Ambitions’ in the setting that they were intended was incredible. What made this all better was that the instrumentation was spot on and Jonas’ vocals were exactly like the record. If it sounds like we are hyping the performance up too much, I would say that it is thoroughly deserved.


The first band we managed to see on the main day of Damnation were the incredible High Command on their UK debut. Bringing a mix of high octane Thrash Metal with and lyrics about Medieval warfare. From fast riffs and ferocious pits to the singer wielding a sword on stage, it was a great way to get the blood pumping! We’ve played their stuff on the radio and were a band that we were particularly excited to see and they did not disappoint.

As soon as you hear the iconic intro riff to ‘Rise From the Grave’ you know you’re at an Undeath show which means one thing; you’re about to have a great time. Bringing their usual brand of retro death metal to the UK Undeath managed to pull a sizeable crowd and create large pits of all shapes and sizes (first time I have ever seen a ‘Square Pit’ haha). This is the third time the band have been over in the UK this year, Hopefully they continue Ito bring the show to the UK several times next year as they’re fast becoming a Hornthrowers favourite.

Following on from the phenomemnal ‘Dead End Kings’ set Katatonia were playing a fan picked set. Unfortunately the start of the performance was mired with tech issues which meant that they had to cut some songs out of the set. The fan picked set meant that sadly the hits of ‘My Twin and ‘July’ didn’t make the cut (probably to the bands relief), most likely because they are staples in a usual Katatonia setlist. This did make way for a live debut of ‘No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall’ as well as old favourites such as ‘Nephilim’. Towards the end of the set you could tell that Jonas was having some difficulties with his mic but he handled them amazingly and carried on with a great performance.

Enslaved began their second set performing ‘Vikingligr Veldi’ in full, an album which will have its 30 year anniversary next year. We ran to stage when we heard the signature haunting synth sounds at the beginning of ‘Lifandi Life Under Hamri’ as this was a set that we couldn’t miss. The performance of ‘Below the Lights’ was so good that it left us wondering how they would top it. The stage show this time around was so much more elaborate, with Giant illuminated Runes at the back of the stage. The performance of the band was once again exceptional, Ivar’s guitar playing and stage presence was cool and composed whilst Grutle’s vocal delivery and bass playing were high energy. As I mentioned perviously, it was an interesting choice to play a newer album which is closer to their current sound first. However, it was a great experience to see Enslaved play their formative album in front of a large crowd with a great stage show. As, I had to catch an early train the next day this was the last set I managed to see. With this being my last set of the weekend, I left on a high note.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, for us A Night of Salvation was probably the highlight of the weekend due to the final three amazing sets on the main stag. This isn’t to say that Damnation itself wasn’t great, it just so happened that A Night of Salvation more suited our tastes. Bands playing albums in full are a great idea and really draw people to the festival so hopefully next year brings some incredible sets to match that of Enslaved, Leprous and Katatonia. A quick shoutout to the vendors is also needed as they were great, 783 Punx and Cult Never Dies in particular. Additionally, Security at the festival were excellent. Food was okay, not loads of vegan options labelled. A suggestion for next year however is that the festival could really do with a vegan only food truck as the vegan options were often hard to find and had sold out. Despite some of technical difficulties throughout the weekend it was still a fantastic experience and the Hornthrowers Team have already grabbed those ‘Blind Bird’ tickets so will be eager to see band announcements and will return next year for another packed weekend of metal!

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