Damnation Festival 2011 [Live Review]

Bands: Cerebral Bore, Xerath, Devin Townsend & more
Location: Leeds University
Date: 5th November 2011

For the uninitiated, Damnation Festival has built a reputation in recent years as being one of the finest events showcasing underground music that the UK has to offer. The festival boasts a great deal of variety, offering everything from extreme metal to post-rock and everything in between.

Upon arrival at the venue, there was some initial confusion as to where the stages were. The Terrorizer and Jagermeister stages were running late, and to add insult to injury one of the most anticipated bands of the day, CEREBRAL BORE, turned up minus their vocalist. The band still managed to pull off a tight set, however, proving how musically talented the band is.

More than making up for the festival’s false start, the mighty XERATH took to the Jagermeister stage to a decent-sized crowd, and proved that they are indeed one of the finest extreme metal bands to come out of the UK. Their unique brand of symphonic death metal suited the large venue, and their incredibly tight riffs won the crowd over.

Next up on the Terrorizer stage were one of the most unique metal bands around – Norway’s  SHINING. Opening with their wonderfully insane ‘Madness and the Damage Done’ from their album ‘Blackjazz’, their unique combination of black metal and jazz completely decimated the brains of everyone present. The energetic cutting guitars combined with the absolutely crazy saxophone and keyboard playing ensured that everyone left with their faces melted!

After a long wait for gear to be changed back over on the main stage, it was finally time for the folk metal legends TURISAS. Despite initially appearing to be out of place on this lineup, Turisas had one of the most enthusiastic crowds of the entire festival. Their set was full of classics such as ‘Holmgard and Beyond’ and ‘Battle Metal’, and the sheer energy of the show, the vocal talents of frontman Mathias Nygard and the dedication of their fans was a joy to behold.

Turisas’ current touring mates CHTHONIC are really starting to break through in the UK. The Taiwanese band may be relatively new to western listeners, but their experience shone through in their incredible Damnation set. It was hard to believe that any band would top Shining, but Chthonic managed it thanks to their brilliant stage presence and powerful original music. Chunky guitar riffs, intense vocals and epic symphonic arrangements all combined with their Taiwanese musical influences provide a musical onslaught which stunned the crowd. It was also great to see bassist Doris Yeh at the merch stand, the band living up to their reputation of being great with the fans.

Next up was an early food break, due to the absence of Polish death metallers DECAPITATED. Whilst their cancellation was disappointing, especially due to the problems faced by CEREBRAL BORE, the only other death metal band of the day, the cause of their absence is understandable and we can only hope to see them play next year.

Finally, as Damnation Festival drew to a close, the one-and-only DEVIN TOWNSEND took to the Jagermeister stage! As usual he entertained the fans before the show started with amusing clips of Ziltoid, but the omniscient alien was soon silenced by Devin’s song ‘Truth’ which set the tone for the rest of the headline set, with fans singing along to every word of his masterful compositions and waving their Ziltoid puppets in the air! The set proved to be a mixture of Ziltoid songs and songs from his four-album series from the Devin Townsend Project, however he decided to end the show with a collection of more ambient songs before playing the classic ‘Vampira’ as an encore – a stunning end to a great festival on our own turf!

Jenny Green & Hallam Smith [Guest Review]

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