Damnation Festival, Leeds, UK 05/11/11

Almost like a real festival... because it bloody well is! Welcome to the Damnation Festival...

Once I'd had a wander round the venue, got lost, had an asthma attack on the 14th set of steps and growled at a security guard enforcing a corridor one way system, I decided I should probably watch a band. First up was Shining, on TheTerrorizer stage; welcome to Jazz Club.  While ascending Sax offsets dissonant guitar, extreme vocals marry up with mixed tempo rhythm, brass and crazy guitar. Grrreatt. 

Tusisas next: a novelty act and passing fad, well battle metal has survived 3 albums and while the line up has changed, the show fights on.  From the first notes of Stand Up And Fight it’s obvious why Turisas has survived and remain popular. Warlord (Mathias) Nygard on vocals is an unstoppable character wooing the crowd with humour and charisma. You never need to know the song to hear the music, it’s well written enough to speak for itself.The performance was stellar as ever. I’m definitely going to take up the bands offer and join them for at least ‘one more’of their gigs.  

I arrived at the Zero Tolerance stage feeling like I was at Monsters Of Rock: everything was late, nothing quite went to plan and everyone battled past each other between stages.  

There we found Talons: Twin violins, twin guitar, I almost missed a second bass. The place was rammed and the band put in a crowd pleasing show. The music was a lot tamer than anything I had seen so far and for me didn’t really take advantage of the instrumentation.  Everything came across well, I just hoped for something even more epic and orchestral.  

Next up, the undisputed kings of thrash, Evile. The crowd swayed and swirled, arms flailed, elbows shoved. Moshing was mandatory and security got a decent workout as bodies were passed to the front. The broken rythmns were played tightly but there’s no denying it’s the breakdown riffs that come across best. Ending with Infected Nation which stands out as a classic, the band closed on a high.

All I had to do now was hang around for Grand Magus. My stomach had other ideas and took me on a tour of the facilities. There was a good selection of food and unlike other festivals you didn’t need to take out a mortgage to fill your belly.

The 'Magus were the band of the festival for me. Hailing from Stockholm the band’s English was perfect and singer JB’s personality came across  well. The simple groove of this rock influenced metal is quite infectious. Compared to Evile, the crowd looked hypnotised as they all nodded and punched their heavy-metal-fist in time with the music.  

“I have problem with royalty” announced JB, “I believe you have the same problem in this country”  What better way to introduce King Slayer? Shortly after he was challenging the fans to sing along. Unhappy with their performance, he challenged them to sing along one more time.  This time an unaccompanied round of the chorus earned a little redemption. Great crowd participation and a great show. It’s amazing to think a 3 piece could have such a massive sound and make such a huge impact. Powerful soaring vocals backed up by the bassist made the tunes stand out and the hook lines even more epic. Ending on Outlaw Grand Magus left the crowd happy and have gained a new fan in me.

God is an Astronaut, headlining the Zero Tolerance stage, mixed rock and dance and had me confused. Is it metal? Does it belong at Damnation? Looking round and seeing the Carcass and Deicide T-Shirts reassured me. I guess we all need something to relax. The instrumental music maintained interest and energy. Some of the audience vanished off to Ulver or Devin Townsend but the show was so good, those that remained were vocal in electing to stay over their expected choices.

Seeing Devin Townsend for the second time this year has not added to my understanding of the phenomena that is the DTP. As a performer I have to give him full credit. He storms on stage in that crisp suit all full of the kind of attitude that’s been evident since the bald patch and hair days of Strapping Young Lad. The songs come across well live. Judging by those around me the set was great. My favourite moment was when he invited people in the audience to chat amongst themselves before telling them to “shut the fuck up”as he was ready to carry on. I love the silly crowd interaction Devin delivers, he’s always entertaining and a worthy show topper.

At the end of the gig I left happy. It was difficult to find by car, near impossible to park and at times disorganised. But at £29 this is a gem of an event. Roll on Damnation 2012.