If you went to Damnation Festival on the strength of my preview then I better get my apologies in nice and early. Of the four bands I highlighted only two delivered full sets. To use betting parlance Decapitated were a non-runner, which is quite understandable given that they were onboard this flight only days before:
Cerebral Bore whilst still running, were very much a three legged horse, with the absence of vocalist Som forcing them to take the Terrorizer stage as an instrumental trio. Three, it seems, was the not so magic number as that’s the amount of songs they performed, in a set that was no where near as long as the increasingly tedious preceding sound check. Whilst the band undoubtedly garnered respect from the audience for soldiering on and playing, they were already running late when they commenced their curtailed set. Perhaps they should have just jumped in at the deep-end with little in the way of a sound check, for whilst their death metal is extremely technical, as a three piece everything punched through the PA clearly as opening number, ‘The Bald Cadaver’, testified.
It certainly seems there’s no shortage of prospective member willing to join the band’s ‘Cult’. Having checked out the video (Which has had over 60,000 views in just over two months on YouTube) this was the new cut I was anticipating the most. It was inevitable they would play ‘Thrasher’ (Now over a million views on YouTube!!!), but thankfully, despite garnering a massive reaction in the pit, it didn’t herald the end of their set. ‘Infected Nations’ may not be the finale some were hoping for, I’m sure many were hankering for something else from their debut, but to me it made perfect sense. Despite the death of original bassist Mike Alexander early in the touring cycle for said album, Evile really earned their stripes whilst promoting ‘Infected Nations’ and it seems they are finally getting to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Grand Magus excelled in the great outdoors the last time I witnessed them live. Today they are another band who fall victim to the curse of the Refectory. The room was perhaps only half full when they took to the stage, and despite charismatic frontman JB’s attempts to get the crowd to sing along to the likes of ‘Silver Into Steel’ the atmosphere was somewhat flat. The classic metal drama of ‘Shadow Knows’ (Always a house favourite when I shared a flat) is a highlight of the trio’s set and even the security guard on the balcony is nodding his head in time to ‘Iron Will’, but through no fault of their own today was a case of merely Good Magus.
Due to the running order on the Terrorizer stage being thrown out of the window as soon as Cerebral Bore started late I didn’t catch as many bands down there as I would have hoped. For me the Stylus venue is the heart of Damnation. That it was the main room at last year’s event contributed a lot to the great atmosphere. Unfortunately today’s proceedings never quite live up to the memories of 2010.
With this in mind a conscious decision to catch some of Doom was made, that’s Doom the crust band, not the Radiohead collaborator just in case you’re wondering Bomb readers. They played to a packed room and the d-beats never let up, making for an intense set that was well worth the descent into the University’s bowels.
Ascending back upstairs, I witnessed Godflesh manage to ratchet the intensity levels up even higher than Doom. Much of this is down to the volume of their drum machine; even with earplugs in it was punishing my hearing! In fact after a while it begins to feel like a full body assault and I actually made a conscious decision to leave the hall. It seems it was equally intense for Godflesh mainman Justin Broadrick, who had obviously worked up quite a sweat and was bemoaning the lack of towels onstage.
Prior to headliner Devin Townsend we were treated to some home movie antics, courtesy of his warped mind. In some ways they were reminiscent of the skits Ozzy Osbourne used as an intro to his gigs around the late nineties, in which the double-O inserted himself into clips from films such as Titanic; witness Devin in Star Wars for example. But then he ups the ante somewhat, with a series of clips revolving around his own creation Ziltoid The Omniscient, somehow I can’t imagine “Sharon” letting Ozzy make a concept album revolving around an alien in search of the ultimate cup of coffee any time soon. At the conclusion of this rather bizarre build up Devin has The Venga Boys “The Venga Bus Is Coming” played over the PA, before he appears, cheap shiny suit and all, goading the crowd “If you’re too cool for the Venga Boys, get the fuck out of here!”
Musically the set leans heavily on the aforementioned ‘Ziltoid’ album and ‘The Devin Townsend Project’ quartet of albums. Although Devin goes right back to his early solo career for set opener ‘Truth’ and it’s a pleasure to hear ‘Bad Devil’, both from his ‘Infinity’ album. When Devin played ‘Supercrush’ from the ‘Addicted’ album he perfectly lambasted the sort of uninspired, expletive reliant, banter that Illuminatus’ Julio had employed earlier in the day. “Do you want to hear something from Addicted? I can’t hear you, anybody want to hear some fucking Addicted shit! Put your arse out to the right whenever you say that.” This song did highlight one of the only downsides of the Devin live experience though, namely that not all of his expansive sound can be performed live, with Anneke Van Giersbergen’s vocals being pre-recorded. Following this ‘Juular’ is yet another example of how diverse Devin’s output is, combining extreme metal with the sensibilities of a musical highlight from a Tim Burton film. Throughout the set the visuals behind the band underline Devin’s own cinematic ambitions, although in truth it’s always the slightly low budget, tongue in cheek videos that work best, with the camp comic strip shenanigans of ‘Vampira’, coming hot on the heels of Halloween, working as a perfect encore.