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Obey the Flame Festival Report

Obey The Flame is only in its inaugural year but despite its newcomer status, the festival has already impressed. Spanning two days, the metal event showcased the best in local, national and international talent. Almost cancellation free (the only band to pull out was Immolation), Obey The Flame's wrath was coherent and forceful.

Due to a previous obligation, I missed the first night of the festival at L'X. However, from all accounts, the highlight of the evening was shared via Quebec thrashers Horifixion and Ontario's At The Mercy Of Inspiration.

Day II promised big moments, and the Obey The Flame did not disappoint. Featuring over 20 bands on three stages at Foufounes Electriques, there was no way to possibly catch all the acts. Therefore, here's a run-down of the bands I crammed into every available second of the close to seven hours spent at the festival.

Montreal insanity-mongers Tantrumn were the first band to rupture my eardrums at the main stage. As Tantrumn is the bastard-son of Strapping Young Lad, the group acted as a perfect introduction to a show that was headlined by Devin Townsend's madmen.

Next up was Toronto's finest, Reckon With One, at the medium stage. A solid mixture of prog-metal and off-kilter material, RWO made its arrival into Quebec in style.

At the main stage, Relapse Records' Dysrhythmia was already in full-throttle. Watching this trio run around the stage with vigour was a visual foil to the band's precise, Rush-inspired instrumental rumblings. A jammy, acrobatic set from a band that will continue to resonate.

A sojourn back to the medium stage happened with complete anticipation, as Woods Of Ypres was readying its gear. Woods is the one of the bands I was most excited to check out, as these Windsor black metallers have impressed any and all with their debut self-released demo, Against The Seasons. A rabid performance to an abundance of fans (who sang along, no doubt!) proved that this band is professional, aggressive and on the verge of stardom.

The other best unsigned metal band in Canada, Montreal's Ashes Of Eden, began ripping it up on the main stage as soon as Woods Of Ypres' set ended. AOE has already secured a local fanbase, and though the band's set was cut short due to time restrictions, Tim Jacobs and Co. once again put on an energy-filled, thrash-a-fied show. The opening slots for Kataklysm, Anonymus, Neuraxis and Black Cloud have primed this band to borderline perfection.

Heading down to the affectionately dubbed small stage, weirdo atmospheric black metallers StryxVirii were about to begin their performance. A mixture of industrial, Skinny Puppy tones and Darkthrone aggression, this band proved to be the artistic/abstract shining point of the evening.

At the same, New Jersey's God Forbid was decimating the crowd on the main stage. Running back upstairs to check the band out (for a third time in less than a year!), God Forbid played a deluge of fresh tracks that will grace the band's upcoming new album (now scheduled for a January release). The new songs smoke, plain and simple, almost guaranteeing a positive reception for the 2004 record.

Then it was back downstairs, as Abandoned Hearts Club jumped on the small stage. Toronto's answer to Mastodon thrashed and burned to the delight of the diehard fans watching the band's performance.

Maryland's Misery Index, featuring three ex-members of Dying Fetus, then put on an intense and rousing show at the medium stage. Slaying with reckless abandon, expectations for the band's Nuclear Blast debut have definitely been elevated.

Skinless began its Relapsecore stint on the main stage, and while the band was definitely attuned to its material (the lead singer even stagediving into the sizable crowd), I opted to only watch two Skinless songs before checking out Eric Forrest's new band, E-Force.

E-Force was described to me as "Voivod's Phobos on crack" and that description proved to be correct. E-Force is starkly similar to Forrest's stint in Voivod, and if you were into those records, you can't go wrong with the man's new incarnation.

Headliners Strapping Young Lad took the main stage at midnight. The Vancouver delusion was absolutely sublime, and watching both HevyDevy and Gene Hoglan in action was beyond cool. Devin is a snarling animal on stage - part ironic humorist, part frightening noise terrorist. The metal faithful at Foufounes screamed along to Strapping's madness, savouring each moment of the attack. A boisterous end to an ear-splitting day!

Special thanks go out to Loana at Century Media and Adam Ryder, Obey The Flame's promoter. Here's to next year's Obey The Flame II!

Source: BW&BK

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