Devilneck Metal Fest 2010 @ The Caledonia Lounge

It was Friday night on October 1st at a small Downtown Athens venue. The audience entrance was tucked around back and opened up to a courtyard. Through two big doors I entered the dimly lit lounge and stepped onto its uneven floor. I approached the stage where on either side were two massive PA speakers hung by chains from the ceiling. Sitting up above the chaos that would soon consume the dance floor was the sound man. He controlled a bank of power amps whose LED’s and gauge’s were like the interior of an alien spacecraft preparing for launch from the desolate Earth. Tired of the misery of the mainstream and ready for some volume to rejuvenate their weary spirits, the spaceships inhabitants slowly filed in for a grand gravitronic experience.

This was The Caledonia, the staging point for the third annual Devilneck Festival which showcased underground metal bands of many genres ranging from doom to thrash. The two days of music which took place on Friday and Saturday were exhaustive and eye opening.

Day 1 started with In The Lurch, a local Athens doom band who got the fest off on a high note (or should I say a low note?). Their unique combination of distorted bass and rampaging drums was akin to OM on steroids. They galloped through their set quickly and were an early highlight to the night.

Next, Athens progressives Marriage entered the stage. Their sound hinted at influences from the modern progressive metal scene ala Baroness and was replete with yelled vocal harmonies between the bass and rhythm guitarist’s. Lead singer Josh’s passion came through by way of raged facial expressions and an enthralling connection with the music.

At around 11:30 the big bands started to play. It began with Relapse artists Royal Thunder, a three-piece retro rock act from Atlanta. Their sound was raw and vintage thanks to guitarist Josh Weaver’s twin array of Marshall Plexi half stacks. Adding to the variety of the night were bassist Mlny Parsonz’s vocals which were raspy and somehow reminiscent of Janis Joplin.

American Cheeburger, an Athens hardcore band with a reputation, went on next. Their songs sounded as if the Sex Pistols had turned to death metal. Despite a lack of variety in their sound, screamer Jeff’s angry and forceful performance made them worth watching. In the vein of Phil Anselmo, he yelled taunts at those who were not joining in on the moshing, and at the height of his frustration, actually jumped from the stage and began moshing himself.

Saturday started off with the titanic Athens Prog Doom band Guzik. They were one of two bands at the fest to feature festival organizer Wil Smith on guitar (The other being Utah). I arrived slightly early on this day and was treated to the sight of two huge orange full stacks heating up and picture-framing a giant drum set. I unknowingly commented to guitarist Chris Parry, “This is going to sound like a monster.” He replied simply “Yeah.” Once the first power chords were strummed, I knew earplugs would not be an option. It was tone to bask in. Sustain oozed for miles from sixteen twelve inch speakers as drummer Chris Holcombe drove blunt hammer-beats into my chest.

After two more groups, Athens Prog Death metal band Shark Heart entered. Lead guitarist’s Tater Bugbee and Jason Askew’s ability to infuse melody and emotion into their double picked rhythms was phenomenal. Their sound was expectantly evil, and yet flourished with graceful harmonies amidst the mass of angst. They stood stoic as drummer Matt Riley played infinitely complex rhythms and barked throat-distorted lyrics from a pain-contorted face. In a later interview, I found that the three have played together since they were 15, and the long-time experience showed.

Let The Night Roar went on at around 9:00. Although staying well within the realms of doom, their set was enthralling and had an up-beat feel. Their tone was like a cavernous mountain from the guitarists twenty combined 12” speakers. They didn’t rely on theatrics to woo the audience. They let the might of the sound speak for itself and received some of the loudest applause of the night.

The evening was capstoned by the North Carolina throwback band Colossus. Their heavily Maiden and Priest inspired performance was like being transported back to Madison Square Garden circa 1985. The set was nothing short of incredible due in large part to the dueling guitarists back-and-forth stage play. They fed the audience energy for six songs from their first album …And The Rift of The Pandimensional Under-Gods, their new EP Drunk On Blood, and an unreleased album which features songs inspired by the Frank Herbert novel Dune. The fantastic stage show of Colossus was one of the most memorable event of the weekend. I stood right on the stage as the guitarist shredded mere inches from my face and I inexplicably threw devil horns in the air.


Although after Colossus much of the audience had dissipated, there was still one band left: Demonaut. (As if the name doesn’t say enough, on their myspace there is further elaboration within the headline which reads, simply, “Space Satan”). By this point in the night, I was tired, already had my fill of interviews, and was all head banged out. Nut crawling from my seat up on the deck, I peered between the railings and saw Demonaut’s four members preparing to play. I heard the first hellacious notes of their set and new I couldn’t resist the call. The band was comprised of a guitar player, a drummer, and two bass players. Each member had a mic stand to which was affixed a corded flashlight that illuminated their faces with a menacing glare through out the set. Lead vocalist, and picked-bass player, Joel’s tattoo of an open-mouthed demon on his throat added to this terrible necromantine atmosphere which had somehow filled The Caledonia after 8 hours of already heavy-as-hell music. And the sound, oh the sound… It was as if an orchestra of 18 wheeled diesel trucks were started in unison and let to slowly harmonize while a jack hammer set a grinding tempo of 80 beats per minute. The unison power chords and single note riffs of the twin basses and guitar were slightly broken by an unintentional out-of-tuneness that brought out certain semitones that would have other wise been inaudible. At such high volume and distortion, though, those notes created a bowel disassembling dissonance that dripped tone like melting caramel from a wicker stick. It was the best and most memorable tone of the weekend.

That ended my trip into the dark realms of stoner, sludge, doom, and noise. I left the second night at two in the morning knowing that I’d just experienced the heaviest show of my life thus far. Kudos to fest organizer Wil Smith, Caledonia owner Bryant, and that awesome sound guy. I think Devilneck must be a reference to the immense soreness which encircled the back of my neck for the next two days. Regardless of temporary headbanging induced pain, Devilneck 2010 was totally worth it.

This is Part 1 of two. The second part will be interview’s from Colossus, Marriage, Shark Heart, Stone Mountain Freeway, and Wizard Smoke.

Review by Brad Olsen

Thanks to Wendy Giminski and Andrea Lester for the Photos

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  • Dan

    damn, whats it take to get noticed in this town. :(

  • http://guzikdoom.com holcombe

    great article man! and a great weekend as well. thanks for the kind words.

  • wendy

    I think that they were at McDonalds in Woodstock today…..If not some people looked like them

  • ct

    brad olsen? who is this?

  • http://www.steele-online.de/Medien-und-Werbung.html branchenbuch

    my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it
    with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.