A small town in Lithuania (yeah, where the f**k is Lithuania?!), Anykščiai, was flooded with bearded guys and long-haired grrls - probably the best metal fest in the Baltic States, Devilstone was upon us. This year the 8th Devilstone welcomed the largest number of metal and beer maniacs and surprized us with a diverse programme of music, arts and sports. While I’ve heard some of my Lithuanian comrades complaining about the lack of activities, I simply muttered how spoiled they were and shocked them by telling that usually we have, hmmmm, none. Football, a skateboard ramp, Kubb, swimming in a river, if you are not too hungover. If you are a bohemian - art exhibitions, performances, workshops, a chance to get a piercing, buy custom made jewellery, play a piano, paint. Feeling kind of serious – join a discussion about music. And simply camping for four days in a beautiful river valley surrounded by dense woods was impressive enough.
Mantar filled the valley with big riffs, howls and heavy drums. The German sludge metal duo mesmerized the public and set the bar high. The Soft Moon as the name suggests could be a bit too soft for metal-hungry ears. The Americans provided the crowd with a short respite from the more brutal side of the fest with a slab of post-punk and new wave. Yet they proved to be solid enough for headliners.
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard from Wales were probably taking the piss with that name. Yet they delivered triumphant stoner doom metal. The Undersmile-esque vocals of Jessica Ball added spices to a complex, spacey and trippy experience. Brighton's Esben and The Witch have truly grown in their skin. In an open space Rachel’s clean vocals sounded perfectly hypnotic. The trio slowly built up a breath-taking set that could both smash you and calm you down. It’s a shame the trio clashed with the Lithuanians Juodvarnis. I was spilling my cheap beer (only 2 euros!) while running to see the famous metal band from Vilnius. Perhaps I am biased but Juodvarnis touched my heart with their sincere fairy-tale like Lithuanian lyrics. Whereas many European bands prefer to sing in English, Juodvarnis stick to their roots. They are storytellers combining harsh sounding metal, pagan-inspired texts and vocals capable of hardcore-esque screaming and melodic cleans. Tides from Nebula from Poland offered a rather distinctive set of day. Known for their unique style of post rock, Polish rockers sounded like Russian circles meets Algorithm. Another band from Poland, Batushka provided one of the heaviest sets of the weekend with their liturgical performance. It wasn’t simply a gig. It was a thunderstorm of majestic experiences. Hiding their identities in black cloaks that look like Sunn 0))), the 8-piece metal band had no mercy upon us. Exclusive for their altar full of incenses, a huge Orthodox icon as a visual, light show and harrowing liturgical chants Batushka performed exorcism. Even the poor sound (shame on sound engineers) could not make their set less impressive. Finally, headliners form Brooklyn, A Place To Bury Strangers felt like a shelter after the Polish exorcists (but only for a moment). Brooklynites are well known for their wild shows and they proved their reputation to the fullest. The American trio are one of these bands that you HAVE to see live. Their capturing music involves noise rock, shoegaze, rock n roll and make people go raving! They smashed their guitars (don’t worry, the guys have amazing skills in fixing guitars and usually repair them successfully after the gig) and broke our hearts when the show was over. Luckily, we could wash the pain away with Napalm Death. Seeing people singing along ‘Nazi punks fuck off’ was a true blast, especially because in Lithuania neo-nazi metalheads haven’t yet gone fully extinct. Still fuelled with anger and vitriolic the legendary Napalm Death created a brilliant show as always.
Hangover was cured by an extra show by Lithuanians Sraigės Efektas. Added to the programme last minute, the trio set up by the river and was warmly received by a huge crowd. The recent line-up changes within the band seemed to be for the better. Sraiges Efektas sounded equally psychedelic as it is heavy. Maybe it is too early to say, but I would like to call them Lithuanian My Sleeping Karma. No Real Pioneers also from Lithuania were perhaps the only band in the fest playing emotional post rock. Reminding me the music of my youth, Zegota or Children of Fall, the pioneers felt sincere as ever. Soon after their passionate set, the East stage was occupied by the legendary Dopethrone. My favourite band of the fest, Canadians simply took it to the next level. Dopethrone’s latest album Hochelaga sounded brutal and graced us with a portion of violent eargasms. Vincent, despite his broken leg (personal communication: fell from a tree rescuing a kitten from a sexually aggressive falcon), showed us some pretty damn good dance movements too! Having said all that, albeit the band brought their own sound engineer, the sound was far from ideal. But who cares?! ‘Smoke, drink, die’ (Scum Fuck Blues) precisely reflected the spirit of Devilstone and became the unofficial anthem of the festival. Can’t wait for the UK dates in September to get another dose of Dopethrone. The Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats from England brought us the sound of the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t their best show, but the foursome surely made people dance. Vintage sound, psychedelic elements and angular riffs were exactly what we were hungry for. For dessert we got Polish blackened death metal Behemoth. Not only the vocalist’s (Adam Darski) battle with leukaemia was triumphant one, Behemoth delivered a conquering show. With a massive stage setup, emotionally driven, wonderfully dressed, they cemented their position as one of the most important acts of the fest.
During the night it seemed that Eastern Europeans thrive on beer diet. No sleep was ever needed as folks danced to DJ’s Perturbator Polyester and Pussyshaver (Mantas T). One word to describe the madness – rave!
Cheap Wine from France had that crazy drive that forced everybody move their feat. Heavily influenced by the psychedelic rock bands from the 60s and 70s, Cheap Wine still sounded original. After having too much beer and wine and spirits all over the weekend, we have consumed Cheap Wine without a caution and without regrets.
Having enjoyed the festival a lot, I have to admit it left some bitter taste and it’s not from beer. Surely, in festivals music is the most important, but human factor plays a role too. Disrespectful folks, “boobs party” (the fest has a tradition of men shouting at women to “encourage” them to go topless on the dancefloor) and the Miss Devilstone beauty competition reminded us that we are in Eastern Europe. I wish Devilstone would join Julie Christmas, Myrkur, Agoraphobic Nosebleed and many others and make a statement against sexism. And racism too! Regardless the strict policy and face control, few neo-nazis have somehow slipped into the festival. No trouble was caused, but I wish the fest would be a safer place. A spoonful of oil can ruin a barrel of honey, they say. Hopefully, next year metalheads from all around the globe, all races and genders will celebrate metal in Anykščiai to the fullest. With the largest number of foreign visitors attending this year, Devilstone has a good chance to develop into an internationally acclaimed festival.
*a part of this text was published in Terrorizer