By: Ric Hickey
Remember the scene in Peter Jackson’s 2003 remake of King Kong where Kong goes ape-shit and tears up the whole mountainside when Naomi Watts’character refuses to entertain him any further? Devils Of Belgrade‘s CD ‘Davolja Varoš’ is a lot like that; it’s the sound of an over-sized and malevolent beast, pissed off, pounding its chest, and furiously ripping the forest to shreds.
A heavy hallmark of the Devils Of Belgrade sound is alternating the classic chugging and churning of sludge metal power chords a la Black Sabbath with the full-on racehorse trot of vintage Iron Maiden. Sometimes reeling and spinning through several changes in the space of a few seconds, these rapid-fire and constant changes built into the band’s clever arrangements keep the listener absorbed as the music never rests or falters for even the briefest moment.
An Indianapolis-based progressive metal flame thrower, Devils Of Belgrade are an all-instrumental band but their tunes are executed with such amazing musical chops that you really won’t miss the vocals. Unexpected changes and odd time signatures keep the heavy grooves and brutal speed freak romps constantly shifting. The effect is simultaneously disorienting and engaging. These guys are a fledgling outfit from the Midwest for the time being, but they bring the bludgeoning riffage in a confident and professional fashion. Regulars at the Melody Inn in Indianapolis, DoB proudly represent what is a much larger and more vital heavy music scene than one might expect to find in that relatively small city.
In the band’s brief history they have already enjoyed critical success and international attention. The band’s guitarist Adam Gotch explains, “We released Tracks of the Cloven Hoof in 2008, it sold well and got good reviews that helped get us noticed by some Serbian metal fans. In a bizarre circumferential twist, we ended up basing the second record on Serbian geography and folklore. What you see on the cover of the new CD is the actual geological formation known as Davolja Varoš, which roughly translates into ‘The Dwelling Place of the Devil’. Given our band’s name, the location of this place in Serbia, and the fact that it sprang up from a natural spring containing the highest heavy metal content in the whole world, we really had no choice. Not naming the record after Davolja Varoš would surely have angered the Metal Gods and brought their wrath down upon us.”
“Sonically”, Gotch elaborates, “this record is pretty ambitious but probably more solid thematically and songwriting-wise than the last album. We wanted to produce something that was heavy, dynamic, fast, and capable of standing on its own as valid music despite not having vocals over everything. We wanted to be melodic but still honor the integrity of the riff. We like to think we’ve accomplished that.”
Whether they choose to get a growler or a screamer to tackle the vocals in the future we shall see. Most instrumental music just doesn’t seem to hold the collective attention as long as music with vocals. Regardless of whether or not listeners agree with a lyric’s message or find the singer’s voice to be to their liking, many can relate much easier to the sound of the human voice more than they can to music with no singing. That said, Devils Of Belgrade is as fine an instrumental band as you ever likely to hear and one of the best I have encountered in a long time. I am certain they could do a bang up job of film scoring if they ever got the chance. Their compositional skills are certainly not in question. And for the time being, DoB’s excellent song structures are more than strong enough to stand center stage as a front man might.
Gotch says, “We toyed briefly with the expected notion of hiring a singer, even to the point of trying out a couple. But no one brought anything to the music that could match the way it felt with just the four of us jamming together. We’re fans of bands like Pelican and Karma to Burn, so going full-instrumental didn’t seem as crazy to us at the time as it probably should have!”
Fans of classic metal from the late 70s and early 80s like Maiden, Slayer, and early Metallica will find much to admire about this band. I can picture Devils Of Belgrade being added to a package tour like the Vans Warped Tour or Ozzfest and totally killing it. I have no doubt they could hold their own with the big boys.