Devilstone Open Air (Velnio Akmuo), Anykščiai (Lithuania), 11-14/07/13

Three days of extreme music, set in the picturesque Lithuanian countryside. Here's a European festival to add to your bucket list!

I saw the sun rise on the last day of the Devilstone Festival in Lithuania from a small riverside beach in the campgrounds. It had been two days exploring beautiful rural Lithuania, followed by nights of top quality metal acts playing to enthusiastic local crowds. After this experience, I have to say that if you haven't been to one of the small metal festivals in Europe yet, you should put this one at the top of your list. And if you have? Add this one to the bucket list. Three days of metal, mud and beer in the picturesque countryside just outside Anykščiai in north-eastern Lithuania was well worth the trip.

The festival campgrounds opened at midday on a Thursday in mid-July to a patient trickle of black-shirted festival goers who trudged through the grounds carrying tents, sleeping bags and backpacks. The camping area was split into quiet and party sides, and by the late afternoon lots of brightly coloured tents were scattered throughout the forest next to the river. Alcohol from outside couldn’t be brought into Devilstone, but the beer and cider available was surprisingly good and very cheap compared to Australian festival prices. You could bring your own food, but it wouldn’t have be a European festival without trying the local delicacies.

Lithuanian act Confession opened the East Stage on the first day with some good local death thrash, followed by fellow Lithuanians Nyksta with high quality black metal, and Los Turbos with psychobilly surfer rock. The evening kicked into gear with the entrance of Goatwhore. The crowd surged towards the stage, enjoying the darkness and power behind these black death metallers from the USA. With high energy and addictive rhythms, UK's Evile drove forth with an awe inspiring set to close out the opening night of acts in their first ever Lithuanian show. However the night was not over, the midnight cinema lurched onwards as some sought bed and some kept on until the morning light.

The damp of early morning rain still drying, Friday brought groups of festival goers trudging into town to explore, or shop. At the Metal Clinic stage, Master-classes allowed the fans to learn from the musicians they had come to the festival to hear. The East and West stages didn’t start up until 5pm, giving people a chance to recover from whatever excesses they had enjoyed the night before, or simply to go for a swim in the beautiful river. Latvian and Lithuanian acts opened up the main stages, followed by Germany's Samsara Blues Experiment and Sweden's Wolf. Koldbrann served up a chunk of icy Norwegian black metal, while over on the East stage Battalion cracked open any preconceptions about Switzerland's metal scene with a blisteringly good serve of quality Thrash metal.

Lithuanian black metallers Argharus soaked up some local attention, before a slew of bucket-list international bands emerged out into the darkening summer night. Kadaver slunk casually on stage to deliver their brand of psychedelic rock to a roiling crowd, draped over the barriers or dancing further back from the stage with friends and strangers. Swedish death metal veterans Vomitory attacked the stage with fury and a slew of songs to please their old fans and create some new ones in their final year of touring. The muddy mosh pit in front of the West stage was packed, and people on the hill behind were tapping their feet as they attacked another beer of the evening.

The density of the crowd shifted suddenly as Vomitory finished their set, and an exodus commenced across the festival grounds. Orange Goblin were doing their soundcheck and would soon be playing. Strolling to the front of the stage to survey the crowd at the start of their set, the Brits were greeted by a packed festival ground of enthusiastic Lithuanians. The crowd at the front of the stage went wild as Orange Goblin delivered riff after riff of addictive heavy metal. It was a sweat soaked, happy cluster of festival goers who slid down the muddy embankments back towards the West stage for Sweden's extreme and controversial Shining. Using a mix of shock tactics and a strong stage presence, singer Niklas Kvarforth emptied his entire being onto the stage with an aggression and nihilistic fervour that had the fans in the front rows screaming and crying. The night carried on until dawn for many festival participants, with the late-night rocktheque and the midnight cinema entertaining the weary stragglers.

Somehow, early Saturday morning, some people were able to drag themselves from their beds for the morning Metalclinics and sports tournaments. I took this time to traipse the easy fifteen minutes walk into town, as many others, to seek out espresso coffee and the internet. The East stage started easy with a progression of rock bands, while the West stage slammed the crowd together early by starting with high-enthusiasm thrash metal from Estonia’s Cantilena. As the evening warmed up, Sweden’s Kongh brought their sludgey post-hardcore mix to the stage, before the thrash metal Spaniards from Angelus Apatrida drove the crowd into a frenzied circle-pit. At the other side of the festival, Taine conquered technical problems to woo their followers with their thoughtful progressive melodies. Avulsed took the West stage after their countrymen, to deliver the last serve of brutal death metal for this year’s festival.

As midnight passed, the crowds slowly seeped from the end of the Stoned Jesus set towards the dimmed West stage. By the time Enslaved took the stage, almost the entire festival crowd had gathered themselves in the mud in front. Photographers were lining up to take their last shots of the festival, and bands backstage were finding vantage points to watch the set. The Norwegians stormed the stage bringing a finely tuned set of old favourites and new tunes from Riitiir to the festival weary masses. Proving themselves, once more, the masters of encompassing melodic black metal, Enslaved set the last fading chords to an amazing weekend of live music.

Devilstone Open Air : http://www.devilstone.net/