Words Victoria Lane / Photography Erin Connolley
“Birmingham, get ready for the apocalypse” were the first words that alerted the general public to the existence of a new metal venue in Birmingham, Devil’s Dog. This ominous message on their Instagram page promised carnage – and after I managed to squeeze into their sold-out opening night, I can definitely say they delivered.
Nestled in Birmingham’s post-industrial setting of Digbeth, Devil’s Dog has transformed an old Adderley Street unit into a haven for fans of the heaviest music on the market. What sets Devil’s Dog apart is it’s a truly independent venture and a labour of love.
Devil’s Dog is the brainchild of lifelong metal fan Asad Abrar and his partner, who pooled together their savings to create something to cater passionately towards the needs of the audience they know and love so well, which makes Devil’s Dog a very welcome arrival amidst the creeping commodification of the area.
Birmingham is the undisputed home of heavy metal. However, despite a few ‘old favourite’ venues which cater to a broad variety of alternative genres, the city has been lacking in truly dedicated spaces for metal lovers.
Devil’s Dog may take pride in Birmingham’s musical history, but it promises to not hold onto its heritage too much. Asad explains they wanted to offer something different from the usual sticky floors and faded AC/DC posters rock bar format that we’ve come to expect.
The décor of Devil’s Dog is inspired by Asad’s interests in cybernetics and technology, which brings a distinct and futuristic feel to the venue, echoing their ambitions of showcasing the best contemporary hardcore metal acts. Metal pipes and support beams are the vestiges of industry reflecting the landscape the sound of metal was first forged in, and custom cyber-inspired artwork takes pride of place behind the bar.
As I enter, I take note of the crowd; metal fans of all ages resplendent in battle vests, leopard print, and black clothing. The long bar stocked with a varied selection of beers on tap including the metal fan-favourite, Hobgoblin. The venue also features a kitchen serving an array of street-food with names featuring cheeky puns inspired by heavy metal acts and songs.
First up are A Titan, A Deity, who open to an eager crowd. Their mixture of intricate finger-tapped guitars and shared call-and-response vocals between guitarist and singer soon get people into the mood. Singer Luke Whyle’s cry of “How we doing, Birmingham?” is met with a sea of devil’s horns.
A Titan, A Deity’s tunes are punctuated with discordant, staccato riffs which set heads banging. Despite the heaviness and seriousness of the music, you can clearly see how much fun the band is having onstage as they grin from ear to ear.
Devil’s Dog is christened with its very first mosh pit.
After a smooth turnaround, Birmingham based metalcore legends Oceans Ate Alaska take to the stage. As they roar into their first song, the crowd surges forward and there’s a pleasingly synchronised wave of headbanging from the very front of the pit right down to the back of the bar. Their songs build up intensity through a patchwork of textures, brutality intercut with polyrhythms; sometimes spiralling, sometimes thundering, which keeps up the pace from one song to the next.
“This is our fucking hometown! Enjoy this beautiful new venue!” exclaims singer, James Harrison, before introducing the song ‘Vultures and Sharks’, eliciting whoops and cheers from the crowd.
The track meshes piercing guitar lines over the top of machine gun fire drums. The intricate soundscape Oceans Ate Alaska create is reminiscent of the much more polite math rock, but with the sonic assault of distinctively metalcore sound building up momentum to their shout-along choruses.
We’re given a short respite to collect ourselves as Harrison recalls his days in Pigeon Park (much to the delight of the audience) before launching into ‘Sol’ – a sheer ruthless wall of sound pierced by singer Harrison’s crystal clear melodic chorus vocals. He proves himself a versatile singer as he slides between singing and screaming effortlessly.
Although the band are indisputably heavy, there are moments of calm in the storm where we are treated to the beauty of Adam Zytkiewicz‘s glistening guitar work.
A special mention goes to the rhythm section, they’re the glue holding this complex and sometimes dissonant tapestry of sound together. Drummer Chris Turner has a machine-like precision which ensures the flow is consistent, allowing the audience to effortlessly headbang along.
Before the band plunge into their second to last song, the relentlessly chugging ‘Blood Brothers’, singer Harrison successfully manages to open up a circle pit which continues tirelessly until the band make their final thanks to A Titan, A Deity, and to the brand new venue.
I can taste the sweat in the air, a thrum of people surge to the smoking area, plumes of mist rising cartoonishly off into Digbeth.
Devil’s Dog opening night 24.02.23 – with Oceans Ate Alaska + A Titan, A Deity / Erin Connolley
For more on Devil’s Dog go to: www.devilsdog.co.uk
For more on Oceans Ate Alaska go to: www.oceansatealaska.co.uk
For more on A Titan, A Deity go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist