AURA Fest keeps it heavy in the Hostess City

GET YOUR earplugs ready Savannah. Whether you enjoy metal or simply plan to pass the west end of Congress Street, February 17 is going to be a loud and heavy day.

The typically serene and tranquil gardens of The Ships of The Sea Museum will be astir with the vibrations of bludgeoning guitar riffs pouring from the All Underground Rock All Day Fest.

The festival, put on by local promoters Coastal Rock Productions, will feature 14 bands preforming on two stages, contests, raffles, arcade games, vendors, food trucks, PBR promotions, a full bar, and professional chair massages from Virginia College.

AURA Fest founder Tim Walls is most excited to give back to younger metal fans.

“What I enjoyed most last time was seeing the kids go crazy, really getting into it, and singing along,” Walls says. “That’s why I like doing these types of shows, ‘cause that’s what I wanted when I was younger. Seeing those kids’ faces light up as they’re crowdsurfing or jumping up and singing in the microphone, that’s what’s really cool for me.”

Walls describes the current status of Savannah’s metal scene as “a small town and a small market.”

“We have a lot of creativity, but metal is just difficult to book regionally. It’s not just here,” he says. “The whole Southeast, with the exception of Atlanta, is a really rough market for skip through Georgia almost entirely. Its tough for a band to make a living doing live music without touring and performing a lot, and that’s hard to do when there’s a lack of venues, at least in this part of the country.”.

“When you get into heavy genres, it’s less accessible as well, but that comes with the territory. There’s not many Metallicas anymore reaching that level of success with metal or heavy music.”

The Bands

Darkest Hour – D.C. heroes Darkest Hour have been on the scene for quite a long time, but their newest release, Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora may be their hardest sounding album so far. One of the band’s biggest strengths is their ability to incorporate elements of hardcore and death metal in the same song.

Bury Your Dead – Bury Your Dead’s original vocalist Matt Bruso has brought the band back into metalcore after a departure into clean vocals and singing with ex-vocalist Myke Terry. 2011’s Mosh N’ Roll features a heavy and slower hardcore style that will leave the crowd bouncing along with their choppy, throttled strumming.

Evergreen Terrace – Combining clean vocals with a screamer allows Florida’s Evergreen Terrace to provide a vocal range similar to bands like A Day To Remember. Often alternating between a clean emo-pop style and heavier metalcore sound lends an upbeat vibe to certain songs that isn’t often found in the heavier realms.

Through The Eyes of the Dead – This North Carolina group became early influencers of the deathcore scene with their ‘Scars of Ages’ EP and the albums Bloodlust and Malice. Well-known for their drummer’s extreme speed, the band’s songs frequently pair thundering double bass blast beats with chugging, chunky bass chords and galloping guitar riffs. If you enjoy bands like Whitechapel and As Blood Runs Black, this is a band you are not going to want to miss.

I Set My Friends On Fire – ISMFOF blends infuses hardcore style breakdowns with synths, samples and a rapping screamer. Widely known for their cover of Soulja Boy’s 2007 hit “Crank That,” the South Florida group fuses an eclectic but undeniably catchy pop influence with their hard rock roots.

The Funeral Portrait – Atlanta band The Funeral Portrait has vocals that are vaguely reminiscent of old Coheed and Cambria while maintaining more mainstream pop-metal based guitars. This band bridges a unique place in hard rock, appealing to fans of Breaking Benjamin, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Chevelle, and will likely be the most accessible band for radio-rock fans and those dipping their toe into the heavier end of the pool.

No Zodiac – No Zodiac is not for sensitive ears. The band’s vocalist has a great range and ability to switch between a hardcore style during breakdowns and a hollow throat-based, black metal scream over the verses. The band’s transitions between lightning-quick chord progressions and brutal breakdowns keep the listener’s pulse pumping even during the in-between moments. This band will likely be too much for the light-hearted.

Vatican – These boys are heavy, local Savannah young’uns. Vatican has only been together since 2015, but the band has already amassed a discography of two full albums and multiple splits. The band’s second full-length album, Ache of Eternity, was just released in August and got rave reviews for bringing metalcore back from the brink of irrelevance. While maintaining the title of metallic hardcore, it’s easy to see influences of thrash metal and European black metal, resulting in something close to deathcore.

Second Death – Forming after the demise of their former band Beware The Neverending, Valdosta natives Second Death have released two singles and a full-length album since 2016 while simultaneously touring most of the U.S. While the straightedge/hardcore outfit may be from the South, they have found a special fondness for the passion and dedication of the Northeast fanbase during their tours. AURA Fest, give them a proper welcome back to Savannah with some Southern hospitality.

Separations – Atlanta band Separations is another more accessible hard rock band incorporating metal tendencies with clean vocals, electronic sounds, and keyboards to create a sound somewhere between Underoath and Bring Me The Horizon. The band’s 2015 album Dreameater finds a good balance of dubstep style production over some seriously heavy verses that quickly snap into clean choruses, allowing the band a radio-friendly sound.

Great American Ghost – With a screamer similar to bands like Blacklisted and Trash Talk, Great American Ghost’s 2015 album Everyone Leaves is a brutal assault on the ears featuring racing, punk-inspired drums alternating between slow, hardcore-style breakdowns and brutally crunchy guitars that provide a haunting atmospheric drone.

Strengthen What Remains - The lyrics featured on the Tampa, Florida groups 3-song ‘2017 Promo’ discuss general discontent with the apathy of modern American society. Featuring a strong hardcore-style screamer and sludgy bass paired with gritty buzzsaw guitars, the band’s political take on hardcore seems to be a perfectly timed alarm for the current climate of waking rebellion.

My Last Years – This Savannah five-piece melodic metalcore band combines clean vocals and djent-style guitars with a harder metalcore style and a brutal screamer. Unfortunately, a recent post on the bands Facebook page announced that AURA Fest will be their last performance due to the members’ rapidly-changing lives.