In 2007, a little band with up for typical, mostly amicable, reasons. Three out of the five people in that band were in the position and of the inclination to form a new one. Their names were Marshall, Adam, and Todd.
Todd knew a guy from work named Sean Matelic, for whom he vouched as a good fucking dude and talented guitar player. Sean was invited to come over to band practice, and by the end of a single inebriated evening, was in the band. We called him Hatchet, which makes sense if you know him, and bears no reference to the seminal young adult fictional novel by Gary Paulsen.
The four of us held a few ill-fated auditions for a vocalist, but with each one it became increasingly evident that things were going in a different direction. We wanted to play too many riffs, repeat too few of them, and didn't have the patience to structure songs around the conceits of vocal performance (possessing no shortage of our own conceits already). Despite the incredulity of our friends, family, and associates, we decided to move forward with Devils of Belgrade as an instrumental-only project.
In 2008, we recorded and released an album called Tracks of the Cloven Hoof, which we thought was pretty fucking cool. So did those skeptical friends, family, and associates, some webzines and metal news review sites, and (inexplicably) a bunch of metal fans in Serbia, so we made another one…
Actually, fuck that, we'd have made another one even if everybody hated the first.
In 2010, we released Đavolja Varoš, which in Serbian means "Devil's Town." You can put that one together yourself. This album was also pretty fucking cool. Maybe cooler than the last, depending on your taste. None of us have any, so who knows? We liked it.
Lots of shows ensued. Some light band-type travel was embarked upon. We shared stages with awesome bands from all over. Many Banquet Beers were converted into urine. Good times were had.
In 2012, while we were writing music for a 3rd record, Hatchet let us know he'd had enough of the slog; that things were still cool, but he was done. The rest of us were super bummed, but we understood. His departure from the jam room left us with the question of a replacement who could provide a similar combination of musical prowess and good-fucking-dudeness, and we were coming up empty. Then, before any announcement was made, a friend named Scott Manning reached out to Adam to see if Devils of Belgrade could play a show with one of his (many) bands.
Immediately upon hearing the news, Scott expressed significant interest in "trying out" for the open guitarist spot, which was hilarious, because Scott was a pie-in-the-sky possibility we'd considered as being the perfect person to take on the role and elevate the musicianship of the band without missing a beat. We'd just assumed he'd be too busy. The thought of making him audition was ludicrous. Instead, we approached the situation in our typical fashion: by getting shitfaced together. By the end of that night we were a foursome again.
New blood breeds fresh inspiration, and we pushed ourselves hard - beyond compositional and technical limits we weren't even aware we'd previously defined for ourselves. The music for our third, self-titled, album came boiling out of that collaboration in a scant matter of weeks.
After a modest number of live shows to road-test the new material, we began the recording process anew, excited by the enthusiasm and possibility of our new roster. Todd got to record his drums in the main hall of a massive historic theater through the timely generosity of our friend Rick Kinney. (That weekend bore some good stories.) The rest of the tracks were recorded in the comfort of our home studio, where both our previous records were produced.
Then in the summer of 2014, weeks into our admittedly glacially-paced mixing process, our world was violently heaved upside-down.
Todd, after being admitted to the emergency room for severe back pain, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of lymphoma. The next day, complications from the combination of his medical treatment and his body's weakness from the cancer caused Todd to fall into a coma. Days later, he was gone.
Those few days and many that followed were some of the hardest any of us have been through in our lives. Todd was more than a band-mate. He was our friend. He was our brother. We love him and miss him, and the void he left behind can never be filled. But that will not be the end of his story. He lives on in the hearts and memories of the many who knew, cared about, and respected him, and he lives on in his greatest artistic work: the album we now release. Todd was very proud of the work he put into this, as are those of us he leaves behind. He would tell you that it's the best shit we've ever done. He'd be right.
It took almost two years after Todd's passing for us to get our shit together and finish this record. Some roads are too long to travel without baggage, and some weights are too heavy to carry swiftly. Some of that weight we will never lay down, but we present a piece of it to you now.
Our hope is that it will be heard in the way it was intended, simply: the most fun music we could figure out how to play. This album - hell, probably our whole band - will be forever tied to a sense of what was lost when Todd died. That is proper. But the music itself is a statement of joy; a statement of life. While bittersweet, when we listen to it, we remember making it together. We remember the thrill of doing what we loved with our best friends and brothers - all of them.
And we rock the fuck out.
In our cars, our living rooms, at work under headphones (or out loud). We rock out mowing our lawns. because this album rocks as hard as we know how to. If that's self-indulgent, fuck it. Devils of Belgrade has always been about self-indulgence.
So to you, our friends, we say this: Indulge yourselves.
Indulge yourselves in the love of your friends and families. Indulge in your passions. Don't just dip a toe in - dive headfirst into that shit, and suck it all in. Be greedy about doing what the fuck you want to be doing, because life is unpredictable. That thing, that job, that passion, that person - the life - which we love can be taken from us at any time. Do not be left afterwards, wondering if you should have appreciated more.
In true appreciation,
in loving tribute to Todd Ickes,
Devils of Belgrade
released June 11, 2016
Devils of Belgrade are Adam Gotch and Scott Manning, who twiddled skinny strings, Marshall Kreeb, who thwomped on bigger strings, and Todd Ickes, who beat on shit with sticks way too fucking hard.
Produced and recorded by our own wits and means in our homes, our practice studio, and by the gracious hospitality of the Clyde Theater over 2013 and 2014. Engineered and mixed by Marshall Kreeb and Adam Gotch. Mastered by Marshall Kreeb. Artwork by Marshall Kreeb, photography by Jon Ball.
This album is presented in tribute to our drummer and brother Todd Ickes, who was taken from us far too soon, but leaves behind the legacy of a life which will never be forgotten. We love you and miss you, Todd. The value that your friendship added to our lives is beyond measure.