The All Underground Rock All Day Festival, or simply, AURA Fest, is returning in 2018 with another massive lineup of metal and hardcore music.
In 2016, Coastal Rock Productions' founder Timothy Walls doubled down on his annual festival. Coastal Rock cut back on the number of one-off shows produced throughout the year to focus on the single-day festival at Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.
Last year was the biggest AURA Fest to date. Two stages, food vendors, merchandise vendors and even back massages were accents around a full day of metalcore, hardcore and rock music. It's hard to properly describe the experience of getting a back massage by the students at Virginia College while a hardcore band is ripping within earshot. It's strangely relaxing, actually.
The massage chairs are back this year, along with Pabsketball, provided by Pabst Blue Ribbon - the beer of champions - and the AURA-CADE, arcade games provided by Graveface Records & Curiosities. There will be food from Dark Shark Taco Attack, Savannah Square Pops, Big Boy Cookies and The Sentient Bean.
There will also be a lot of music. Here's a glance at next year's incredible lineup, with a focus on headliners:
Darkest Hour (Washington, D.C.)
After two decades of life, Darkest Hour remains at the top of the metalcore genre, earning high acclaim behind their ninth studio album, "Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora," released earlier this year on Southern Lord. Throughout the years, the band has shifted sounds, and members, signing with major indie labels eOne, Victory Records and Sumerian Records.
Known for their chart-topping albums "Undoing Ruin," "Deliver Us," "The Eternal Return" and "The Human Romance," their latest album earned them a No. 1 spot on the Billboard Heatseakers chart, and hit No. 42 on the U.S. charts, the highest the band has traveled on the Billboard. The album also received a perfect rating from Metalsucks (metalsucks.net). Darkest Hour is heavier and more gnarly than they've ever been. Do not sleep on this band. They are headlining AURA Fest for a reason.
Bury Your Dead (Boston)
Not many, if any, metalcore bands have a resume like Bury Your Dead. After 16-plus years, the Boston metal monsters have gone through 15 lineup changes, seen a former member sentenced to 20 years in jail for gang activity, and played a live show with Will Smith. Dangerous. Loud. Fast. Heavy metal.
Bury Your Dead has released six studio albums, with moderate chart success. Although they haven't released new music since 2011's "Mosh n' Roll," they returned to the road last year with original drummer Mark Castillo and continue to headline metal festivals.
Evergreen Terrace (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Melodic hardcore band Evergreen Terrace has spent the last 18 years churning out pop/punk-inspired metalcore, blurring genre lines and earning national recognition on the way. After departing for a year, founding vocalist Andrew Carey returned last year.
Their last studio album, 2013's "Dead Horses," was released on the venerated indie label Rise Records (At The Drive In, The Acacia Strain, Hot Water Music). They've toured with major acts like Suicidal Tendencies, As I Lay Dying, and Hatebreed.
Through The Eyes Of The Dead (Florence, S.C.)
Pioneers of a brutal mixture of death metal and hardcore, TTEOTD earned high acclaim from Metalsucks this year.
I Set My Friends On Fire (Miami; festival alums)
Experimental post-hardcore rock, with hip-hop and pop elements. Strange. Beautiful. Heavy. Find a new video on YouTube: "My Uzi Holds A Hundred Round Conscience."
The Funeral Portrait (Atlanta; festival alums)
Existing in the murky ether between hardcore, emo and post-hardcore, The Funeral Portrait delivers punchy, heavy riffs with a mixture of hardcore vocal stylings and emo-inspired clean vocals.
Behind a mixture of metalcore and electronic experimentation, the Atlanta quintet released their third album, "Bloom," this year.
No Zodiac (Phoenix)
Originally out of Chicago, No Zodiac is a charming combination of death metal and hardcore built on a foundation of slower metal riffs that break into hardcore speeds with deep gutteral vocal icing.
Vatican (Savannah; festival alums)
This year, Savannah hardcore staples Vatican earned national acclaim for their EP, "Ache Of Eternity," from Decibel Magazine and Metal Injection, thrusting the underground band into a national spotlight. Rad. Don't miss them. They'll be touring with big bands soon and you won't be able to afford a ticket.
Second Death (Valdosta)
Driving at hardcore speeds with blazing metal riffs, Second Death champions a staple metalcore sound on their third studio album, "Casket," released earlier this year.
Icaria finds a rare balance between metal and rock sounds, joining elements of hardcore and straightforward rock in a driving heavy sound. Progressive, indeed.
Mercy Blow (Delaware)
Shifting up a gear, as if it's possible, from metalcore and deathcore, this Delaware slam metal band is a full assault on the ears.
Great American Ghost (Boston)
This Boston metalcore band is slightly ajar from their field contemporaries behind lightning fast double-bass drums, down-tuned guitars chugging slower, molasses riffs that only give way to faster speeds occasionally, all topped with discernible vocals - for those fans who are concerned with hearing lyrics.
Strengthen What Remains (Tampa, Fla.)
Behind a traditional metalcore sound, Strengthen What Remains defies the status quo of the metal and hardcore world delivering punchy, heavy tracks laced with Christian-inspired lyrics.
My Last Years (Savannah)
This is a relatively new local metalcore band with elements of post-hardcore and emo, forming from a mixture of clean vocals and screams, down-tuned guitar riffs and speed.
Joshua Peacock is a writer and musician based in Savannah. He studied music theory, jazz and playwriting at the University of Iowa. Empire of Sound has won two Georgia Press Awards in the past two years. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: AURA Fest
When: Feb. 17
Where: Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, 41 MLK Jr. Blvd.