May 292014

I’ve been reliving my experience at Maryland Deathfest XII through these “travelogue” posts. Maybe “extending my experience” would be a better way to say it, because I really didn’t want it to end and still don’t. But I need to move back to what I usually do at the site (as soon as I remember what that is), and so this will be the final installment.

When I left off yesterday I was in the middle of giving a round of applause to the bands I saw at the Rams Head venue during the course of MDF who made the biggest impact on me. To be clear, I enjoyed the performances of every band I heard at MDF, but the ones I’ve mentioned in these posts were the highlights. I’ll wrap up my thoughts about the performances at Rams Head next, and then turn to the bands who were at Edison Lot.

Saturday night after Bölzer finished their set and I finished waiting in line at their merch table to throw money at them, I caught the last half of the set by Finland’s Hooded Menace, a band I like a lot. They were hooded and they were menacing, boulder-sized doom chords falling down like slow rain (if it were raining boulders) and bleak (but entrancing) guitar melodies rising up like graveyard mist.

Asphyx closed out Saturday night at Rams Head, and man were they good. It was a thrill to see Martin van Drunen for the first time and to hear so many songs performed live that over time had buried themselves in my brain from their recordings. I was standing near the bar while I listened to them, and about 5 feet to my left, there was At the Gates’ Tompa Lindberg headbanging to Asphyx, too.

I’ve previously mentioned the thermonuclear assault of Diocletian at Rams Head on Sunday night, but in addition to having my guts liquified by them, I also received a serious beating from Mutilation Rites — visceral, ravaging black metal that made a good impression.

I was also impressed by the efforts of the Mutilation Rites bass player and the drummer to set the record for projectile loogie hawking (that would be the indoor record, no wind assist), as they both periodically launched arcing gobs of spit into the air. Only problem was they were spitting into the first few rows of the crowd. I think my attitude toward their music would have changed if I’d caught one of those in the face.



I spent more time at Edison Lot than at any other MDF venue, and this memoir would grow to book-length proportions if I tried to call out and describe every exciting performance I saw there — so I won’t. These were the highlights for me:

Sólstafir: I was such a huge fan before seeing them live for the first time that they could have done nothing but stand up there belching and passing wind and I probably would have loved it. But of course they did much more than that — one of my favorite sets of the festival. Also, they remain the coolest looking band in metaldom.

At the Gates: I had intended to leave after a few songs to catch another band at Ram’s Head (in part because I saw AtG on their last US tour), but I’m so glad I didn’t.  It was a long set and included songs from across their discography, starting with “Suicide Nation” and finishing with the one-two punch of “Blinded By Fear” and “Kingdom Gone”. Amazing performance.

God Macabre: God Macabre have recorded one album (The Winterlong). It’s now more than 20 years old, but it’s a classic, foundational work in the history of Swedish death metal. It’s being reissued next month by Relapse in remastered form, with some bonus tracks. I had to see what they were capable of doing live, especially now that their line-up includes two new members  — Mordbrand’s Björn Larsson (bass) and Torture Division’s Tobias Gustafsson. The verdict? They fucking killed it. Great songs, great performances, they messed up my neck bad, and they seemed to really thrive off the enthusiastic crowd response they got.

Inquisition: I saw this duo for the first time not long ago in Seattle on the Metal Alliance Tour and had so much fun that I made sure to see them again at MDF. They sounded even better. I don’t think they said a word while on stage, but their music was riveting, and I’ve now grown thoroughly accustomed to Dagon’s strange throat-singing vocal style. I wouldn’t change it at all.



Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats: I really didn’t see this one coming. I liked the band’s Mind Control album but haven’t heard much else by them, and I wasn’t sure how their sound would go over in a big festival setting dominated by more extreme acts. But they drew an enormous crowd and they turned out to be much heavier than I was expecting. Really good vocal and guitar harmonies, too. Very impressive and a whole lotta fun.



Gorguts: I saved this band for last, because if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to pick one band who turned in the best set I saw among so many great ones, I would have to pick Gorguts. On a technical level, the instrumental performances were all amazing and completely locked in (e.g., on “Obscura”, Luc Lemay, Colin Marston, and Kevin Hufnagel were all doing strange things to their instruments high up on the fretboards that I’m pretty sure is illegal in most Southern states). Luc Lemay’s voice also sounded truly bestial — except when he was flashing megawatt smiles to the crowd (he really seemed overjoyed by the whole experience).

Part of what put their set over the top was the decision to play not only songs from Colored Sands but also tracks from across the band’s discography, including some really scathing early material. I thought their show was fantastic.





I more or less missed a lot of bands at Edison Lot over the three days there, in part because I was at other venues, in part because I was yacking with friends instead of paying attention to the music, and in part because my friends and I got late starts a few days and missed the opening acts. Here’s a list of the bands I didn’t see (even though I heard many of them in the background while I was socializing). It’s a sign of how good MDF XII was that the bands I missed would make one hell of a festival all by themselves.

The Ruins of Beverast
Necros Christos
Goat Torment
Dark Angel
Graves At Sea
Soilent Green
My Dying Bride


And with that, I’m going to wrap up these reminiscences of a phenomenally good metal festival. It’s very hard for me to imagine how MDF could top this one next year, but whatever they do next, I will do my damnedest to be back in Baltimore when it happens.

To read previous installments of this travelogue, use the following links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

  22 Responses to “MARYLAND DEATHFEST: A TRAVELOGUE (Part 5)”

  1. You missed Candlemass and My dying bride, the two bands that blew every other out of the water sound and lighting wise. I don’t really feel like listening to MDB that often on CD but live they are amazing. Candlemass was just a perfect gig and it wins the the MDF by itself. Sucks you missed them!!!

    • I heard about half of the Candlemass set from a distance, which sounded great, before I took off for Rams Head. In retrospect, given what I’ve been told by you and others, I should have stayed for them and MDB.

  2. You missed MDB & Candlemass? Talk sbout being a wanker. LOL

    Those were the top 2 sets for me ironically enough 🙂

    • I probably would have been smarter not to confess that I missed those shows, but then you and others would have jumped me for not including them in the highlight reel.

  3. Didn’t even notice bob’s comments when I was posting mine . He’s a smart man (assuming he’s a dude), except for not liking MDB on record 😉

    • Never said I don’t like, it’s just I’m rarely in the mood for the unique laments of the Sainthorpe.
      Live I think they take all their meaning…

  4. MDB “opened” with The Dreadful Hours, which blew my mind. Normally that’s a closer for them. They ended up playing 9 songs and 5 of those they didn’t play in either set on 70K Tons of Metal, so I was tickled pink.

    Once dreadful hours builds and kicks in, I don’t know how anyone can’t go into a blissful violent rage!!!!!!

    You should give that song a listen 🙂

    • I will — I’m woefully deficient in my knowledge of both MDB and Candlemass. Though they’re venerable bands, I’m coming to them pretty late in my metal education.

      • I got into candlemass pretty late…ironically I was put off by Messiah’s vocals and really got into them when Ron Jeremy, erm, I mean Rob Lowe joined them. Mats Leven is a very decent replacement tho.

        • The Rob Lowe albums would even much better than they already are with Messiah. There’s a reason they dumped Lowe from the band.

          That being said, I like Krux and Mats Leven worked even better with Cmass that I had hoped 🙂

  5. I can only say thirded about Candlemass’s set..holy hell was that a great performance. I was expecting a good set, but nothing like that. All their albums are great, but their first two Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall are must owns.

    Mad I missed My Dying Bride, but I needed a break and wanted to catch Diocletians second set

    Hooded Menace was the most improved band from last time. Im a big fan of this band and I was soooo pissed when they played MDF in 2011. You couldnt hear anything but low end and the guitars were completely buried in the mix. They just sounded like shit…..This was not that same band…they completely killed their set and blew me away. So glad to see these guys crushed everyone this time around.

    Asphyx dosnt do bad shows…MVD and the rest are always fun to watch, and they didnt disappoint this time either

    Agreed on God Macabre..probably the band I most wanted to see this year. They sounded fantastic.

    Uncle Acid sounded bad from where I was at…toward the end I was getting into the riffs, but the vocals were killing it for me. Maybe its because I was over by the merch section hanging out, but I really wasnt impressed

    Really surprised to hear you missed Ruins of Beverast, Mgla, Necros Christos and Taake..they were all really good, but R.o.B. and Necros Christos really brought their “A” game.

    …also sorry for the rambling, Im like you right now…trying to hang onto the high of a absolutely killer weekend

    • Nightfall is on the short list for my favorite albums of all time. Love me some Candlemass.

      I didn’t get to go to MDF but Candlemass and Necros Christos would have been two of my “must see” bands.

  6. Mgla and Taake were my priority for fear of not having the chance to see them ever again and they did not disappoint. Sorry Kevin, MDB is an acquired taste and they came off much better on the boat. The theatrics just had people talking all over the place during the set. I did get back up front for “She is the Dark”, as it was the song I wanted to hear. I missed all at Ramshead Saturday and Sunday due to exhaustion Immolation and Asphyx can wait til another day. The distance between the venues certainly takes its toll on a 40 yr old drinker. Sarke was the surprise set I expected. I had a feeling Nocturno would give us something extra.. 🙂 Candlemass certainly made that stage sound like an amphitheater, people were headbaning all the way back to the taco tent. The storage building, the elevated highway and the sloped lot perhaps does make it an ideal setting for the “headlining” stage.

    • Taake especially…MGLA I could see coming back at some future date, but with Hoest’s arrest record and some of his more well known theatrics I was stoked he actually got his visa this time. Not sure how likely that is to happen again

  7. I feel about My Dying Bride about the way you feel about Solstafir, so while I thought their performance was stunning, I’m hardly objective.

    Best surprises of the fest for me were Mgla, Necros Christos, and Windhand, who all turned out really amazing sets.

    I think I most regret missing Bolzer and Hooded Menace. (I caught the last song or so of Hooded Menace’s set, and they sounded great. I love that kind of death doom stuff.)

    The best stand-up comedy award goes to Nocturno Culto. Sarke played a good set, but I think it was overshadowed by his antics: using his phone to take pictures of the crowd, introducing a new song with, “it’s as fresh as…I dunno. It’s really fresh,” and generally being silly.

    • I got a strong sense from facial expressions, body language, and words that a lot of the bands were really excited about being at MDF and about the crowd response to their sets, including a lot of the veterans (though not including the ones who were dedicated to staying as grim and stern as possible). And wasn’t this Nocturno Culto’s first performance of any kind in the US?

      • Yeah, it was Nocturno Culto’s first US appearance, and I think he was a bit taken aback by how excited the crowd was just to see him there. (Honestly, I felt a bit sorry for the rest of Sarke, but I suppose if you get a metal legend as your singer, you get used to that sort of thing.) And I got the same sense from a lot of the bands – that they were really pleased/excited by the reception they got.

        I’m now sorting through my photos. Somehow I managed to take 453 photographs of My Dying Bride alone, so this is going to be a bit of a project.

        • 453? How did you have time to watch or listen? That’s an average of almost 50 pictures per SONG!!!!!! LOL

          • Heh. That’s an inflated number, really – I did a lot of shooting in burst mode, where the camera takes pictures continuously as long as the shutter button is held down. I’ve been experimenting with that for taking pictures where the performers are moving or the light is changing a lot – the idea is that rather than trying to line up the perfect dramatic shot only to discover that it’s ruined by motion blur or overexposure or someone throwing the horns into shot at just the wrong moment, I just shoot continuously for a couple of seconds and then keep the best shot out of the 10 or 20 taken in rapid succession.

            But it does still mean that I have to look at 453 photos.

  8. Hooded Menace would be awesome to see, so would At The Gates 🙂

  9. Castevet was incredible. It’s a shame how the guitarist is a self admitted crack head (was even wigged out when me and a friend went to tell him how incredible his music was)

  10. Would’ve loved to catch Agalloch, Windhand, Solstafir, ATG, Gorguts,and many others, had I gone to this. I was originally gonna mention two or three bands just there, but that’s goddamn impossible to whittle down with a lineup like this MDF had.

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