I’m seriously considering a legal change of my name to include the words “Ass Backwards” in it. I mean, I’m not fooling anyone anyway, so I might as well be up-front about it.
Case-in-point: Instead of writing a chronologically oriented and comprehensive review of the recently concluded Maryland Deathfest XIII, I just started tossing out random collections of photos over the last three days, mainly as a way of explaining why I wasn’t doing much of anything else for the site. And now, rather than starting over with something that actually looks like a thoughtful report on an amazing event, I’m going to continue with what I started and fill in the gaps I left, working my way backward to the pre-fest show last Wednesday.
Once again, there will be more of my photos in the continuation of this series than my words, which may come as a continuing relief to many.
Yesterday I only had time to write about the first three bands I saw on the festival’s final day (Sunday) — Primordial, Anaal Nathrakh, and Skepticism. Today I’ll start from there and focus on the next three bands I saw and heard on Sunday. More ass-backwards reports will come each day this week.
Yesterday I pointed out that I had discovered the existence of Skepticism through a multi-part feature I wrote more than four years ago in tribute to Finnish metal. I used that series as a vehicle for educating myself as well as spreading some great metal around, and so I focused not only on newer bands but also on ground-breaking groups from decades past — which is how I discovered not only Skepticism but also Demilich.
In my Finland Tribute Week post about Demilich, I provided a lot of info about the band and about their first and last album, Nespithe. I won’t repeat that here, but instead send you back to that post for an explanation about why the album — from its head-spinning music to its coded lyrics and album title — is so damned interesting. Demilich’s Antti Boman has kept the Demilich flame burning by maintaining a web site for many years on which almost all of Demilich’s recorded output is available for free download (here). In 2013, he also released a special box set named Demilich: 20th Adversary of Emptiness that I wrote about here.
All of that background is by way of explaining that Demilich’s performance on Sunday was one of my most highly anticipated of the whole festival — and it exceeded expectations. Nespithe was full of intricate, forward-thinking death metal that was also plenty brutal, and Antti Boman and his bandmates executed those songs impeccably on stage (punctuated by often humorous song introductions).
If I’m any judge of facial expressions, they seemed surprised by the warmth and enthusiasm of the response they received… but they earned and deserved it. I hope this won’t be the last time we see them on stage in the U.S.
The sun had almost set by the time Neurosis began their hour-long set, and the falling of night seemed to enhance the almost mystical aura that surrounded the band’s performance.
I’ll be honest and say that the music of Neurosis has been hit or miss for me. Some of their songs have buried themselves deeply in my head, and others I would rather have never heard. I wasn’t even sure I would venture close to the stage for their show on Sunday night, but I did, and I’m really glad I did. When they fully hit their stride, in some of the long, repeating, up-tempo segments of songs like “At the Well” and “Stones From the Sky”, it may have been the heaviest music I heard all weekend at the Edison Lot. And they are a force of nature on stage, as well as through the speakers.
“At the Well” is one of those Neurosis songs that’s buried deep in my head. It falls down on you with cataclysmic impact and it shimmers with ethereal light and it rumbles and rolls like an avalanche. It’s agonizing and it grooves and it’s loaded with interesting synthesized sounds, and I’m so damned glad I heard it on Sunday night.
P.S. It happened that we ran into Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till at a restaurant at the Baltimore airport last night (fittingly called The Ram’s Head) — they were waiting on the same flight back to Seattle as my friends and I. They couldn’t have been nicer when we interrupted them to say hello.
Finland’s Amorphis closed out the three days at the Edison Lot, and it was a fitting conclusion to the outdoor part of the festivities. I was thinking ahead of time that I might leave their hour-long set early, in order to catch at least some of the conflicting Thantifaxath performance at Ram’s Head — but that didn’t happen.
The band played all of Tales From the Thousand Lakes, their landmark album from 1994, plus some select cuts from Elegy (1996) and The Karellian Isthmus (1992). In other words, this was old-school Amorphis on display. Fittingly for MDF, they focused more on crushing, heavy death metal than the more melodically inclined, “poppier” output of more recent years. And man, they really knocked it out of the park.
I’m a big fan of Tomi Joutsen’s growls (as well as his cleans), and we got a big, welcome dose of those harsh vox, as well as the sights of a band who know how to put on a show on a big stage.