When I ended yesterday’s installment of my poorly organized reflections on Maryland Deathfest XIII, I had made it through the last performance of the festival at Edison Lot, the killer show by Amorphis. I will soon be moving backward in time to fill in a few gaps from my impromptu posts about the earlier days of the festival, but first a few words and photos about what happened after Amorphis said goodnight.
My friends and I shambled out of the Edison Lot along with hundreds of other people and found cabs that would take us to Ram’s Head (which was not difficult). Yes, we could have walked, but after three-and-a-half long days and nights of standing on hard surfaces, my feet had swollen up like rotten fruit — plus, every minute lost was one less minute of music to hear on the final night of MDF. When we arrived at Ram’s Head, that photo up there shows you what greeted my eyes.
I did not realize that Impetuous Ritual played in loincloths. Why did no one warn me? Listening to their recordings, I just assumed they would be garbed in hoods, along the lines of Portal (especially since two of the Impetuous Ritual savages also play in Portal).
Impetuous Ritual were interesting to watch, obviously, and the music was a damaging jackhammer assault of blackened death metal that left my head ringing and preoccupied with worries about spinal compression fractures.
Impetuous Ritual was just the beginning of a solid three hours of cataclysmic pulverization that began at 10:45 pm — after 10 hours of metal at Edison Lot. In retrospect, I was glad I hadn’t arrived at the parking lot until mid-afternoon; otherwise, I’d have had no chance of surviving the night.
Of the bands I saw at Ram’s Head, I had thought that Adversarial and Impetuous Ritual would be left sharing the crown for black/death abomination this year, following in Diocletian’s footsteps from the year before. But that prize goes to the band who played next, Knelt Rote from Portland, Oregon.
I had caught part of their set when they played in Seattle a few weeks ago and was very impressed, but seeing them on the big Ram’s Head stage with that powerful PA system at their disposal was even more eye-opening. Their set was a blitzkrieg attack, absolutely crushing in its power and riveting in its energy. For me, one of the best surprises of MDF, and only the second time at Ram’s Head this year when I made a bee-line to the merch table as fast as I could to throw money at a band who had just finished playing.
Portal was the last band to play at this year’s edition of MDF. They began at almost 1 a.m., when I’m sure everyone in the crowd was either exhausted or wasted or most likely both. And I think the audio-visual display that then ensued left almost everyone stunned — or driven from the venue by an instinct for self-preservation.
The music was bludgeoning, scary, and a reminder that Portal’s concoctions are as intricate as they are atmospherically otherworldly. The experience was made even more disturbing by David Hall’s skittering video accompaniment running on a big projection screen behind and above the band. Very few images in the video were distinct, or lasted for more than seconds before changing. I suppose the effect was as much subliminal as it was conscious, but the effect was as horrifying as the music.
I watched from the left side of the balcony facing the stage, standing with our old friend SurgicalBrute. Before the set ended, I got an appeal from the Seattle friends who made the trip with me — they were among those being driven to leave for the sake of self-preservation. I relented, and therefore missed the very end of the show, when the venue tried to bring the set to a close by turning off the PA and turning on the house lights. Portal kept playing — as you can see in the video of the entire set that I’m embedding below the following photos.
As I wrote earlier today when I included this video in a different post, Portal’s refusal to stop seemed fitting. I suspect most of the fans who came to MDF this year didn’t want the festival to end either.