photo by Alexis
When I left Seattle early last Wednesday morning bound for Baltimore and the 14th edition of Maryland Deathfest, I was thinking I might not take any photos or write anything about the event and simply soak it up. But the whole thing was so damned exciting and so much fun that I couldn’t resist trying to document the experience.
I took more than 800 photos with my new iPhone 6S (what? you didn’t think I was a real photographer, did you?) and I made lots of mental notes (what? you didn’t think I’d actually bother typing, did you?). And as people who know me on Facebook are painfully aware, I discharged some contemporaneous impressions about most of the bands I saw. As you can now see, I couldn’t resist writing even more about the experience.
But unlike past years, I’m not going to attempt a day-by-day recap. This year, I’m going to preserve my memories in a different way. And who knows, maybe some of my NCS comrades will throw in some thoughts of their own. Because the NCS crew turned out in force this year.
As has been true in my two previous MDF excursions, at least half the fun was the camaraderie. There’s no way any sane person can listen to heavy music non-stop for four days and five nights, and even if you could, you’d miss out on so much of what makes this event so special — the chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones; the chance to be surrounded by people who have the same passion for this kind of music as you do, non-stop for days; the chance to eat, drink, and be merry — and talk, and yell, and scream, and nerd-out, and act stupid, and not have one single, solitary motherfucker judge you negatively for it. Not even this dude:
Before this week’s recap is over, I might try to name all the people (besides the bands) who made this year’s MDF the best experience I’ve had so far. But for now, I’ll just mention a few of the names most familiar to long-time NCS lurkers: Andy Synn, DGR, BadWolf — so cool to be together with the three of you who have invested thousands of unpaid hours building our putrid site into the great steaming pile of putridity that it has become.
I did not ask their permission before posting this photo, taken at an amazing Saturday morning rooftop breakfast hosted by the fabulous gentlemen from Brutalitopia, about which I will have some more to say later (and yes, it was one of those beer-with-breakfast mornings):
I also took lots of photos of the very metal clouds over Edison Lot, which eventually began leaking liquid about the time Interment started playing on Sunday.
Don’t ask me why, but I also took this photo, which I would like to caption “The Abyss of Lost Souls”. Or perhaps, “The Pipeline To Hell”:
I shudder to think of how many dead brain cells were interred in these humble cemeteries. And hey, I’m not complaining. I never had to wait more than 60 seconds to get into a port-a-pottie at Edison Lot, and they were vastly better than the alternative, which would have involved soiling myself in ways that even black jeans wouldn’t have camouflaged.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, recapping MDF.
What I plan to do is tell you about the best of the best as I saw and heard it. And as it happens, the best bands fell into four categories (not defined in rigid ways, as you’ll see, but at least loosely organized in ways that make sense to my addled mind). Most of these thoughts will be spread over the rest of this week. All I want to do today is tell you about the best performance of the festival.
I do hesitate to make such a proclamation, because I saw so many great sets at MDF XIV — and no doubt missed many others. Yet this one was truly extraordinary, and I know I wasn’t alone in thinking that: Most of the large crew of pretty knowledgable metalheads that I hung out with for four days felt the same way, including people who I don’t think generally lean as hard as I do on this end of the extremity spectrum.
Dragged Into Sunlight played on Saturday night at Rams Head Live. They followed a tremendous set by another UK band, Grave Miasma. I’ve been a DIS fan for a long time, but had never seen them perform, and so I got up front right after Grave Miasma ended and I stayed there. Before the set began, a guy standing next to me asked me what kind of music they played. Seriously, there was a guy who’d gotten up front without any idea of what he was about to hear. I had trouble thinking of what to say, and finally just blurted out, “They play horrifying music”. And that proved to be an understatement.
They performed with their backs to the audience, though one of the two vocalists would bolt around and face the crowd for his vocal turns, and the lead vocalist did finally turn toward the crowd for the penultimate song. Save for the glow from an enormous candelabra at the front of the stage and some brilliant lighting effects (including a strobe that seemed to be positioned someplace inside the drum kit), they were shrouded in darkness.
The lead vocalist was bent severely at the waist for most of the night, hunched over and hanging on to his mic stand as if it was the only thing keeping him from collapsing onto the stage, even when he was shrieking and roaring with such intensity that I half-expected him to spontaneously combust. To paraphrase my friend BadWolf after the show, referring to the music as a whole, this is what pain sounds like.
My own immediate reaction, which I wrote about 10 minutes after the set ended, was as follows: “This audience needs to be checked for radiation poisoning. Horrifying, inhuman, cataclysmic violence on a thermonuclear scale.”
I don’t think I’m capable of doing a better job than that in trying to describe the sheer overpowering abrasive force of the sound or its terrifying effect. More than once, I caught myself with my mouth hanging open. Most of the time I was in a stupefied daze; the rest of the time I was wrenching the muscles in my neck trying to stay locked in with the off-the-hook performance of the drummer (and failing).
Many extreme metal bands, especially in the black/death corners of metaldom, devote their energies to creating atmospheres of alien terror and catastrophic doom. But I can’t think of anyone who has done it better in a live setting than Dragged Into Sunlight did on Saturday night. And for the sheer emotional impact of the performance, no one that I saw at MDF XIV outdid them.
I really pitied whoever might come after them (though I knew who was coming — another one of my most anticipated bands of the festival). And no doubt, having to follow DIS was part of the problem with Craft’s performance, but only part. How ironic that the best performance of the festival would be followed immediately by perhaps its biggest disappointment (and not entirely Craft’s fault either). More on that another day….
I’m going to tack on some more photos I took of the Dragged Into Sunlight set, but for anyone else out there who made it to MDF this year, I invite you to tell us in the Comment section which performance was the best one you saw this year.
Complete MDF 2016 coverage:
A MARYLAND DEATHFEST RECAP (PART 1)
A MARYLAND DEATHFEST RECAP (PART 2)
A MARYLAND DEATHFEST RECAP (PART 3)
A MARYLAND DEATHFEST RECAP (PART 4)
A MARYLAND DEATHFEST RECAP (PART 5)
MDF 2016: HAZY HIGHLIGHTS AND FUZZY RECOLLECTIONS (BY ANDY SYNN)
Fuck yes man!! I saw Dragged Into Sunlight in London (UK) this February. To be honest I’m not a big fan of their albums but I was really impressed with some live videos I watched, so I decided to go… I had never seen such terrifying and equally devastating music on stage! It was crushingly heavy, making me headbang from beginning to end until my neck muscles were in pain, while having created an oppressing atmosphere of sheer terror. I felt like I was going to die at any moment. Still the best band I’ve seen this year, and I’ve been to over 30 concerts on 2016 alone. The good thing is that I’ll be seeing them in Bristol again on Saturday, along with many other killer bands, especially All Pigs Must Die, one of my all time favourites 😀
Bring it on again!!!
I’m already quaking at the prospect of seeing them again when they invade Seattle in mid-July, especially since they’re playing a venue that’s… intimate in size.
Primitive Man will be playing here with DIS as well, you’re lucky you’ll get to see Cult Leader as well! They played here with Rotten Sound last month but their sound wasn’t the best, I still really liked them though.
Get your body ready!
I decided to take a break during their set on Saturday night knowing that I would get another chance to see them here in Seattle in July. After reading this post, I’m almost regretting that decision.
I’m really curious about how their show is going to work at a place as small as Highline, where you can more easily tell there are human beings involved in making those sounds. Might make it seem less… inhuman. The small stage may also make it harder for them to set up the way they seem to prefer. But most of all, I wonder if anyone will survive the experience.
Just realized they’re playing in Brooklyn in a month, looking forward to it!
I’m curious too. I’m planning to see them at Fubar in St. Louis in July. I can’t imagine them bringing the same gear to a bar (capacity 500) as they did to Ram’s Head, which is pretty big and has a lot of empty space in it. I was against the railing on the second-story balcony and the sound was massive.
Seeing this makes me really mad that I’m out of the country for DIS’s Chicago date this summer. Although I can attest that Grave Miasma was just as good in Chicago last night as they seem to have been at MDF.
Really hoping next year’s my year to make it to MDF. We’ll just have to see.
Fingers crossed. Would be good to finally meet and then embarrass you in person.
If anything I’d be embarrassing you. I’m supposed to be the resident dumb college kid after all.
Great photos! I’ve been watching videos of the fest, it looks like it was another awesome edition!
Thanks — more surprisingly good photos yet to come. Upgrading to that new phone right before leaving town was definitely the right move.
As I told you before, a couple of my friends actually didnt like Dragged into Sunlights set, and I honestly dont know why. Not sure I can say it was the best set of the weekend (Hirax, Nuclear Assault, Incantation and Demolition Hammer were all devastating) but DIS definitely melted my face off that night.
..and Craft, well we discussed Craft…what a fucking let down
I understand that DIS isn’t going to appeal strongly to everyone — too much like being staked out at ground zero for some people. And yeah… Craft… still depressed over that let-down (but great to see you again).
You too man…Always such a chaotic weekend, but Im glad we bumped into each other a couple of times and got to chat a bit.
How was Doom?…I wanted to see them play, but Mystifier was too good to pass up
Just watching a packed crowd go nuts for the last show at Soundstage was entertaining, but I think I should have resisted the group dragging me to Doom and stayed for Mystifier.
Those are always the toughest choices and honestly, I can imagine Doom tore the house down. I have to say though, Mystifier was pretty damn awesome…first U.S. show theyve ever done and they were having a blast
I think I was beside you… Almost the same spot…I took several videos
Zhrine : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V64iIjr9Ojs&list=PLAX-it392q7ybOVF7PrVFWSsemkicQ2Kd
Most in-audience video-footage sounds awful, especially with the volume and intensity I imagine must have been there and up front, but you (or your camera) have managed to capture even the droning bass. Cool videos that testify to Islander’s words.
I managed to hold the camera when I was headbanging…
Man, thanks for these! Photos alone can’t possibly do justice to either DIS or Zhrine. Nice work!
Glad you enjoyed those videos! I love Zhrine so much since you introduced them on NCS ! Use my videos if you want! Those moments gotta be recorded cause these bands are brilliant!
Thank you! I’m going to take you up on your offer.
This is all about sharing. I took videos not only for me, but also for possible fans out there!
I have to agree.
I was at the Ram’s head all night and none of the other bands even came close to what Dragged Into Sunlight did.
It was pummeling. I should also point out: they were very tight. Despite the maelstrom they were creating, they could stop on a dime. To my mind, it’s what makes it ‘musical’. It’s obvious they were well rehearsed and each tune unfolded in a very deliberate manner. Really impressive.
And the strobe lights!! I thought I was having a seizure.
Really good point. With so many stops and starts and twists and turns within that storm of sound, they were amazingly well locked-in. And the strobe really did enhance the hallucinatory effect of the whole thing, giving fleeting glimpses of the people on stage, who otherwise didn’t seem quite real.
One comment about Craft, DIS where supposed to have ended their set at 00:05, they played 15-20 minutes longer. When Craft came on stage they were told that because of this there would be no time for sound check, which is why there were no guitars for the first two songs.
Well, that explains a lot. I could tell that the vocalist and bass player were upset before they even started playing, and the sound clearly wasn’t right for the first two songs. That seemed to cloud at least Nox’s enthusiasm even after the sound improved.
DIS was the best of the festival and only Zhrine came close for me.
Not sure if you heard (and damnit I meant to message you to meet up, but forgot. Next year I suppose), but at the very least the guitarists were not given work visas in time. Definitely Nokkvi who is also in Svartidaudi. So they were searching for guitars to borrow all the way until minutes before their set. May be their first and only US performance!
I only managed to go the first two days, but it was well worth the trip. A few personal highlights: Crypt Sermon at Rams Head sounded super tight, despite some technical problems. Horrendous benefited greatly from having a bass player; too bad their set was the shortest of the day. (Gruesome, the other Death tribute band, were also fun.) Wormed absolutely fucking killed it. Mayhem alone would have been worth the price of admission. And by the time Rotten Sound and Repulsion came on at the Soundstage this old man could barely stay on his feet, yet was perpetually jerked wide awake by their ferocity.
Also, at $3, the baked beans with bacon bits from the BBQ guys were the best deal of the weekend, especially considering that I squandered a small fortune on beer.
Honorable mentions to Phobocosm, Mitochondrion and Auroch. I obviously missed them at the fest, but caught them the weekend prior and was pretty blown away.
Dude…those fucking beer prices were bullshit. I could buy a six-pack of Torpedo for what they were charging for one tallboy size. Never seen them price gouge that badly
Yeah totally. Sucks when you constantly feel like you have to pace yourself just so you can buy at least one record or shirt at the end of the day. (I guess the obvious solution is to not drink at MDF … but who am I kidding.)
Rams Head in particular was insane.
Agreed… tacking on an extra buck was insane. Hell you could buy a CD for the same price as a beer at the Rams Head…though I’ll admit that stout by Elysium was almost worth the price
There was a stout from Elysium there? The only stout I got there was the one that they always have… called like Oak Barrel Stout from Dominion Brewing. It’s delicious and tastes like MDF to me because I get it every year, lol.
Sorry…Elysian..not sure why I always make that mistake…but yes, probably their oatmeal stout.
Yeah…They always carry Fordham/Old Dominion beer because Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis used to be where Fordham did their brewing. It was only recently they moved to Delaware and joined up with Old Dominion. That stout is definitely one of their better beers though…
Fordham makes a couple of solid IPA’s (the one with the ram on the tap handle is always there as well) and the oyster stout they had on tap a couple of years ago was really good. Dont enjoy too much out side of those from Fordham though…they tend to be real hit or miss
I was at the Ram’s Head show as well. In my nearly 40 years of metal fandom, I have never seen anything like Dragged into Sunlight. There’s really not much I can add to the descriptions and comments above, but I’m glad that there were others there that felt the same way I did.
I videotaped little snippets with the hopes of giving people an idea of what it was like, but they are not even close (partially because the experience included the entire club, including my legs and chest cavity, constantly vibrating). Plus, as somebody above noted, the strobe effects made the whole thing quite surreal.
I left immediately afterward, partly because Craft was the band I least wanted to see and partly because there was absolutely no way they could be anything but a disappointment after DIS.
For what it’s worth, I thought Auroch and Saturnalia Temple were excellent.
I must have been standing right beside you at DIS… I was behind the pillar to the right of the stage. I enjoyed DIS’ set but goddamn if they weren’t an incredibly loud wall of sound. It was hard to make out what was going on most of the time, except for the vocalist and drummer. I thought I might go deaf, but I stayed anyway, heh.
On another note, did anybody get up early to catch Hellbringer on Saturday? They were my favorite set of the entire fest at the time (only dethroned by the mighty Demolition Hammer set on Sunday).
I’m embarrassed to say that I missed both Hellbringer and Demolition Hammer. Before I finish this little recap series, I plan to name the bands I’m kicking myself for missing based on what I heard from others, and Demolition Hammer will be high on that list.
You missed Demolition Hammer!? You had a chance to see an amazing old school thrash act reunited for the first time in 25 years and you missed it. I must know why! 😉
It’s going to sound lame, but mainly bad timing. I was determined to spend all night at Ram’s Head beginning with Phobocosm, and the time of the DH set was the last chance the big group of people I hung out with had to eat dinner together before hunkering down at Rams Head for the duration.
I feel ya, some of the conflicts were a real bitch for me. Most notably, Testament against Grave Miasma, which I saw GM because I’ve seen Testament a few times (even though I’m a huge fan). It sucked to miss Phobocosm, but I’ve been a fan of DH for over a decade and never expected to get to see them, since they were long defunct. They didn’t disappoint. I will never forget being soaking wet from the rain, with my adrenaline pumping, headbanging to Demolition Hammer. Also, the crowd was amazing for them. YOU MISSED OUT DUDE!!!!
I know I did! But it WAS a hell of a fun dinner with about 15 very cool people, so there’s that 🙂
Always fun to have a nice dinner with cool company so I don’t blame you there. That would have been a tough thing to skip out on…
If you want you can watch most of the DH set on YT here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTDOoxe1kgA
Yes…Hellbringer brought it hard for such a early timeslot. I dont regret getting up for that one bit