Wombbath at MDF – photo by Bryan Zakala
When I started this recap of Maryland Deathfest XIV a couple of days ago (here), I explained that I didn’t intend to report on the festival day-by-day, as I’ve done in previous years, but instead decided to focus on the best performances I saw, grouped into four loosely defined categories. In that introductory post, I only wrote about one band (Dragged Into Sunlight), because their set was the best one I saw at this year’s edition of MDF.
DIS happens to be in one of those four categories, but I’m going to leave that one for another day. Today I want to focus on one of the others, which I’m labeling Swedish (and Dutch) Death Metal Supremacy.
But first I want to publicly thank these four dudes:
Left to right: Mick, Durf, Jack, Tom. (Not pictured: Godzilla).
These guys have been friends for a long time, and have collaborated in creating the Brutalitopia metal blog. On the Saturday morning preceding Day 3 of MDF XIV, they put on a hell of a metal brunch and played host to about two dozen friends (most of whom are fellow metal writers), including me and the extended No Clean Singing crew who congregated at MDF this year.
Intrepid and inventive partiers that they are, they booked an apartment through Airbnb in a building that had a spacious rooftop deck, laid in copious supplies of food and alcohol, and then cooked up a breakfast storm (using a range with an apparently defective ventilator — the only way to get the bacon smell out of the apartment they rented will be to demolish it).
Who knew that the apartment building didn’t allow Airbnb rentals? We sure as fuck didn’t — until the building manager arrived and so informed us. She had kind of a horrified look on her face upon discovering two dozen mainly black-clad metalheads beering it up at mid-morning on the rooftop deck and pounding DEE-licious breakfast sandwiches coming out of the Brutalitopia kitchen assembly line. But our hosts sweet-talked her down off her mental ledge, and after half-heartedly asking us not to make too much noise, she told us to have a good time. Which we fucking did.
And that wasn’t the only time. Basically the same group of people also had another (beer-fueled) brunch at Alewife on Friday and a hell of a dinner break on Sunday night (beer-fueled) at The Brewer’s Art, plus some epic carousing after the festival’s final night (yeah, astonishingly, that was also beer-fueled). Most of the photos I have of these events probably shouldn’t be posted for the world to see, but this one from the Sunday dinner seems safe (and shadowy) enough:
Thanks to Aaron, Alexis, Blair, Corey, Dan, Dave, Kevin, Jordan, Matt, Matti, Max, and Steve, plus the Brutalitopia brothers and my NCS comrades, for making the long weekend in Charm Motherfuckin City such a fuckin’ great time. (I’m going to mention some other people I loved seeing, but that will come tomorrow.)
Now, where was I?
Oh yeah. I was about to start babbling about Swedish (and Dutch) Death Metal Supremacy. Most of the bands I’m highlighting below play old school Swedish death, a genre that has been one of my consistent favorites for many years, and most of them also themselves contributed significantly to the birth of the genre in the early ’90s. So I was already prone to eat this up, but even though I’m not entirely objective I still thought the bands brought this old strain of metal vibrantly to life. Not all the bands mentioned below are in this vein (Horrendous, for example), but every one of these sets proved to be festival highlights for me.
I’ve interspersed a few of my photos in the following text, and a lot more are collected at the end of this post.
I’m going to start with Wombbath because for a lot of the people I hung out with, they proved to be one of the best and brightest surprises of the festival. They originally made their mark in the early ’90s but then dissolved not long after releasing their debut album Internal Caustic Torments in 1993. More than 20 years later the band re-formed, with sole remaining original member Håkan Stuvemark joined by a collective of talented new bandmates who together released an excellent comeback album last year, Downfall Rising.
Not all of the people in the new line-up were able to make it to MDF, and so Stuvemark, vocalist Jonny Pettersson, and bassist Johan Momqvist were joined on stage by guitarist Taylor Nordberg (Scab) and drummer Jeramie Kling (The Absence), both of whom had also contributed to tracks on Downfall Rising. It was a hell of a set that opened a lot of eyes, and the band’s enthusiasm and joy in their performance communicated itself to the audience, and was reciprocated. Jonny Pettersson was also a charismatic (and ferocious) frontman, and his between-song banter helped endear him and the band to the crowd. I enjoyed the hell out of myself.
These dudes have made quite a name for themselves in a very short space of time, but I was very curious whether they could pull off on stage anything resembling what they’ve done in the studio. And the answer is… hell yes, they can. The fact that most of these guys barely look old enough to drink made the electrifying performance even more impressive. I’ve obviously stretched the boundaries of today’s category pretty far to include Horrendous, but I needed to find a way to highlight their performance, and so here they are.
Centinex, like Wombbath, is another prominent name from the early ’90s Swedish death metal explosion. They had a much longer run than Wombbath before calling it quits in 2006. But they, too, have re-formed, discharging the Redeeming Filth album in 2014 and now on the verge of releasing Doomsday Rituals this year.
Their set was powerful, decimating, and a complete blast to hear. I especially enjoyed the fact that they chose to end their performance with a song from Redeeming Filth that I included in our list of 2014’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs — the magnificently putrid, made-for-singing-along “Moist Purple Skin”.
Like Wombbath and Centinex, Interment’s roots go back to the early ’90s and they also dissolved (in 1994), only to re-form and release a split with Funebrarum in 2007. Their 2010 comeback album (which was also their full-length debut!) Into the Crypts of Blasphemy was excellent, and so is the second full-length Scent of the Buried, which came out a couple of months ago.
Interment was supposed to play MDF in 2012, but couldn’t make the trip. They more than made up for lost time with an absolutely vicious performance this year.
HAIL OF BULLETS
And now you know why I included “Dutch” in parentheses for this grouping of outstanding performances. Though I guess I probably should have written “Dutch and English”.
Hail of Bullets’ set undoubtedly would have been very strong even without the presence of their new frontman, but for me he made it a truly stand-out moment of MDF 2016. Yes, I confess that the chance to see Dave Ingram (ex-Bolt Thrower, ex-Benediction) in the flesh, and in his first gig in 10 years (as he said), put me into mindless fanboy mode. But though my objectivity may again be suspect, I thought his growl was distinctive, bestial, and spine-tingling. And although he seemed almost skeptical or even reluctant at first, he clearly warmed to the experience (he also commented about the warmth of the temperature — which was indeed like a steam bath when HoB played), buoyed by the highly enthusiastic response of the audience.
And the rest of the talented people in this band were firing on all cylinders, too. For me, a top 5 performance for MDF 2016.
(And yes, based on stage comments at the end of the set, it appears that Ingram is now HoB’s permanent vocalist… pretty damned good way to replace the esteemed Martin van Drunen.)
A lot more photos of these bands can be found below.
Complete MDF 2016 coverage:
HAIL OF BULLETS