For those just now joining this series about Maryland Deathfest XIV, I’m in the process of highlighting the bands whose performances were the best of the ones I saw and heard in Baltimore beginning on Wednesday of last week.
I’ve organized those bands into four categories (not rigidly defined, mind you). Yesterday’s feature was about “Swedish (and Dutch) Death Metal Supremacy”, and for today’s collection I’m borrowing the title of one of our long-running series about new music — Shades of Black — because I’m spotlighting six black metal bands of varying styles whose sets I really enjoyed. I’ve again included photos of each band (most of which are gathered at the end of this post).
I think it’s worth re-stating what I’ve said before: For different reasons (but mainly the enjoyment of socializing with friends), I missed out on many bands. This series is about the best of the ones whose sets I did manage to catch.
Absu headlined the pre-fest party at Ottobar last Wednesday night. Having started the day at about 3:00 a.m. Seattle time, my ass was starting to drag by the time their set started. And then my ass (and the rest of me) came back to life as if I’d stepped on a live power line.
I’d never seen the band live before, and it really was electrifying. They thrashed our reproductive organs off with a blend of sonic power, meticulous craftsmanship, and magnetic stage presence (like old school rock gods) — all the way up to Proscriptor McGovern stepping from behind the kit and doing some interpretive movements to the sound of bagpipes. Enormously interesting and entertaining!
I didn’t catch all of Khold’s set, but the parts I heard made me kick myself for being slow to make it over to their side of Edison Lot. Solid gold riffs and body-moving grooves wrapped in thorns. And frontman Gard still has some of the best corpsepaint in black metal.
Not long after Svarttjern finished their set at Rams Head on Friday night, I posted this status on FB: “Rumbling, rocking, sleazy, sulfurous, carnal, corrosive black metal. The demons were listening to shit like this when they were inside Linda Blair.”
Some of those adjectives were inspired by the antics of frontman HansFyrste, slipping his hand down the front of his pants, massaging himself, and then licking his hand, or flickering his tongue at the audience like a reptile. And when the band finally broke out “All Hail Satan” from their new album Dødsskrik, the crowd was primed and ready to chant right along with him.
This Finnish horde was one of the big draws of the festival for me, and they did not disappoint, blasting out one incendiary, punk-fueled ass-kicker after another. But as blasphemous and blazing as the music was, the whole experience had its comical moments, too.
The comedy began in the week before the trip when my friends Matti and Joseph were texting about the band and Matti’s autocorrect cleverly rendered their name Implied Nazarene, which is of course what we have called them ever since.
And then there were the pink-and-white beach balls that were bounding about during their set, with one landing on the stage — prompting Slutti666 to go on a rant about social justice warriors. His between-song banter included some other gems, such as an awkwardly phrased dedication to Motörhead that began, “Now that Lemmy is finally dead…”, followed by a quick rephrasing. Also, “Hats off, hats down”, which I still don’t understand. A hell of a show.
SECRETS OF THE MOON
The sound of Secrets of the Moon has become difficult to classify. There’s still grey-shrouded, gloom-tinged Black Metal scattered through the music (to borrow Andy Synn’s description), but it has moved well beyond the confines of “traditional” black metal, incorporating elements of post-punk and a kind of gothic glamour (thanks again, Andy) into their increasingly atmospheric music.
But they also rocked at MDF, and my favorite track was “Dirty Black” from their latest album Sun, which they built to a hell of a finale.
I was dismayed when MDF announced that Iceland’s Svartidauði had canceled their appearance, and then buoyed by the news that their countrymen in Zhrine would be taking their place. Zhrine was at one time named Gone Postal, and then briefly Shrine, and along with the name changes have come some welcome changes in their sound. Their new album Unortheta (from which we premiered a song here) is excellent, and so was their set at Rams Head.
The band combined tumultuous black metal attacks with gleaming melodic spell-casting. The visuals were also engrossing, with the bassist Ævar playing a futuristic-looking stand-up bass and both he and guitarist/vocalist Þorbjörn occasionally applying bows to their instruments. They were also the only band at MDF who performed in button-down shirts, looking very clean-cut and presentable but putting a lot of fire and heart into their performance. One of the festival’s best surprises — and the audience ate it up.
Lots more photos of all the bands are below.
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)
SECRETS OF THE MOON
Hahaha..those Zhrine photos were what you were taking when I sent you that last text to look up and to your left…I was up on the balcony and saw you down on the floor snapping them.
..and holy shit! That set was probably the biggest surprise of the weekend for me. I knew of them, but really didnt know what to expect from that set….completely blew me away.
Best part of Impaled Nazarene was when the random inner tube came flying out of nowhere…Where the hell did that even come from?
Wish Id seen more of Khold myself, and I completely missed Tulus as well which I kind of regret
I was so busy taking photos that I didn’t see your text until after they finished. I probably should have stopped and just soaked up the music, but the stage scenes looked so cool.
Nah, its all good. I just realized after the fact that must have looked like a really random text without some context (Im going to blame all the beer)
Honestly, I dont blame you.. the whole thing from stage, to lighting, to the music was totally amazeballs (Hell even the interplay with the crowd was fun…”Just Play the Music Nerd!!”). That set was definitely one of the highlights of the whole Festival…left more than a couple of my buddies looking at me and just going “Wow!”
I know. I think most people at the beginning took one look at them and started rolling their eyes, and then they started playing, and the big smiles started forming.
I feel like I can see Implied Nazarene slowly getting more and more sunburned in these photos.
They definitely did look out of their element (i.e., pitch-black satanic darkness).
In their defense, I’d probably look about the same – I once burned the backs of my hands at the beach, since I didn’t think to put sunscreen on them.
I feel your pain, or at least I haven distant memories of that kind of pain. I think Impaled Nazarene felt more pain from the beach balls, though their main mission was to inflict pain.
Enough already, we get the point. So, you went t a gig, you met some friends, you had a few beers and a few laughs… Get over it.
Haha… just kidding. 🙂 I’m jealous, of course, but I’m glad on your (and all the other chaps) behalf that you got away for a while, had a ball and painted the town. Besides, it makes for some entertaining reading and nice pictures!
And while you’re here… I hope you haven’t killed off so many brain cells that you’ve forgotten all about the mail I sendt before you ventured of to MDF.
Well, fuck me running, I did indeed overlook that e-mail (as I did hundreds of other e-mails that arrived from the eve of my Baltimore trip through to the end of MDF). Very sorry — but now I’ve found it and action shall be taken.
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That was a thumbs up before I posted it. The thumb must have become broken during transition or whatnot.
I usually sit on my thumb whenever possible to minimize the risk of breakage. Very nice imagery though.