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:
SECRETS OF THE MOON