For those of you 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.
Rather than doing a day-by-day recap, I’ve organized the bands into four somewhat loosely defined categories. Yesterday’s feature was a “Shades of Black” collection of black metal bands, and before that was one under the heading “Swedish (and Dutch) Death Metal Supremacy”. I’m calling today’s celebration “The Black Death“, not only because that describes the general style of music performed by the following six bands, but also because they all spread a lethal kind of auditory plague.
Presented in the order in which I witnessed the performances over 5 nights and 4 days, and I’ve again included my photos of each band (most of which are gathered at the end of this post).
Profanatica was formed circa 1990 by Paul Ledney and two other members of the original Incantation after they parted company with John McEntee. After a series of short releases, Profanatica split up in 1992 but re-grouped in 2001 and since then have released three albums, with a fourth one coming out in July of this year (The Curling Flame of Blasphemy) via Hells Headbangers.
Now a trio composed of Ledney, John Gelso (who’s been a member of the band roughly as long as Ledney), and guitarist Ryan Adams, Profanatica took the stage in robes as the penultimate act at the Ottobar pre-fest party on Wednesday night. There seemed to be some technical difficulties that delayed the start of their set and then re-surfaced during the performance. Or maybe it was my head that was experiencing technical difficulties by that point. Either way and nevertheless, it was still a crushing performance, a surfacing of monstrous, oppressive black/death/doom from the abyss.
(Unfortunately, my camera phone had trouble penetrating the fog of smoke that shrouded Ledney as he sat behind the drum kit and roared like a leviathan.)
Bassist/vocalist Sebastian Montesi and vocalist/guitarist Shawn Hache pulled double-duty at MDF, appearing as members of Auroch on Saturday night at Rams Head and then again in the line-up of Mitochondrion on the final night at the same venue. Both bands are also participating in a forthcoming split release (In Cronian Hour), and both will be part of a fantastic line-up at Vancouver’s The Covenant festival on June 16-18. Both bands were also on my “can’t miss” list in planning for MDF 2016.
I’ll be coming to Mitochondrion’s set before this post is finished. Auroch’s performance was a powerhouse onslaught of black/death warfare. It hit my brain stem like a lightning bolt, generating a thoroughly pestilential atmosphere with a combination of brute-force bludgeoning and technically impressive speed.
This UK band was another one on my “can’t miss” list. They were the second band to play after Auroch kicked things off at Rams Head on Saturday night. In fact, I sacrificed the chance to see Nuclear Assault and Testament (whom I’d seen before) at Edison Lot (and Infest at Soundstage) in order to catch Auroch and Grave Miasma.
I’m told that I missed some great performances at the other venues, but I’m still happy with my decision. After Grave Miasma’s set, I typed this immediate reaction: “Utterly diseased and deranged black/death, reeking of putrefaction and surging with night terrors. I feel the urge to bathe in maggots and pus.” I don’t think I can improve on that today.
DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT
DIS followed Grave Miasma. That turned out to be a lethal one-two punch. I’ve already written my reactions to their set in the introductory post of this series (here). In a nutshell, for my tastes it was the best performance of MDF 2016, as well as the most overwhelmingly powerful.
The Rams Head line-up on the final night of MDF 2016 featured another massive one-two punch to start the night, with Phobocosm kicking things off, followed by Mitochondrion. I had never seen Phobocosm in the flesh before, but I’ve become an adherent of their music, especially in the aftermath of this year’s Bringer of Drought full-length (which I reviewed here). They have become adept at creating an atmosphere of soul-destroying darkness and despair, while leavening their crushing brutality with bursts of frenzied ferocity — and all those malignant talents were well-displayed in their MDF performance. A spine-shuddering combination of death, black, and doom metal…
Although I’ve seen Mitochondrion perform on three other occasions, most recently at Portland’s Famine Fest in February, the band’s MDF performance was the best one yet — undoubtedly due in part to the size of the Rams Head stage and the magnificence of the light show that accompanied the band’s devastating torrent of sound. The fact that this was the final performance of the band’s U.S. tour may have factored into the equation as well; they threw themselves into the performance with explosive energy.
Right after they finished, I summed up my reaction on Facebook as follows: “The cyclonic fugue of total death… Mitochondrion“. In my book, a Top 5 performance at this year’s MDF.
I couldn’t resist buying two more Mito shirts to add to an already enormous collection of their merchandise I’ve accumulated over the years, and I’ll repeat here the plug I mentioned in writing about Auroch above: Both bands are participating in a forthcoming split release via Dark Descent and Hellthrasher Productions (In Cronian Hour), and both will soon be part of a fantastic line-up at Vancouver’s The Covenant festival on June 16-18.
And now, more photos of the sets by these six bands:
Complete MDF 2016 coverage:
DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT
(For DIS photos, go here.)