May 312017


That photo up there shows the sight that greeted my eyes on Monday night while waiting for my ferry boat home after returning to Seattle from Maryland Deathfest 2017, but it also accurately represents my glowing impressions of this year’s fest in Baltimore.

Like many, I was disappointed to learn that MDF would be “downscaling” this year, eliminating the Edison Lot venue and having all the shows indoors at Rams Head Live and Soundstage. I also saw some grumbling on the internet (imagine that! grumbling on the internet!) that the line-up wasn’t as strong as in many past years; on top of that, Nightbringer was a last-minute no-show because of an airport outage in the UK.

Despite those misgivings, my own strongly held view is that this edition of the festival was a rousing success. (Part 2 of this post can be found here.)


Baltimore bound, minutes after takeoff


Of course, neither of the two indoor venues could replace the ambience of the big stages and wide open spaces of Edison Lot, but there were offsetting compensations. Chief among those was not having to make the time-consuming hike between Edison and the indoor venues, which made it possible to see more bands.

Edison also would have been a bit of a mess during the (thankfully brief) stretches of this year’s festival when it drizzled and poured rain. Also, no sunscreen was needed for the bright afternoons either; the vampiric among us were comfortable at all times, including the ghosts who roamed the third level near the upper windows at Rams Head.



I should add that the occasional cloudiness and drizzle were counter-balanced by some gorgeous weather. The temperature never got hot, the humidity was usually quite low, and there were dramatic visions in the daytime skies. And if you wanted to enjoy all that while shooting the shit with metal lovers outdoors in between sets, the plaza at Power Plant Live was a fine place to do that, as were the bars and eateries that lined the plaza.



And as for the music, for me there were more than enough outstanding performances — and some truly stellar ones — which more than justified the cost of the pass and the travel, not to mention the camaraderie, which I can’t put a price on.

I saw the following bands this year, in this order — full sets for all the bands listed below except those with an asterisk, where I only caught a few of their songs:

Destroyer of Man
Extermination Angel
Temple of Void
Decrepit Birth
Morbid Saint*
Captain Cleanoff*
Morbid Angel*
October Tide
Oranssi Pazuzu
In the Woods…*

I missed some sets I wanted to see, and missed some sets I wish I had seen based on what I later heard about them, but that’s inevitable at any fest.



The morning after each day of the festival I canvassed the group of six people who were in my MDF crew this year (and I in theirs), two of whom were my NCS comrades Andy Synn and DGR and one of whom was Invisible Oranges editor (and ex-NCS scribe) Joseph Schafer, to find out which bands each person enjoyed the most on the day before. On Monday morning of this week over lunch, I asked each person for a Top 3 for the whole festival.

The bands whose names appeared most often in the poll results were Vader, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Insect Warfare (whom I missed, dammit). I’m pretty sure that the first two were on everyone’s list. Other names that surfaced among these Top 3 groupings were Cryptopsy, Root, Siege, Akerkocke, Uada, October Tide, Nordjevel — and I might have forgotten one or two.

I didn’t name a Top 3 at the time I took this poll, and because I’m so indecisive I’m not giving one here, but I will give a Top 10, in alphabetical order. These are the bands whose sets I enjoyed the most (and I’ll mention some more tomorrow):

Oranssi Pazuzu

Below are photos I took of some of the bands who made my list and my crew’s Top 3 groupings, along with a few words that popped into my head as I watched them perform. Tomorrow, I’ll have more photos and more thoughts about the MDF 2017 experience. And the next post at NCS today will be Andy Synn’s musings about the fest.



Akercocke are metal chameleons in a swarm of fierce but mainly monochromatic lizards. A stunning and unexpectedly brutal set that included “The Dark Inside”, “Inner Sanctum”, “Behold the Adversary”, a new song they didn’t name, and I’m not sure what else.

Speaking of chameleon-like, Jason Mendonça moved seamlessly between death growls, blackened shrieks, and rising clean vocals to suit the changes in musical style. And speaking of brutal, one friend said they sounded like Morbid Angel should have sounded.









Completely flabbergasting in the best ways, Oranssi Pazuzu came close to stealing MDF, lock, stock, and barrel. Fully half the fun was simply watching them bounce and careen about the stage like ball bearings in a dryer. The music was electrifying, too.











The purity of Luciferian incineration made manifest. Hoath Torog is a commanding frontman with a powerful skin-flaying voice; Wraath could riff the dead from their graves; Horns flew behind the kit like a bat out of hell; and the live bassist Evisc admirably kept pace with this cyclone of fire.










I’m a Pavlov’s dog for Swedish death, and so I drenched myself in slobber — Grave laid waste to Baltimore, as I hoped they would. Ola Lindgren truly seems ageless — and may he live forever. All the other dudes were firing on all cylinders, too.











I’ve been a fan of Vader for years, but wouldn’t say I was a rabid fan by any stretch. Yet their set at MDF might have been the best one of the four days. They would unquestionably be in my Top 3, though I’d have to struggle torturously to figure out the other two. And the fact that they surprised the crowd by performing The Ultimate Incantation from front to back without any previous announcement was damned cool — especially because they sounded so very fucking good doing it.

I wish I had better photos to offer, but I watched this set from the rafters. It was still awesome.





  3 Responses to “MARYLAND DEATHFEST 2017 — A REVIEW (PART 1)”

  1. Good writeup! Looking forward to seeing more pics. I only went to Ram’s Head on Saturday, but thought Grave stole the show that day. Exhumed ruled too!

  2. I’ve read numerous scribes’ takes on MDF, whether it was before the fest began stating how much it was going to suck or day-by-day reviews telling me how much a waste of time it all was. Of course, NCS will always have the last word and/or the correct assessment of what is happening or has happened. These other rags/clowns turn everything into an opinion piece and try to WOW me with thier supposed grasp of all things metal. Keep up the stellar work, Islander. Yours are the only words that matter in my book.

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