Maryland Deathfest XIII Survival Guide

This Thursday is the start of another Maryland Deathfest! This is the thirteenth year running for the festival and it continues to expand and evolve. This post will help you get through MDF XIII as you navigate through all the bands, stages, venues and vendors and I’ll be updating it with info like food prices and photos of exclusive band merch once the fest actually gets going. You can skip to the updates by going here. To start off, here’s some info and links you will find useful if you’re attending Maryland Deathfest XIII.

Maryland Deathfest’s official website: MarylandDeathfest.com
MDF’s official Facebook: Facebook.com/MarylandDeathfest
MDF’s official Twitter: @mddeathfest
MDF’s official Instagram: @marylanddeathfest

I put together these handy full schedules and band running orders for each day of the fest (they load quick so bookmark them on your phone).

Thursday: http://bit.ly/mdfthursday
Friday: http://bit.ly/mdffriday
Saturday: http://bit.ly/mdfsaturday
Sunday: http://bit.ly/mdfsunday

MDF has made an iCal feed for the schedule that will work in Google Calendar, iCalendar or Outlook calendar. More info on that here.

Baltimore Yellow Cab: 410-685-1212 (website)

MDF Edison Lot entrance address: 545 N High St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Baltimore SoundStage address: 124 Market Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202
Rams Head Live Thurs & Sun address: 20 Market Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202
Rams Head Live Fri & Sat address: 7 Frederick St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Sidebar address: 218 E Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Ottobar address: 2549 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD 21218 (Pre-Fest only)

Note that Rams Head Live will be using the back entrance on Friday and Saturday. This is because the front entrance to Rams Head Live is inside the Power Plant area and it will have its own cover charge on Friday and Saturday night. To avoid that fee, use the back entrance (address listed above).

I put together this custom Google map that will show you all kinds of info such as all the venues involved, local record stores of note and where to get beer, cigarettes and food while you’re in Baltimore too. Just click the map image below to use the map and use the menu on the left side to select and toggle different locations.

Tickets

Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Edison Lot (where the main stages are) will have tickets available at the door all through the weekend, the Edison Lot will not sell out. You can get tickets at the door or order them online (and pick them up at will call) by going here. As of this writing, Friday night at Rams Head Live has not sold out yet either. Tickets are $25 and the bands that night are Aeternus, Darkened Nocturne Slaughtercult, Drawn And Quartered and Vattnet Viskar.

The other three nights at Rams Head, and all four days at the Soundstage are sold out. If you’re determined to find tickets to these sold out parts of MDF, or need to sell your tickets last minute in a pinch, I highly recommend using the Maryland Deathfest official forum’s ticket exchange thread which you can find here. If that doesn’t work you can try looking at the official Facebook event page (here) for people posting about tickets there as well.

The Wednesday pre-fest show at the Ottobar has tickets available here and you can see that show’s line up by going to the Facebook event page for it here. Please note that the Ottobar is not walking distance from the other festival locations this year. If you don’t have a car you’ll have to take a cab or use Uber.

There are no advance parking tickets being sold this year, and overnight parking in the lots is not permitted this year either as the lot closes at 1am. You can park in the lot adjacent to MDF (it cost $10 a day last year, not sure what the cost is this year), although if the lot becomes full and you park on the street or in another lot nearby you will most likely have to pay a parking meter. The meters in Baltimore usually accept credit cards.

New Info For This Year

The set up for this year’s Maryland Deathfest should be pretty similar to last year’s, however there are some improvements this year.

There will be official Maryland Deathfest merch sold at all of the venues this year.

Several coolers with free water will be located near the Maryland Deathfest merch tent in the Edison Lot. They will be filled throughout the weekend so if you don’t want to pay for bottled water you can still get some water to cool off.

There will be lockers and cell phone charging stations at the Edison Lot as well. They can be used with a debit/credit card (not sure on the cost per day/hour yet though). MDF organizers have said that “Each locker will have charging cables compatible with most smart phones” which I would guess means iPhones and anything using a micro USB (like most Android phones).

Good To Know For Every Year

BRING AND WEAR EAR PLUGS

Re-entry is OK once you get your wristband. Wear comfortable shoes, sunglasses and try to bring a cheap parka in case it rains. You’ll be doing a lot of standing and walking so dress accordingly. Maryland can get very hot and humid this time of year so be careful wearing all black and drinking and moshing in the sun all day, stay hydrated. Also, bring some sunscreen, not only will it keep you from getting burnt but you want to keep those tattoos from getting sun faded! Crowd surfing is very much tolerated at MDF so if you don’t like being kicked in the head repeatedly, don’t get up front. There is a free Maryland Deathfest program available near the entrance of all the venues, it includes bios on every band playing (and I even wrote a few of them) as well as other useful into too. Cameras, including DSLR cameras, are permitted and you can shoot video too, however be aware that the closer you get to the stage the more rowdy the crowd can get, including moshing, circle pits and crowd surfers. You can bring in bags and backpacks, but they are subject to search. Note that if you bring a backpack to Rams Head Live they will have you check it at the coat check, which will probably cost $5 or less. There are picnic tables in a shaded area that you can rest in at the Edison Lot. Note that there is not a public Wi-Fi at Maryland Deathfest.

At Maryland Deathfest pretty much every band will start a mosh pit, even more “laid back” bands that you wouldn’t expect this from like say Neurosis. The guy tearing it up in the mosh pit and wearing a full body chicken suit is known locally as the Chicken Man. He’s a local legend and comes to tons of the area’s metal shows to get mosh pits started and keep them going. He’s a real trooper and pretty friendly if you want to talk to him.

Merchandise

Bring cash! There will be many vendors with tons of rare and obscure vinyl, CDs, merch, patches and all kinds of other stuff. There will be ATMs on site but I’m sure they will have long lines and shitty service fees so stop by the bank before you head up to save yourself some time and money. Some of the stuff you’ll see will be Maryland Deathfest exclusives, and some of it will just be so rare you’ll probably never find it anywhere again anyways. If you see something you want don’t hesitate, items often sell out so buy it when you see if it you want to make sure you go home with it.

Maryland Deathfest will have a booth with its own merch for sale at the festival (see it here) including t-shirts, pullover hoodies and women’s tanks. Warlord Clothing will have a limited edition silk screen poster again this year that will be available for purchase at their booth. Some of the bands playing the fest will have their merch for sale at the official Maryland Deathfest booth, some will have merch available at their record label’s booth (assuming their label has a booth) and some bands will have their own merch booths set up in the tent at the end of the row of merchants. Different bands will set up merch at different times, there is no schedule for this, and the MDF booth will have different band merch on different days as bands arrive and leave the festival throughout the weekend. You can also get a hand made, one of a kind Maryland Deathfest vest from the official Maryland Deathfest merch booth. They’re made by Virginia based Kylla Custom Rockwear and only a few are made to be sold at MDF.

The full list of non-food vendors at the Edison Lot are: Acid Queen Jewelry, Black Mess, BWE, ChopoBrujos, Crucial Blast Records, DabLizard, Dave’s Metal, Decibel Magazine, Deepsend Records, Five Point Records, Forever Plagued Records, Gilead Media, Handshake Inc, Hells Headbangers, IndieMerch, JSR Direct, Largactyl Records, Lock and Shock, Metalpeer, Mexico Steel, Necronomicharm, Nuclear Blast Records, Neurot Recordings, Pizza Party Printing, Relapse Records, Salvation Distro, Season of Mist, Sevared Records, Thrash Corner Records, Unholy Anarchy Records, Useless Christ Records, Utterly Somber, Vienna Music Exchange and Warlord Clothing.

The Salvation Distro booth will have a small number of shirts with MDF XIII written on them for the bands Primordial, Bulldozer, Aura Noir and Twilight Of The Gods. You can see those exclusive shirts here. Thanks to some comments on this post, you can also see exclusive MDF shirts for Lock Up (here) and Aeternus (here). Adversarial is also going to have an exclusive shirt (here), but it doesn’t look like it mentions MDF on it.

Usually there are other booths have some exclusive “MDF” branded band merch as well and I’ll be taking photos of this stuff and adding it to the “Updates” section at the bottom of this post once the fest starts.

Food & Drinks

There is plenty of on-site food at Maryland Deathfest. this year the on site food vendors include: a deli sandwich vendor, a fruit smoothie and coffee vendor, the all vegan HeadBangin Hot Dogs, an Indian food vendor, Pork Lord Tacos, a standard fare vendor with typical fair food like burgers, chicken tenders, gyros and fries, a Thai food vendor and Zombie BBQ. Vegan/Vegetarian options will be available at the deli sandwich vendor, Indian vendor, Thai vendor, Headbangin Hot Dogs and Zombie BBQ, and apparently a vegetarian/vegan food only vendor is going to be added as well. If that’s not enough food options for you then be sure to check the custom Google map I made (at the top of this post) which includes stuff outside the festival grounds like restaurants, record stores, liquor stores and convenience stores.

It should be noted that the Pratt Street Ale House, which is walking distance from most of the downtown hotels, is giving 10% off your entire check to anyone attending Maryland Deathfest this weekend. I highly recommend this place as they have some great food and some killer beers any beer snob will be excited about.

As for booze, the Edison Lot will have Budweiser, Magic Hat #9 (pale ale), Natty Boh, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stella Artois, Tröegs IPA and “Deathfest Ale” by Philadelphia based Yards Brewing. Apparently the Deathfest Ale is an English dark mild ale at about 4.3% and will be something similar to the Brawler Pugilist Style Ale that Yards already puts out. The Edison Lot will also sell standard hard liquor such as vodka, whiskey, rum and Jägermeister.

Please note that Rams Head Live and the Baltimore Soundstage will have their own food and drink menus. I’ll take photos of those and add them to the Updates section once I see them.

Updates

I’ll be adding updates to this post throughout the fest once it starts. Expect to see photos of food vendor prices as well as images of exclusive merch. Be sure to check back here before you head to Maryland Deathfest to help you get an idea of what to expect, and of course you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which I’ll be updating from my phone.

There is some additional Maryland Deathfest merch that was not available for pre-order on the site. You can get a baseball hat, a winter beanie hat, a coaster, stickers and a blue koozie. You can see them below with their prices (click the image to see it larger).

Black metal band Tsjuder also has a MDF exclusive shirt (available in red or ash) that you can see in the photo below.

Below you can see the food and alcohol menu at the Baltimore Soundstage. Notice that the excellent Snow Pants stout from Baltimore brewery Union Craft Brewing is only $6 while the watered down stout Guiness is $8! Let’s hope they don’t run out of those! You can click the image below to see it larger.

Below is the food menu for Rams Head Live, nothing too special really. Under that you can see the different beers they have available. All the beers at Rams Head Live cost $7 EXCEPT for Natty Light and draft pours of Double D IPA, which both cost $3. That’s right, Double D IPA is the best bet at RHL this weekend! Click any of the below images to see them larger.

Note that while the below images says “cash only” this was taken at a beer garden near the restrooms in RHL. The bars do take credit/debit, the beer garden this was next to only takes cash.

Review of Tales From The Thousand Lakes by Amorphis

Band: Amorphis
Album: Tales From The Thousand Lakes
Release Date: 1 September 1994
Record Label: Relapse Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XIII: 9:50 Sunday at Edison Lot B

Cover of Tales From The Thousand Lakes by Amorphis

Amorphis is the headliner for the final day of this year’s Maryland Deathfest. While we usually try to review albums by bands playing MDF that people might not know yet, this is an exception because Amorphis will actually be playing this entire album as their set at MDF. Tales from the Thousand Lakes is based on the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala, and it just so happens DCHM writer Tal is a Finn with a knack for historical context. You (hopefully) already know the great songs on this classic metal album, but here Tal does an excellent job explaining the back story and how it relates to the music as well. You can read more of Tal’s writing on his blog In My Winter Castle. So continue to get ready for Maryland Deathfest XIII with us (this year’s MDF Survival Guide should be up Monday!) and don’t forget to check out the tunes at the end of the post as well!

During their set headlining the Edison Lot on Sunday, May 24, Amorphis will be playing the entirety of their influential album Tales from the Thousand Lakes. This exclusive appearance will also be their first U.S. performance since a one-off show with Nightwish in 2012; they haven’t actually toured the U.S. since 2008. Having missed them at Tuska Fest in Helsinki, Finland in 2011, I’m glad for another chance to see them live.

Released in 1994, Tales from the Thousand Lakes was Amorphis’s second full-length album and was a game changer for death metal, bringing more melodic and doomy elements into the genre. I owe a hitherto unacknowledged debt of gratitude to Amorphis and this album, seeing as my favorite genre is melodic death/doom. Yet my exposure to Amorphis has been fairly sporadic. When the mood strikes me for something sad, beautiful and heavy that will lift me up by dragging me down, I usually reach for Insomnium or Swallow The Sun, or perhaps Doom:VS or Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day if I really want to bring on the moping. Amorphis never really occurred to me as that sort of band. The Amorphis I’d heard was that of “Silent Waters” or “House of Sleep” – melodic and beautiful to be sure, and heavy, but more in a rock than a death metal way, and sad to a point, but not quite as mournful or gloomy as the lovely misery that I craved.

Tales from the Thousand Lakes doesn’t really plumb the depths of doom, either – after all, it’s based on Finland’s “national epic,” the Kalevala, so it has more of a magical and mystical vibe than a funeral one. Magic and mysticism with heavy, distorted guitars and death growls, that is – but that’s pretty suitable, seeing as Finland is not only the land of the midnight sun, but also of black winter days. The Kalevala is not the happiest of epics, either. The central hero, Väinämöinen, doesn’t get the girl, nor the magical item that he seeks, and basically leaves the world in disgust at the end of the story. However, he does leave his people with his greatest legacy, the kantele — a type of zither whose delicate, melancholy notes are the perfect accompaniment for extolling one’s sorrows in song, as Finnish folk songs are wont to do.

As one of the first metal albums devoted to the Kalevala, Tales from the Thousand Lakes was also among the founding albums of the folk metal genre. The Kalevala is a collection of folk songs gathered by the doctor and scholar Elias Lönnrot from the Karelia region, and the best-known version was published in 1849. His work (and others’ around the same period) not only preserved a vast body of folklore that was quickly being lost as newer entertainments gained ground, but was also intended to fuel Finnish nationalism, laying the groundwork for Finland’s struggle for independence from Russia. The epic tells of the creation of the world from a duck egg; the birth of the shaman Väinämöinen, who creates trees and other forms of life; his struggle with various adversaries, most notably Louhi, a witch who rules the northerly land of Pohjola; his constantly thwarted quests for a wife (“Drowned Maid” tells of Aino, sister of Väinämöinen’s enemy Joukahainen, who drowns herself rather than marry Väinämöinen); and of course, his creation of the kantele. Some other notables are the smith Ilmarinen, who forges the mysterious magical Sampo; the mischievous Lemminkäinen, who gets in so much trouble that he has to be brought back from the dead at least once (“Into Hiding” is about Lemminkäinen’s escape from Louhi’s clutches); and the miserable Kullervo, who is separated from his family and eventually commits suicide after realizing he seduced his long-lost sister.

Amorphis directly excerpts parts of the Kalevala, from the 1989 translation by Keith Bosley, as lyrics for most of the songs on Tales from the Thousand Lakes. For instance, “Black Winter Day” is the Maiden of the North telling of her sorrow as she must leave Pohjola to wed the smith Ilmarinen. The bride’s sorrow is a common theme in Finnish folk music, as she is separated from her family and will see them again only rarely, and must leave behind carefree childhood for the burdens of adulthood. It makes for a great doomy song. “This is how the lucky feel / How the blessed think / Like daybreak in spring / The sun on a spring morning,” the maiden begins. And yet, she cannot feel happy.

But how do I feel
In my gloomy depths?
A black winter day
No, darker than that
Gloomier than an autumn night

For someone who doesn’t know the origins of the lyrics, it seems like a song about depression – I should feel happy, yet I can’t. As a feeling that many metalheads can relate to, this may be part of the appeal of this song, which is probably the most popular one from the album, and certainly my personal favorite. Another part of the song’s appeal is surely the confluence of melody and heaviness, doom and death metal, in this song. A melody that is at once mournful and bright swirls around the listener, underpinning the whole song, and contrasting with the low growled vocals and drearily plodding guitars and drums, like the maiden dragging her feet as she walks to Ilmarinen’s sled, unable to feel happy on what should be a joyous occasion.

The album pioneered the use of such melodic and doomy elements in death metal, laying the groundwork for a whole new subgenre of metal. Tales from the Thousand Lakes was one of the first death metal albums to use a keyboard or synthesizer so extensively, and it’s very effective in creating a magical and haunting atmosphere. The album starts off with a keyboard intro that sets the doomy and melancholy mood, and then adds some synthesized voices, tinkling sounds and bells that give a sense of mystery and grandeur. While keyboards are featured in all of the songs, they come to prominence in a few places. In the middle of “Drowned Maid,” they add orchestral feel and drama. And in the second half of “Magic and Mayhem,” there’s a chiptune-like segment that seems out of place at first, it’s so antithetical to death metal and at odds with the alternating doomy or buzzsaw riffs that preceded it, but when it’s played over the death metal riffs and harsh vocals for a few seconds at the end of the song, it works well, adding an extra bit of frenzy.

Many of the songs feature shifts in tempo and mood. This is most apparent in the song “Forgotten Sunrise,” which goes from a melancholy doomy intro, to a more energetic and melodic sound, then a low and churning death metal sound once the vocals begin, followed by a psychedelic synth segment in the middle, and then continuing to alternate upbeat melodic parts and low churning parts till the end. Considering that they were doing something brand new at the time, mixing melody, doom and other influences into death metal, it’s not surprising that they jump from one sound to another. There’s a sort of swirling, mystical sound to the doomier guitars and the keyboards that ties the whole album together. The song “The Castaway,” which tells of Väinämöinen floating on the sea after being defeated by Joukahainen, is dominated by this sound. The rising and falling lead guitar and keyboard evoke the surging of waters of the sea, as well as the circling of the eagle who comes to rescue him. Although later bands combining death and doom plunged heavily in the direction of melancholy, Amorphis’s foray in this direction remains unique in its exploration of mystery and magic.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Tales from the Thousand Lakes, which is no doubt why Amorphis is playing the entire album at MDF – they embarked on a short tour doing the same last December. On the band’s website, Esa Holopainen (lead guitar) remarks, “The years have flown by, and it feels great to notice that the tooth of time has not diminished the value of the album, nor the popularity of its songs when performed live. ‘Black Winter Day,’ ‘The Castaway,’ ‘Into Hiding’ and ‘In The Beginning’ are still part of almost every Amorphis gig. Although we have played these songs hundreds of times, it is still as exciting as ever to see the joy in people’s faces and the sheer emotion evoked by, for example, the piano intro of ‘Black Winter Day.’”

Clearly, just as the epic it’s based on stands out in my country’s history, so Tales from the Thousand Lakes holds a special place not just in the history of metal, but also the hearts of the band and their fans. Don’t miss these ten songs, brought together as an epic in the book of heavy metal, at this year’s MDF.

Black Winter Day:

Drowned Maid:

The Castaway (live):

Review of Stratagem by Fulgora

Band: Fulgora
Album: Stratagem
Release Date: 24 March 2015
Record Label: Housecore Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XIII: 12:15pm Saturday at Edison Lot B

Cover of Stratagem by Fulgora

Maryland Deathfest is almost here and that means we’re beginning our coverage of MDF XIII. And since everyone keeps asking me, yes, our annual unofficial Maryland Deathefest Survival Guide will be back again this year, ETA on that is Monday, May 18th. But first I’ve asked my writers to pick a few albums by bands playing the fest that may have been over looked and deserve more attention. First up is this piece by Buzzo Jr. about the debut album by Fulgora. Read it and start getting pumped for this year’s Deathfest, it’s almost here!

Fulgora is a deathgrind band from St Louis, Missouri, that formed in 2012, and as you may already know, the band features locals Adam Jarvis from Pig Destroyer and Misery Index on drums, and his cousin John Jarvis from Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed on bass. On top of that, Fulgora also features John “Sparky” Voyles, formerly of Dying Fetus and Misery Index, on guitar. That pedigree alone should reassure you that these guys know what they’re doing when it comes to good deathgrind. Phil Anselmo even liked them enough to sign them to his record label, Housecore Records. For those of you wondering what “Fulgora” actually means, it’s the name for the goddess of lightning in Roman mythology. They’ve played the area a few times before, and even had their first live show at the Ottobar in Baltimore last year, but their upcoming performance Maryland Deathfest XIII is sure to be the biggest show they play in the DMV area this year. Fulgora will be the first band to play on Saturday, taking the stage at the Edison Lot at 12:15pm.

When it comes to the music on Stratagem, what we have is some fairly standard, albeit great quality, deathgrind. The riffs are very reminiscent of local band Misery Index; full of furious grooves that pack a mean punch. The drumming is top notch as well, with Adam Jarvis showcasing his trademark style full of lightning fast complex drum fills and vicious blast beats. The element that sets Fulgora apart from most other deathgrind bands however are the vocals. Unlike the usual affair of low end growls, the vocals here are much more in the realm of hardcore influenced shouts. It’s refreshing to see more metal bands embrace their hardcore roots like this, and it definitely makes Fulgora stand out among other bands. Two of my favorite tracks on the album are “Splinter” and “Crutch.” These tracks are more mid-paced than the other songs on the album, with both of them featuring devastatingly heavy riffs and some great hardcore influenced breakdowns. (The music video for “Splinter” is pretty NSFW by the way.) One drawback is that this album is extremely short, even for hardcore/deathgrind standards. The album has seven tracks and lasts only around 20 minutes. Two of those tracks are audio samples; the first one from the movie Scanners at the beginning of the album, the second one is a quote from the late journalist Christopher Hitchens at the midway point. Hopefully they will play some new material during their set at the Edison Lot. I’m really looking forward to catching their set, since the video I saw of their performance at Housecore Horror Film Festival shows that they put on a hell of a show.

If you’re a fan of pissed-off deathgrind and hardcore, then Fulgora are right up your alley. The pummeling riffs combined with frantic blast beats and those Hatebreed-esq vocals are guaranteed to get the mosh pits started early at the Edison Lot, so make sure to get over there in time to catch them play Saturday at this year’s Maryland Deathfest!

Splinter:

Meridian:

Live at Housecore Horror Festival:

Empire’s final concert

It was the best of venues, it was the worst of venues. Empire, Jaxx, Zaxx, whatever you called the movie theater turned concert venue located at 6355 Rolling Road in Springfield, Virginia, it was certainly one thing: the most important venue in Northern Virginia to heavy metal fans. It had been a club that transitioned through a few names and hosted many bands of various musical genres but it wasn’t until Jay Nedry took it over in 1994 that the venue became Jaxx. Jaxx became a place to see rock and heavy metal bands come through on tours and they would regularly book performances by underground and European metal bands that you just couldn’t see anywhere else in the area. In January 2012 new ownership took over Jaxx and rebranded the nightclub Empire. I personally attended literally hundreds of concerts at Jaxx/Empire over the past 20 years or so, far more than I’ve seen at any other concert venue.

It was pretty surreal going to Empire/Jaxx’s last concert on Sunday, May 3rd of 2015. I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t the venue’s final show ever and I think a lot of people there would have said the same thing. I said hi to lots of friends, most of whom I’d been to concerts with at the venue in the past, and I talked to a lot of the staff throughout the night. I had a lot of great concert memories at this place. I remember seeing Arch Enemy on their first US tour with Angela Gossow on vocals there and people were blown away by her stage presence. I remember seeing David Vincent’s sweaty return to Morbid Angel there, a sold out show where the AC didn’t work. I got drunk and saw Napalm Death play there on Easter one year. I saw Electric Wizard open for Macabre and Enslaved there (the only metal show I ever convinced my mom to attend with me). I saw plenty of other shows with eclectic line ups like when King Diamond played with Entombed and when Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir, The Haunted and Lamb Of God all shared the stage for a night. I remember taking a piss in that awful men’s room troth while talking to Lord Worm of Cryptopsy as he cleaned live worms in the sink to feed to fans from the stage. It was at Jaxx that Rob Dukes, at the time the vocalist for Exodus, stage dived right on top of me while he was wearing a cheerleader costume during Kreator’s encore, all while I was shooting video. These memories and more floated through my head at the final show.

But it was a show, not some flashback montage, and while my mind often wandered throughout the night there was plenty to remind me that hindsight isn’t always 20-20, it has a way of looking at things through those rosy lenses of nostalgia. The same old problems the venue had were still very apparent at the final show. The farewell show itself had way too many bands on the bill, a total of eight, only two of which were on the tour package. I had brought my nice camera hoping to take some shots of the final show but the lighting was so bad for most of the bands I didn’t even feel like bothering. And of course the same old issues of bands not being allotted enough time, or being put in the right order, were glaring. Locals Iris Divine and Oberris had been on the bill for several weeks before the announcement on April 23rd (here) that Empire would be closing on May 5th, though once word of that got out bands started jumping on to the line up. I can understand that, but the bands that were already busting their asses to promote the show shouldn’t have been bumped to play earlier and had their amount of stage time reduced. The sound guy cut off Iris Divine’s set mid song, which I thought was a technical issue at first. Then Yesterday’s Saints played, and their set wasn’t bad but I’ve seen grindcore bands put on longer sets than they were allowed to play, something like 15 minutes. A shame since they had driven home from Louisville, Kentucky the night before to be able to play this show. The final local to play, A Sound Of Thunder, was also cut off while on stage. It was all just handled poorly and left most of the locals feeling slighted to differing degrees.

After a longer break than Yesterday’s Saints was even allowed to play the first touring band came on. Next To None is a lesson on what nepotism can get you. The Pennsylvania based prog band is made up of teenagers aged 15 to 17, the most notable being Max Portnoy, son of the famous ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. Mike was even on hand to introduce his son’s band at the start of their set. I guess they were technically proficient but like most bands made up of kids, they don’t really do much besides mimic other bands. There wasn’t anything new or innovative about what they were doing, it was well rehearsed and safe, but they’re just teenagers so I guess you have to cut them some slack. I could totally see them touring with Unlocking The Truth and playing shows for younger kids.

After Next To None finished it was time for Haken to perform. I had heard they were planning a two and a half hour set this evening, which I suppose is fairly normal for prog bands, though it actually ended up being a little under 2 hours. The band is based in London and I believe this was the final date of their first US tour. I wish they had gotten a band that had played Jaxx many times over the years to close the place out, or even one that had played it once before, but that wasn’t really a practical request. The Haken vocalist, Ross Jennings, made some comments between songs about the closing a few times, wondering why the place was closing because it was so awesome and commenting that it was a strange privilege to be the last band to play there. The crowd had thinned out quite a bit by the time Haken got to their scripted encore, though the final two songs were definitely the highlight of their set. To close out the venue they played a cover of Metallica’s “Fade To Black” then Mike Portnoy got behind the drum kit and Haken covered “The Mirror” by Dream Theater to end the set, their tour, and the venue’s history of concerts.

At the end of the show I hung out and talked to a few friends while the bands tore down their gear. Eventually I said goodbye to the staff as well, who have always been good to me (going back to the Jaxx days) but that probably has something to do with the blog I run, local bands seem to have mixed reviews. The show was over but I didn’t want to say goodbye to the venue, I think I was the last person to leave that wasn’t an employee or part of the tour. I’ve spent a lot of time in that place, complained about plenty of its problems over the years, but I still kept coming back. When I first started going to see concerts that weren’t at giant amphitheaters or arenas Jaxx was there to let me see the bands I was into perform live, and to discover more bands as well. Jaxx was there showcasing locals from around the region before I even knew of any of our local bands. When I first started attempting concert photography, several years before I started this blog, the first shows I shot were Behemoth and Watain at Jaxx. I lived about a mile down the road from Jaxx for a few years as well, sometimes if I was bored on a particular night I’d check their calendar for what was playing that night and head over if it sounded interesting, or at least not terrible. Empire/Jaxx had a lot of problems though. The room wasn’t a great shape and the speakers were set up in a way that the sound was really bad in several areas of the room, and there were the days the AC would be turned off in the summer to increase drink sales at the bar. On some nights Empire would actually charge for water at the bar, a practice that isn’t illegal but is pretty underhanded and potentially dangerous. However the most polarizing aspect of the venue was always its pay to play policy, which had the local bands pre-selling tickets to the shows they were added to. It was great that they allowed locals to play on a stage that size but it was awful that they had to shake down their friends time and again to do so. Many bands boycotted playing the venue because of this policy, and many people refused to even see shows there because of the policy. The fact that after the closing announcement was made so many people took to social media to comment about it, even people that hated the venue and were glad to see it go, is a testament to the impact it had on our area’s metal scene.

Empire/Jaxx definitely wasn’t perfect, no concert venue is, but it is the one we had for so many years, a constant in our metal scene. This is officially the first day that there is no Empire, no Jaxx, in Springfield. It has been bought by the kabob restaurant next door, they want to expand to add a banquet hall for weddings and other special occasions. There is a part of me that is sad to see the end of Empire/Jaxx. I made a lot of friends and memories there, I saw many bands close up, and I probably wouldn’t be the metal concert addict that started a local metal blog if it didn’t exist for all those years. But like the overdue end to a long term relationship, I’m also glad that I don’t have to put up with its bullshit any more either.

Behemoth at Jaxx in 2007
The first concert I ever shot, I’d like to think I’m a little better by now

Rob Dukes stage dives on me while Kreator plays at Empire

Free Tickets to Mad Max: Fury Road advance screening

Mad Max: Fury Road

Well this isn’t directly heavy metal related but when I heard about the new Max Max movie, officially titled Mad Max: Fury Road, was coming out I have to admit that I was excited since I have always liked the Mad Max movies. So when I was given the chance to give away 30 pairs of tickets (60 tickets total) to an advance screening at 7:30pm on Wednesday, May 6th (that’s THIS Wednesday!) in Silver Spring I couldn’t turn that down! The Mad Max: Fury Road advance screening will take place at the Regal Majestic in Silver Spring (map). To claim your free pair of tickets just click on the link here and either create a free account or just log in using your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ user name. The tickets are first come first served and once they are all claimed they’ll be gone. Note that the movie isn’t officially released until May 15th so this is an exclusive advance viewing just for readers of DCHM!

Mad Max: Fury Road is the first Mad Max film to be released in 30 years by the post-apocalyptic franchise’s director George Miller. This is the first film in the series where “Mad” Max Rockatansky will be played by Tom Hardy, the actor that played Bane in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, and it also co-stars Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. For more info you can check out the trailer embedded below or read about it on IMDB (here) or Wikipedia (here).

Review of The Felon’s Claw by Ilsa

Band: Ilsa
Album: The Felon’s Claw
Release Date: 5 May 2015
Record Label: A389 Recordings
Buy digital ($5) or CD ($8.99) or 2x 12″ vinyl ($29.99) on Bandcamp: Here
Buy various bundles with merch from A389’s web store: Here

Cover of The Felon's Claw by Ilsa

Washington DC based crusty death/doom band Ilsa has a new album coming out on Baltimore based label A389. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr has written the following review of The Felon’s Claw to give you all the details about the new full length from one of my favorite area bands. As usual we’ve got a couple of songs streaming at the end of the post so give them a listen while you read!

Lets get this out of the way quick: No, you’re not the only person who is immediately reminded of Spinal Tap’s infamous and fictional Smell the Glove album when looking at the cover art for The Felon’s Claw. However, the fourth full length from DC’s Ilsa sounds nothing like everyone’s favorite fake British band, but is instead full of Ilsa’s signature crust soaked doom metal.

Ilsa is well known for mixing death/doom, with crust punk and d-beat; their previous outputs often alternating between slow doomy passages with one song and then going into frantic punk influenced tracks for the next one. On The Felon’s Claw however, the faster punk influenced tracks are more rare, with only “Oubilette,” “Buried in the Bedrock and Concrete of Our Cities,” and “Armstrong’s Mixture” venturing into full on crust punk territory. The remaining 7 songs are all sludgy doom tracks, with “Katabasis” clocking in at almost 9 minutes. The slow, sinister mood and heavy riffs in these tracks combined with the harsh, high range vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Salome; another great doom band from the DMV area that unfortunately broke up in 2011. I find that I like Ilsa’s faster tracks a bit more than the slower paced songs on this album, since they are packed with much more aggression and energy. Their death metal influences are also more prevalent on the faster tracks, blending perfectly with the punk inspired d-beat drumming. Not to say that the slower tracks aren’t any good; quite the contrary actually. What they lack in speed they greatly make up for in crushing heaviness. A favorite of mine among these slower tracks is “Pandolpho,” which is actually a reimagining of a hymn written by Robert Parsons back in 1572. On this track, the band puts their crust and doom influence into a single song; starting off at a slow steady pace and then erupting into a much faster section in the middle, and finally slowing back down to a dirge-like speed at the end.

Tim Moyer and Brendan Griffiths’ guitar work on the album is great; their mammoth tone establishing the murky atmosphere of the album and their grimy riffs chugging away, hammering the listener into submission. Large amounts of harsh feedback flows in the background, following the example of sludge bands like Eyehategod and Acid Bath. Sharad Satsangi’s basslines follow the guitars perfectly, adding even more power and filth to the mix and chugging in unison with the twin axes. Orion Peter’s vocals are as intense as they’ve ever been as well, with his tortured, painful howls penetrating through the riffs and feedback to create a sense of misanthropy and hopelessness. Orion utilizes his harsh vocals perfectly, causing a great contrast between the low end riffs and his higher range screams. Josh Brettel’s drums unfortunately don’t sound as thick and powerful as the rest of the instruments do, which is a pity seeing as they are incredibly heavy and pounding when Ilsa perform live. That being said, Josh’s drums do get the job done providing thudding beats to complement the riffs and vocals, at some points overcoming the lesser production and sounding utterly bombastic on some of the much slower tracks such as “Smoke is the Ghost of Fire.”

Ilsa’s newest offering is a filthy chunk of crusty death/doom, packed full of great riffs and screams. If you’re looking for a record to play in your dingy basement for a seedy get-together with various lowlives, you won’t find a better one than this.

Brutality At The Brewery

Brutality At The Brewery

I’m teaming up again with Brewer Will to do another metal night, this time dubbed Brutality At The Brewery, on Friday, May 8th, 2015! We used to hold metal nights at Port City but Will is now working for Fair Winds Brewing in Lorton, Virginia and we’d like to continue the tradition at his new nautical themed brewery of employ. The place is right off I-95 at the Fairfax County Parkway exit and takes about the same time to reach as Empire/Jaxx does since you don’t have to drive down Old Keene Mill with all the stoplights. And the tasting room where we’ll be holding this event is brand new and really nice! We’ll be playing metal tunes all night (as usual you can send in requests or even your own band’s music) and giving away prizes like concert tickets and band merch. What more could you want? Well how about a sneak preview of the new King Giant album Black Ocean Waves for starters! That’s right, you’ll be able to hear the new King Giant album first at our Brutality At The Brewery event! Also, since Empire is closing earlier that same week there will be a special discount for all of their employees that have suddenly lost their jobs.

You can get more information on the Facebook event page here and you can send your song requests to Will by posting them there or sending them to him via Twitter at @BrewMetalWill. So come hang out with us and a bunch of the area’s metal heads as we talk metal, drink some great beers and listen to heavy metal all night, and who knows, you may win something too!

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