Review of Grimscape ’14 at the Sidebar

On Saturday, July 26th I made it up to the first Grimscape at the Sidebar in Baltimore. The place isn’t very big, I think the max capacity is around 100 people, and most of the walls and pipes in the place are covered in the stickers of bands that have played there in the past. The stage is only a few inches tall and the lighting isn’t anything worth bragging about, but it’s a great spot for DIY punk and metal shows. This evening the Sidebar was hosting the inaugural Grimscape that will apparently become an annual event. It collected a bunch of mostly local black metal bands with the headliner, Pact, coming down from Erie, Pennsylvania, to play. Apparently Helgardh was supposed to be on the bill but for whatever reason they dropped off and were replaced by a band called Hex Temple. This was apparently Hex Temple’s first live show but I didn’t get there in time to see them. I did however get to see the next band, Antikosmos, who were also making their live debut at this show. They were entertaining for sure. Frontwoman Victoria Atkins commands the audience’s attention with her striking blonde hair and wild facial expressions, though she was standing on the stage behind a couple of the band members who were on the floor which obscured her from view at times. They played a Watain cover and a Bathory cover as well as a pair of originals. They’re still figuring out their own sound, which is mostly dominated by their influences, but that’s to be expected from any young band really. There was quite a large crowd there while they played and I think a lot of people came just to see their friends in Antikosmos perform for the first time.

After Antikosmos played Inverted Trifixion was set to play next. I was hungry though, and the Sidebar doesn’t serve food, so I ran out for a bite to eat at Joe Squared, hoping to make it back in time to catch the end of Inverted Trifixion’s set. Unfortunately I didn’t make it back that quickly as Dispellment was setting up when I returned. Dispellment is a three piece black metal band from Northern Virginia and they’re pretty damn good. Their style is fast and energetic and reminds me of something similar to Taake mixed with older Marduk. The band is well rehearsed and performs together as a tight unit. Although their songs are often punishing they do have room in there for some catchy riffs even a moderate black metal fan can appreciate. Their stage set up with deer antlers and various tree branches in addition to their messy corpse paint is pretty entertaining, and their bass player often walked right into the audience with a menacing look on his face making sure you couldn’t simply ignore Dispellment’s performance.

Finally it was time for the headliner, Pact. Unfortunately most of the audience that had been there earlier in the night had left by this point and it was a shame cause these guys were pretty sick. Their vocalist came out wearing a black robe with a big hood on it and some sort of bandage on his right hand. One of the guitar players had some crazy looking custom guitar that looked like the cover to Morbid Angel’s Altars Of Madness covered in a sickly ashen bile. These guys were also very well practiced and tight, you could tell they knew their material inside and out. Pact was the most aggressive sounding band that I saw at Grimscape combining a raw intensity with some unholy riffage that oddly reminded me of mid-90s era Dark Funeral at times. Their vocalist did a lot of hand gestures to the crowd and sometimes it almost seemed like he was practicing some sort of martial arts moves with his hands.

In all it was a great DIY black metal show and a great time over all. Thanks to Mary Spiro of Metallomusikum (and the curator of the Black Metal Baltimore group on Facebook) for getting the bands to come out, the turn out seemed pretty good so I’m betting there will be a second installment in 2015. Let’s hope more people (including members of the bands earlier on the bill) stay next time cause the later bands were great! I’ve posted some of my favorite photos that I shot Saturday below, but you can see all of them, and in full size, on Flickr here. Keep it metal everyone and keep on supporting the scene that you’re a part of!

Antikosmos:

Antikosmos at the Sidebar

Antikosmos at the Sidebar

Victoria Atkins of Antikosmos

Dispellment:

Dispellment at the Sidebar

Ikonoklast of Dispellment

Æþelwulf of Dispellment

Pact:

Pact at the Sidebar

Pact at the Sidebar

Pact at the Sidebar

Pact at the Sidebar

Review of Existence Asunder by Terracide

Band: Terracide
Album: Existence Asunder
Release Date: 6 June 2014
Buy digital or CD for $10 on Bandcamp: Here

Cover of Existence Asunder by Terracide

Here’s another album review by Tal and you can of course read more of her writings on her personal blog In My Winter Castle. I’ll keep this short and let you get right into it.

It’s not too easy to find an epic melodic metal band that’s local to the DC area, so the debut full-length Existence Asunder from Washington, DC’s Terracide is a welcome addition. It’s an extravaganza of melodic guitar, alternating between aggressive melodeath riffs and high-flying power metal epicness, with a few proggy melodies thrown in for good measure. The album also brings more death metal thunder than their EP, Primordium, would have led one to expect. As for vocals, Terracide mainman Daniel Tidwell’s voice ranges from a low growl, to a harsh shriek, to harsh singing, to high clean vocals. To further muddy the waters, the album even forays into metalcore territory, with a touch of angst in some of the clean choruses and even a few breakdowns – but I can forgive them since it doesn’t sound out of place or detract from the melodic punch of the album. Who doesn’t mix half a dozen different genres these days anyway?

My favorite track is probably “Your Heaven’s Falling.” It’s actually one of the less melodic songs on the album, but it’s definitely the most headbangable. It starts off fast and thundering, gets really groovy for the chorus, and then revs up to circle-pit pace again in the second verse. Some other standout heavy tracks are “Halo Delusion,” with its epic melodic chorus anchored by rumbling growls, and “Stars Align” with its speedy melodic lead over very headbangable bass thunder. The more aggressive songs on the album put me very much in mind of Slaughter of the Soul era At The Gates, with their furious pace, the epic feel of their raging, melodic riffs, and the driving heaviness of their slower parts.

Other songs go more straightforwardly in an epic direction, notably “When Roses Bleed” and “Installation 04 (September 2552).” These songs include harsh vocals, but besides that they have more of a galloping NWOBHM or power metal sound even in their more forceful parts. The high, clean choruses, such as in “Installation 04,” certainly have a power metal flair, as do a few of the more flamboyant solos, such as two minutes into “Feed the Flame.” Another nice touch is the melancholy yet beautiful piano intro to “When Roses Bleed,” composed and played by guest musician Yoko Mada. It lasts for one third of the song and is so lovely that it brings tears to my eyes; it contrasts strongly with the charging energy when the speedy metal part of the song gets started.

The epic, power metally parts of the album tend to be songs from the band’s EP, such as “Installation 04,” and parts of “Mirrorborn” and “Forge of Empty Souls.” The songs that are new on this album have a much stronger death metal feel, with a Gothenburg sound in particular. I wonder what precipitated this change, though I for one can appreciate both styles. I sure wouldn’t mind if they continued to mix these sounds, as long as they keep dazzling us with melodic guitars, whether epic or thundering. I’m looking forward to hearing what this band will do next, and I’m excited to see how their sound and career will develop.

Your Heaven’s Falling:

When Roses Bleed:

Mirrorborn:

Boris ticket give away

Boris at the 9:30 Club

Boris is a strange three piece band from Japan named after a Melvins song. They’re known for releasing albums of various genres, sometimes metal, sometimes not, but always very experimental. They’re playing at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, August 2nd, and we’re giving away a pair of tickets to this show to one of you lucky DCHM readers! To enter leave a comment on this post telling me what the best show you’ve ever seen at the 9:30 Club is! Hopefully it’s a metal show but it doesn’t have to be to count. At 5pm EST this Friday, June 27th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner within 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly right now for $18 here.

Boris isn’t a band that fits into any one music genre as they are constantly shifting and experimenting with their sound. They’ve worked with artists like Sunn O))) and Merzbow and are in a constant state of evolution. Their live shows are like no other since their music is like no other band’s. There’s some other great bands on this bill too though, including The Atlas Moth as direct support. They play an atmospheric style of sludge metal that is really catchy and hypnotic at the same time. The opening band is SubRosa, a doom/stoner band from Salt Lake City that has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and rightly so. The band’s moody sound is infectious. Now check out the below tunes by the bands playing and let me hear about your favorite show ever at the 9:30 Club!

Boris – Statement

The Atlas Moth – Holes In The Desert

SubRosa – Cosey Mo

Septicflesh ticket give away

Septicflesh at Empire

This Sunday marks the return of one of the best metal bands from Greece, Septicflesh! Their US tour comes to Empire in Springfield, Virginia on Sunday, June 22nd and to help get as many people out to this show as possible we’re giving away a free pair of tickets to one of you DCHM readers! To enter leave a comment on this post telling me why you’re excited about this show. At 5pm EST this Friday, June 20th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner within 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly right now for $20 here.

Septicflesh plays a unique style of death metal that incorporates symphonic elements that they blend together flawlessly. Their new album Titan, is released next week and from what I’ve heard of it so far they seem to be going even farther in perfecting their sound that made their 2011 release The Great Mass so popular. Also on the bill is Italian band Fleshgod Apocalypse who are making a name for themselves by blending symphonic and classical elements with aggressive technical death metal. Fellow Italians Hour Of Penance were supposed to be on this tour but unfortunately had to drop off because of visa issues. Montreal’s Necronomicon will be smashing ear drums with a blackened death metal sound that fans of Behemoth and Lovecraft will surely enjoy. There are also several great locals worth checking out for this date including Seraph and Gloom so be sure to get there early. Give a listen to these songs below and tell me why you want to go to this awesome show!

Septicflesh – Order Of Dracul

Fleshgod Apocalypse – Pathfinder

Necronomicon – Rise Of The Elder Ones

Maryland Deathfest XII Recap – Part 2

Part 2 of my Maryland Deathfest XII recap will cover the final two days of the festival, Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th of May 2014. You can read part 1 here where I cover what happened on Thursday and Friday of the fest. If you’d like to see more of my MDF photos you can do that here.

If Friday was the black metal day of the fest I think Saturday was the thrash metal day with performances by Sacrifice, Tankard, Sarke and Dark Angel all on the schedule. However I decided to get start the third day of Maryland Deathfest with helpings of grindcore and whiskey shots at the Baltimore SoundStage. I caught the Czech band БУТ perform first and they were pretty good. Their set was short, as grind sets tend to be, but they were fun. The next band I saw was Sick/Tired from Chicago. These guys were impressive with how terrifying their sound was. The audience wasn’t exactly huge yet at the SoundStage at 3:30 in the afternoon but they still brought it anyways. After they played I took a short boozing break before heading over to see Nocturnus AD at the main grounds of the Edison Lot.

Nocturnus AD is a spin off band of a now defunct death metal band from the early Tampa Bay, Florida scene known simply as Nocturnus. I remember these guys mostly for an album their classic 1990 album The Key. Apparently a few Nocturnus members secretly copyrighted the name Nocturnus then kicked out drummer/lead vocalist Mike Browning, the only founding member left in the band. Mike Browning then formed a band called After Death and together with the members of this band they performed for us at MDF as Nocturnus AD. It appears that they knew most people wanted to hear them play songs from The Key and they played the album from start to finish then closed their set with a crowd pleasing cover of the Morbid Angel classic “Chapel Of Ghouls.”

The next band to play was the German thrash band Tankard. These guys had a lot of energy on stage and musically they are beer fueled party thrash, basically the old school version of Municipal Waste. The audience reacted well and if nothing else Tankard gave us a good excuse to cool down with a few beers during their set.

Tankard:

Sacrifice was the next band to play and I was excited to see them. This was the Toronto thrash band’s first show in the US since 1993! They had their entire line up back together and they didn’t disappoint. Sacrifice expertly played their aggressive songs and I thought that this was the show that Coroner should have given us when they performed a rather lackluster headlining set at Maryland Deathfest in 2011.

Sacrifice:

The next band to play the Edison lot was Sarke. Originally started as an eponymous solo project by the band’s bass player, they’re more known for being fronted by Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone fame. Sarke is called black/thrash but they aren’t really as fast as bands like Aura Noir and Abigail. Their sound is pretty straight forward and cold. The band didn’t play the full amount of time they were allotted but I don’t think most people minded since for their final song, after covering Celtic Frost, they did what everyone watching the show hoped they do: cover a Darkthrone song. For those who don’t know, Darkthrone refuses to play live so Nocturno Culto performing “Too Old, Too Cold” with Sarke at Maryland Deathfest is about the closest any of us will come to seeing Darkthrone live.

Sarke:

It was getting ominously dark by the time Unleashed hit the stage. One of the first death metal bands from Sweden was called Nihilist and after a few legendary demos they parted ways with Johnny Hedlund and reformed as the band Entombed. Johnny Hedlund didn’t disappear though, he quickly formed Unleashed, a death metal band that over the years has gotten more and more into viking history and mythology. I tend to think of modern Unleashed as the more authentic version of Amon Amarth. It’s not every day you get to see one of the founding Swedish death metal bands play in America and while Unleashed’s set was pretty damn good, they didn’t play anything off of their legendary debut album Where No Life Dwells, which was a bit of a bummer. I realize they want to get people into their more modern material, and it actually is really good stuff overall, but some fans only know that album and even just a one or two WNLD tunes in the set list would have been nice.

Unleashed:

Next up was Saturday’s headliner, the long awaited return of Dark Angel. The band appeared with their complete Leave Scars line up, including the Atomic Clock, Gene Hoglan behind the kit. Their set list was a good mix of songs from each of their four albums. Dark Angel really put on a great show, despite the dim stage lighting and light rain that began midway through their set. Ron Rinehart’s voice was in good form and he did well on the Don Doty era songs too. They had a lot of energy, especially for an older band, and I think they really fed off the strong audience reaction. They ripped through their final song of the night, “Perish In Flames” and I could have watched them for another hour if they’d have played that long. Dark Angel was definitely my favorite performance of Day 3 of Deathfest.

Dark Angel:

After Dark Angel played I headed over to Rams Head Live to see Schirenc. They’re named after Martin Schirenc who is also known as Don Cochino, guitarist/vocalist of the Austrian band Pungent Stench. Originally billed as The Church Of Pungent Stench they were apparently forced to change the band’s name due to a court order by other former members of Pungent Stench. Regardless, Schirenc played a set consisting solely of old Pungent Stench material. I enjoy their bizarre take on death metal which has a macabre sense of humor to it, and I recognized several songs in their set list, but with only one member there it just wasn’t the same and it felt about as authentic as watching a modern “Guns ‘N’ Roses” concert.

Pungent Stench:

I walked the block over to the Baltimore SoundStage to catch their headliner, Excruciating Terror, a grindcore band from Los Angeles. This was something of a reunion show for the band which released all of their material in the 90s. They’re also noted for being the first band that Fear Factory and Divine Heresy guitarist Dino Cazares was in, though he was not part of the line up this night. Simply put, Excruciating Terror lived up to their name. Their songs, while short, were intense and ferocious bursts of grind and their energy level was through the roof. The audience went crazy of course and after their performance I was a sweaty mess as I walked back to Rams Head Live.

Excruciating Terror:

The final band to play Maryland Deathfest XII on day three was Asphyx. They’re a death/doom metal band from The Netherlands fronted by the legendary Martin van Drunen. Their old school approach to death metal combined with their muddy riffs and Martin’s on stage charisma was a hit with the Deathfest fans. Their set list covered crowd pleasers like “We Doom You To Death” and “Death The Brutal Way” but I think the highlight for me was hearing them play their crushing song “The Rack,” an old favorite of mine. As they finished I headed back to the hotel knowing that Sunday was going to be a marathon of excellent metal that I would need my rest to make it through. We can’t have the guy who writes the MDF Survival Guide not surviving can we?

Asphyx:

I arrived at the Edison lot early enough on Sunday to catch the first band of the day, Windhand. They’re a female fronted doom metal band from Richmond that I’ve been a fan of since their days of playing basement shows. It was just awesome seeing them on that big outdoor stage with all that power behind their ultra heavy riffs. They’re definitely one of my favorite rising bands these days and their performance was one of my top favorites of all of this year’s Deathfest.

Windhand:

The next band to play was Bongripper, and instrumental band from Chicago that plays, you guessed it, stoner metal. I wasn’t really familiar with them going in but they were really great live, definitely a surprise find for me as I tend to avoid bands with names focused on drug use. They played a solid thirty minute set that didn’t seem to have any downtime between songs and Ronald Petzke’s aluminum necked EGC bass guitar really brought the heavy to their songs. At one point the Chicken Man was held up high in the crowd holding a banner that read Hippie Killer, the title of one of Bongripper’s albums.

Bongripper:

Back on stage B of the Edison lot the Portland based sludge metal band Graves At Sea took the stage. I didn’t love these guys as much as the previous two bands, they were tough acts to follow though. I didn’t think they were bad, just nothing outstanding I guess. Some people were really into them though. I ended up wandering off to buy more merch midway through their set.

Graves At Sea:

The next band to play the Edison lot was Maryland’s very own Misery Index. The local death/grind band was the first high speed band of the day and they really woke up the audience. It was great to see Jason Netherton playing with the band again, the sole founding member was absent the last time I had seen Misery Index play. He seems to have turned over much of the vocal duties to Mark Kloeppel but the band was still really tight live and as usual, very fun to watch.

Misery Index:

Next the Maryland Deathfest audience was treated with a rare appearance by Pseudogod, a blackened death metal band all the way from Perm, Russia (although Impurath of Black Witchery was filling in on bass). They took the stage covered in blood and really brought the brutality. Their set was an unforgiving aural beating which seemed extra intense in the sun’s unrelenting heat. Their devastating set closed with a cover of “Blood War III” by French black metal band Antaeus (who happened to play Maryland Deathfest in 2013).

Pseudogod:

After Pseudogod played it was time for Wrathprayer, a blacked death metal band from Chile. They were ok I guess but didn’t stand out to me that much after the intense set by Pseudogod. The three piece didn’t seem accustomed to performing on a big stage either as they didn’t move around much up there and seemed a bit awkward. I think they would have been better on a smaller stage. After four or five songs I figured I had gotten the gist of what they do and I decided to hang out in the back more and get some cold beer.

Wrathprayer:

The next band to play was the two piece black metal band Inquisition. Originally from Colombia they are now based in Seattle and they’ve become pretty popular in the past few years. However there’s a bit of controversy around them of late for possibly being racists and honestly it’s a bit ambiguous whether they are or aren’t. They have some catchy songs and the crowd seemed really into them but I hung out in the shaded picnic table area after I finished shooting them cause I’m not clear and it’s really not worth my time figuring it out when I can just move on to something else.

Inquisition:

Soilent Green took the stage next and this was something of a reunion show for the band who hadn’t played together in several years. Based in New Orleans, several of their members have moved onto more famous bands such as Eyehategod, Crowbar and Goatwhore. They play a mix between sludge and death metal that comes across much more catchy than you’d probably expect that to sound. The audience went crazy for them and you could tell the band really fed off that energy.

Soilent Green:

After Soilent Green played I made one of those tough decisions you’re sometimes faced with at Deathfest. I decided to skip seeing Gorguts, who I had just seen with Carcass a month prior, in favor of heading over to the Baltimore SoundStage to see Death Toll 80k. They’re a grind band from Finland and while I didn’t really know what to expect of them I figured this was my once chance to ever see them live. My gamble payed off, they were fucking great live! Intense, brutal and fun is how I’d describe them. They were probably my favorite band of those that I saw at the SoundStage during MDF and though my feet were sore walking back to the Edison lot after their set there was no doubt in my mind that the pain was worth it.

Death Toll 80k:

It was a total shift in gears when then next band I saw was Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats from England. They play a very catchy, and fuzzy, style of 70s inspired stoner metal. This was their first US show and a lot of people had come just for the chance to see them. They were really fun live, full of energy on stage and those infectious riffs sounded great booming out of those big speakers. Even Deathfest needs a bit of down time to let everyone catch their breath and Uncle Acid was the best chill out music you could ask for.

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats:

Next up was the Swedish band Candlemass. I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of their gothy doom sound which often has power metal elements to it. They were pretty entertaining on stage though and their new vocalist Mats Levén seemed to be a hit with the fans who were getting their first chance in years to see Candlemass perform live in the US. I ended up leaving early to try to catch Australian grind band Pneumatic Slaughter at the Sidebar. Unfortunately we were told at the door that they had dropped off the bill (I later caught up with their vocalist, who is also the vocalist of Whitehorse, and asked why they pulled out and he said they had told the MDF promoters several weeks prior that some of the members wouldn’t be able to play). A bit of a bummer but not the end of the world. I wasn’t very excited to see the doom metal turned goth band My Dying Bride headline, even if it was their first US appearance since 1997, so I headed over to Rams Head Live early.

Candlemass:

After a bit of down time New York City based Mutilation Rites played a short but sick set of black metal. The audience was pretty sparse but they still brought the heavy for the entire time they were allotted. If you missed them don’t worry, they’re playing at the Pinch in Washington DC on July 14th (more info on that here). The band was pretty tight live and handled the big stage at Rams Head Live well.

Mutilation Rites:

Next up was the first of two bands from New Zealand that I’d see this night. Diocletian plays very aggressive blackened death metal and uses a lot of medieval military style imagery as well. This band wasn’t fucking around though, they brought the punishing riffs with almost nonstop rage. Diocletian also played at the Edison lot early on Saturday before I arrived but they were given this set as a bonus because Mitochondrion couldn’t get into the country. Both of Diocletian’s guitar players were wearing Mitochondrion shirts on stage in recognition. Anyways, I ended up leaving a little early because I wanted to catch a bit of the headliner a block over at the Baltimore SoundStage.

Diocletian:

Over at the Baltimore SoundStage the legendary Brazilian thrash/hardcore band Ratos de Porão was causing a ruckus by the time I walked in! People were going crazy stage diving, crowd surfing and just losing their shit. Formed in the early 80s the band, whose name translates to Basement Rats, still has two members from those days with them, and the drummer has been there for over 20 years now too. I first became aware of this band when I was in high school because Sepultura covered their song “Crucificados Pelo Sistema” but I never figured I’d actually get the chance to see them live. While I didn’t really know most of their material it didn’t matter because it was just damn fun watching the band and the audience just go crazy together. At one point between songs their bass player requested the audience boycott the World Cup (which is taking place in Brazil right now) stating that it is just a big scam for the rich to make more money while ignoring the country’s poor. He’s probably right but this is America, we’re already boycotting soccer with our apathy toward the sport.

Ratos de Porão:

After leaving the sweaty Baltimore SoundStage with a big grin on my face I returned to Rams Head Live to see Ulcerate. The New Zealand based three piece tech death band puts out some great albums but they’re simply incredible live. Their drummer, Jamie Saint Merat, steals the show and rightly so, he very well may be the best drummer in all of metal right now. I didn’t mind missing part of their set because I had just seen them at Empire the night before Deathfest started, but even so their performance was no less jaw dropping the second time around.

Ulcerate:

Next it was time for the final band of Maryland Deathfest XII, Immolation. I felt bad for them having to play after Ulcerate, there was no way they were going to top that. The old school New York Death Metal band had a very influential album in 1991 called Dawn Of Possession and the highlight of their set for me was when they played “Those Left Behind” off of it. It seemed like the band didn’t want Deathfest to end any more than the audience did as they played right up to the 2am cut off time. Finally Maryland Deathfest XII had come to a close.

Immolation:

I can’t stress enough how much fun this year’s Maryland Deathfest was. As usual there were tons of great bands as well as metal brothers and sisters to watch them all. Security was excellent this year. Treating fans with respect while also not escalating situations. They all deserve high fives for their good work this year. The MDF organizers will be announcing the bands for next year’s festival soon so keep your fingers crossed that your unrealistic metal concert want list will become a reality.

Maryland Deathfest XII Recap – Part 1

Maryland Deathfest XII spanned from Thursday, May 22nd to Sunday, May 25th of 2014 and as usual it brought all kinds of metal bands to Baltimore. Each year attendees get to see metal bands not only from exotic locales all over the world but also witness reunion shows and check out some smaller up and coming bands too. Last year there were quite a few snags in the event which I won’t really get into here (you can read my interview with MDF co-founder Evan Harting where I asked him about issues with last year’s fest here). This year went much smoother and while there were a few issues, I think the biggest being a lack of free water for attendees at the main festival grounds, overall the problems of last year were pretty much all solved. I think the change in location for the main grounds really helped this year. So here’s a recounting of the bands I saw at Maryland Deathfest XII on the first two days of the fest, part two will cover Saturday and Sunday. All of the below photos and videos were shot by myself. I have many more photos on Flickr that you can see here if you’re interested.

The first day of Maryland Deathfest always seems like a bit of a warm up. This year Rams Head Live was the only venue to host bands on the first day and while the line up was pretty good, unfortunately the headliner, Triptykon, had dropped off due to Tom G. Warrior’s involvement in H.R. Giger’s funeral (read his statement about this here). This gave some of the other Thursday bands extended set times at least. The first band to play was the LA based sludge band Seven Sisters Of Sleep who started things off pretty well but the next band, Australian doom metal band Whitehorse, was just incredible. I had seen them before at Golden West Cafe in 2012 but the big stage at Rams Head Live with a real sound system made their slow motion doom riffs just sound great. They showed that they are masters of the slow build up with huge heavy riffs as the payoff. I missed most of Sourvein and Torche as I went to get food and catch up with friends arriving for the weekend. I made sure to catch all of Japanese death/doom band Coffins though. They were really good and I enjoyed every second of their set. The last band to play was Crowbar from New Orleans, one of the oldest sludge bands around. At one point a fan ran on stage and after security dealt with him Kirk Windstein ranted about how fans shouldn’t do that kind of thing especially after what Randy Blythe had to go through. This wasn’t my first time seeing Crowbar though and they’ve never been a favorite of mine so I left before the set was over to get some rest for day 2, the first day that would have the main festival grounds open. I don’t have any photos from Thursday except this shot of the infamous Chicken Man and his cow comrade in front of the fountain outside Rams Head Live. You haven’t really arrived at Deathfest until you’ve had a Chicken Man sighting.

Friday was the second day of Maryland Deathfest and the one I had been anticipating the most. While there are bands of many genres spread out throughout MDF each year, I tend to notice that each day has a main genre “theme” and Friday was the black metal day by my account. This started off with the Polish band Mgła making their first US performance. While some of the bands coming to Deathfest have their best years behind them this is not the case for Mgła, these guys are in their prime right now. They did not disappoint live and while they must have been very hot under all of their black leather, hoods and masks, their material is very strong and the audience in general seemed to love them. It’s always a bit weird seeing a black metal band in the daylight, particularly one whose name translates to “fog,” but sometimes that’s what happens at Maryland Deathfest and you gotta just roll with it.

Mgła:

Immediately after Mgła finished the next band started on the other outdoor stage. The Ruins Of Beverast is a German black metal band with only one member, though obviously Alexander von Meilenwald gets other musicians to fill the line up for live performances. Unfortunately their set was plagued with poor sound and it made the performance rather forgettable to me. The next band to play was Necros Christos, another German black metal band. These guys sounded much better and their set was great! They have a fairly stripped down sound with some weird riffs that are also catchy and they make it work.

Necros Christos:

The next band to play was quite a contrast from the previous three. Sólstafir is from Iceland and it’s pretty hard to genre classify their sound. They have elements of folk and black metal and even post rock too. While certainly less aggressive than the previous bands of the day, Sólstafir’s set was very moving. As you can see in the video below, the wind really started picking up during their performance and it seemed to fit with the drama of their set. I’m sure the trve elitists weren’t impressed but I enjoyed their emotional set immensely.

Sólstafir:

Then the incredible black metal continued Friday when Norway’s Taake, which also translates to fog, hit the stage. Let me start off by saying there was no one wearing a swastika on stage, no one exposing their penis while performing and no sick banjo solos either. Due to Taake vocalist Hoest’s legal issues it was something of a miracle that the MDF organizers even got the band into the country to play at all. Taake did not disappoint in their long awaited US debut as they really brought the energy to the stage. Hoest looked like some sort of black metal Sith lord with a hooded cape, corpse paint and white contact lenses in his eyes. He was probably the most entertaining front man I saw all weekend as he ran around the stage throwing menacing looks at the crowd from every angle. The band sounded awesome and even though they didn’t play my favorite song of theirs it was still an excellent performance.

Taake:

The next band to play was UK based old school death/thrash band Cancer, playing their first US show since 1993. Being only somewhat familiar with the band’s back catalog I decided this would be a good time to run my newly acquired merch back to the hotel and grab dinner. When I returned to the Edison lot Agalloch was just finishing up their set. They’re also playing Empire on June 28th (details here) so if you missed them you’ve still got another chance. After they played it was time for the night’s headliner, At The Gates. ATG is probably the most influential band out of the classic Gothenburg, Sweden scene that developed their own trademark style of melodic death metal in the 90s. At The Gates has also been blamed by many an elitist over the years for causing the rise in popularity of metalcore however they aren’t a metalcore band (though ATG’s riffs are often ripped off by those bands). Their first two songs were plagued by poor audio as the lead guitars were not very loud which was very obvious when you couldn’t hear the solo over the rhythm guitar in “World Of Lies.” Then the band stopped for 10 minutes or so while the sound crew got the situation fixed and when they finally got everything working again it did sound much better. Unfortunately I wasn’t planning on staying for the entire set so I didn’t see a whole lot more of them. You might wonder why I left a chance to see one of the legends of metal make a rare live appearance in our area and it’s because of this: when given the option of seeing an old band reforming for the first time or getting to see a new band in its prime for the first time, I’ll always take the chance with the new band. Reunions come and go (and with At The Gates already announcing a new album in the works, they’ll surely be back once that drops) but a band is only in their prime once and when that time passes it doesn’t ever come back. So I left the Edison Lot and started my walk to Rams Head Live while “Under The Serpent Sun” faded into the distance.

The reason I left early was to see the Swiss two piece Bölzer perform. Bölzer also played the following night but they were added to the Friday line up at Rams Head Live at the last minute when Aeternus was refused entry to the US. Bölzer is a very new black/death band with only a three song demo and another three song EP released so far, though they’ve got another EP arriving soon. If you haven’t checked them out you I highly recommend you listen to this stream right now. Bölzer put on a hell of a performance Friday night at Rams Head Live and it was definitely worth leaving At The Gates early to see them. It was simply amazing to see how much sound just these two people could create and their intensity live was even better than on their recordings. Their songs are loaded with heavy, sometimes weird, but catchy riffs. There was a decent sized crowd there considering a headliner was playing at the main location and the place erupted when they played the opening riff to the excellent “Entranced By The Wolfshook.” It’s not every day you get to witness a performance like this by a band just hitting their stride but that’s part of the awesomeness that is Maryland Deathfest. I didn’t catch Bölzer’s second set the following night but I can only assume it was pretty much the same since they only have so many songs.

Bölzer:

After Bölzer played Enthroned took the stage at Rams Head Live. They’re a black metal band from Belgium and while I’m somewhat familiar with their material their songs started sounding pretty much all the same to me so midway through their set I left. I hadn’t seen any of the bands playing at the Baltimore SoundStage yet and since it was on the next block over from Rams Head the walk was easy even on my sore feet. I got there just before the venue’s final band of the night, Impaled, took the stage. As soon as they took the stage, before they even started playing, the audience was already going crazy. Neon glow sticks and rolls of toilet paper were thrown at the stage and the mosh pit erupted immediately, all before they even played one note! Impaled is a gore obsessed death metal band from the San Francisco Bay Area with a sound reminiscent of old school Carcass (that’s pre-Heartwork material) and they share a few members with the band Ghoul. They’re a fun band to watch and the audience agreed as stage diving and crowd surfing was constant while they played. At one point they had to briefly stop their set because someone was injured in the pit but things quickly resumed once he was pulled to safety. After Impaled I headed over to see Pennsylvanian death metal gods Incantation back at Rams Head Live. Incantation is one of the old school death metal bands that helped truly define the “death metal sound” we all know today. They’re heavy, brutal and have some kick ass riffs. That all said, they were the final band of day two and my feet were tired so I was sitting for a bit of their set. Then I heard them start playing “Shadows Of The Ancient Empire” and I had to get up and push my way to the front, my feet be damned. I’m glad I got off my ass because the set was fun and I love me some classic old school death metal. Thus concluded day two of my Maryland Deathfest XII adventure. Be sure to check out my next post as I recap days 3 & 4.

Incantation:

Deafheaven ticket give away

Deafheaven at the Rock & Roll Hotel

One of 2013’s hit albums in the world of metal was Sunbather by Deafheaven. In 2012 Pallbearer‘s debut album Sorrow & Extinction was a hit as well. On Tuesday, June 10th these two bands will both be playing at the Rock & Roll Hotel! We’re so excited at DCHM that we’re giving away a free pair of tickets to this very show to one of you lucky readers. To enter leave a comment on this post mentioning one of your favorite metal albums of 2014. At 5pm EST this Friday, June 6th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner within 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly right now for $15 here.

San Francisco’s Deafheaven took the frostbitten grimness normally associated with black metal and turned it completely around with their album Sunbather by conjuring images of summer heatwaves, blinding sunlight and burnt skin. Their atmospheric black metal is almost hypnotic and they manage to take the listener on quite the journey in each song. Pallbearer is a doom metal band from Arkansas that has managed to find a perfect balance between ultra heavy riffs and catchy songwriting. Their clean singing vocal style adds a layer of depth to their slow, down tuned songs and since they have a new album due out soon we may be lucky enough to hear some of their new material at this show too. Also on this bill will be the opener Wreck And Reference, a California based drone/ambient band. Be sure to check out a song by each band on the bill below and let me know what your favorite albums in 2014 so far are.

Deafheaven – Dream House

Pallbearer – Devoid Of Redemption

Wreck And Reference – Absurdities And Echoes

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