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!