Maryland Deathfest XV Non-Survival Guide

MDF XV Pre Fest at Metro Gallery

OK guys I’m not doing the normal MDF survival guide this year, so now it’s the non-survival guide. Since there are no outdoor stages this year and the fest will only be at Rams Head Live and the Baltimore Soundstage I figure you guys don’t really need things like a map and tips on how to get around and such. If you really want to you can check last year’s post for that kind stuff (here). That said, there’s still a ton of info you may want to know, and I’ve also picked several bands at each venue on each day to write about at the end of this post, almost all of them have some material to stream to give you an idea of what they sound like or just help get you in the mood for this year’s MDF! First up, here’s some quick links you may want handy.

Official Maryland Deathfest:
website
Facebook
Facebook event page
Pre-Fest Party Facebook event page
Instagram

Baltimore Yellow Cab: 410-685-1212 (website)
Both Uber and Lyft operate in Baltimore. They’re usually cheaper than a cab and you can download their apps for free from your app store.

Schedules

Tap/click on them to see them larger.

MDF XV Thursday schedule

MDF XV Friday schedule

MDF XV Saturday schedule

MDF XV Sunday schedule

Getting Tickets

Tickets are still available and there are VIP tickets available as well. VIP tickets do not get you in the door, they are an extra ticket you buy in addition to your regular ticket. A VIP ticket gets you access to a sectioned off area to the side of the stage at Rams Head Live, access to the VIP bar, and will receive a voucher for a festival T-shirt of your choice. VIP does not have any benefit at Baltimore Soundstage. You can still get regular or VIP tickets from Eventbrite (here) or help the makers of the documentary “Welcome To Deathfest” in their crowdfuning endeavor by purchasing tickets from them at a discounted price here. They have both single day and multiple day tickets available in the “incentives” column on the right.

Tips

As always, I highly recommend bringing and wearing earplugs! Tinnitus isn’t cool or fun and even if you’re just going to one day of the fest that’s still a ton of bands hammering your ears all day. If you’re going multiple days you might want to even bring a bunch of extra ear plugs because they’re gonna get gross after a while.

You will be able to get your 4-day pass wristband at the entrance of Rams Head Live starting at 2pm on Thursday. You will not be able to get your wristband at the pre-fest show this year.

If you’re on Instagram I highly recommend following the official account @deathfests as local photographer Josh Sisk will be taking over the account during MDF again this year and he posts incredible great shots of the bands while the fest is going on.

While you’re at it, follow me on Instagram as well as I’ll be posting photos and videos throughout the weekend too. Find me at @DCMetalChris on Instagram!

Rams Head Live does not allow backpacks, but you can check them at the coat check for a couple bucks. Baltimore Soundstage will search your backpack and/or purse, and usually pat you down as well.

Merch and Vendors

There are no food vendors this year. Bummer, I know, but there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. I highly recommend Pratt Street Ale House who has great food, a wide variety of excellent craft beers, and MDF attendees get 10% off their entire bill (just show them your wristband). Their address is 206 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201.

There will be merch vendors inside both venues and also just outside of Rams Head Live in the Powerplant Area. Here’s the list of merch vendors: ChopoBrujos, DabLizard, Dark Descent Records, Decibel Magazine, Dave’s Metal, Horror Pain Gore Death (HPGD is at Soundstage on Friday only), Indie Merch, JSR Merchandising, Mexico Steel, Pizza Party Printing, Relapse Records, Sabi, Season of Mist, Sevared Records, Speed Clothes, Utterly Somber and Vienna Music Exchange.

Bands will arrive and leave throughout the weekend so if you see band merch you like one day don’t hesitate to buy it, it may be gone before the fest is over as not every band stays for the entire fest, or even more than their 1 day there. Guess what, they take their merch with them. Most of these guys will want cash so I suggest bringing a good amount to avoid ATM fees. Some bands won’t have their own merch guy and will instead opt to sell their merch at the official MDF booth so be sure to check back there often. Speaking of which…

MDF XV tshirt

The official MDF merch booth will be inside Rams Head Live. It will have t-shirts, hoodies and posters as well as metal keychains, pins and Zippo lighters. There will be no preorders for posters and shirts this year. It looks like the shirts come in two different designs and three colors: black, white and red. The posters feature artwork by Lucas Ruggieri and are limited to 150. You can see the poster image at the very top of this post. The custom made Deathvests (seen below) by Kylla Custom Rock Wear will be for sale for $200 at the MDF booth as well.

Announcing our 2017 Maryland #Deathvests – our official festival merchandise collaboration with #MarylandDeathfest @deathfests this year! We have #handmade a limited edition 10 high quality distressed #genuineleather #studded vests in sizes S – XL (2 S, 2 M, 3 L, 3 XL) which will be at the festival merchandise booth Thurs-Sun! We are also taking ONLINE PREORDERS for these, for in-person pickup from me at the fest! Once they are gone no more will ever be made! Extremely high quality durable #leather- each varies slightly in appearance due to the distressing process! $200 each – send your size! Paypal or credit card for preorder: http://www.paypal.me/kylla/200 (or email kyllacustomrockwear@gmail.com for credit card) #KyllaCustomRockWear #MDF #extrememetal #bikervest #motorcyclevest #blackmetal #deathmetal #smallbusiness #metalfashion #metalclothing #deathfest

A post shared by Kim Dylla / Kylla Custom Wear (@kyllacustomrockwear) on

The official MDF Pre-Fest Party is at a different venue this year, the Metro Gallery. It is headlined by Ruinous, a death metal band featuring Immolation guitarist Alex Bouks. Tickets are $15 advance, $17 at the door and available here. Sorry kids, it’s ages 18+ only and doors open at 7pm. Note that MDF wristbands will not be available at the Pre-Fest show this year. For more info visit the Pre-Fest Party’s Facebook event page here.

MDF XV Pre-Fest Party

This year I decided to write about certain bands, several at each venue on each day. Hopefully this sheds some light on bands you might not know about before you get to see them at the fest. This isn’t a “favorites” list or something, some bands I just didn’t feel like writing about and it isn’t because they’re not good, it’s because I only have so much free time. Check out what I’ve written about bands for the days/venues you have tickets for below, and stream some of their songs to get ready for Maryland Deathfest XV!

Thursday at Rams Head Live

The Thursday of Maryland Deathfest at Rams Head Live tends to focus on stoner and doom bands the past few years and this year is no exception.

Samothrace at 5:50 – This Seattle based doom band plays very long and very slow songs, though their sound can evolve into faster paced segments as well. If you’re into stuff like Winter, Grief and Bell Witch, you’ll want to check them out.

Dopethrone at 6:55 – Dopethrone, named after the Electric Wizard album, is a stoner/sludge band from Montreal. They were originally supposed to play MDF last year but for whatever reason they canceled.

SubRosa at 8:00 – This stoner band from Salt Lake City that blends stoner rock with post rock. Three women form the core of this ethereal sounding band which includes a violin player.

Conan at 9:05 – Definitely more barbarian than O’Brien, Conan is a stoner/doom band from Liverpool, England, making a rare appearance stateside at MDF. These guys are crushing live, perfectly blending huge riffs and stomping rhythms.

Acid King at 10:10 – Acid King is a stoner band from San Francisco that has only in the past couple years become active again. They play some Sabbath worshipping riffs but with the beautiful vocals of Lori Steinberg soaring over their fuzzy riffs.

Tiamat at 11:25 – I’m honestly not sure what to expect of a Tiamat set at MDF. They headliners of the first night at Rams Head Live have changed their sound many times over the years, at this point they haven’t put out an album since 2012. They might play a set more focused on the death/doom metal style of their early years or the soft and moody Wildhoney era material or the more polished gothic metal style they eventually ended up with, or maybe play things from various eras.

Thursday at Baltimore Soundstage

While in the past MDF tended to use the Baltimore Soundstage to host mostly hardcore and grind bands that seems to have changed a lot this year since there are no outdoor stages. The first day at BSS has a lot of death metal this year.

Malignancy at 8:15 – From Yonkers, New York, Malignancy has been around since the early 90s. They play an old school style of brutal death metal reminiscent of older bands from the era like Suffocation and Monstrosity.

Decrepit Birth at 10:30 – Decrepit Birth is heavily influenced by the later era of the band Death. They haven’t released an album in 7 years though they have a new one, Axis Mundi, coming out in July so I expect to hear some new material from these guys.

Cryptopsy at 11:55 – Montreal’s Cryptopsy was once one of the best death metal bands in the underground, until in 2008 they decided to completely change their sound, image and line up to become a metalcore band. When that didn’t pan out they went back to being a death metal band to mixed reception. However for this headlining performance at Maryland Deathfest XV Cryptopsy will be playing their 1996 classic album None So Vile in its entirety. And be sure to check out their drummer Flo Mounier, still one of the best drummers in all of metal.

Friday at Rams Head Live

The RHL line up for Friday is pretty death metal heavy, awesome!

Nordjevel at 5:00 – Every year MDF seems to book at least one trve Norwegian black metal. This year that band is Nordjevel, whose name translates to Northern Devil. Reminiscent of the 2nd wave of black metal bands, the band has only released one full length and one EP since forming in 2015, but they’ve quickly become a buzz band in the black metal underground. Fans of bands like 1349 and Gorgoroth are going to want to check out Nordjevel.

Brodequin at 6:00 – Brodequin is a very brutal death metal band from Knoxville, Tennessee. Between 2000 and 2004 they released 3 intense albums, then basically disappeared. This is something of a reunion show for Brodequin, though not their first show since reforming. Their name translates to “boot” from French, however they get their name from a medieval torture device.

GosT at 9:10 – Maryland Deathfest always seems to have one weird band that doesn’t really fit with everyone else and this year it’s GosT. GosT isn’t a metal band but a DJ and the music reminds me more of old Nintendo game soundtracks than anything else. I guess GosT’s genre is called synthwave. I’m not going to lie, I’m not particularly interested in seeing GosT hit play, er… perform live at MDF, but they are strange enough I figure they warrant mention here.

Macabre at 10:15 – An all time favorite of mine, Macabre is a three piece from Chicago that truly lives up to their name. By blending traditional songs and even nursery rhymes with death metal and grind, they have created a sound all their own. In fact, they call it Murder Metal since all of their songs are about true crime and serial killers. They even tell stories between songs about these killers and tyrants, highly recommended!

Vader at 11:20 – Before Behemoth, Decapitated and Mgla there was Vader, the true fathers of underground metal in Poland. Due to tape trading they were one of the first bands from Eastern Europe to break through the iron curtain to be heard in the West before the Berlin Wall fell. And rightly so, their intensely fast style of death metal has made them death metal legends to this day.

Friday at Baltimore Soundstage

An eclectic mix of bands play Friday at Baltimore Soundstage.

Chepang at 4:15 – Chepang is a grindcore band that is originally from Nepal though now they live in the US. They perform with two drummers. Don’t expect a long set from them, their only release consists of 8 songs clocking in at under 12 minutes total!

Occultist at 5:05 – This Richmond based band is everything that makes underground metal fun. They’re some sort of mix of black, speed, crust and death metal and exploding with energy. Their front woman, Kerry Zylstra, can scream with the best of them.

Stormtroopers Of Beer at 9:25 – Stormtroopers Of Beer is a Stormtroopers Of Death (aka S.O.D.) cover band that actually includes original S.O.D. member Dan Lilker. Adde Mitroulis (of Birdflesh, General Surgery) handles the drums while Jocke Carlsson (of General Surgery) plays guitar and guest vocals will be courtesy of Matt Harvey (of Exhumed, Gruesome). Old school metal heads will remember their song “Milano Mosh” as the theme music for MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.

Noothgrush at 10:35 – Noothgrush is doom/sludge band from the Bay Area. Their name stems from a Dr Seuss character in the book There’s a Wocket in My Pocket so as you might have guessed these guys have probably never gotten high. They seem a bit out of place on the bill here and would probably have fit better on Thursday’s line up at Rams Head, but hey, good doom puts you in a good mood no matter when they play.

Siege at 11:50 – Headlining Baltimore Soundstage on Friday night is Massachusetts based hardcore band Siege. Despite releasing only about 20 minutes of material before breaking up in 1985 they became popular to bootleg traders and were very influential to the grindcore subgenre. They had a brief reunion in the early 90s with Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt on vocals and now they have reformed again, giving MDF attendees a rare chance to catch these underground legends perform live.

Saturday at Rams Head Live

There’s a lot of death metal at Rams Head Live on Saturday, headlined by one of the biggest names in the genre.

Embalmer at 3:50 – Embalmer is from Cleveland, Ohio, and plays gore obsessed death metal that fans of bands like Mortician and Impetigo will appreciate. In 1995 they released the excellent EP There Was Blood Everywhere and it wasn’t until after a long hiatus that they finally released a full length album, 13 Faces Of Death in 2006. Another lengthy hiatus ended when their second full length, Emanations from the Crypt, was finally released in 2016. This band seems to be very on again, off again so be sure to check them out at MDF while they’re still around, it might be another decade before you get another chance!

Necropsy at 4:45 – The Metal Archives lists 21 different bands with the name Necropsy, making this one of the most over used names in heavy metal. The version playing MDF XV is the one from Finland. They’re a death metal band that released several well received demos in the early 90s before dissolving only to reform earlier this decade. Part of me kind of hopes the guys from local band Noisem will join them on stage for a song, since they were once called Necropsy as well.

Exhumed at 7:50 – Exhumed is a death metal band from San Jose, California, that basically sounds like Carcass around the Necroticism era. Except faster, and with even more hooks. Look, I know there’s a lot of Carcass clones out there but these guys really do it best.

Exumer at 8:55 – I applaud the MDF organizers for hilariously putting Exumer after Exhumed. Despite the similar names the two bands don’t sound too much alike. Exumer is one of the old German thrash bands of the 80s. While never becoming as famous as German thrash contemporaries Kreator, Destruction and Sodom, they did put out some solid records in the late 80s. After disappearing like most thrash bands did when the grunge wave hit, they reformed about a decade ago and have continued to put out some solid thrash albums, including last year’s The Raging Tides.

Root at 10:05 – Root, formed in 1987 in the Czech Republic, is one of the original 1st wave black metal bands, predating the 2nd wave bands from Norway. They have moved to a clean vocal style but their vocalist, Big Boss, has a pretty incredible voice that has held up remarkably well considering he’s the sole original member still in the band. He’s also known for founding the Czech branch of the Church Of Satan. I’m not sure how better to describe them than maybe, they sound like what Ghost would probably sound like if they weren’t a gimmick band.

Grave at 11:15 – Lead by guitarist and vocalist Ola Lindgren, Grave is one of the last remaining of those early Swedish death metal bands (such as Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember) that is still active and has kept their old school “buzz saw” sound. There are many newer bands now that imitate this style, like Black Breath and Gatecreeper, but this is a rare chance to one of the originals of that old Swedish death metal sound perform live.

Morbid Angel at 12:25 – Morbid Angel is back at Maryland Deathfest but after the disaster that was Illud Divinum Insanus they’ve ejected David Vincent and once again added Steve Tucker to the band. They have stated that they will only be playing songs from the Steve Tucker era of the band, which are from the albums Formulas Fatal To The Flesh, Gateways to Annihilation and Heretic, although they have a new album on the horizon so hopefully we’ll hear some new songs too.

Saturday at Baltimore Soundstage

The Saturday schedule at Baltimore Soundstage is dominated by grind with the once in a lifetime chance to see Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Insect Warfare back to back.

Myxoma at 4:40 – Myxoma is a recently formed goregrind band. I don’t know a ton about them other than one of the Maryland Deathfest organizers, Evan Harting, is in the band, I would guess as the vocalist.

Meth Leppard at 8:00 – Meth Leppard is just like Def Leppard but on crystal meth! Ok not really, but they are a pretty sick grind band from Australia.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at 10:45 – ANb is the spawn of Pig Destroyer guitarist Scott Hull. Their long awaited first live show ever was at Maryland Deathfest XIII and this year they’re back as part of Saturday night’s insane one-two punch of grindcore legends at Baltimore Soundstage. I mean seriously, ANb and Insect Warfare playing back to back? It doesn’t get much better than that for grind fans.

Insect Warfare at 11:50 – Closing out Saturday night at Baltimore Soundstage is one of the legends of grind, Insect Warfare, making a rare live appearance. Their only full length, World Extermination, was an instant classic and now that the band has stated that they will be breaking up soon this will be one of their final shows. You don’t want to miss the chance to see them headline this night! Still not convinced? Then check out our recent write up about IW here.

Sunday at Rams Head Live

Black metal seems to be the dominant style on Sunday at Rams Head Live, though doom legends Candlemass headline.

Encoffination at 3:00 – Sunday starts off at Rams Head with Encoffination, an Atlanta, Georgia, based death/doom band. Both members of this two piece are also in death metal band Father Befouled (who are playing the previous day at RHL).

October Tide at 4:45 – Swedish death/doom metal band October Tide once was a side project of Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renkse. The other founding member, Fredrik Norrman, ended up joining Katatonia and the band went on hiatus for a while. When Fredrik left Katatonia he reformed October Tide. Alexander Högbom is the vocalist now, who has also recently become the vocalist of Demonical. Despite having harsh vocals, it makes sense that October Tide would play on the same night as Candlemass so if you’re a Candlemass fan and not sure who else to check out on this day’s line up, don’t miss October Tide. Check out our recent review of their 2016 album Winged Waltz here.

Acheron at 6:45 – Often considered a black metal band, Acheron is really a death metal band that spawned from the infamous Tampa, Florida, death metal scene of the late 80s/early 90s, though they are now based out of Ohio. The band is lead by Vincent Crowley, a former reverend in the Church Of Satan. Acheron has stated that they will be playing their 1996 album Anti-God, Anti-Christ from start to finish at MDF and that they will be breaking up in 2018.

Oranssi Pazuzu at 8:55 – This is one of the bands I’m most excited to see this year at MDF. Oranssi Pazuzu is from Finland and have somehow created a psychedelic style of black metal that actually works incredibly well. The band has somehow managed to attract fans of both stoner metal and black metal to their very unique take on metal.

In The Woods… at 10:05 – In The Woods… is one of the first bands to call their music pagan metal. They began more black metal but over the years have shifted to more of a dark prog rock style. The Norwegian band is a spin off of Green Carnation.

Akercocke at 11:15 – Akercocke is from London, England, and haven’t put out an album since 2007. They recently became active again though so this is something of a return for the death metal band. They became known as the “satanists in suits” for wearing suits when performing live.

Candlemass at 12:25 – Swedish epic doom metal band Candlemass returns to MDF as the final band to perform this year. The band is fronted by the excellent Mats Levén these days and they will be performing their 1987 album Nightfall in its entirety at MDF. A bit of trivia: the classic album’s cover art is a painting by Thomas Cole from 1842 that is on permanent display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Sunday at Baltimore Soundstage

Grind, grind, grind closes out the final day of MDF XV at Baltimore Soundstage.

Genocide Pact at 4:40 – Washington DC’s own Genocide Pact plays Maryland Deathfest this year! These guys blend death, grind and crust very well and if you want to check out and support a local at MDF do not miss these guys! They have a new album due out soon so maybe we’ll get to hear some new material too.

Iron Lung at 10:45 – Iron Lung is a powerviolence band originally from Reno, Nevada though they have now relocated to Seattle, Washington. The band members also run Iron Lung Records which releases material by other grind and powerviolence bands as well. Their experimental style includes fast bursts typical of powerviolence along with some much slower, almost doom like segments.

Terrorizer at 11:50 – Terrorizer created one of the most influential grindcore albums of all time when they released World Downfall in 1989. They’ll be playing that album in its entirety when they headline Sunday night at the Baltimore Soundstage. It will be weird seeing Pete Sandoval drum for Terrorizer yet not play with Morbid Angel the night prior.

Review of Meshuggah at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Many of you that go to concerts regularly in our area may know Metal Nick for some of the awesome photos and videos he shoots of metal bands. Well last Sunday he was at the Fillmore to photograph the Meshuggah and High On Fire tour for DCHM and he wrote up this review to go with them. Enjoy!

On Sunday, November 6th, 2016, Meshuggah and High On Fire rolled through Silver Spring, Maryland, at the Fillmore Silver Spring. This was the final show of the tour to support Meshuggah’s latest album, The Violent Reason of Sleep. High on Fire opened the show. The building had filled in quickly so they performed in front of a large crowd. Their live shows have always been full of large, crushing, sludgy guitars and drums which set the mood with the crowd almost immediately. After they finished their first song vocalist Matt Pike yelled out “Hello Baltimore!” I am not sure if that was a joke or he really thought he was in Baltimore. Once the drums started rolling in the beginning of “Turk” a huge roar of joy came from the crowd, it seems that was the most anticipated song of the night. They played for 35 minutes and surprisingly the Meshuggah fan base was really welcoming to their sound.

Meshuggah went on next and came out to a really creepy sounding intro that fit the vibe of their live show. They opened with the first track off The Violent Reason of Sleep titled “Clockworks” which made the audience at the Fillmore go crazy. It wasn’t long before the crowd surfers started coming over the rails, even Ant Scot, the famous wheelchair crowd surfer, made an appearance. Their progressive metal sound was complimented well with their flashy strobe light that very rarely contained any color lights. All in all their set was very enjoyable consisting mostly of songs off their last three albums with a few older tracks sprinkled throughout the set. One tune I was surprised to hear was the 9 minute song “Dancers To A Discordant System” off the Obzen album. Throughout the night there were a lot of chants for “Bleed” and when Meshuggah finally played it the pit became more aggressive. They closed their set with their classic song “Future Breed Machine,” off of the 1994 album Destroy Erase Improve, which is always a huge crowd pleaser. I would say that if you haven’t seen this tour go check it out, but this was the final date of this particular tour, hopefully both bands will hit the road and come through again in 2017.​​​​

Matt Pike of High On Fire

Matt Pike of High On Fire

Jeff Matz of High On Fire

Jeff Matz of High On Fire

Des Kensel of High On Fire

Des Kensel of High On Fire

Ant Scot riding high

Ant Scot riding high

Jens Kidman of Meshuggah

Jens Kidman of Meshuggah

Dick Lövgren of Meshuggah

Dick Lövgren of Meshuggah

Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah

Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah

Baroness ticket give away

Baroness at Howard Theatre

Baroness is coming to the historic Howard Theatre on Friday, August 12th, 2016! They’re touring with the excellent doom metal band Pallbearer. and it is sure to be a killer show! We’re so excited about this show that we’re going to give away a free pair of tickets to one of you lucky DCHM readers. In keeping with the chromatic theme Baroness uses to name their albums, to enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite band or album with a color in the name is. At 5pm EST this Tuesday, August 9th, 2016, the contest will close and I’ll pick a winner at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. 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 in 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 Ticketmaster for $25 here.

Baroness is one of those bands that has some pretty good records but gawdamm they’re great live. Despite half of the band departing after their tour bus crashed in 2012 (thankfully nobody died), founder John Baizley has managed to keep the band not only together but in top form live. Baroness released Purple in December of 2015 but they’ve yet to play any of it in Washington DC, that is until this show. And let’s not forget the mega heavy Pallbearer who are also playing this show. The band’s sound is just like what the name would suggest, bleak, slow and heavy. This is sure to be a great show that you won’t want to miss, on a Friday night no less! So let me know what your favorite band or album with a color in the name is (my choice is Black Sabbath, both the band and album!) in the comments below and check out these videos of Baroness and Pallbearer.

Baroness – Shock Me

Baroness – Take My Bones Away

Pallbearer – Watcher In The Dark

Review of Awake by Lord

Band: Lord
Album: Awake
Release Date: 18 March 2016
Record Label: heavy Hound Records
Buy on CD ($9.99) or digital ($7) from: Bandcamp

Awake by Lord

Lord is a local band that I’ve been a fan of for some time here at DCHM so I’ve been excited we’re finally getting more songs from them. The following review is from DCHM writer Buzzo Jr who certainly has his opinions about the release. Be sure to give the songs a listen at the bottom of this post.

The Fredericksburg, Virginia, based stoner/sludge outfit Lord returns with their newest full length album Awake, following up their sophomore release Chief from 2011. The band has seen a few lineup changes in the past five years; with drummer Steven “Sven” Sullivan being replaced by Kevin Marimow, and Helena Goldberg (also of Virginia stoner/sludge band Akris) handing bass duties over to Chris Dugay. Lord’s third full length outing has them sticking with the familiar southern sludge they’ve been known for.

In a good amount of cases, an album’s production can be the key element that will make or break the listening experience. Lord’s newest full length is unfortunately a prime example of the latter. Awake has all the elements necessary to make a great sounding stoner/sludge album, but all of those elements are muddled by the album’s overall audio production. The first thing I noticed about the production was how raw it was. Now, raw production can work very well for sludge metal in some cases. Bands like New Orleans’ Eyehategod and England’s Iron Monkey utilize raw production to accentuate the harsh and nihilistic feel of their music. But with sludge bands like Lord who incorporate more melodic and psychedelic elements into their sound, an extremely raw production on the album will negate any of the effect they may have been going for. The guitar and the bass are the first two casualties of this. The riffs on all of the tracks lack a great deal of the punch that they had on Lord’s first two albums which is disappointing seeing as they had the potential to be absolutely crushing if not for the way the mix drowns them out, and the bass lines are almost inaudible for a majority of the running time. The guitar solos also take a hit; with all of the melody and feeling of them sapped away by how muddy the end result is. The drumming suffers from similar issues, with the pounding drumbeats we heard on their first two albums being replaced by a heavily muffled sound that really takes away from the overall experience. It’s definitely not as bad as Lars Ulrich’s tin can monstrosity from Metallica’s St. Anger album, but it’s definitely not the best I’ve heard from Lord.

The element that is most negatively affected by the raw production are Steven Kerchner’s vocals. The vocals on Awake alternate from multi layered mid ranged howls, low grunts, and high pitched screams. A glaring difference from the previous album Chief is the lack of the clean and melodic vocals that former member Helena Goldberg supplied; giving a contrast to Kerchner’s harsher vocal styles. The variety of Kerchner’s vocal deliveries is unable to overcome the fact that for most of the time the vocals on the album are drowned out by the other instruments and the raw haze that the production puts on the record. Out of all the vocal styles that Steven alternated between, his high pitched scream is actually the one that ends up sounding the best, due to it being the one that was able to cut through the rest of the instruments and become fairly audible in comparison. The one track on this album that did stand out to me however was “The Great Communicator;” an all acoustic track that showcases a great deal of southern influence in the guitar playing, along with a great vocal performance that sounds much better than on any of the other tracks, mostly due to the fact that there are fewer elements in the song, thus allowing the echoing vocals to create a hazy atmosphere that resonates along with the bluesy strumming of the acoustic guitar. “The Great Communicator” is a standout example of the potential the rest of Awake had, and hopefully they can learn from this and release a much better record next time around. However, I am very interested in seeing these songs performed live, as it’s likely that they will translate far better in a live setting. I’m sure “The Great Communicator” will be a great track to bust out at the midway point in the live show to bring in a more mellow tune. [Editor’s Note: Lord will be playing in Fairfax, Virginia, on Saturday, May 14th. Details here.]

Third time is unfortunately not the charm for Lord’s newest release, and if you are looking to get into them I would recommend that you start off with their Chief album instead (get it here). Here’s to hoping that Lord go back to the great production of their second album and give us a quality fourth release in the future.

Review of Arc by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Band: Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Album: Arc
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Record Label: Relapse Records
Buy on CD ($11) or digital ($6) or vinyl ($19) from: Bandcamp

Arc by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Locals Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been very active lately. They recently started performing their first live shows at various festivals around the world (including their first ever live performance at last year’s Maryland Deathfest). Now they’re working on putting out a series of EPs that each feature a different band member’s musical tastes. When I heard the first of these was going to be a slower, more sludgey album I knew that DCHM writer Buzzo Jr would be perfect to review it since he is a fan of both grind and sludge metal. What follows is his take on the first studio recording of this new era for Agoraphobic Nosebleed. And don’t forget to stream a track from it at the end of this post!

Grindcore legends Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been delivering hyperspeed audio assaults fueled by manic riffs and machine gun tempo drum machines since the early 90’s. The band have since experimented with harsh noise, power electronics, and crossover thrash. Their experimentation continues with Arc, the first in the series of EPs the band is releasing that will each have a separate style representing a different member’s musical taste. Driven by vocalist Kat Katz, Arc is definitely a major departure from the ultra fast grind/crossover style Agoraphobic Nosebleed is infamous for, and instead is a slow, heavy, 3 song slab of sludge metal. If this was your first time listening to them, I’m pretty sure you would be quite surprised to learn that this is the same band that released Altered States of America; a frantic 100 song EP clocking in at only 20 minutes.

Arc gets the ball rolling with “Not a Daughter,” a relentlessly groovy track that at some points sounds almost upbeat with its swaying, southern feel. I don’t think anyone has ever dared to use the term “catchy” to describe an Agoraphobic Nosebleed song, but I’ll be damned if I can find a better description for the bluesy, pulsating riffs that guitarist Scott Hull unleashes here. Hull, also of local grindcore band Pig Destroyer, has flirted with slower, doomy material in the past on some Agoraphobic Nosebleed tracks and with Pig Destroyer’s Mass & Volume EP, but on this album it seems as if he’s actually been in at least 3 secret sludge bands. The riffs here are something I would expect from seasoned sludge veterans like Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod or Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins. The mid paced grooves of “Not a Daughter” soon give way to the next track, “Deathbed.” Any sense of slight optimism that may have been heard in the first track are now all but gone, with the pace coming to a slow dirge that creeps along with a spiteful sonic intensity. Agoraphobic Nosebleed has always been instantly recognizable for their use of incredibly fast drum machine blast beats, giving their early releases an almost machine like feel to them. Scott Hull’s programming skills have vastly improved throughout the years however, and on Arc the pounding drumbeats feel completely organic; at times I almost completely forgot that Agoraphobic Nosebleed didn’t have a drummer. The methodical pace of the drums on this album show that Hull definitely knows what he’s doing. Hull also handles the basswork on all of the tracks, and while not as exceptional as his guitar work, the flowing basslines on all of the tracks provide a great backbone to the rest of the music. The EP soon comes to a close with “Gnaw”, a mammothly crushing track filled to the brim with slow, sinister riffs and tormented screams. Vocalist Kat Katz is front and center on this album, with her howling screams and low growls echoing along with Scott Hull’s brilliant guitar and drum work. Kat is no stranger to doom and sludge, as many will remember her amazing vocals from her time in local doom band Salome. While not exactly a replication of past work, it’s great to hear Kat’s amazing vocals alongside slower material once again. Apart from the major change in tempo and number of songs, another huge change that listeners will notice about Arc is the subject matter of the tracks. You won’t find any songs like “Dick to Mouth Resuscitation” or “Druggernaut Jug Fuck” on here. The morbid comedy of past Agoraphobic Nosebleed tracks are instead replaced with much more personal tone. The lyrics on Arc are all written by Kat Katz, and revolve around her dealing with the death of her mother who suffered from schizophrenia. The intense personal meaning in the songs gives even more weight to them; with the emotional severity adding to the bleak tone the album already conveys.

The band is planning to release the rest of the EPs later this year, and I’m pretty psyched to hear how they differ from this and all of the previous Agoraphobic releases. Those of you who were expecting just another hyperspeed offering of grindcore may be disappointed, but if you’re open to a band experimenting with vastly different musical influences, and are a fan of slow, Black Sabbath worshipping tunes, then this is for you. Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Arc is a major departure from the sound we know them for, but it’s proof that experimentation can bring forth great results. For those still sad about Salome breaking up (myself included) this is a great way to appease your need for more local sludge driven by Kat’s peircing howls. Definitely give this album a listen and don’t miss Agoraphobic Nosebleed when they play their first ever local headline show at the Black Cat in May!

Black Label Society ticket give away

Black Label Society at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Zakk Wylde and his band Black Label Society, along with Phil Anselmo and Down, are coming to the Fillmore Silver Spring on Sunday, May 4th, and since this show looks so damn good we’re giving away a free pair of tickets to it! To enter: leave a comment on this post telling me which band at this show you’re the most excited to see! Also appearing with BLS and Down is Devil You Know and the Butcher Babies. At 5pm EST this Friday, April 25th, 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 in 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 right now for $43 (after fees) from Live Nation here.

Zakk Wylde is best known for being Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist for many years but his personal band, Black Label Society has made a name for itself by following their motto: strength, determination, merciless, forever. Their acclaim is no surprise when you’ve got a guitar player as talented as Zakk is! But let’s not forget Down, the New Orleans band that Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo currently rages in. Their southern style of stoner/doom/sludge is a perfect pairing with BLS. Also appearing on the tour is Devil You Know, the Los Angeles based band featuring Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage on vocals. The opening support for this stop on the Revolver Golden Gods tour comes from the Butcher Babies. Be sure to check out these killer new tunes by all the bands playing the show and tell me what your favorite band on the bill is in the comments!

Black Label Society – My Dying Time

Down – We Knew Him Well

Devil You Know – Seven Years Alone

Butcher Babies – Smell A Massacre

Metal Show Of The Week: Agrimonia

Who? Agrimonia
When? Tuesday, November 26th
Where? Black Cat (map)
How much? $12 cash at the door or on Ticket Fly

Two DCHM posts on the same day? Well there’s a really cool show coming up on Tuesday and I just couldn’t let it go overlooked. That’s why this week’s Metal Show Of The Week is Agrimonia at the Black Cat on Tuesday, November 26th! Agrimonia is an excellent band from Gothenburg, Sweden that just put out their third full length, the excellent Rites Of Separation, last spring on Southern Lord Records. Although Gothenburg is associated with melodic death metal acts like At The Gates, In Flames and Dark Tranquillity the band Agrimonia doesn’t fit in that category at all. They play a really dark version of sludge metal that has some energetic highs and heavy lows. Also on the tour is Take Over And Destroy (TOAD for short), a blackened sludge band from Phoenix, Arizona. They’ve got an old school sound with some catchy riffs and you’re going to want to be sure you get there early enough to see them too. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that there are any locals on this date of the tour. So head on over to the Black Cat and check out Agrimonia before you travel the next day (or await visitors) for Thanksgiving. Please note that this all ages show is in the downstairs back stage of the Black Cat and NOT the upstairs main stage. I’m keeping this post short today but be sure to check out the songs below, they’ll surely do more convincing that I can with words!