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.

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 if they’re bigots 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 one 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 with. Security was excellent this year, they 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 wish list will become a reality.