Maryland Deathfest VIII Recap

Well Maryland Deathfest VIII is over, and it was a great 3 days of heavy metal. This was the third time I’ve been to Maryland Deathfest, though Maryland Deathfest VIII Flyerthis was the first time I went for all 3 days. I got to see lots of bands I never thought I’d have the chance to, and got to check out some bands I’d been wanting to for a while. Talked to lots of metal heads from all over the place as well as from the DC area and I shot about 1,000 photographs as well as 34 videos of 19 different bands. I kept myself busy! Luckily it didn’t rain at all while I was there. Sunday got really hot, not sure what the temperature was officially, but it was even hotter in the middle of those huge crowds I’m sure. Overall it was a lot of fun, so much fun that I wanted to write down as much as I could remember of it here. It’s a long post so I broke it up into sections. I’ve got lots of videos posted at the bottom of this post. And now, here’s my recap of my time spent at this year’s Maryland Deathfest.

Day 1: Friday 28 May 2010

I had checked the weather for Baltimore before I drove up for the weekend. It said that it was supposed to rain some Friday and Saturday. While it did rain during my drive up Friday, it was clear by the time I got there, and it didn’t rain again during the fest, the metal gods must have been smiling! I got to the venue a bit later than I had planned since the rain made traffic a bitch and I was running a bit late because of it. On top of that the line to get into the venue was huge, they were definitely understaffed at the door on the first day. Originally I wanted to get there in time to see Tombs at 5:30, but they were already done by the Malignancy at Maryland Deathfest VIIItime I got in. Malignancy was about to play on the side stage when I did get there. Though I saw Nazxul‘s first US appearance on the outside street stage, the outdoor stages weren’t really in much use Friday as two of the members of Possessed missed their flight so they were rescheduled for the next day. Also, black metal band Watain requested to play indoors instead of on an outdoor stage. Their set Watain at Maryland Deathfest VIIIwill probably be most remembered for an incident where the bass player from DRI (who played later that night on the same stage) jumped on stage in the middle of the set and starting goofing around and mock headbanging on stage. Apparently the members of Watain didn’t like this as he was promptly knocked down and was kicked by Pelle Forsberg, mid-song mind you, until security pulled him off the stage, though I didn’t see him actually get kicked. People were talking about that for the rest of the festival. They closed their set with a cover of the Bathory song The Return Of Darkness And Evil. Once they were done I moved outside to see Gorguts, who was the first day’s headliner. They put on a good show. Two of the guys from Dysrhythmia, a personal favorite band of mine, are Gorguts at Maryland Deathfest VIIInow members of Gorguts and it was cool seeing them play up there in such a different style band. They played a great set of classic death metal songs that were pretty awesome. Afterwards I grabbed some overpriced crappy food from the lone food vendor inside the fest. That was the last time I ate there, I got a cold burger and a bag of Lays chips for $7. What a rip off. They were selling bottles of water for $3, the same price as the bar only feet away had 16 oz cans of PBR. Guess which one I bought? After eating and talking to people for a bit I moved inside to catch DRI’s set. Raining Blood came on over the sound system while they were setting up and people were singing along and even started moshing a bit to it. When DRI came on I DRI at Maryland Deathfest VIIIwas kind of hoping someone from Watain would jump on stage, but that didn’t happen. They did get a crazy pit going though, best indoor pit I saw all weekend, though admittedly I spent most of my time watching outdoor bands (and I’ve got the sunburn to prove it!). They had some technical problems midway through their set, which seemed to happen a lot this weekend to various bands. The sound wasn’t that great at the fest either. Lots of bass drowning out the high end seemed to be a recurring problem. DRI was the last band of the night and so I headed back to the hotel to charge batteries and start transferring media off my memory cards so they’d be empty for day two. Friday was a good start to the fest, but really just seemed like a warm up.

Day 2: Saturday 29 May 2010

Saturday came around and I was fucking excited. There were several bands playing that I really wanted to see. I decided the first band I really wanted to see was Jucifer, and this time I had no problems with traffic or lines and got there a bit early in fact. I caught a few songs by Total Fucking Destruction and then headed inside for the second half of Obliteration‘s set. They impressed me with their performance, certainly won me over in the short time I got to watch them play. After they finished Jucifer started setting up. They brought out some of their trademark “wall of speakers” Amber Valentine of Jucifer at Maryland Deathfest VIIIbut I don’t think it was all of them. They only had 15 minutes to set up so that might be why. The last time I saw Jucifer they didn’t really stop between songs, they just sort of kept playing, going through highs and lows. Here at MDF they were playing clear cut songs with actual starts and endings. It was interesting to see them at such a festival and I could tell they won some new fans after talking to a few people in the audience after their set. I walked out of the black fog filled room and back into the daylight. Mexico’s The Chasm was playing on the side stage so I headed over there to catch the end of their set. Luckily they were running late so I got to see them play a few songs before their set ended. They were told to stop when Sadistic Intent/Possessed started playing the other outdoor stage, but they still played 1 more song, even though the crowd was thinning out. Sadistic Intent split their set time with Possessed, which makes sense because all the members of Sadistic Intent are also current members of Possessed. It was cool to see Possessed play old Possessed at Maryland Deathfest VIIIclassics like The Exorcist and Burning In Hell as well as newer songs. I haven’t seen Possessed before but I’m glad to see Jeff Becerra was still headbanging from his wheelchair on stage. He took a moment between songs to mention some of the people in metal who have died recently, and got a chant for Dio going too. When their set ended I browsed some of the shops that were set up, bought myself one of the red posters for sale with the big demon on it and all the band names, as well as a Melechesh shirt. I was really excited to see Melechesh so I dropped my merch off at my car and decided to get to the Melechesh stage early so I could get right up front. I also wanted to see Verbal Abuse play indoors at the same time, but I’d been waiting to see Melechesh for years, ever since they canceled their 3 tour dates with Sigh in July 2007. I got in the front row just off center (I don’t like dead center as the microphone stand always seems to block their faces in my pictures). They played a killer set, mostly made up of songs from Melechesh at Maryland Deathfest VIIItheir albums Sphynx and Emissaries. The crowd surfers were going over my head but that didn’t stop me from shooting lots of video. At one point security just disappeared and people were falling onto the asphalt in front of the stage. A member of the stage crew saw this and tried to help catch people the best he could until security decided to stroll back into place. The band played a great set but since they started a bit late due to technical difficulties, they didn’t have time to play their final song, and just sort of walked off stage anticlimactically. That kind of stunk, but still, it was awesome getting to see their first US gig ever up close. I took lots of pictures and videos to remember it by, though I doubt I’ll forget as this was my favorite set of the festival. When they were done I made my way over to the side stage again to see Incantation, though walking by the open grill reminded me that at some point I’d have to eat, and looking at the schedule I wanted to watch bands play thru the rest of the night. Incantation also mentioned the recent death of Ronnie James Dio and decided to play a couple of tribute songs in their set. They played The Mob Rules by Black Sabbath and Stargazer by Rainbow back to back, quite odd hearing these songs grunted out. The rest of their set was as brutal as you’d expect from these pioneers of death metal. After they finished I decided that even though I wanted to see some of Repulsion, I had to get food in me. I did catch a bit of their set, but I wanted to be sure to be back in time to catch Asphyx. I found an excellent sandwich shop about a block and a half behind the street stage, and had a great dinner there. I headed back to the fest feeling recharged. I got there in time to catch most of Asphyx, which was cool, but I left a bit early to make sure I could get fairly close for the long awaited return of Autopsy. This Autopsy at Maryland Deathfest VIIIwas the main act of the night since Sodom had pulled out of the fest (and I think people wanted to see Autopsy more anyways). I know this was their first gig since they reunited, and people have been waiting 15 years to see Autopsy play live. I found a decent spot to shoot from and really enjoyed the show. After shooting a few videos my camera’s cards were all full from all the awesome bands of the day. Not good! I moved back a bit into the crowd to shoot with the camcorder (it can’t handle the loud volumes that close to the speakers). My memory cards being full posed a problem though, because Portal was playing tonight and I wanted to make sure I could get at least some pics of them, since they’re from Australia I doubt I’ll get another chance to see them again any time soon, if ever. As soon as Autopsy finished I headed back to my hotel and emptied my memory cards onto my laptop, then returned to the venue in time to catch Portal. I contemplated just staying at the hotel but I’m really glad I didn’t. Portal at Maryland Deathfest VIIIThey put on quite an intense show! The band members were all wearing black, even covering their faces, and wore rope nooses around their necks. With the black walls, dim lighting and heavy fog machine smoke, it was pretty hard to see anything clearly on stage. The vocalist came out wearing all black robes and a black hat similar in shape to a Catholic cardinal. This stage setting really fit the mood of their unique and intense style of atmospheric death metal. Such an awesome show to see, it was really out of this world and a great way to end the second day of Maryland Deathfest.

Day 3: Sunday 30 May 2010

The final day of Maryland Deathfest VIII again had several bands I wanted to see. I got there around 1:45 pm (got great parking this time) so I could catch Krallice. I wanted to see them when they were supposed to play the 9:30 Club with Mayhem and Ludicra earlier this year, but the tour was cancelled when Mayhem couldn’t get into the US. Ludicra, Krallice and Tombs re-booked another tour without Mayhem, but they didn’t come to DC on that tour, unfortunately. So this was my chance to finally catch these guys live. Nick McMaster of Krallice at Maryland Deathfest VIIIThey didn’t let me down either! For some reason they set up and played on the wrong outdoor stage, which threw people off a bit. Those paying close attention noticed that the bass player for Gorguts, Colin Marston, is the guitarist for Krallice too. They played almost all new material, and it was pretty awesome to get to watch them play live. It was a really great set that left me wanting more, and a kick ass way to start off the day. The next band played on the same stage, and I stayed to watch the first few songs by the French band Gorod. Though one of their guitarists had a Motley Crue shirt on (trying to be ironic?) they put on an impressive show of their high energy tech-death prowess. The singer was jumping around on stage and had a lot of energy, and the bass player had a lot of stage presence too, not something you see too often in metal. I decided now would be a good time for lunch as there were many bands coming up back to back that I wanted to watch, so I headed to the diner just outside the venue. I got back in time to watch Sinister play, which was pretty cool. Sinister at Maryland Deathfest VIIII’ve never seen them play live before, but I always liked their older albums like Hate and Diabolical Summoning. Their line up was drastically different than back in those days though, the only member left was the drummer, but he had now moved off the kit to take over the lead vocals. Still, it was cool to see them play some of those older songs that I enjoyed so much, even if it wasn’t the same Sinister. They still had a few songs left to play when I decided to move back to the side stage so I could get up Tobias Sidegård of Necrophobic at Maryland Deathfest VIIIclose for Necrophobic. This was their first US show, and I certainly wanted to get some good pictures and video footage of it. It was a pretty damn entertaining show I must say, though it’s always weird seeing black metal bands play in the daylight, especially on such a hot day. This was definitely the hottest day of the festival and I sort of felt bad for them wearing all the black leather and spikes and stuff, that had to be pretty damn miserable. Regardless, they didn’t let it show and performed very well and had some great poses for taking pictures too. This was quite a highlight of the day for me. After they finished, Eyehategod was starting on the street stage. I wasn’t too interested in them, so after finding the tent with $1 bottles of water, I headed back to the side stage to rest my feet a bit and get a good spot for Pestilence. I also wanted to see Black Breath, who were playing indoors at the same time as Pestilence, but I got such a good spot for the Pestilence set I couldn’t just leave. They were too fun to watch live. This was their first US show in 16 Patrick Uterwijk of Pestilence at Maryland Deathfest VIIIyears, and they had been scheduled to play the Maryland Deathfest the year before, but they couldn’t get into the country due to visa issues. The crowd was pumped to finally get their chance this year, and so was I. I thought they’d have Tony Choy (also of Atheist and Cynic) playing bass with them, but instead they had Jeroen Paul Thesseling playing a fretless 6 string bass. Needless to say, he was pretty damn good, as is the rest of the band. When their set ended I headed over to see Nirvana 2002 play (billed as N2002 I suppose for legal reasons). I didn’t know much about them, apparently they only ever put out a few demos from 1989 to 1991 before breaking up. I heard they had only ever played like 5 concerts before, so even Nirvana 2002 at Maryland Deathfest VIIIthough I didn’t know much about them, I figured it was worth checking them out. They weren’t bad, sounded along the lines of those older Swede bands like Entombed, Unleashed and Nihilist. They played a cover of the Kreator song Pleasure To Kill, which was the only song I recognized of their set. After they ended I walked over to the side stage to catch a bit of Pentagram‘s set. It was good to see this DC area band playing to such a large crowd, and they were eating up Bobby Liebling’s crazy on stage antics. I decided now was a good time to grab a bite to eat before Entombed hit the stage, so I headed out to find a sandwich. I got back in time to get a decent view of Entombed’s set. Crowd Surfer while Entombed plays at Maryland Deathfest VIIIDuring their second song, Out Of Hand, someone threw a bible on stage and their singer, LG Petrov, ripped it in half mid-song. At one point he told the crowd that they don’t like circle pits, they want to see a real mosh pit going. They mostly played their more recent material, I was hoping they’d play more from Wolverine Blues and earlier, though they did close the show with Left Hand Path. Next up was Sunday’s headliner, Obituary, on the side stage. They played a great set full of their classic songs and got what was probably the largest area mosh pit going I saw all weekend. People were just going Obituary at Maryland Deathfest VIIInuts for them, and they put on a really fun show. They had so many people crowd surfing that security was having trouble keeping up with them. Their set ended and I quickly moved indoors to catch the end of the local grind act Magrudergrind‘s set. They were pretty intense, as grind bands tend to be, and really had the audience going. I enjoyed catching the end of their set and it was a great way to end the fest. I didn’t see the final two bands play and Converge was supposed to be the closing band but they asked to play earlier and went on during Obituary’s set. That’s ok though, I got plenty of metal in over the course of 3 days and my arms were getting sore from so much picture and video shooting. I did run into a few people from local bands, one of the guys from Orgy Of The Damned and also someone from Gravewürm, very cool talking to both. It was quite the metal weekend and a killer concert experience that I’ll never forget. I can’t wait to find out who’s going to be playing next year, but I’ve got my fingers (upside down) crossed for Morbid Angel and Von. And congrats for getting to the end of this post, the longest one I’ve written yet. For your time I reward you with a shit load of videos I shot at the festival. I’ve got more from MDF on my YouTube page if this isn’t enough. Stay brutal!

Review of Dark Tranquillity gig at Jaxx

After work on Wednesday 12 May 2010 I headed over to Jaxx again for another metal show. Been there a lot recently, though that’s not a bad thing. This time I was going to see the Gothenburg band Dark Tranquillity. When I got there a parking spot right in front of the venue was open (no, not in front of the stores with the 30 minute parking signs, a real spot). When I got inside the band Threat Signal was on stage about midway through their set. I wasn’t too interested in them, and quickly made my way to check out the merchandise stands. As soon as they finished playing I headed up to the stage to try to get a good angle to get pix from.

The band came on stage a few minutes after 10pm, and people were ready. Ironically they used a “Projector” on the stage, and had interesting visuals on the backdrop throughout the concert. I prefer this method to the typical banner that most bands put up, as it it much more interesting to look at because it’s dynamic. This combined with the excellent lighting and just the right amount of smoke machine fog made for a very visually stimulating show. They made use of the entire stage and kept their wires, pedals and other equipment very neat and organized. This was probably necessary because the band really likes to move around on stage. I had a great time photographing them and while I often have to move about the audience to get good shots of the various band members that are on different locations on stage, they made it easy for me since they all moved around so much up there.

Ok, the visual stuff is cool and all, but how about the music? Well, I got a photograph of their setlist when they were setting up so I knew what to expect. Sadly, it didn’t consist of much from my favorite album of theirs, Damage Done. They did play Final Resistance though, so I can’t complain too much. Of the 15 songs they played 6 of them were from their new album, We Are The Void, and another 4 songs from their previous album, Fiction. They only played 1 song from before 1999, and they’ve been around since 1991. That’s great if you’re a newer fan of the band I suppose, though I’d have preferred a bit more of the older material in the setlist. Regardless, the band played well and it was a lot fun to watch them. Mikael Stanne has a great stage presence and really hangs right over the crowd for parts of almost every song, even letting fans scream into the mic from time to time. He didn’t talk too much between songs but did say they would probably be back next year. The sound mix wasn’t bad. The keyboards were almost non-existent from where I was standing (front and center) but that’s fine by me. It’s something that happens to a lot of metal bands, where the keyboards that get raised so highly into the mix on the album but are almost impossible to hear live. That’s fine by me though, as I really enjoy hearing the guitars carry the band more live. Also, the vocal style of the growls wasn’t the same as on the new album, another thing I think is good. I don’t really like how they sound on the new album, probably due to layering the vocals in the studio, but I think it made him sound too much like Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy. They played for about 80 minutes straight and luckily they did not do the typical rockstar encore thing. After the show Mikael came back on stage to pound a beer for some reason. Not sure what was up with that as I was already at the merch stand (bought a t-shirt from local opener band Apothys). Apparently the band members of Dark Tranquillity were going to head over to the merchandise area and sign stuff for fans, which is always cool when bands do that, but I didn’t wait around because I’m not that big on autographs.

I remember I’d heard years ago from a few people that Dark Tranquillity wasn’t a good band to see live, but trust me, whoever said that was lying. The last time I saw them I was really surprised on how good of a show they put on, and this time was even better (even if I didn’t enjoy the setlist as much). Though I didn’t have any problems this time, I did hear people in the audience grumbling about security bugging them about their cameras. Regardless, I did shoot two videos (of older songs) which you can see below. Also of note, this will be my last concert review until Maryland Deathfest. I should have a lot of pics and footage of that afterwards, and maybe some other surprises too.

Review of Municipal Waste gig at Rock And Roll Hotel

So Sunday the 25th of April I decided that instead of going to the Earth Day Climate Rally on the national mall, I’d much rather go to see the bands Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust at the Rock & Roll Hotel. No I’m not some hipster just trying to be ironic, I really couldn’t give a shit about Sting, I want some thrash! When I got to the venue the opener, Black Anvil had just finished playing, so I didn’t get a chance to see them. After talking to a few of my friends who had already gotten there I moved up to the front of the stage. There wasn’t much of a crowd in there when I got inside, but the place was filling up by the time Toxic Holocaust finished their set. They played a really good set and they’re one of those bands who not only plays their material faster live, but with much more energy. They didn’t talk much between songs and really just came out to shred it seemed, and the audience seemed to get into it a bit. It was a great set to warm the crowd up, though I’m not sure if they really needed it.

After a rather long set up time, Richmond natives Municipal Waste hit the stage. The crowd was ready and it didn’t take long for people to start running onto the stage and stage diving back into the audience. The security was not happy about this and had its hands full trying to kick people out. Several times between songs Municipal Waste berated the security for kicking people out and I noticed the bouncers had started to just throw people back into the pit when they were crowd surfing. That was a pretty intense mosh pit, I did my best to stay out (moshing with my cameras = not good!) but you could tell it was made up of a lot of DC hardcore kids and they were ready to get brutal. People were singing along with catchy chorus lines and just all out having fun. Their set was a good mix of songs from all their albums, though I don’t think the audience cared what they played really, as long as it was fast. That’s because their vocalist, Tony Foresta, had such great stage presence. He was jumping around and instructing the circle pit which way to spin and turning the mic around so the people could help out. He told people to all jump up on stage for the final song so it wouldn’t matter if people got kicked out by security, and they did! It looked like maybe a dozen people were crammed on the stage by the time the song ended. The only gripe I really had about the show was that they did the typical “walk off stage and wait for the crowd to chant for an encore” rock star bullshit thing. I thought that was kinda glam, especially considering they’ve got such a punk influence. That’s really not a big deal, and the show was a lot of fun for everyone except security!

Below I’ve posted the videos I shot with my normal camera from this concert. If you saw me there you may have noticed I also had a palm cam that I was shooting with. It’s actually a friend of mine’s and he was letting me borrow it. The video quality came out great though the audio was terrible, complete overload once the guitars started up so I didn’t post them to YouTube with these other vids. There is a recording volume control but I didn’t know how to use it until I looked it up after the concert. That’s ok though because really this was just a test run for when I bring it to Maryland Deathfest next month. It really did a good job of adjusting to the dark setting though, which if you look at the third video below, you can see my normal camera does not. The audio is still good on those though, so I hope you enjoy them.

Review of Kreator gig at Jaxx

Wednesday the 3rd of March 2010 I headed over to Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia to go catch Kreator. It had been over a month since I’d been to a metal show, far too long! This was the first show of Kreator’s 2010 North American tour and I was pretty excited. Back in early January Kreator posted a message on their MySpace blog saying they would play a special “old school” set list on this tour since 2010 is Kreator’s 25th anniversary. This being the first show of that tour those of us at Jaxx were going to be the first to hear it. Also, the last time Kreator played Jaxx, back on the 17th of May 2009, it was the final concert of that tour and the guys from Exodus dressed up in drag as cheerleaders during Kreator’s final song of the night. The 300+ lbs singer for Exodus, Rob Dukes, did a stage dive on my head during the fiasco and I was shooting video at the time, which you can see on YouTube here. So all that stuff meant I was pretty pumped to see Kreator play!

When I got to the venue I was told opener Voivod had just started their first song. I’ve never been a huge Voivod fan, though I was curious to see them play live. I was surprised to find that they did not have Jason Newstead (of Metallica fame) playing bass for them. He’s been a member of the band since 2003. I guess he doesn’t tour with them though. Their set wasn’t bad, but the mix was a bit rough and it was hard to hear much over the drums and vocals. They put on a good show and the crowd’s energy wasn’t bad considering they were a support act. Still, you could tell everyone was waiting for Kreator to hit the stage and by the time Voivod announced the start of their final song, I was heading to the bar to beat the rush.

Kreator took what seemed like a very long time to set up the stage. They had a lot of banners hanging on all kinds of scaffolding style metal piping and they brought their own lighting rig too. The lights went down and a recording of Choir of the Damned started playing. When the band finally took the stage the crowd was ready. They opened with The Pestilence and people were going crazy. The rather thin mosh pit for Voivod was now most of the dance floor area, and it was getting hard to keep my camera shooting straight with all the bodies flying around. The show had a lot of energy, as is to be expected from a Kreator show, and of course the lights were intense. The “old school” set list there had been so much talk of wasn’t that different than the last time I saw them. They did only play a couple songs off their latest album, Hordes Of Chaos and Demon Prince, and they threw in a few older songs like Endless Pain, but overall the setlist wasn’t much different than the one they played last time. I took a picture of the setlist from a guy who pulled it off the stage at the end of the show, and you can see it here and if you want to compare it to the picture I took of the setlist from May 09 you can by going here. I don’t want to say the show wasn’t fun, it certainly was, but I had been hoping for more older songs to be thrown in and less of the same staple songs you kind of expect them to play. I guess that was a bit of a let down, but still, it’s always a blast to see Kreator. Oh, and in case you were wondering they didn’t have any guys in drag dressed as cheerleaders on stage this time either, haha. Overall I’d say the show was a lot of fun but still, the let down of the set list sort of left a bad aftertaste in my mouth. I still recommend seeing them if you get a chance, especially if you never have before. They really get every bit of energy out of the crowd they can. Oh, also of note, got my videos from this show posted in a Blabbermouth article, which is always pretty cool when they do that. You can check that out here. I’ve also posted one of them below.

Review of Jucifer gig at the Black Cat

On Monday night the 11th of January 2010 I headed over to the Black Cat in Washington DC to watch a couple metal bands play their backstage, Jucifer and Salome. I’ve been to the Black Cat many times over the years, but it’s pretty rare for them to get metal bands that are actually worth seeing, they primarily specialize in indie/modern rock and punk. I always try to make it to their metal shows with actually good bands, and tonight was no exception as I wanted to see both bands on the bill.

I got there around 9:40pm and although their website said Salome started at 9:00 and the Black Cat’s Twitter feed said 9:30, the woman taking money to get in said it was actually set to start at 9:45. Perfect timing! I was a little surprised to find their vocalist, Katherine Katz, standing in the middle of the crowd when the show started. She never did get on the stage and instead paced around back and forth throughout the set throwing her hair around and posing during her more lengthy outbursts. She’s a very petite girl but you wouldn’t know it when she’s screaming into that mic. They only played a few songs but they were long songs with a diverse range, going from faster paced Black Sabbath-esque riffs then grinding to a halt at certain points, the entire band actually going motionless for brief periods of time. Then they’d burst back to life amid pummeling drums and lurching downtuned guitar riffs. They are from Annandale and are probably Northern Virginia’s best doom metal band. You can also hear Kat on vocals on the latest Agoraphobic Nosebleed album, Agorapocalypse. Salome had opened for Jucifer’s three previous shows and this was the final gig they’d play together this winter. They played for a little over 30 minutes and were a great local opening act for Jucifer, who was up next.

After going to the red room to buy myself a cheap PBR draft, I was looking at the imposing speaker rig that Jucifer had on stage. They are known for how loud their concerts are, though I’ve seen several bands known for that before. The show was certainly very loud, the loudest I’ve ever heard at the Black Cat and that includes the upstairs main stage too. They weren’t the loudest small venue band I’ve ever heard (that’s probably Sunn O))) last Sept) but still, it was an impressive set up for the tiny space in the Black Cat’s back room. Jucifer is a husband and wife duo who travel around in their RV essentially constantly touring. The show started with Amber Valentine playing some notes on the guitar while the fog machine started to kick in. After about a minute Edgar Livengood slinked behind the drum kit and started whacking away. These two really put out a lot of energy, both playing their instruments very loosely. Edgar was smacking every part of the drum kit he could, not just the skins. Sometimes he’d use two drum sticks in one hand, sometimes he’d stand or jump up and shake the whole kit while he was banging so hard, and sometimes he’d use his bare hands to smack things. Sometimes Amber seemed to pick her notes very carefully, and sometimes she was sitting on the floor playing what can loosely be called a ‘chord progression’ on her guitar. They didn’t pause between any of their songs and music just sort of flowed forth like a volcano, sometimes more explosive and chaotic and sometimes slower and more focused. The two switched off on the vocals throughout the set until eventually Amber was singing in the dark for a good minute or two and the show ended. They gave each other a hug and kiss then started turning off all the amps as people filed out. $10 for 2 great bands was a great deal and if you get a chance to catch either of these bands live I certainly recommend checking them out.

Review of Behemoth gig at Jaxx

So Friday the 8th of January 2010 I went to Jaxx in West Springfield, Virginia, to see the Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth play. Well, this was actually the first time I’d been to Jaxx since I saw God Dethroned play there back in October. A lot has changed with the look of the club since then, but I’ll get into that later, this is a review of the Behemoth concert after all.

I got there kind of late and didn’t get a chance to see any of the openers, Septic Flesh had just finished their set as I walked in the door. I’d have watched them play but really I’d have liked to see Shining, who was originally on the tour as well only to drop off due to visa complications. The parking lot was completely full and even the lot in front of the Giant across Old Keene Mill had a lot of cars parked in it for the show. Although it sucked parking so far away (the temp was in the lower 20s) it was good to see such a turn out for the show. The last few metal shows I’d been to at Jaxx didn’t have really big crowds. This night the entire club was pretty crowded, which made it kind of stuffy and hot with my coat on, but it was bearable and nowhere near as bad as that sold out Morbid Angel/Behemoth show in 2006 when the air conditioner didn’t work. After what seemed like a very long drum kit set up and sound check, the lights finally went down a few minutes after 11pm as Behemoth took the stage.

They came out onstage and the crowd was ready. People were excited as the band ripped through songs from Evangelion and Demigod. The last time I saw Behemoth play they were opening for Dimmu Borgir at the 9:30 Club and they didn’t play many songs from older albums, which is of course what I wanted to see. Not that I don’t enjoy their newer material, but I certainly prefer some of their older less polished sounding songs. Now I knew they wouldn’t play anything like Lazy Pomorza, but I was glad to hear them play 3 songs from the Satanica album (instead of just the staple Chant For Eschaton 2000). They only played 1 song from Thelema.6 though, Christians To The Lions. Regardless, the show was a pretty decent mix. Certainly more focused on more recent material but not completely forgetting their older songs either. One thing I wasn’t expecting was a killer (but short) drum solo by their drummer, Inferno. It only lasted about a minute but it was pretty impressive. They did do the generic encore thing, which was kind of weird since the back stage area is much more open now. Behemoth’s main man Nergal came out with some sort of Roman centurion looking wooden or metal (hard to tell in the lighting) mask as they played their final song of the night, Lucifer. Kind of strange I suppose but better than that weird ‘evil teddy bear’ mask he put on for the final song last time I saw them. The show ended about 15 minutes after midnight and people started filing out into the cold right after, though the merch stand was really busy for a while.

After the show I hung out a few minutes because I didn’t want to deal with the herd of people all heading out to the door at once. It gave me a good chance to check out some of the changes to the club’s interior. The walls have all been painted orange, though the ceiling is still black. They got rid of the bar on the side by the merch stand which opens up some more room for the under 21 people. The big black drapes that hid the backstage area from the audience have been completely removed, which really makes the room seem bigger. The raised bar area around the dance floor has had new railing put in that looks much nicer, though you can’t really notice it when it’s darker. It looks like the lighting rig has had an update too. There were some new lights that looked sort of like LEDs or something, as well as a couple things that looked like rotating balls of laser pointers (not too impressed with those, hope they didn’t cost much). The club certainly does not look like a hive of scum and villainy, and comes across much more welcoming, organized and professional looking. This change certainly helps the club move past being just a ‘metal club’ to a venue that can host concerts in several genres. A part of me wonders if they’re trying to phase out the metal all together, but I think if they get more head counts like this they won’t be phasing out the metal any time soon. The place has sure come a long way since the owner posted on their website about possibly trying to sell the place in January 2008.

Not everything was an improvement though. I don’t know if it had to do with changing the shape of the interior space or maybe just a bad ear during the sound check, but the audio mix during Behemoth’s set was terrible. The vocals kind of mushed into the midrange guitar parts and the high end tones were getting drowned out by the kick drums. It didn’t seem to me that any of the audio equipment had really changed, though I really don’t know for sure. Hopefully it was just a fluke as I’ll be back to Jaxx this Friday to see Pentagram and The Gates Of Slumber. Also, though the lighting seemed to be upgraded, it’s almost all backlighting. This makes it hard to see any of the band members (besides the drummer in the back) when the spotlight isn’t on them. As you can see in the video below, most of the time they just appear as silhouettes. The stage sure is lit up, but the band members aren’t (at least not on the side facing the crowd). Combined with the fog machine, it was starting to look like just a big blur of stage lights. I’ll be interested to see what the place looks like for Kreator in March as they bring some great stage lighting with them. Overall the changes aren’t bad at all, though I’m sure some of the more die hard metal heads who have been going there for a while will take some time getting used to it.

Review of Marduk gig at Sonar

Monday the 23rd of November 2009 was a rather grim and rainy day, perfect for a black metal show. Luckily Swedish black metal band Marduk was playing at the Talking Head Club inside Sonar in Baltimore that night, the closest stop to Washington DC on their US Plague Tour. I had a couple friends flake out on me, but since Marduk failed to get into the US for Maryland Deathfest back in May, and I missed their Baltimore stop on their 3 show mini tour back in August, I was determined not to miss them for a third time this year. So I drove up to Baltimore in that dreary cold rain by myself blasting metal all the way. When I got there Nachtmystium was setting up. They’re ok, sort of a thrashy black metal band. Not my favorite but worth checking out while drinking a beer or two. The final song of their set was a cover of GG Allin‘s song I Kill Everything I Fuck, which I gotta say was pretty fucking cool. Wasn’t expecting that one, wish I’d had my camera ready, I’d like to have that one on video. They’re scheduled to play with Kreator and Voivod at Jaxx in early March, so maybe I’ll get my chance then.

When Nachtmystium’s set ended I moved up to the front of the stage as everyone was clearing out to go smoke, order more beer, piss, etc… Got right up there and was chatting a bit to the people around me during the final sound check. Glad I did cause 2 of the guys next to me were throwing mad elbows all during Marduk’s set and fucking people up from the pit, but I got in good with em before that so I didn’t have any probs. Kinda dick of them, but it did keep people from the pit from fucking up my camera. Plus that latino guy wearing eyeliner and a shirt with the sleeves cut off looked like he could use a few bruises. Marduk’s set was pretty good, they played a good assortment of songs from a variety of albums which was cool. I’m not a huge fan of when bands play most of their new album and a few classics live, I much prefer the career spanning classics with a couple songs from the new album thrown in approach. This show was a pretty good example of that. During their long set they played songs off just about every album except for, oh yeah, my fucking favorite Marduk album Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered. Seriously, the whole time I was driving up there I was thinkin to myself how it’ll be worth all the stress of dark, rainy interstate traffic just to hear Infernal Eternal or maybe even Glorification Of The Black God live (basically a cover of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical piece A Night On Bald Mountain as arranged by Leopold Stokowski for the Disney movie Fantasia). Well, that didn’t happen. They did play some classics like Wolves, Funeral Bitch, and Baptism By Fire, but still, Infernal Eternal fucking rules. What the hell? If you like black metal and you haven’t heard those 2 songs do yourself a favor and listen to them right now by clicking their names up there. Fucking brutal! Anyways, the show was still fun and if not for the events on my drive home I’d probably say it was totally worth the trip to Baltimore on a Monday night (even tho the show ended after midnight on a weekday and I had to drive home afterwards). About 5 minutes outside of Baltimore on 95 my car decided it was going to stop running. Seriously, of all the times? I’ve had very few problems with this car in the 3 years I’ve owned it, but dying in Maryland was not awesome. A $200 tow truck ride got me back home at about 5am, plenty of time to be fucking exhausted for work the next day. Still, the set was good, the show was fun and I think I got some good pics too. I thought it was odd the drummer, Lars Broddesson, didn’t use 2 kick drums but instead had 2 petals set up on a single bass drum. That’s pretty uncommon for metal bands. By the end of their set, which was about an hour and a half, their corpse paint was smeared and the audience was running out of energy. They did the typical walk off stage encore thing but came back really quick, like 1 minute later, to play the final song of the night, Panzer Division Marduk. You can watch that video below. Overall I’d recommend any fan of old school black metal to go see Marduk, it’s a brutal show definitely worth the money.