Maryland Deathfest X – The Jägermeister Strikes Back: Friday

It wasn’t quite so fun to wake up for this day. I successfully regained full consciousness and thought at around noon following some ill-advised autonomous challenges, all involving this.

This bountiful elixir of joy juice and pure hell is the nectar of Metal Gods, and not to be consumed by anyone less metal than say, Oliver Sykes. I made that mistake, and I am still feeling the aftereffects to this day. As much of a Charon boat ride into my lesser faculties that was, it cannot top the badness of my foolish venture into the Lean Cuisine sweet’n’sour chicken… oh god just thinking of that ruins food for me for 5 minutes at a time.

Anyhow, we were discussing one of the greatest Metal shows this side of the puddle, which turned out to be a real blast(beat) of non-stop heat, boobs, and bathroom sink water. All the merch tables and food stands were set up in all their splendour, but I won’t go into those because I couldn’t go splurging to my heart’s content, and it would make me sad to even talk of all the goodies in store, and instead you’ll have to eat my words. I’m gonna try a reviewing style akin to Redneck From Hell’s, so bear with me if I’m a trendy poser fuck. All pictures used were taken by The Rev from Returntothepit, as if the watermark didn’t make that plain as crumpet.

Up first was Castevet, a Melodic Black Metal band not to be confused with some other band of the same name who I’m assuming is Alt. or something. They got atmosphere for months, and I swear it was actually a little chilly inside the Sonar, and I’m not blaming the fanfuckentastic air conditioning. They did what most BM bands do: Howl, get laryngitis, keep howling, and blast a bit, though with a lot of influence from Post-Rock/Hardcore song structures. An average set, but I’d suggest looking further into them, as their vocals are something not heard too often in BM, and a bit more on the raspy Sludge side.

Nasghul followed suit, bringing their hazardous Death Metal/Grindcore mixture from Spain to the ‘Murican table like a barrel of radioactive waste, sloshing it on all nearby.

Deep in concentration, tired, or recovering for a wicked blaze session?

I’m sure I caught something about this being their first ever US appearance, and by Zoroaster, what better a way to introduce yourself to the unwitting sheeple than to drop in on one of the largest celebrations of heavy music there is? I thoroughly enjoyed their groovy yet unforgivingly abrasive take on the style they play, earning them good points in my book.

Right on the heels of Nasghul were… Ghoul. I swear the promoters and bookers were having a laugh when they made the running order.

Also, dozens of casualties, but more on that later.

Now Ghoul is a band that knows how to make a show into a SHOW. As in they entertain you while doing their thing almost as much as they entertained themselves. Every song had a clever-as-dick introduction, usually with a small skit in which something died, following copious spurts of viscera and crimson life fluid. Is it wrong to be a bit dismayed that I came out with nary but a few spots of blood on my shirt?

I’d never seen Ghoul before, but I was happy to realize that their set was very heavy on the Splatterthrash album, which is apparently their most fun, and I’m willing to believe that. Like many of the better sets at MDF, it all seemed over too soon, and all that we had to remember them by was a nagging suspicion that the fat one is the guy from Exhumed., even though it’s not really true, but I liked to believe it anyway.

Even though I don’t know any words to any Today Is The Day songs, I’m convinced they’ve scientifically devised their songs to unlock the Crazy center in the human brain, thus enabling you to shout along without having even so much as peeked at a word of their tunes. Even without the addition of collective throat flaying, the set was as intense and twisted as the bastards intended.

TITD are a band that is quite literally impossible to label. They’re so experimental that they seem to be actively dodging a definitive genre, running the gamut from Post-Hardcore to pummeling distorted grooves that lack classification to Sludge Metal and beyond, always maintaining the heaviness and distortion necessary to keep it claustrophobic-in-a-locked-closet insane. They’ve also succeeded in making it so that the music drives emotions to critical mass and you are at risk of injury from the tweaking druggies that were out in full force. All-in-all, great goddamn set, and I’m probably not the same person I was when it started.

At this point I took it upon myself to walk outside and peek at Macabre‘s set for a bit. I had attempted to check them out a bit, but I never found them interesting as a whole. After all, how many other Metal bands write about serial killers?

They brand themselves as “Murder Metal”, which from what I have heard is a combination of some freaky Death Metal-ish songwriting, Heavy Metal attitude, and generally not taking themselves seriously. Like, at all. Just look at the photo, the frontman’s wearing a headset to do his vocals! Can anyone say they know of any other Metal band that does this stuff? All the silliness aside, they do have some fun, catchy tunes, and I remember that they played Elizabeth Bathory, as if every other Extreme Metal band on the planet hasn’t already done a song about her or even named themselves after the cunt. But again, not taking themselves seriously, I got it.

Artillery are a band tragically unknown over in the states, having suffered the misfortune of coming from Denmark and being a bit too proggy/technical for the Thrashers in Cali. If I understand correctly, they also made MDF their first stateside invasion.

If you’ve listened to them on record and don’t like the vocals, I swear to you they’re a lot better live. More soaring highs rather than the vocalist sounding like he’s questioning himself with every line.

The pits were better than I had expected for a band of their type, especially at an Extreme Metal festival where these guys must have ranked third on softest bands after Anvil and The Devil’s Blood respectively. Stand-out performance by the nearly forgotten but still sharp as ever wolves of Thrash, and here’s to hoping they come this way more often.

Grind overlords Napalm Death heralded the blanket of night with their good ol’ fashioned barbed wire fist to the mouth approach of noise for music’s sake.

You can wake my cadaver any time, Mitch.

God save the queen, these Brits are still packing as much of a punch as they did back in their beginnings, if the songs they played from the new release Utilitarian are anything to go by. One thing I haven’t mentioned up until this point as that Maryland Deathfest seems to thrive on the energy of well-timed circle-pits, and this set seemed to be overflowing with juice, as circles that I swear were at least 6 people deep were a common occurrence.  I had never fully realized just how basic and punky a lot of ND drum patterns are, and I think I’m liking them a lot more because of it. I was hoping they’d bust out their cover of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, and by George, they did, and it was massive. In fact, the vitriol contained was so great they could’ve passed it off as an original and I’d have never been able to tell the difference. By the final three songs of the set I was too tired to even stand, so I spent it sitting on the gravel next to the stage, futilely attempting to peer over the shoulders of all the other watchers, but to no avail. It was, despite being so tired I nearly puked (and this was the first time of many, believe it), a phenomenal experience and I’d repeat it weekly, if not just for the exercise.

Godflesh are a band that I’m sure I’ll never get, as I find their cold, industrial, nihilistic machinations a bit unfriendly on the ears. Yes, this is coming from someone who enjoys Oxbow and thoroughly dug Today Is The Day. I spent a little time walking in and out of the Sonar, just kind of wanting to nap, and by this time I was too tired to put up with any bands until Nasum, so I attempted to catch some Z’s to Unsane, which failed miserably because I found them to be quite awful, honestly. If Today Is The Day were mediocre at their craft, that’s how it would come out. Not willing to stomach this atrocity, I marched outside and sat in the gutter, which was far more comfortable than the audial Judas Cradle that was Unsane’s yelping and crashing cacophony. I also gave Setherial this treatment, because no matter what era of Black Metal you are from, I absolutely must discredit you for an isolated yell of “SATAAAAAAAAN”. Couple this with silly frowny corpsepaint and the air of total thuper theriouthneth, and I was pretty sure my ragged senses could handle no more.

I somehow managed to snag a good-ish spot in the crowd for headliners Nasum, who played their 20th anniversary show at MDF despite the untimely death of their frontman years ago, and bestowed the honour of filling in upon Keijo of Rotten Sound, who if you’ve heard his band and Nasum, you’ll see that there just may be a slight influence.

Yeah.

I feel like I really should’ve listened to more Nasum, having mainly exposed myself to Helvete. Fortunately, being a Grind band, you’ll be in luck with many songs sounding similar enough to not need to make such distinctions. Some simply have better mosh parts, some are kinda melodic, some are a bit slower and crunchier, yadda yadda yadda. Not to say that Nasum’s not worth checking out, because by all means, do, or you’re a pussy.

You may now Eskimo gas mask kiss the bride.

The picture above is from the intro to their set, which featured bomb raid sirens, artillery fire, and explosions, with me being unsure if I was looking at animatronic dolls due to their precise movements and their ability to stand absolutely still. By the time they solemnly marched offstage and the Frankenstein sample from which they derived their name came on the speakers, I put my fears to rest, and thus began a whole new breed of worries: Would I survive rabid grind fans partying as hard as possible to a legendary band’s ultimate last show? Well, since I’m writing this now, you have your answer.

Baltimore native and Misery Index frontman Jason helped out on vocals for a few songs, and someone whom several people believe is the frontman of Nails also came out for a bit for guest duties. My only counterpoint to this theory is that he was smiling, and the frontman of Nails never smiles. I do have to take into account, however, the fact that he was onstage with one of his biggest influences aside from probably Entombed, so there’s always that possibility.

A wild Shanelax also appeared

It was a great day, and held good omens for the rest of the weekend, aside from me being a human liquor dispenser just the previous night. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Deathfest Ball Z!

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