Third Time’s The Charm: Maryland Deathfest, Thursday and Friday

It finally happened. I had a good, no, GREAT time at Maryland Deathfest. Would’ve been better if I could have seen Garm’s unibrow rustling in concentration, but still, fun. Absolutely free of poorly thought out drinking binges, interpersonal drama, God, and other messy things that prevent you from living like a human, I’m glad to report a success story where I not only saw most of the bands I cared to see, but also was fuckin’ FIERCE in , goddamn. Lookin’ and feelin’ good are only two parts to the complex and variable happening that is America’s biggest metal/hardcore party of the year, but it’s easy to forget that when you’re crying and/or puking, and I’m glad to say I only did the latter once, and it was a party puke making room for more party as opposed to an “I hate myself and will try not to do this again” puke. Awesome. Now let’s talk about some shit.

Thursday

There’s not much to say bandwise about Thursday, because fuck New York traffic. Slapshot got it right, they shouldn’t apologise for that shit. Just take a look at this monstrous eyesore I got treated to at the Port Authority station.

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A motherfucking Cake Boss Café. Reaffirms misanthropy like little else. The icing on this cake of fuck is the presence of televisions airing the damn show to the lobotomised patrons. And don’t get me wrong: my brief sojourn to Times Square allowed me to bear witness to a lot of other unspeakable horrors including a strip club/body sushi bar/steak joint (unholy!) but it pains me to even think of the massive overcrowding and overstylised tomfoolery that is that den of iniquity. It takes 30 minutes to get out of that gods accursed necropolis, even with clear traffic, so avoid at all costs all the time. Now that I’m done bitching about long bus rides (and it was long), I’d like to take a moment to give a HUGE shoutout to a certain Peter Willis for setting me up with a couch to crash on the entire MDF weekend, via couchsurfing.org. Highly recommended if you can’t afford a hotel or just don’t want to deal with one anyway. This guy saved my life, and unfortunately I didn’t think to get a picture with him, but here’s his dresser clandestinely snapped pre-cleanup because he’s a party animal.

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To Baltimore natives, Modelo and Natty Boh are water, and Strong Bow Cider is their apple juice.

So without further ado (and I’m not even sure about the ado), I made my sweet little way to the Ram’s Head, and I must say it’s a tad fancier than I would have thought, being called Ram’s Head. I had in mind a bar shitty enough to be Deathfest material, but that was only the bowels. The outside has a fancy ass fountain with lights that make it look like Vegas or someshit. Too cool, dude. And it’s near the most brutal Holocaust memorial you’ll ever see.

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Isn’t that fucking metal? And not just because it’s cast in iron or whatever, but because it’s a bunch of bodies burning, twisting, writhing, and melting in spiritless agony. Forever. Fuckin’ rad. Boston’s glass tubes full of steam can’t compare.

Appropriately in the mood for Coffins after some rituals near this most blesséd monument to misery, I stepped face-first into the sludge.

The embodiment of dark, slow and heavy, and a direct genetic predecessor to Winter’s death/doom monstrosity, Japan’s Coffins is a contender for one of the most disgustingly oppressive metal bands out there. And they’re actually good at what they do, too. The distortion serves not as a cover-up for being shitty musicians (they aren’t), but creates that foreboding grave-like atmosphere we sick fucks need to feel alive. Now one member heavier after moving Ryo from drums to frontman and getting a new stickman during the making of their punishing new album The Fleshland, they brought out plenty of hits from the hellish Buried Death, my personal favourite (though suspiciously missing “Cadaver Blood”, why?). You’d be amazed at how fast a crowd can get moving even though the music runs like a tank draped in human bodies. Easily one of the more brutal pits of the weekend. Nearly lost my shit —as in my possessions, as you know I went ham— but it was totally worth it. “See you tomorrow”, Bungo or Ryo quipped as they signed off, with a smile.

Following with another hard C to the jaw, Nawlins’ own Crowbar came up to the plate and delivered sorrowful Southern sermons to our congregation of freaks.

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There they were chugging along dutifully onstage, I’m looking at guitarist Matthew Brunson as the blues flowed freely, and suddenly there’s a scrawny-looking guy feeling the fury of Kirk Windstein’s foot to his face. Now everyone’s mind is in “what the fuck?” mode for a moment, and conflicting accounts of the “what” rose faster than weeds outside a shitty project building. Apparently a fan got onstage, got tackled by security into Kirk, which then prompted Kirk’s “what the fuck” mode, and subsequently a violent reaction that was probably not needed, in light of the whole Randy Blythe kerfuffle. Despite this hiccup, however, they finished their set like gentlemen, and all was well. No clue what happened with the guy that undoubtedly still has a shoeprint in his forehead, but I hope that wasn’t the highlight of his weekend. I mean, aside from that, the set went well. I made a man of myself by throwing the shit down during “Cemetery Angels” in a goddamn blue miniskirt. Get on that level, chumps.

Switzerland’s Triptykon was supposed to headline, but due to the sudden and tragic death of band friend and artist, H.R. Giger, and the subsequent scheduling of his funeral, they couldn’t make it, though the MDF XII shirts tell a different story.

Friday

Good Friday indeed! Oh the wonderful tales I could tell you about successfully defeating homophobia by simply walking away from loudmouthed dumbasses, or I could just review bands, which is a better idea, actually.

So, this is the second time I’ve seen New York’s Castevet here at Deathfest, and like their hometown, I’m not sure why it’s considered such a hot item, even though it has elements that I like. I enjoy their post-hardcore tendencies more than their Black Metal ones. Weird, ain’t it? I would have stuck around to hear more of Mgla (who are doing far more interesting Black Metal, straight as a shot of Beefeater), but I wanted to A) familiarise myself with the walk to and from the Baltimore Soundstage, because I would end up going back and forth. A lot. Like, more than a kid at a Gorilla Biscuits show, or someshit. Why do they do this to us instead of using the perfectly good former Sonar Compound for a shitshow, the only attraction being that beers were $3 rather than $6? Fuck logic.

Anyhow, yes, Creative Waste from Saudi Arabia, pretty decent. They’ve got the novelty factor of being one of the only known Grind bands from that country for obvious reasons, though they could stand to be more creative in the years to come. They’ve got potential, however, and it’s sweet they could make it out to the US and do stuff. After a bit of getting wasted, I walked back to check out Ruins Of Beverast, and I honestly found their brand of Teutonic Black Metal a tad dull. I swear one of their songs was repeating the same section over and over and over and over until I finally realised it, and then, as if to fuck with me, suddenly it changed. Is this what it’s like having a bad trip just to snap back into reality and find your loved ones dead? No? Completely off-base? I mean, I like atmosphere and all, but I didn’t come to Baltimore to be lulled to eternal slumber. That’s what got me in trouble the last two years.

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This picture with Fizzle D-Dizzle happened at some point around that time, because Ruins of Beverast is the soundtrack to a selfie break.

Following that was Necros Christos, and I must say, golf claps to having the most evil sounding bands play in the bright Baltimore sun. The irony was lost on nobody, I hope. They were decent enough, I remember, but nothing truly stuck out. Yep, the drought of interest was alive, but luckily Lake ACxDC was nearby to quench my thirst for some hard-hitting PV. Since it was still early in the day and not everyone had warmed up, you can guess that the pit was live, but not entirely lit up. Their caustic mix of standard Powerviolence and wacky fun-loving Grindcore makes for some good Christkillin’ tunes, indeed.

A second helping of Coffins was on the menu, and boy was I hungry for more topsoil.

Legit, Coffins could have played all four days and I’d have no problem with that at all. This time around they played more of their “fast” songs, meaning those with more mid-paced tempos, and even “No Saviour”, featuring some blastbeats, which, in my Coffins listening experience, is quite a rare treat. This, however, only proves that the band is not a one-trick pony, and is capable of devastation at several different speeds. Efficiency is terrifying; just ask the Nazis. Not a band to repeat themselves too much, the only returning tracks were “Evil Infection” and “Altars In Gore”, the latter of which made the dance floor shine. With sweat. And beer.

Turning 30 just last year, Norway’s Taake has never been in the U.S., because playing shows in America is not Black Metal, or something. Hoest even decided to wear a robe rather than go balls-out, which would make more sense, given that the weather’s pretty nice around those parts at this time.


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Controversy about telling someone to “go suck a Muslim” —something Creative Waste would probably not appreciate— and all other bullshit that has lead to people falsely pinning the NS tag on them, Taake is probably one of those bands that you hear about more than actually hear. Having exposed myself to some of their music, I can say with certainty that it is good Norwegian Black Metal, and controversy be damned; those riffs are ice fuckin’ cold, son. I’m not terribly familiar with much of their music aside from the hilariously awesome banjo solo on “Myr” from Noregs Vaapen, but I hope this means that they can come back sometime without me having to pay hundreds of dollars. Also, I saw this dead bird on the sidewalk, and someone had removed it by the time I went back out of the Lot.

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They didn’t take the dog shit, though. Guess that would’ve been gross.

Having to dash in the midst of the fog to catch the almighty Capitalist Casualties was a painful, but necessary decision for me to make. If I even missed a minute of their set, I probably would have missed two or three songs, and that is, I assure you, not entirely an exaggeration.


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Think the singer and bassist don’t look PV enough? Here’s their guitarist:

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Now THAT right there is the face of fastcore.

Blistering, impossible hailstorms of insane start-stop tempos, rapid-fire vocals and scathing guitars that straddle the line between an all-out Thrash attack and condensed hardcore ferocity, and I suppose you’ve noticed that I’m fanboying so hard I can’t even stop using ad-words. I’ll be up front and say Capitalist Casualties was one of the main draws for me this year, alongside Coffins. With a 40 minute timeslot, I estimated that they’d play at least 10 songs that I knew. I overshot it by three or four songs, but still, good enough. The fact that they played “Selfish Parochialism” nullified the fact that they didn’t play “Violence Junkie”, or more from their split with Man Is The Bastard, but I seriously can’t even bitch, because when else am I gonna see Capitalist Casualties on the Beast Coast? Geekin’.

The madness was far from over, as Italy’s grind virtuosos Cripple Bastards were up next to ruin any semblance of a face remaining from the previous assault.

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Ranging in styles from faithful three-chords-and-the-truth punk rock to blasting grind, to fret-melting death metal, Cripple Bastards are certainly not short-sighted in their brutality. I’d know what they talked about if I spoke Italian, but I get the feeling that it falls in line with socio-political vitriol, as grind is wont to do. From Assück to Discordance Axis to early Extreme Noise Terror, grind has many flavours, and Cripple Bastards brings a whole plate of goodness to the genre. Just thinking of Italy makes me hungry because I’m fat. Speaking of fat, I got a free Yeungling from some guy.

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Best 6 bucks never spent.

After my lower back was adequately punished by Punx Aerobics 101, I took yet another long walk (and it got longer every time) back to Edison to catch At The Gates, no big deal.

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Alright, so I lied, pretty big deal. At The Gates is only one of the most legendary Melodic Death Metal bands that actually still plays Melodic Death Metal. Who does that shit anymore? Not In Flames, I can tell you that much, even though I love them to death. But yeah, to see the fucking pit surge during “Terminal Spirit Disease” is like a breath of fresh air for MeloDeath. Some dude even got into the circlepit with a camera in hand, and somehow it didn’t get broken. What a man. He’ll put a baby in me one day. The most pleasant surprise of the set: they actually played “The Beautiful Wound”. Holy shit; I thought I was the only person that cared about that song for some odd reason. Killer doesn’t begin to describe it. With fear, I kiss the burning AWESOME.

Following that with the atmospheric as hell black/death/doom two-piece meal Bölzer made for an odd contrast, but it was pretty chill, despite being given the distinct feeling that I had been launched into empty space.

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Not much I can say about these guys, unfortunately, but they’re good, so check ‘em, if you want. I saw this guy’s jacket, too.

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California’s most likely to be sued for medical malpractice, Impaled, however, was what my ears had their hearts set on at that hour. I intended to catch some of Enthroned, but they took too damn long to set up, and ironically enough, Impaled also were taking ages to set up, and thus started ten or fifteen minutes late. But fuck it, it’s Impaled playing The Dead Shall Dead Remain, in full, with dudes dressed as doctors, Hæmorrhage style, crowdsurfing/moshing in ‘blood’-spattered lab coats and surgeon masks. To add fuel to the spiritual bonfire of Bacchanal celebration, the infamous MDF Party Brigade struck suddenly with a bunch of glowsticks, inflatables, and other goodies, as you can sorta see here.

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One second, it’s just Impaled playing, the next, it looks like someone turned on a garden hose that shoots little plastic things you should never, ever, ever, eat.

I drank with the doctor you see in this picture, he’s pretty chill. I already forgot his name, though, because whiskey. And this little cute alien dude, even though this picture is from Saturday.

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All hail Dollar Tree, for it is America, and America is good.

Then I went and caught some Incantation, and I must say they’re not quite as slow as I expected, since I believe some of their members had been in Disma, and lemme tell ya, that band’s pretty slow. I kinda liked it, but would have preferred if vocalist John McEntee (also known for his work in Mortician and live stints in Immolation) didn’t insist on trying to sound “evil” even though song titles like “Emaciated Holy Figure” do that well enough. Sounded like a damn cartoon goblin. How brutal. Not shittalking, it was just ridiculous, being referred to as “sick fucks” two or three times in a 10 minute span. Good night.

 

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Maryland Deathfest X – Hot Town, Crusties In The City: Saturday

My my, ’twas a scorcher and several quarters! I, even with my great resistance to heat, had to remove my jacket out of fear of death, so I don’t see how everyone in patch jackets or several layers of accumulated filth managed to fare any better. On this day I woke up a bit late-ish, so I missed the first couple bands, no biggie, I hadn’t heard much of anything from any of them, but I definitely was not missing Dragged Into Sunlight.

Dragged Into Sunlight are what you get from combining the pure nihil of Anaal Nathrakh with the dirtiness of Lightning Swords Of Death and a healthy kick of drug-addled Sludge a la Buzzov*en, and you’ve got one of the heaviest Black Metal bands you’ll have the displeasure of hearing.

They kept the room as dark as their music, with only everpresent blood-red lights and flashes of white light during the blasts, and a well-placed candelabra was conducive to a great atmosphere.

It may have just been all the sweaty men inside the Sonar and the humidity, but the air just felt heavy and close to unbreathable during their set. The pounding drums didn’t help either, quite literally rattling my chest a bit with every hit. Nothing to complain about here, as they did their job well with not a single hitch. Immediately after their set was over, I ran outside to get some air, and lo and behold, Hellbastard was playing.

One of the OG bands of Crust Punk/Crossover Thrash, they probably helped invent the name with their Ripper Crust release. I didn’t know they existed until I saw they were playing at MDF, which I should probably be ashamed to say, since these guys kick some major ass. All the way from the UK, and never quite realizing the success or at least recognition a band as legendary as they are has done little to sour their spirits, apparently, as they played their unique brand of Punk fuelled Thrash for a very eager crowd of dirty moshers. It was fucken crazy how wild people went for them, and also how much their frontman (aptly named Scruff) hates commercial Punk Rock. Knowing how little most bands comment on it with an “out of sight, out of mind, don’t see it, don’t exist” attitude, Scruff directly called out all the Green Days of the world by attacking the neck of his guitar, shouting “This is more Punk Rock than any of those bands will ever be!” You tell ’em, old dog. Hellbastard’s MDF appearance has set the stage for them to finally get the word out that angry music has been around for longer than most of us like to think. Just ask Amebix.

After Hellbastard I was feeling the effects of the heat and either stayed inside or just mucked about outside, taking in whatever happened to be playing. I can’t exactly properly review a band who I know dick about and only saw several glimpses of their sets, and that happened a lot today. I do wish, however, that I saw the chicken suit guy get kicked by Black Witchery‘s frontman, as that may have been the most interesting thing to occur during any of the Black Metal bands’ sets this whole fest. Let’s move along to Morbid Saint, a band you probably already hate due to their name and logo if you haven’t heard them yet and are anywhere near as judgmental as I about the covers of books.

In the mist, dark figures move and twist!

I thought I had them all figured out as some random lame Thrash/Heavy Metal band intent on boring my socks off, but a pleasant surprise came in the package of some decently heavy Deathrash, with speed enough to incite many a furious pit session. Colour me surprised, old bastards, I actually enjoyed this one. Not much to say other than they played their album Spectrum Of Death front to back, track to track, ass ta ass, and I can’t say I disliked it. During their last song I found it proper to take a jog to the other outside stage where Deviated Instinct was setting up the cannons with which to bathe us all in grease and crust from the same mass of land Hellbastard hails from.

Somehow I had managed to overlook the fact that they were playing MDF until Thursday, so this was a pleasant surprise. I had begun listening to them a few months ago, and kinda liked their approach to Crust Punk, as it involved a good heaping of Death Metal, mainly in the vocals. Live, Leggo amplifies the growls tenfold, ditching any of the punk sensibilities in his vocal work, which gave me the impression that he was too drunk to remember any of the lyrics anyway. True as fuck.

As with Hellbastard, the dirtiest, dreadlockiest, faded clothing-iest of the showgoers came out in masses, lending a nice aroma of human filth to the air and completing the ambiance. While Deviated Instinct may not have had nearly as many moshers per capita, it probably had the most violence and people actually seeking to cause others harm, with several people actively shoving others to the ground in fits of anger. Of course, what better way is there to enjoy music made by people who look depressed and/or angry for most of their onstage tenure? Their disgust for mankind is apparent in their music, and if you don’t feel the same, it’s probably not for you. If you’re looking for a band that doesn’t hate people and is actually one you might like to meet, check out Anvil.

Mountie uniforms soon to come.

Now I know what you’re thinking, that I actually like Anvil. The sooner we move past this foolish notion, the better. Anvil’s story is highly unfortunate, but for all the wrong reasons. They were overlooked in the 80’s, much like thousands of other Speed/Heavy metal bands of their time, yet I don’t see Iron Angel making a documentary about how success evaded them like the scattershot that is the music industry. Anvil like to claim that they deserved to be big, and they got their damn wish, but I don’t see why. They’re too cheesy even for the time they came out. The frontman’s stage presence is nothing short of Jimmy Fallon-esque, and their songs are on cerebral par with Manowar. Yet they’re so puppy-dog adorable and friendly almost feel bad and don’t dislike them, just pity them for actually thinking their music is damn important. I noticed that they actually seem to have some heavy distortion, so I wish they actually used that more often, since they have promise to be a heavy and interesting band, but are too stuck on making sure people validate them as musicians to write cool songs. It was a sight to see, with the audience’s applause coming largely from pity rather than genuine appreciation for Anvil’s presence. They were out of place, and Artillery wasn’t. Fucking Artillery, felt more at home at Maryland Deathfest, and they’re in the neighboring kingdom to Anvil as far as Metal subgenres go. That’s fucked. 

Let’s fast forward to Brujeria, who were easily one of the most fun bands of the night. Scratch that, they were, and I’m a massive knobgobbler for suggesting otherwise.

Brujeria’s superhero comic book backstory is that they are some drug cartel warlords from Mexico, yet only two or three of the members are actually Mexican. Among their ranks are Jeff Walker from Carcass and Shane Embury from Napalm Death (who I poked earlier in the day, not so friendly of a guy), who are pasty as British gringos can get without being albino, as well as the ex-drummer of At The Gates, among many other bands. Which leaves the two vocalists and the bassist, who I’m not too sure about but am too lazy to look up. Gollee, the turnout for people hailing from Hispanic countries (flags and all) was enormous, though I swear I didn’t see about 97% of them at any other point during the whole of that weekend.

This led to the vocalists telling jokes in Spanish, many of which I did not get, but laughed anyway cos I’m a hugely xenophobic asshole who thinks Spanish is a hilarious barbarian language (human humour for ya), and the songs were all in Spanish too, only one of which I actually know the lyrics to, having loved it since I was 13 years old.

The rest was all a confused jumble of sex, Satanism, drugs, and hating immigration/racist assholes, from what I can gather. The circle was nonstop during all of their songs, especially Colas De Rata, which I kinda knew, so I risked life, limb, and soul. The whole set was a non-stop blast of spicy Grind with a sense of humour to make Crotchduster take some notes en Español, including a song called Consejos Narcos, which seems to be about what drugs to do and what not to do.

¿Marijauna? ¡Sí! ¿El polvo? (lit. the powder) ¡No!

Fun stuff. The icing on the cake was their corruption of the Macarena to feature lyrics about drugs, cleverly entitled Marijuana. (¡AYYYYY!) At this point, the laughter and joy faded into apprehension as Morbid Angel set up. And believe me, they took long enough to drain all the mirth, with an extra half hour or so of waiting while some shite orchestral backdrop that I guess was supposed to be “so evyl and synystyr” played, in which a lot of people simply got fed up and left. I, wanting to witness any potential rioting should they have played any of the awful songs from the newest sacrificial offering, stayed firmly planted.

Hint: They didn’t.

Clothes from the “Goth” Bargain Floor since 1984

Morbid Angel actually played a pretty decent set. Surprised? I am too, but then again, I’d have been surprised if they went either way, since I was intent on remaining neutral in case of fire. They did play a few new songs, but they were the subpar stabs at Death Metal, not the unforgivable Nudustrial prank abominations. I guess Dave’n’crew aren’t that dumb, but here’s my main gripe with their stage act: Can David Vincent just speak to the crowd like human beings and not like he’s some sort of Demonic warlord? He’s lost that privilege since he thought Fruity Loops was a productive choice for an Extreme Metal album by a band that has up til this point been using real instruments, but I digress. He was corny as hell, to be frank, with his introduction to the song Nevermore being the typical “If someone fucks with you for being different, swear at them” kinda deal. He could’ve addressed the guy who was illegally walking along the highway and subsequently was chased by cops, but chose instead to consciously ignore it. Blown that opportunity out the water? At least play the good stuff, which they did. They did something strange with the song Immortal Rites, which is off Altars of Madness. Take a listen below.

Now that song was fine, but they done fucked with it by adding warbly clean vocals during the bits that should have been intimidating all of their own. Singing “Moooooooorbid” is not cool, D-Vince, it’s just silly.

Other than that, they seemed to have left the songs as intended, but I wouldn’t know about the second half, since I went inside to sit down and watch Tsjuder‘s set, having had my fill of the angel. They were pretty decent. Like most of the other Black Metal bands, they were painted up, but had more oomph to their sound, so they managed to keep my interest. Not too long after that, came the Spanish wannabe pathologists, Haemorrage, in their true bloody form.

Just a boring night out for Luisma

Woo doggy, lemme just say I’m surprised no one brought a scalpel to this set, because apparently the audience was full of surgeons and pathologists eager to crack open a warm one. It’s times like these I dearly wish I had brushed up on the source material, but like Nasum last night, they’re Grind, and every song is fucken awesome. These guys are the gorier sort, both visually and thematically, always sporting medical garb suspiciously covered in blood, and Luisma looking like he just swam in the river Styx. He got a little hungry during the set and was handed a fresh baby to devour.

He’s quite the leg man.

Haemorrhage are basically a Carcass clone, but like many of their type, they bring a unique spin on it. I’m gonna go with Exhumed and some of the more Rock’n’Roll influenced Carcass songs, only a bit more groovy and with more vomitous vocals. And to think they nearly kept the name Devourment.

With the security spraying water on the crowd periodically, the aerobics were prolonged into the witching hour, where Winter crept onto the scene, burying the joyous celebration of gore in layers of permafrost and rubble from dead civilizations. Allow me to present to you the two stages of their frontman’s stage presence.

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No vocals

This is by no means a complains, as one doesn’t go to see Winter and expect pyrotechnics or crazy guitar flip tricks. One goes to see Winter in the hopes that they’ll be lulled into eternal swamps of low end, merciless distortion, Tartarean bellows, and expugnisively slow and heavy rhythms, if they can even be called such, due to their lack of shape and speed. Only negativity surrounds the premier Death/Doom metal act, with every aspect of this NY three-piece doing their utmost to make it uncomfortable. Apocalyptic, with no hope for the future, no chance of leading into Spring, only into darkness.

With the members and the music moving at the speed of a wounded, frostbitten Arctic beast, it made for a great end to the night’s festivities. Boasting only one album and one EP, and influence on countless bands (namely the mighty Coffins), they have a lot of weight to drag around, and I’m glad to have been there to be pummeled. Tomorrow shall be the last of this string of MDF posts, which has been extremely taxing on me physically because I’m not used to working this hard. Now to go regain the pounds I’ve lost.