Slowly We Rot
I am terrible at show reviews. I have done a few in the past but have always felt strange doing so. I usually am struggling to find purpose. Whether to report or to reflect, my photography and journalistic skills have a few critical flaws. This maybe a terrible show review or the best one ever to be written. No, probably not the latter. I have increased my annual Maryland Deathfest attendance to 2 days rather than the 1. This is still nowhere close to 4 but once those checks start rolling in from these reviews I can stay for a week beneath a Baltimore underpass. I still only have three wristbands. Other people have seven and 8. At Least I am no longer a part of the lower caste of two wristbands. The filthy casuals.
Iniquity was the first. This was originally a Danish death metal band who had like two really good albums in the mid 90’s. The band played like they hadn’t practiced in 15 years but this made little difference. This was aging death metal with music that sounded like hulking zombies. The vintage riffs and general badass atmosphere was enough to make up for the loss of missing the first three bands everyone won’t shut up about. The singer commented how this was their last show with little care. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Once in a lifetime from Denmark.
My mid afternoon was filled with doom and bits of sludge. I interviewed Dixie Dave from Weedeater one year and the band met my expectations in being the aural personification of being high when something goes terribly wrong. Southern sludge has a horrific aftertaste like whiskey, mountain dew, and benadryl. I wish I could say the same thing for The Obsessed as I was hoping for so much more than early 90’s doom rock with ill fitting guitar solos. It did not occur to me that it was Wino up there or everything I just complained about describes the band. I do not know what I was expecting. I think I need a second round with this band..
Broken Hope is a brutal death outfit who spent most of the time cursing or congratulating themselves for being fucking awesome. I still do not think I am ready for neon gore and strobed death. This sort of splattercore and heavy menace still alludes me when I am just getting my footing on death metal mountain. Holy shit, I never realized this band was from Chicago or from the early 90’s. I thought they were newer. Aosoth’s name I still cannot pronounce and they lay on the other side of the festival in the tent cloaked in darkness and noise. Inside the tent is much different as this French satanic black metal band was surprisingly well produced and clear like crystal. Arena sized black metal for the willing and ready.
I ate barbeque during The Melvins.
The night was split between Revenge, who I had never heard before, and Ihsahn, former lead singer of Emperor and proprietor of one of the better prog black metal records of 2012. I would have just gone to Ihsahn but everyone was raving about Revenge and skipping their way to the panic tent. Seriously, I saw one guy skip. I knew Revenge was a Canadian black death group with three members and promo pictures that included knives. I did not realize they would damn near ruin the rest of the festival for me. Just the fact that three people could make such horrific tension and madness is beyond my grasp. It was night and the strobes made everyone a part of a seizure inducing typhoon and abstract horror. Revenge was so much faster, heavier, and fearful than anything I had seen before or heard for 5 years. It brought me to new levels of understanding to what heavy metal could be and tear apart. Now everything else is going to seem timid in comparison.
Ihasahn’s set was outside under clear skies and a mild breeze illuminated by expensive lighting. One of the better parts of the evening was hearing Ihsahn’s near legendary voice as an echo of the Norwegian black metal group Emperor. Additionally, the set included a strong rendition of “The Paranoid” from Eremita — an album that is wonderful to listen to by yourself in the comfort of one’s home. Other than Ihsahn, his flanking well dressed backing band combined with prog black metal was out of place and felt oddly positioned. But really, who am I to talk about being out of place? I wore a tie. I’m also eating a skewer of grilled meat.
I drank two beers during Down and tried to remember who was in the band or how many trucker hats I could spot in a given proximity. I have vague recollections of someone being tied to Corrosion of Conformity and Eyehategod. I see a line of security run past me towards the entrance with dedication and radio blaring accelerated chatter. Maybe Crowbar. One of my friends just wanted to hear a few seconds of Phil Anselmo’s voice just like I did with Ihsahn’s. Perhaps I’ll do the same with Venom tomorrow.
I am going to miss Antaeus tonight because halfway through Vinterland’s set all forms of aesthetic differentiation shuts off and things just become noise. Do not get me wrong, this Swedish black metal band did a great job at presenting a non theatric form of black metal with a thousand grooves but my sense of listening hit a wall. I can not tell the difference between a truck fire and a death metal band anymore. I blame Revenge for this.
I played magic at a university lab while my friend grew neurons in a petri dish. At least that’s what I think he is doing. I am more tired than I thought just after one day. My feet hurt and my thighs are chaffed. How am I ever going to make it through four of these days when the checks start rolling in? I must fight against the natural process of aging. Is this what everyone does on a Saturday night?
I missed Speedwolf because of the line. I was in the wrong one. I was in the line of people who paid more money than I did for 4 day passes. The cheaper option had a shorter line. Sorry guys but life isn’t fair. I ran in during Speedwolf’s last song “Denver 666” and somehow everything was alright. Someone said they were playing again. Hopefully this isn’t a rumor started by Speedwolf. I was already inside the tent for Cruciamentum, a venerable death metal band who was discussed in my article on the last 5 years of death metal. This was one of their last shows which made the comment “please don’t break up” from the audience even more sobering. Despite the weight of reality, the band’s chaotic crawling and vile brand of death metal was not only effective but one of the best shows in recent memory. Just like Revenge, it murdered and ruined everything.
Glorior Belli may have been a French black metal band who was a bit too hip after Cruciamentum. Though the clean haircuts and angular black metal sort of melded together in the hot sun. Contrastic may have been a Czech goregrind band or 4 loonies who ran on stage and screamed at the audience over an electronic beat. I do not know. I was frightened either way. Midnight was a black/speed throwback that wore death hoods on their heads even in the absence of shirts. This band may have been great if I was a little closer to the stage. I was at least close enough to see a bass smashed at the end. You can’t stop steel.
Pagan Altar was one of the originators of traditional doom in the early 1980’s. They were also one of the bands I was most excited about because my knees get weak for vintage occultism and traditional metal. Clean vocals, ominous riffs, and arcane imagery to boot, Pagan Altar’s music makes me think of lush rolling hills, ruined monasteries, under dark skies, and a convocation of robed worshipers held together by sacred rites. Cemeteries and magic man, it was amazing. Also the lead singer, Terry Jones was dressed in a frilly Victorian shirt and a heavy top coat with matching hat. It was everything I wanted in music. One of the avatars of heavy metal.
I ate barbecue again during Sacred Reich. This was one of the highlights of the weekend because I was 8 blocks away. It is not that I do not like the veteran thrash band, it was just really good barbecue.
One of the other reasons I came was for Sleep, a stoner doom band who I am sure everyone has heard of before but I may be deluded and completely wrong. Come on, that one song that’s 63 minutes? Drop out of life with bong in hand? No nothing? Square. I left Manilla Road to stand midway for Sleep whose crowd was already drenched in food haze and joint smoke. I have wanted to see Sleep for years but always missed them due to being far away, playing on a Tuesday, or not being a band due to various substance and spiritual problems. Their sound is enormous and they put on a spectacular performance with fine selections from Holy Mountain including “Dragonnaut.” It was worth a third of today’s ticket. Cruciamentum’s performance was worth half. Sleep also dovetailed a new song “Antarcticans thawed” with condensed and truncated selection from that 63 minute one song “Dopesmoker.” I am now tired. Perhaps a little high from the air around me.
Carpathian Forest wasn’t allowed into the country and Speedwolf played while I was getting unintentionally stoned at Sleep. Ascension was strange and frightening and only veiled in red light and Japanese wall hangings when I stood around for 10 minutes while drinking water. They were somewhere else. Perhaps using the bathroom or stuck outside in the line. Pentagram sounded classic but nowhere near interesting enough to stay after watching the documentary. I am buying tapes from Syria and Afghanistan to add to my collection of cool looking global cassettes that probably sound awful.
I knew like two Venom Songs and one of them was “Black Metal” and and the other was “Warhead.” I decided to stay for a few songs before leaving. I never expected Venom, who are in their third decade of existence, would be so damn good. I think it was the chicken guy who ran through the crowd carrying a sex doll with everyone laughing including all the security in lifeguard chairs that I realized an important fact. Venom, and others like it, are the epitome of early underground metal. Though the band is toted as first wave black metal and their lyrics are undoubtedly about worship of the dark one, there is a sense of fun and and excitement. It is the second avatar of heavy metal. Living through danger. The leather clad biker who is here for drinking, fucking Satan, and weekend parties. Stomp concrete and worship evil. Old and new I loved every second of the Venom’s set up until they played half of warhead before getting the power shut off.
Party is over. Baltimore’s parents are coming home early.
Apparently this wasn’t this first time the sound got cut off for curfew. I think Bolt Thrower got cut off as well. Venom’s early set led to a bunch of people slightly embittered only made worse by a narrow exit which spilled out into the parking lot. There was only a brief glimpse of real life danger (not Venom danger) when security and concert goers skirmished at the entrance. Time stops and for a few long seconds, panic and fear of being trampled leads to a hasty escape. I saw one person get tackled to the ground and another yell indignant curses at another group of guards. I see 5 cameras filming everything. This wouldn’t have happened if Venom was still playing. I am leaving. We drive away with police speeding past us towards the gathering group of angry security and even angrier ticket holders. Hopefully things works out and MDF happens again here or at least a place within driving distance.
See you all next year.