No. 34

June 01, 2016

Last month the 19th annual Maryland Deathfest took place again in Baltimore as a four day all ages event from Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 4:00 PM - Monday, May 30, 2016 at 1:00 AM. The festival was a multi-venue event that took place at Ramshead Live, Baltimore Soundstage, and the Edison Lot, consisting of over 80 bands. This as well included a pre-party show at the Ottobar on Weds May 25th to warm thngs up, a venue which has a vibe much like CBGB's with its walls covered in bnd stickers and graffiti. Tickets for the event ranged from $30 for one-day single venue passes to $299 for a 4-day all venue pass. By the time of the opening of the festival it was sold out of 4-day all venue passes, sold out Sat at Soundstage, and sold out Thur and Sat at Ramshead Live. Keeping with its consistent progress, the event was again even bigger this year than the last and continued to expand its diversity including all genres of metal music. Maryland Deathfest has grown to be one of the largest festivals in the United States now including additional Deathfests in California and in Finland. Despite its lack of mainstream coverage in the local media, the festival brings thousands of people to Baltimore during its four day event. This is business for Baltimore, as these tourists shop, eat, and book hotels during their stay. It deserves much greater recognition for its economic stimulation of this depressed city. My one great pet peeve is that the festival coordinators do not consider giveing out press passes. I understand that making press passes available would be challenging as every press outlet in the country would be requesting them, but I think some concession might be made for its hometown music magazine promoting these genres of music. This makes it expensive to send reporting staff and creates an under-staffed situation where it is impossible to cover the whole event. This year I went solo at my own expense and had to accept a lack of photos and video that could have accompanied our coverage of the event. At $300 per person to cover all four days of the event, I have sadly had to consider if its worth my expense to continue to offer coverage of future Deathfests. In an attempt to reduce my time and expenses, i skipped the pre-party show at the Ottobar on Wed night, but heard it went over well with Colombian death metal band Masacre being the highlight of the night.

Day One : Thurs May 26th

Day One was a daunting task of traveling back and forth between venues trying to catch certain bands that I wanted to cover. The performance scheduling between venues is such that they overlap, making it impossible to be in two places at the same time. It was therefore a given that there were times I had to choose between one band or the other. I arrived at Baltimore Soundstage to partake in the set from Visceral Disgorge to begin the festivities. It was a mediocre performance but one which psyched me up and got the juices flowing. Immediately following their performance I rushed to Ramshead Live for an anticipated set by Crypt Sermon at 6:55 PM, back to Baltimore Soundstage for sets by Putrid Pile and Jungle Rot, then back to Ramshead Live to catch a performance by Claudio Simonetti's Goblin. I was remarkable impressed by Putrid Pile for its unusual single person lineup in Shaun LaCanne who played guitar to pre-recorded tracks. The crowd did not seem to mind, embracing the music with energy, stage diving, and more. I had my mind set on seeing Victory Records artist Jungle Rot who played next. It was my first time seeing the band perform their aggressive style of thrash influenced death metal. Despite some technical sound difficulties, the band led by frontman Dave Matrise, delivered a worthy set, ravaging the stage with songs like "Eat, Fuck, Kill". Having to take a break to eat something as I rushed back to the Baltimore Soundstage, I almost missed the start of Claudio Simonetti's Goblin. I was highly intrigued to see this progressive rock band given its history and complimenting reviews for its work in soundtracks. They had written and performed compositions for films by George Romero and Dario Argento, like Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, and Profondo Rosso. The band took full advantage of the ability to show clips from these films on the overhead projection system and filling the acoustical area of the venue with their dynamic progressive music.

Watch Venom Live At MD Deathfest 2016

Day Two : Fri May 27th

For Day Two we started the afternoon at Edison Lot B, a parking lot turned concert venue where Horrendous opened the day. The band put on a kick ass show with their brutal style of death metal appealing to both new death metal fans and old school death metal fans. They were followed on Edison Lot A by Centinex who delivered an awesome performance that jacked the crowd up with their blast beats, old school style, and heavy guitar riffs. Next I saw November's Doom at Edison Lot B before heading to Lot A for the rest of the nights performances by Sinister, Paradise Lost, and Mayhem. I was looking forward to seeing Paradise Lost who are from Halifax in England, have a huge discography of fourteen albums, and are considered by some to be one of the pioneers of the death/doom genre. I found their live performance to be less than what I was expecting and they didn't get much crowd response. Singer Nick Holmes, also vocalist for the band Bloodbath, seemed as if he wanted to be somewhere else. Norwegian metallers Mayhem performed an entire set from their album De Mysterious Dom Sathanas, a landmark in the black metal genre. It was a tight knit performance that was the perfect choice in closing Day Two at Edison Lot. I then headed over to Ramshead Live where I caught the closing act Angelcorpse who were simply phenomenal. Angelcorpse were formed by Pete Helmkamp, formerly of the band Order of Chaos. They went through various band members finally seeming to gain their stride by 2000, but an unfortunate incident while on tour resulted in Helmkamp's girlfriend being stabbed and his subsequent departure from the band. I missed my chance to see the band on that tour, so it was to my excitement that they reformed and I was able to catch their show at MDF 2016.

Day Three : Sat May 28th

I decided for Day Three to hang at the Edison Lot and attended no performances at Ramshead Live or Baltimore Soundstage. It was the nature of having to chose between one or the other. I was back and forth between Lots A and B in order to cover the performances of Gruesome, Hirax, Atrophy, Hail of Bullets, Exciter, Nuclear Assault, and Testament. Sadly I missed what others were describing as the best performance of the festival by Dragged Into Sunlight at Baltimore Soundstage. I was excited to see Gruesome whose album was recently reviewed in MMM. Their music is straight forward old school death metal and they put on a decent show. They were followed by the old school thrash metal of Hirax which received a moderate response from the crowd. Atrophy didn't really do anything for me, delivering a mediocre performance of old school thrash metal. The most interesting part of their set was when a young child entered the pit and mixed it up with the big boys. It was all in the name of fun as those in the pit took care to see that the child was unharmed and enjoyed himself. Video footage of his pit experience surfaced on You Tube and has gone viral. Next Hail of Bullets put on a decent show of darkened death metal. The band took a moment to express to the crowd that they were not used to the hot Baltimore weather, being from Denmark, the icy north. Good thing for them it was only May. I was anticipating a great show from Exciter, but was rather disappointed with their mediocre performance. The highlight of the day for me was seeing Nuclear Assault, one of my favorite thrash metal bands featuring bassist Dan Lilker of the famed band S.O.D. doing many of their classics like "Wake Up", "Butt F**K", and others from albums such as Survive and Game Over. Their performance was well received, energizing the crowd, and sparking the pit. Last but not least Testament took the stage for their first time at MD Deathfest. Chuck Billy and the boys delivered a mighty performance of their classic songs to end Day Three with a bang.

Having been tight on money going into the festival I didn't purchase passes for any of the Day Four events on Sunday, instead calling it a wrap and spending the day hanging with friends in Baltimore. The merchandising at the MD Deathfest is vast and overwhelming. I spend some time on Saturday exploring merch booths and picked up a few shirts. Food and drinks were pricey, the price of bottled water kept going up every day. I would recommend trying the BBQ, it was delicious. OverallI I spent a small fortune attending this years event. It was more than just about seeing the bands but the atmosphere of the festival and meeting people. I would definitely call MFD XiV a success, progressing even more than the previous year. If you haven't been to one yet, I would recommend attending next years event for the experience.