I’ve gotten kind of lazy with my blog lately and haven’t done anything on here in a while, but today’s post is something I’ve looked forward to doing for a while. Last week, I went to Baltimore, Maryland for Maryland Death Fest, a festival dubbed “America’s biggest metal party of the year”. It always takes place during Memorial Day weekend and always features incredibly memorable performances from some of the most extreme bands on the planet. For their tenth anniversary, I decided it was time to make the trek north to experience it in all it’s glory. I’ve been to a few music festivals before that featured a lot of metal bands, but I’ve never been to a festival that consisted solely of extreme metal bands and I have to say, it was better than any festival experience I’ve ever had before.
I got to the venue right before doors opened on Thursday and was able to see Extermination Angel, a fantastic death metal band from Baltimore, as well as Needful Things, Rorschach, Dying Fetus, Absu, EHG, Agalloch, and Autopsy. The most surprising performance of the night belonged to Agalloch, who played a set entirely comprised of their older material from albums like “Pale Folklore”, and “The Mantle”. Dying Fetus also put on an incredibly brutal set and I was glad to finally see them live. Autopsy was also pretty awesome, despite drama during their set that caused them to start late and get their pa shut off during their final song, but I think E.H.G were the ones who put on the best set of the night and set a perfect tone for the weekend.
After witnessing quite a few awesome bands on Thursday, I was incredibly stoked to arrive at the venue on Friday. I really wanted to watch Castevet play their full set, but instead I chose to roam around the various merch tables, but once I blew all of my cash insanely early in the day thanks to Relapse Records, I headed inside where I saw Nashgul and Ghoul. I then watched a few songs from Demigod while waiting for Macabre to start. Once Macabre was done, I saw a little bit of Negura Bunget and Artillery. When Artillery finished, Napalm Death came on and completely blew my doors off, right after them was Godflesh. After Godflesh was done I went inside and watched Unsane, who were awesome. I chose to peruse the merch tents while Setherial played, but I came inside and watched Nasum when their set started and they were incredible.
As far as highlights go…there were 3 bands I saw on Friday who could now easily rank among the best bands I’ve ever seen live. One was Ghoul, who brought forth a brutal thrash attack mixed with an incredible stage show and a ton of blood which is about like watching Gwar, only there’s less blood and better music. Another was Napalm Death, who are a band I’ve always wanted to see live, so getting to see them play on an outside stage in downtown Baltimore was pretty rad. Also, it didn’t hurt that they played an incredibly varied set list featuring all my favorites from the newest album “Utilitarian”, as well as songs from pretty much every other album they’ve ever done, so they definitely left an impression with me that I’ll never forget. The best performance of the day, however, belonged to Nasum who is currently on their farewell tour. In fact, to call their set the best of the day is an understatement, Nasum was definitely the best performance I saw all weekend. They played with a vicious, bloodthirsty energy, and combined with the violent nature of their songs, it created something that was visually, aurally, and physically overwhelming. Another highlight of the day was Godflesh’s set, however, after getting beaten to death by Napalm Death, Godflesh were more of a surreal experience than an overwhelming one.
After getting grinded to bits on Friday by Nasum, Napalm Death, and Godflesh, I have to admit, it was incredibly difficult getting out of bed on Saturday and prepare for another full day of metal. Once I arrived on Saturday, I was immediately greeted by three grind bands in a row. I didn’t watch much of Infernal Stronghold, but I really enjoyed Bloody Phoenix and Looking For An Answer quite a bit. Once the incredible Looking For An Answer finished, it was Dragged Into Sunlight’s turn. They were by far one of the more visually intimidating bands I saw during the weekend. After watching a bit of Dragged, I went outside and watched British crust punks Hellbastard, right after them was October 31 who feature Deceased’s King Fowley on Vocals. When October 31 were done it was legendary thrashers Morbid Saint who announced that they were playing their classic album “Spectrum Of Death” in its entirety which was awesome. When they were done, I ate and watched a little bit of The Devil’s Blood, Deviated Instinct, and Anvil. When Anvil finished, I got to see Confessor which was awesome, they were way better live than I imagined they’d be. After they finished, I watched the first two or three songs from Brujeria which featured Shane from Napalm Death, and Jeff from Carcass. I then went inside to get a good spot for Noothgrush who were absolutely fantastic and incredibly heavy. After Noothgrush, I found a good spot for Morbid Angel where I waited for them to come on…20 minutes and an incredibly long intro later and they finally showed up. I had never seen them before, so it was nice to see a legendary death metal band, however, my feet hurt and I wanted a good spot for the last 3 inside bands, so I made my way inside shortly thereafter.
While waiting for Morbid Angel to finish, I was hanging out inside and getting ready for the start of Tsjuder’s set. I wasn’t particularly stoked to see Tsjuder, but I wanted a good spot for Haemorrhage, so I watched their whole set and i’m really glad I did because they killed it. Once Tsjuder finished their set with a fantastic cover of Mayhem’s “Deathcrush”, Haemorrhage took the stage a short while later, dressed as doctors and nurses and it was time to party. Haemorrhage are a band from Spain and their songs are all related to the medical field, they are also always one of the most requested to play at MDF, and after seeing them on Saturday night, I can certainly see why, they were very impressive and I’ve never seen so many people crowd-surf before. Once they were done, Winter took the stage and I thought I would be impressed by them, but after witnessing Haemorrhage’s incredibly intense set, Winter just didn’t do anything for me due to their music being super slow. The main highlights of Saturday for me were October 31’s fantastic stage presence and guitar hero friendly music, Noothgrush’s absolutely crushing and very headbangable riffs, Morbid Saint playing their classic album all the way through, and Haemorrhage’s incredible energy and stage presence. In fact, Haemorrhage was the fourth band I saw this weekend that I knew would be in my MDF top five.
When I woke up on Sunday, I was incredibly stoked that I would be seeing Suffocation and Electric Wizard that night, but I was not stoked that it meant the fest would be over soon. Sunday at MDF started much like the past 3 days, which featured a ton of incredibly fast punk/grind/death bands. I didn’t watch much of Backslider, but I really enjoyed Coke Bust, and though I wanted to watch all of Agents Of Abhorrence’s set, I made my way outside for Disma and they did not disappoint. After Disma’s incredibly crushing set, I tried to watch Cough, but the room was so crowded and hot that I decided to look at merch while waiting for Rwake to come on. After watching Rwake, I was in a fantastic mood because they put on an amazing show. The down-side to seeing Rwake play one of the best sets of the weekend is the fact that it made it that much harder to enjoy Church Of Misery who weren’t as intense, so I went inside to watch Ulcerate for a bit, which was a good decision because they were absolutely crushing. I did, however, come back out later and finish watching Church Of Misery and you could tell they got much better as they warmed up. When they finished, I made my way back inside to watch Yob who were awesome, after them it was Suffocation. Suffocation were by far, one of my most anticipated of the weekend and they definitely did not disappoint. During Suffo’s set, however, I snuck inside for a minute to watch the band Nausea who had Leon from Exhumed/Intronaut/Murder Construct on guitar and they were awesome.
When Suffo ended, everybody made their way across the lot to see Saint Vitus, but I decided to hang in the back and get a good spot for Electric Wizard since I had already seen Vitus before, but I could hear them very well and they absolutely killed it. Right as Saint Vitus’ set was ending it began to rain and I knew automatically that Electric Wizard was going to be a moment I’d never forget. After Vitus ended and Wizard got tuned up, the rain held off for a little bit, only to fall again during “Dopethrone”. I kind of thought Electric Wizard was going to be an overwhelming experience, but like Godflesh, it was more surreal because they are a band I never thought I’d get to see live and yet, they were completely mesmerizing. Needless to say Electric Wizard were one of the main highlights of the day, but the main band that stuck with me was Rwake, there was an energy and a magic to their set that I had never experienced before. Suffocation and Disma were the two heaviest bands of the day and I really enjoyed them quite a bit, but honestly, there wasn’t a single band all day that didn’t bring the thunder completely and i’m glad the fest ended on a super high note.
After spending all weekend at Sonar, at stages both inside and out, I couldn’t help but be impressed with just how well-ran and organized it was. Another thing that I thought was neat is how many awesome people I got to meet, whether they be a fan, a musician, or a journalist. Another cool thing was the merch selection which featured numerous vendors. I managed to grab some pretty cool records, but my favorites were the Roadburn edition of dISEMBOWELMENT’s “Transcendence Into The Peripheral” and Testament – “The New Order” as well as records from Noothgrush, Kings Destroy, and Coalesce. I also managed to get a few awesome cassette tapes from bands like Bolt Thrower, Pantera, Slayer, and Overkill. As far as shirts go, I got special MDF shirts from Disma and Nasum as well as shirts from Haemorrhage and Napalm Death. All in all, this was definitely one of the best weekends I’ve ever had and if I get the chance to go to MDF again, I’m certainly going to jump at it.