Well folks I’m now back home in Australia after a whirlwind 2 and a half week tour of New York and Baltimore which was BLOODY AWESOME!!!! This is the first of 4 reviews from Maryland Deathfest (MDF) with one for each day of the fest. I had intended on writing these while at the festival but I was either too drunk or exhausted to write much more than basic notes on my phone. Plus I’m an old coot and needed sleep. So here we go with Day 1 of MDF 2012. Enjoy.

My trip from New York to Baltimore went smoothly and I caught the train with a mate from New Jersey and had good discussions about Relapse Records signings, US politics and all the kick arse bands he’d seen that I hadn’t. I quickly set up in the Tremont Plaza hotel and after a spot of grocery shopping I strolled down the steep street to the Sonar Bar where MDF is held. Once inside I managed to buy an Eyehategod shirt in 2 minutes which I think is some kind of merch buying speed record for me. It was the first of MANY shirts I bought (My name is Geoff and I’m a shirtaholic). Tonight was only the indoor stage only which meant there were less people than a full day which was nice as it gets bloody squishy.

First up were locals Extermination Angel who played an old school death metal style. The singer looked a little odd with sunglasses, a sort of afro hairstyle and spiked gauntlets and a guitarist had bullet belts, chains and other metal garb but the rest of the band looked normal. I always find it amusing when only part of a band dresses up and it looks especially hilarious in black metal bands with only half wearing corpse paint. They weren’t bad at all and I liked the singers vocals but overall nothing too memorable.

Aussie goregrinders Die Pigeon Die played next and were basically Jack from DPD on vocals backed by New York band The Communion. I’d seen this lineup a couple of weeks earlier in New York and at both gigs their gory grooves went down a treat. This was about the third incarnation I’d seen of DPD and honestly I prefer the previous version with Jack on guitar/vox, his brother Leon on bass/vox and blastmaster Christoph on drums as their set at the final Arthouse grind gig was simply stunning. However this version were very impressive with only a few weeks of jams and the ever present circle mosh began. Jack was doing dual vocals by holding two microphones with different pitch shifters attached and they also used several samples to great effect. Sadly they were the only goregrind band of the fest but I certainly got my fix of gurgle vox, detuned guitars and GUT-style drum beats.

Needful Things followed and I was keen to czech them out (*groan*) as I had missed their Australian tour. Sadly their sound was shite and the snare was barely audible so they totally lacked the punch needed for grind. I only watched half their set because of this and left disappointed.

Hardcore legends Rorschach were up next and I was surprised at how heavy they sounded. The weird rapsy vocals took a bit to get used to but the music was top notch and really reinforced the widespread belief that Converge and other metalcore bands had been ripping them off for years. Their cover of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man was really well done too. I also noticed during their set to my surprise that the guy in front of me had an Armoured Angel backpatch on his jacket which made me nostalgic for home. Nice work son!

Dying Fetus followed and unsurprisingly the mosh pit got very hectic with their opening song Praise The Lord (Opium Of The Masses). Just watching the mosh kept me highly amused for the whole set as it was filled with dickheads galore including the flailing pit ninjas, the usual idiot-that-runs-the-wrong-way fools, the ever present guy in the chicken suit (not a dickhead – in fact a true hero), one huge shirtless guy I nicknamed Andre The Giant who just stumbled around smashing into anyone near him, and best of all some odd guy I nicknamed Rocky who for most of the set stood there with both arms raised. Below is some footage of their last song Kill Your Mother / Rape Your Dog which I shot from the side of the room. Their live sound was better than you can hear on this clip and they were super tight although I still want to see them play Intentional Manslaughter before I die.

Absu sadly suffered from a really shitty, muffled sound and paled in comparison to the Sydney gig they played with Portal back in January which had been stellar. Proscriptor seemed distant at MDF however it might have been the huge stage he was at the back of. Also I did read that they pulled out of the Chaos In Tejas festival a week later Proscriptor had an infected knee. A highlight was watching an Australian mate doing air bagpipes during the song Tara.

Next were Eyehategod who were in superb form and the band of day in my humble opinion. They’d played on an outdoor stage at MDF 2010 which was amazing but this set was somehow another level of awesomeness even though it contained plenty of the same songs. I think it was helped that I was standing with heaps of Melbourne folks who love their doom (and booze) so we were having a grand time with many a doom claw raised in honour of the excellent performance. After the Absu debacle, the sound for EHG was spot on with their southern sludge coming through perfectly and singer Mike in fine form and thanked the crowd several times for their praise. My favourite EHG song Dixie Whiskey received an airing so I was loving it. As expected during EHG there was quite a strong smell of a certain herb being burned which persisted for most of the fest. In fact during several indoor bands I could have sworn somebody dumped a pound of weed into the airconditioning system and set it on fire as the smell seemed to linger for ages despite the fans blowing heavily. Here’s some footage I found on YouTube of the song $30 Bag.

Sandwiched strangely between sludge gods EHG and death metal legends Autopsy was nice folky black metal band Agalloch who I regret only seeing 2 songs of as they sounded great. But by now the booze was kicking in and soon enough I was off being a social butterfly and vaguely remember chatting to some blokes from Las Vegas.  The 2 songs I watched they were older ones and apparently You Were But A Ghost In My Arms had never been played live before so I feel a bit guilty that some of my mates who worship Agalloch missed it.

Headlining the first night were the mighty Autopsy and this was my third year in a row seeing them live. I think by now I’d been given a dreaded Captain Morgan rum and coke however it didn’t come back up and I was nicely tipsy and ready for excessive headbanging. Only problem was they didn’t start playing until 40 minutes after their designated start due to technical dramas with Danny’s amp which meant they didn’t get to play the last 5 songs of the setlist which were all from Severed Survival which was a bummer. They started the same as MDF 2010 with the 1, 2 combo of Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay and In The Grip Of Winter and I was ecstatic and having a killer time. After another couple of classics, they aired some newer material which to tell the truth dragged down the momentum of the set a bit. I do like the new material and it sounds great live but 4 songs in a row seemed a bit much to me. One of my favourite songs Dead got an airing next and woke me up as I involuntarily screamed the lyrics but 2 songs later they were mid way through Voices when the PA was cutoff as they’d reached the 2am curfew so they amusingly continued playing through their amps and finished the song. Here is footage of that song and the crowd enjoying themselves.

Below is a photo I had taken the next day with Autopsy guitar legend Eric Cutler. I was hoping for a photo with Chris Reifert to make it three years in a row but I didn’t see him. However on the Friday I was sitting down checking through my photos and Eric was talking to a woman next to me so I fanboyed it up and asked for a pic and told him to bring Autopsy to Australia. Haha the chicken suit wearing maniac is posing in the background for another pic!

On the walk back to the hotel after 2am I met a bloke from the Nuclear War Now! message board who had unfortunately just been robbed at gunpoint about a block from the gig. Thankfully they didn’t hurt him and only took cash but the poor fellow wasn’t too happy and I made sure I passed on his sombre story to anyone I met as plenty of my friends were in different hotels and some wandering around by themselves. There was one bright point though when he told me that he likes reading this blog so thanks for the patronage Chad and I’m glad you survived the dodgy wasteland that is Baltimore!

I managed to drink quite a bit but not too much and had an awesome sleep as the bed was about 20,000 times better than the crappy NYC hotel bed plus I didn’t have sand blasting of the building across the street waking me up at 6am. Day 1 was quite the success with my highlights being Eyehategod and Autopsy which doesn’t really surprise me too much.

Stay tuned for more reviews…..


One Response to Maryland Deathfest 2012 Day 1

  • Chad says:

    Thanks for the kind words, mate! Sorry I couldn’t introduce myself under better circumstances! Not exactly the first impression I was hoping to make, haha. Glad you enjoyed your stay in the states. Hope to see you again there next year for a proper round of drinks.

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