Monthly Archives: June 2013
After only 4 – 5 hours sleep I was pretty bloody hungover from the beer tasting however I dragged myself out of bed and had a lengthy shower and prepared for day 4 of MDF. I looked at the lineup for Sunday and realised that there was not one single gap between all the bands I wanted to see. Yikes! I strolled down to Sonar to find a queue that literally went all the way around the rather large carpark next to Sonar. This was not that much of a surprise considering the shenanigans yesterday as well as the fact there is a market on Sunday morning in the carpark and it always takes longer than planned to clear. I had wanted to see Speedwolf who were on at 1.50 but the line was barely moving so I thought bugger it and decided to go and see Ilsa at Soundstage instead. On the way there I stopped for some Subway for breakfast and had my one encounter with East Baltimore street which is well known for strip clubs and other sketchy behaviour. Don’t worry folks it was nothing too dodgy but I walked past a strip club and they had the shabbiest looking spruiker out the front trying poorly to con people inside. He must have been 60+ with stains on his shirt and unkempt hair and may have in fact just been a hobo standing there pretending to spruik. I reasoned that he was probably trying to attract the lowest quality clientele possible by showing they had no hiring standards.
I got straight into Soundstage and wisely positioned myself with a rail to lean on to watch the band. I looked over and saw my mate John from Sydney looking just as seedy and dusty as me so we both had a nice and relaxed wake up gig. Ilsa cranked their brand of sludge and they sounded bloody awesome with a crisp sound and heavy riffs. Whatever song they played first was the highlight and had a killer groove. The following songs weren’t quite as flash and when they sped up it didn’t sound as effective as the slow stuff. An excellent band to regain consciousness to. We ran into some more Aussies outside and we hiked back to Sonar to join the dreaded queue.
When we got there we walked to the front of the line to inquire whether we needed to queue and then just magically joined the line and walked straight in. Hehe apologies to the people behind us! This was great though as I got to see all of Pommy death metal dudes Cruciamentum who were doing a farewell tour before splitting up which is a shame as I like their EPs. They sounded a bit muffled at first but the sound improved and their dark death metal crushed all. They played 3 songs from their killer Engulfed In Desolation EP, 3 from the Convocation Of Crawling Chaos demo and also a new song which was great. I’m pretty sure the singer said they are going to record a final album so definitely keep an eye out for that and if you get the chance to see any of their final shows then take it. It was also great to see a band unafraid to rock spiky white guitars!
I wandered inside to check for Sleep merchandise and discovered a queue that rivalled Bolt Thrower’s and seemed to be going even slower so I decided to wait a while before joining it. I returned later to find the same length queue and then the third time I tried their table was collapsed and obviously everything had been sold. It was a bummer as they had some nice shirts but I didn’t want to miss good bands. It seems their website sells most of the shirts anyway and I probably don’t really need any more shirts considering I bought about 20 on this trip.
Up next in the tent were Czech weirdos Contrastic who were one of the main bands I wanted to see. There must be something strange in the water in the Czech Republic as they produce plenty of odd grind bands like NCC, Pigsty, Ahumado Granujo, Alienation Mental, as well as Contrastic who play what they call “disco grind”. Like Ahumado Granujo they had their disco weird keyboard bits on backing tape and used it all live which was great and led to some fancy dancing from the crowd including my NYC mate John who was the pit king. The glowsticks came out in an attempt at the party brigade hijinks of yore but nothing will rival the Last Days Of Humanity set a few years ago. Contrastic opened with intro track War Laws and then launched into killer song Vocalic System From The Perspective Of A Social Distinctivness and they sounded amazing. The drummer had the smallest kit with no rack toms at all but he was in fine form and as tight as the album. Sadly they didn’t play my favourite song The Letter but they ended with Sex With Four Walls which went off. Killer set.
Midnight followed on the big stage and had the worst backdrop I’ve ever seen that was just a sheet with their logo poorly painted on. In fact I’ll change that and say it was the best backdrop for the very reason it was so dodgy and was dwarfed by the huge MDF backdrop. The first thing I noticed was the snarling bass sound that made them sound even more like Venom. Unfortunately overall their sound wasn’t great but I wasn’t too worried as I was due to see them at Evil Invaders in a few weeks. They played a good mix of new and old songs and singalong classics like Lust, Filth And Sleaze and You Can’t Stop Steel went down a treat. Bassist Athenar smashed his guitar at the end of their set and I’m pretty sure I saw people afterwards treating a bit of the guitar as if it were a a splinter from the crucifix. Despite the average sound Midnight were great fun and the crowd loved it.
Originally I had planned to watch Pagan Altar at Sonar and then check out Iron Lung at Soundstage but my body had taken a pounding (not the good sort) over the last week and I needed rest so I braved the blasted hill and returned to the hotel for a few hours. I had watched a bit of Pagan Altar during their sound check and heard some on the walk and they sounded pretty boss. Also apparently Iron Lung were amazing but I have seen them a few times before so I wasn’t surprised. When I wandered back down some crusties tried to get me to gamble with dice with them. Fat chance boys!!
I watched a song of Manilla Road from the carpark where the sound was great and regretted not watching their whole set. They were one of those bands I intended on seeing and were plenty of my friends’ highlight but oh well shit happens. I did catch the last 4 songs of Integrity who were one of the few hardcore bands who played at Sonar. The first song I saw was nice and fast and heavy and packed crowd were going apeshit. Then they played the new song There Ain’t No Living In Life which was just bizarre and was slow and long with harmonica and excessive guitar solos and pretty much completely killed any momentum they had. They then finished with 2 old songs and the apeshitedness continued but that new song left a bad taste in my mouth.
I then joined the massive throng of people waiting to watch the mighty Sleep! Being an old bastard I was lucky enough to see Sleep in Atlanta in 1994 when they supported Nik Turner’s Hawkwind (quite an odd pairing) and I’ve always had great fun gloating about it. But now plenty of the Sydney gloatees have also seen Sleep so it’s only Melbourne folks I can brag to now and only for a few months until Sleep play the next All Tomorrow’s Parties there. Tonight Sleep were nearly as awesome as 1994 and put on a great show. Matt proudly displayed his protruding gut and had one of the best guitar sounds all fest. After newish song Sonic Titan they played 4 Holy Mountain songs in a row which was bloody awesome and I dare anyone to watch Dragonaut without even slightly nodding their head or raising a fist in the air. I was watching them with a decent swag of Aussies and we had a blast with them dancing like idiots. At one point there was a guy behind my friend Adamina and I who kept headbanging/lurching forward which was getting into uncomfortable closeness and I thought he was creeping on her. Thankfully I didn’t get all gentlemanly and have a go at him as after a time he walked forward with the aid of his white cane! We marvelled at how difficult it must be for blind people at gigs with so many people and such loud blaring music. Sleep finished with a abbreviated version of Dopesmoker which seemed to go on and on and they actually ran about 7 minutes over time. I couldn’t resist getting a pic of the security guy in his lifeguard chair.
At the same time as Sleep played Speedwolf played in the tent which was the organisers recognising that not many people saw Speedwolf earlier in the day due to the stupid queue. I had wanted to watch them but was enjoying Sleep so much that I missed them a second time. Oh well sorry chaps. Germans Ascension were on next in the tent and I watched a bit but they suffered horribly with a shit mix and it just sounded like noise and screaming (moreso than the usual metal gig). Another band I really needed to know the songs of to make anything out. I then ran into some US friends and managed to miss most of Pentagram chatting with them. One poor chap RonJon was horrified when I told him Ascension were already on as he wanted to see them and had missed most of their set. We managed to get this charming picture of me and the muscle boys and eventually I figured I should watch some of Pentagram so I wandered off towards the far stage and invariably bought some dodgy greasy snack on the way.
The first thing you always notice with Pentagram is their eccentric vocalist Bobby and today he looked splendid in a sparkly jacket although unfortunately it didn’t rival the gold pants he wore in 2010. The man looks more and more like Catweasel everytime I see him and tonight he looked and sounded quite “enhanced” on something and whinged about a shorter set and the equipment. I thought his voice sounded pretty average and strained although plenty of people I talked to thought it was great. They had a new guitarist who was OK but not a shade on Victor. I did get to see the songs Be Forewarned and Sign Of The Wolf (Pentagram) which was great as they are killer songs. Sign.. always reminds me of an old Peaceville sampler tape I have which has that song first and I always used to fast forward through it to get the super heavy Anathema track. I must have listened to the end of that song dozens of time! This was sort of fitting as part way through the song the volume was decreased dramatically. I looked around wondering if my hearing had finally failed after 20 years of gigs without earplugs however the puzzled looks on other faces confirmed the drop. Shortly after their sound was completely cut which was a little odd but obviously they went over time. My photos suck so I borrowed the below shot and some Venom pics from Return To The Pit as he always gets great shots.
I wandered a short distance and managed to get a seat on my trusty generator trailer and waited for Venom and waited and waited. They finally came on about 10 minutes late which no doubt pissed Pentagram off. Plus they started with an intro track which was a further waste of time. However they launched into Black Metal and all was saved as they sounded great and Cronos looked like a He-Man figure brought to life as he prowled the stage. Leave Me In Hell followed and I was thinking this was going well. Then came a new 5 minute song that was so so and slowed things down until Welcome To Hell saved the day. From there the medleys started which was sort of cool as you still got to hear some classic “bits” of songs and I was happy to have the start part of Possessed but then bummed they didn’t play the middle riff. Part of Buried Alive was another highlight but I was mostly hoping to see Countess Bathory or Poison or Witching Hour. One of the highlights for me was watching the drummer who looked straight out of an 80s LA glam band and had all his cymbals high above his head (I assume so his pretty face isn’t obscured) including 2 crashes that were at maximum reach for no apparent reason. He had pretty much every cool stage move and stick trick down pat although I reasoned that Venom drumming wasn’t the most technical so it was fair enough if he wanted to add some flair. It was pretty distracting after I noticed it though and reminded me of seeing Judas Priest and being transfixed watching Scott throw his sticks up in the air and catching them over and over. Part way through Warhead I saw Cronos stalk across the stage to talk to someone off stage and the drummer actually missed a beat watching and then suddenly their sound was cut and it was all over. As can be read here the organisers were trying to avoid a $10,000 fine and they were cutoff at 11.03 which was cutting it fine. It was a bit strange as they didn’t get to say goodbye but really they no excuse not to go on as scheduled at 9.50 as they’d had plenty of time to setup while Pentagram played and they had been told that 11pm was the limit so really they should have not played Warhead and said goodbye then.
Sadly Carpathian Forest had cancelled when 2 members of the band couldn’t travel so there was no final band in the tent and so of course all 5,000 people tried to leave at once which was not helped by a small entrance area and overzealous security trying to stop people taking drinks out. This led to much frustration and chanting to let us out and eventually they just let everyone out. Nearing the exit I saw a couple of huge security guards sprint outside and of course there was a fracas with this charming manoeuvre. I decided to not stick around and joined the masses streaming out of the carpark. I had decided to skip Converge who were closing at Soundstage as I’d seen them recently and I was completely exhausted and had an early flight. On the way out I saw some classy ladies pissing into a garbage can which was a lovely last image to have. Up the blasted hill one last time I went and then packed my bags and finally hit the sack. The Cloud Club was abused again that night by my mates however the beer was of a poorer quality apparently and I was wisely snoring away. MDF 2013 was at an end and once again I had an awesome time with killer bands, amazing beers and really great friends.
As a sad final note I just want to mention the unfortunate passing of Kevin McDade who was one of my US buddies and who I last hung out with at MDF 2013. Kev was a stellar chap and always seemed to be laughing and having a grand time. He was the bloke who in 2012 I randomly ran into in LAX which is a massive airport. He will be missed by his family and friends, his bands Behold! The Monolith and xRAPEWHISTLEx, all the good Reee folks and also his beloved dogs. RIP Blumpie.
Day 3 of MDF rolled around and Saturday was the longest day with 13 hours of bands! I figured I’d need some fuel so I scoffed a decent egg, bacon and cheese sanga from the deli downstairs. While eating I happened to see a constipation medication ad on tv and also a pain relief ad where the list of side effects (including suicide) was way longer than the ad. I love US tv ads and also happened to see drug rehab centre and catheter ads during my stay. I strolled down the blasted hill and was in a good mood until I saw the lengthy queue snaking through the carpark. I had a 4 day pass so you’d have thought I could just waltz straight in but today they were searching everyone and knocking back people with studded jackets or bullet belts. I heard varying rumours over the weekend including that a guy had been badly beaten by someone with a studded belt wrapped around their fist and also that a guy had bought/tried to bring a knife in on Friday. The real reason was due to Down having preset security requirements for their gigs which were supposed to be relaxed for MDF. Organiser Ryan talks rather frankly about the issues with security and bands being cutoff here. I had no problems with security (it’s so much easier to smile and be friendly) but seems plenty of people did and ranted on the Facebook event page and the official MDF forum. People sure do like to whinge so I just want to thank Ryan and Evan for all their hard work and for putting on another kick arse festival.
Once I got in I went immediately to watch black metal band Kommandant who had impressed me in NYC in 2012. They had the same militaristic stage getup although the singer’s outfit looked a bit different and his podium was not the same. At any rate they had quite a good sound and put on a great performance of blasting black metal. Not sure if the 2 percussionist dudes on stage did anything as I didn’t see the whole set but they did look cool. Once again the drummer blew me away with a super tight and fast performance all while wearing a gas mask. Nice work mate.
Between bands I saw a guy in a Willow movie shirt which was a strong contender for best non-metal shirt worn. Inside the DJ was playing Primus was an odd choice for a metal festival but fine by me. Death doom maniacs Anhedonist were next and I made sure I had a good position to fully appeciate their set. They had been a highlight when I saw them in NYC in 2010 and their killer album Netherwards has been spun many times on my stereo. Today they were in the tent but managed a great sound and the extra bottom end worked well in their favour. Damn singer Vince has a great growl! Their sound is obviously heavily influenced by Disembowelment but also has an early Bethlehem feel to it in parts too which is a wonderful combination in my book. They played most of Netherwards and also squeezed a new song in which was a ripper and the speed changes reminded me of The Tree Of Life And Death (not a bad thing at all). The chook guy was near me and tried to start a small pit whenever they played fast bits but that wasn’t very often so it fizzled out each time.
The doom assault continued in the tent with Loss on next. I’d seen them in NYC in 2012 however they’d had the unenviable task of following Pallbearer so that combined with my drunkenness (curse you Captain Morgan!) meant I only watched a few songs before wandering off. This time I was mostly sober and they sounded great! I think they had possibly the best sound in the tent all weekend which was great as you could hear the melodies.
Danish technical death metallers Iniquity were on next on one of the big stages and as I wandered over I grabbed my first piece of pizza for the day (probably not my last). I only own one EP of theirs and even if they played a song off it I wouldn’t have recognised it. Oops I just looked up their setlist and they did play 2 songs off that EP!! They played songs from their first album Serenadium and The Hidden Lore EP and only one song from Five Across The Eyes so if you were a fan of Grime then stiff shit. I was mightily impressed by his deep vocals and the songs sounded great too which is a quite a task to make tech death songs that work live that you don’t need to have heard hundreds of times. They only recently reformed and there was still a bit of rust with a few stuff ups here and there but oh well. I knew my mate Paolo from NYC was coming to MDF just to see them and I hadn’t seen him before they played so I was very pleased to catch up with him after as he’d had a brilliant time up the front. Below is a crappy pic of the band and then a very stupid pic of me and mates and Paolo is the guy in the middle barely able to contain his childlike glee.
Up next were one of my surprise highlights of the whole fest, Weedeater (Bolt Thrower was my main highlight but that’s no surprise to anyone). They had a huge crowd watching them and plenty of crowd surfers including the guy in the stylish banana suit. Bassist Dixie started with 2 bottles of booze, one of which looked like a 1 litre bottle of Jack Daniels, and I’m fairly certain both were empty by the end of their 45 minute set and he was still standing and playing. Not sure if any of it was cough syrup (see the video below) but looking through photos on Return To The Pit it looks like he is also handed a third bottle of Jameson. I had actually met Dixie in 2011 when Buzzov*en played as we were sitting next to each other in the bar and got chatting and he was a nice bloke even after I revealed I had no idea who he was. The drummer was set up side on at the front of the stage and had a great loose style that I labelled drunken praying mantis style drumming. Their weed metal led to plenty of a certain smell in the air which nearly rivalled the smells for Sleep on Sunday and Electric Wizard the year before. I could even see Buzz from the Melvins watching them from side stage (that hair is hard to miss). I knew their music a bit and their albums had only recently really clicked for me but live they were amazing and just had the perfect sludge and speed combination. If you ever get the chance to see Weedeater then take it as I can imagine they’d be even better in a smaller venue.
I’d been told by a friend that Swedes Massgrav were great live and she wasn’t wrong (thanks Vanessa). I hotfooted it to Soundstage as soon as Weedeater finished only to find they were running behind time so I was glad to catch the whole set. They play rock and roll crossed with fastcore although they described it as “Swedish hardcore erotica”. The guitarist was very hilarious between songs with a rather dry and self depreciating sense of humour and some good back and forths with the bassplayer. No idea what songs they played but it was all fast and very furious. They did cover Police Bastard by Doom but it was barely decipherable at double the usual speed. The other cover they did was the Kreator classic Under The Guillotine that was totally undecipherable at about triple speed. Excellent set full of fun and fury.
Now we came to the main clash of bands for the festival, Weekend Nachos at Soundstage and Broken Hope and Aosoth at Sonar, all at exactly the same time. I ended up skipping Weekend Nachos as I reasoned that they were the most likely band to come to Australia at some point in the future. Knowing my luck they’ll now split up and I’ll never see them which would be a shame as I’ve been listening to them a bit of late and reckon they would be awesome live. I started with Broken Hope who were heavy as hell and sounded great. I was only vaguely familiar with Swamped In Gore but it didn’t really matter as their brand of brutalish death metal translated perfectly live. I took the opportunity to consume my first ever corn dog and was delighted to find it wasn’t too far removed from one of my favourite fairground foods, the dagwood dog! (although the batter is different). I watched with some of my Aussie mates who were (somehow) dancing to Broken Hope which was bloody hilarious and some random guy filmed them for a while. After half their set I wandered over to watch Aosoth.
Aosoth are a French black metal band who I was somewhat familiar with and was eager to see. Sadly I don’t know their stuff well enough to use the old trick of using memory to fill in gaps with the sound and today that skill was sorely needed as they sounded like shit. I even moved to outside the tent and watched from the side which was closer but sounded just as woeful. I like black metal with prominent bass but not when that’s all you can hear. While watching on the side I caught a bloke in a Depeche Mode shirt taking a photo of me for some reason. A protip for you mate – don’t use a flash when trying to take secret photos of people! Hmm I wonder if my photo is now at the centre of a shrine…. At any rate I now wish I’d run over to watch Weekend Nachos after a bit of Broken Hope.
Up next on the main stage was the Melvins who had bought their Big Business lineup which has 2 drummers and the place was totally packed for them. I like when bands use multiple drummers although I’ve seen a few such as Kylesa where both drummers seem to be playing the same thing and it seems like a waste. Thankfully the Melvins like to mix it up and their dual drumming was bloody excellent and the sound was killer too. I was actually really happy to see a proper Melvins set as the last time I saw them was a Soundwave festival in Australia where I had horrible gastro that made me feel like death and part way through their set I stumbled into the medical tent next to the stage and lay on a stretcher just listening. Funnily enough I somehow fell asleep without realising and woke up when the next band were on and was wondering why the Melvins suddenly sounded like a hardcore band. Anyway back to MDF and they played a pretty heavy set with mostly songs off Houdini, Bullhead and Stoner Witch which certainly made me and the crowd happy. It was great to see Hooch and Honey Bucket live. Buzz was quite amusing between songs and I was pleased to see them so well received as they were one of the slightly out of place bands on the bill.
In complete contrast Revenge followed in the tent and basically blew me away! Their recorded output has never really grabbed me but live they were totally shredding and thankfully obtained a great sound where, despite the chaos of the music, everything could be heard. I was expecting them to just be a blasting blur and while there was plenty of intense blasting (J Read is a maniac!) they also had plenty of variety and reminded me of when I first saw Destruktor at a Bloodlust festival and they tore my face off with really sharp riffing and instense speed. The lighting was mostly strobe which added to the intensity and sadly I was too far back to see what was invariably a nasty moshpit. I only stuck around for about half their set as I was very weary and unfortunately I missed their cover of Bathory’s Equimanthorn which is a bummer as I love that song. One of the surprise highlights for me.
I managed to completely avoid Down which was fine by me and I returned to my hotel for some much needed feet elevation time. I think I even set my alarm to wake me for Antaeus as the beds are a little too comfortable there. I made it back down to watch a decent chunk of Antaeus and they were as fast and intense as I suspected. I heard the vocalist was a pretty crazy bloke onstage but I couldn’t really get close enough to tell however he sounded great and the drummer was a demon! After a time I wandered over to Soundstage to catch the final band of the night Infest.
After some rather sparse crowd sizes at Soundstage it was great to see the place packed for legendary California power violence blokes Infest. I had expected it to get pretty wild so I wisely joined some friends on the slightly higher section so we could have a good view of the festivities. The second they started the place erupted with stage diving galore and a big pit and what looked to be all the support bands on the side of the stage. We saw some hilarious stuff with stage divers colliding both on stage and in mid air. Large plastic garbage cans were thrown into the crowd and retrieving them was about the only time the security actually did anything other than roll out a non slip mat on the stage to stop divers slipping. In fact the huge security guard on stage was helping throw divers further into the crowd including Kromosom singer Yeap. The guard looked to be really enjoying it and I had noticed over the weekend that the stage security (ie. the guys who grab the crowdsurfers) were very careful with people and did a great job. I have no idea how the band continued to play with so many people on stage. At one point some dickhead charged the singer which was a poor idea for several reasons, one the crowd would have lynched him, two the singer is bloody huge and three because he was recently released from prison (it’s about 3.38 into the below video). Joe looked like he was about to explode but thankfully nothing came of it and the fun continued with many stage invasions to sing along. Shenanagins aside the band played great and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Great show.
Once Infest finished and the place cleared out my beer loving posse and I regrouped and arranged to meet at the Cloud Club in the Brookshire Suites hotel for a big beer tasting session. I wisely jumped in a cab that delivered me to my hotel where I ran upstairs, grabbed my Aussie beers and then we drove to the Brookshire. I got my confident face on and tried to stroll nonchallantly through the foyer of the hotel I wasn’t staying in however the door needed a swipe card so I shuffled off and called my mate who was staying there to let me in. Eventually we all hooked up in the Cloud Club which is basically a conference room on the top floor with lots of chairs and tables and thankfully no staff. I’m assuming the floor must be soundproofed as we partied loudly until nearly 5am with no complaints or anything. I had bought about 8 beers from Australia that somehow survived several flights (yay for bubble wrap) so we cracked open some of them and they all seemed to be very well received including my favourite Aussie stout Ace of Spades and the ridiculously strong 14.9% Aurora Borealis quad. I was more interested in trying some fancy US beers and I was not disappointed with a stunning local Maryland beer DuClaw Divine Retribution, a Cigar City beer from Florida called Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout which is only released one day a year, and beer called Ninja vs Unicorn from a small Chicago brewery called Pipeworks. Although the real treat was having some of a Westvleteren 12 which is one of the best quads in the world and pretty tricky to obtain. It was sublime! I’m actually surprised I can remember anything as this day had begun a long time ago and many beers had been drunk before we even started! Just before 5am we called it a night and I trundled off on the cold Baltimore streets and staggered back to the Tremont which was only 10 minutes walk. Fear not intrepid readers as I was part of a group for most of the way and only had to walk a few hundred metres by myself. Thankfully I remembered to drink some water and then collapsed into bed. Thanks to Shelley and Chad, Justin, and Michael for the quality US brews!!
After a decent sleep I felt somewhat refreshed and ready for day 2 of MDF. Having been to Baltimore five times now I felt completely fine with lounging around my hotel room instead of sightseeing and all I did for most of the day was a bit of food/booze shopping and watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the 50th time. For some bizarre reason they had cut bits out including the scene where Cameron is staring at the painting of the little girl which I consider quite an important moment for his character. Anyway enough movie bollocks – it’s time for beer and metal! I started the boozing with a Flemish Sour Ale from Monk’s Café which was pretty tasty (note the pile of Bolt Thrower tshirts in the background).
The first band I wanted to see was Ahumado Granujo at 4.30 however some of my beer loving mates had organised a pre-gig piss up at a local pub called The Brewer’s Art which unfortunately didn’t open until 4. I had seen AG in New York a few nights prior so the promise of fancy craft beers won out. I enjoyed their Ozzy Belgian pale but the Resurrection dubbel didn’t really grab me. Sadly I was only there for 45 minutes as I wanted to see Convulse but considering I still had 8 more hours of metal ahead of me it was probably wise that I only had 2 beers.
A quick cab ride later and I was back at Sonar watching recently reformed Finnish death metal legends Convulse who thankfully decided to ignore their rather experimental album Reflections and just play songs from World Without God (plus a newie). They were the first band I watched on one of the new stages and thankfully the sound was excellent. I was about to describe how heavy they were but I’m typing this up at work and am listening to Realm Of Chaos which is the pure essence of heavy so I’m completely distracted. Suffice to say Convulse put on a great show of slightly-less-than-Bolt-Thrower heaviness and it was unfortunate they were on so early and outside in broad daylight. It’s a shame that the freshly reformed Abhorrence weren’t filling the Finnish death metal slot this year as I prefer their songs but I was really glad to have seen Convulse.
Ingrowing were next and so I returned to the tent stage which thankfully was a bit less packed than the previous night and I could actually get near the stage. Damn World Eater just came on so give me a minute or two……OK back to the Czech grind. I was actually dreading seeing a grind band with the shite tent PA but they actually sounded pretty decent which was a surprise. Their set seemed pretty similar to the NYC show I saw a few days earlier and they again covered Napalm Death’s If The Truth Be Known which was certainly fine by me. It was bassist/vocalist Patrik’s birthday so I’m glad they had a decent crowd response.
Benediction received about 20 seconds of my attention as I left to walk to the other venue but I knew I was seeing them twice with Bolt Thrower after MDF so I wasn’t too worried. The walk wasn’t too bad and went past a rather touching memorial to Holocaust victims, as well as a massively neoned tourist area that looked too loud and expensive for my tastes. I hadn’t printed a map so I just played follow the blokes in black with long hair which worked perfectly. Soundstage turned out great and I really liked the stage setup although I found it bizarre that there was a bloke standing in the mens toilets who handed out paper towel and then hassled for tips. Sorry buddy but unless you are shaking or wiping for me then you aren’t getting didly squat. I did the manly thing and avoided his proffered towel and just wiped my hands on my shorts.
Japanese noise grinders Sete Star Sept were on next and played to a decent sized but not huge crowd. Oops I’m listening to War Master now so excuse me…UNLEASHED……UPON……MANKIND!!!!…ok I’m done until the title track. I had just seen SSS twice in Australia recently but they were killer both times and I was happy to catch them again. I think the set was similar to the Aussie one but their songs are pretty short and indistinguishable so who knows. Their sound was excellent and I didn’t see a bad sounding band at Soundstage all weekend which was great.
Once SSS finished I quickly returned to Sonar to catch one of my favourite death doom bands, Evoken! I had seen them the previous year in New York but had missed a song (a third of their set) due to being stuck in the queue so I’m glad I saw all of their set at MDF. Back to the woeful tent and their sound was decent but the bass was a little loud at the expense of the drums. What they played was awesome though and….CENOTAPH!!…..sorry about that….plenty of people were watching which was great. Unsurprisingly there didn’t appear to be a mosh although I have seen MDF crowds mosh to Portal (I would love to know what rhythm they were following) and Confessor so I wouldn’t put anything past them. Evoken finished off with the song Tending The Dire Hatred off their Quietus masterpiece which was a real highlight for me. As man fights man in the epic struggle for survival the warmaster….oops I got distracted again. I bought their latest record from the band after and the singer shook my hand for me having worn my Inverloch shirt which was cool. Such an awesome band and I highly recommend them to everyone.
Righteous Pigs were on next on one of the big stages and I decided to head back to the hotel as I’ve never been a massive fan and needed a rest (I’m getting old). They sounded pretty awful as I walked past and I heard the singer yell something about “getting drunk and fucking some young thing”. I heard conflicting reports from people who watched them and they were either awesome or crap. The strangest part of the night was that on the walk back to the hotel I heard my name called and just happened to be passing my mate Jon from Canberra who now lives in the US who was on his way to a Coliseum gig at Sidebar. What are the bloody chances of that!?!? Very odd but it was good to see him.
After a bit of a break I trundled back down the blasted hill and joined the massive crowd to watch Carcass. Apparently there was ample shoving and pushing nearer to the stage but I know what they look like so I watched them from the side where they sounded quite OK. It was also closer to the hotdog and beer stands so I was all set. I had seen Carcass on their last Australian tour in 2008 and they played pretty much the same set with no new songs. This was a shame but I understand their desire to not have crappy mobile phone footage of new songs released before the new album. When it comes to Carcass I am strictly a Symphonies of Sickness man and consider Necroticism to be “new” Carcass (even though it’s 22 years old). I enjoy having bitchy conversations with Necroticism fans however I will admit those “new” songs do sound pretty killer live which was a good thing as they played about 1.5 Symphonies songs and nearly the whole of Necroticism! Heartwork was also heavily favoured including Carnal Forge which I really like. Uh oh the song ..For Victory just came on and I can’t remember a single Carcass riff and just want to headbang at my desk!! Killer solo to massive heavy riff ARGH!!! We will remember them!!! OK I’m back. My acquaintance with a power generator on a trailer began during Carcass and my poor feet were happy that I found a seat. I also managed to run into my mate Chad who was the lucky guy who got robbed near MDF last year but thankfully he remained unmolested at that point. Carcass were bloody awesome but I was hoping for a slightly different setlist and I think my dream that one day they’ll tour playing all of Symphonies is about as likely as me ever fitting into any of my old thrash shirts.
The crowd dispersed fairly quickly which meant there was some space in the tent for Pelican who were closing the Sonar location. I had planned on staying to watch them as I’d seen Rotten Sound a couple of times recently however the sound quality was so dreadful that I watched about 5 mins and then shuffled over to Soundstage and caught some of the Finns. They sounded pretty great but I can never watch Rotten Sound and not think of the first MDF I went to where they had the heaviest sound, were super tight and really blew me away. They haven’t changed too much but the last couple of albums haven’t done too much for me. The crowd certainly seemed to enjoy it though. Between bands I had another “small world” incident as I got chatting with a woman trying to sell MDF skateboard decks who heard my accent and then asked if I knew a Melbourne woman she met last year who turned out to be my good friend Kait.
Tragedy closed the night and starting off with Beginning Of The End unsurprisingly garnered a good mosh. Their bass player has the toughest voice! During their set I stepped into the gents for the usual reasons and was disappointed that the paper towel guy had left and I didn’t get to ignore him a second time. In fact I must have been back in there a few times over the weekend and I can’t remember seeing him again. Maybe he was an unofficial toilet loiterer and got turfed by management. Hmm I suppose I should talk more about the band as they were great. Ahh bugger it I’ve run out of Bolt Thrower to listen to and I couldn’t be arsed staying at work any longer.
Day 2 finished and I walked with an Aussie mate back to his hotel as I was supposed to hook up and drink beer with some American friends there but after 20 mins of sitting chatting with him I figured they piked on me and walked back to my hotel to snore the night away.
Once again I traipsed all the way across the Pacific Ocean to lovely Baltimore, USA for my fifth visit to the Maryland Deathfest. Last year it’d been Godflesh and Bethlehem calling me the strongest and this year it was mostly Bolt Thrower who are one of my favourite death metal bands and who I hadn’t seen live since their 1993 Australian tour. I had stopped by Portland on the way to see Immolation and co. on the Decibel tour (review here) and also New York where I saw Secret Chiefs 3, Rotten Sound, Kromosom and 3 of the Czech grind bands playing MDF. I’ve split each day into separate posts so enjoy my drunken ramblings and poor photography.
After feeling a bit hungover from the Rotten Sound gig the night before, I decided to avoid the subway and take a taxi from my hotel in Brooklyn to Penn Station which ended up taking bloody ages but was a comfortable ride at least. I got there with time to spare and hooked up with the Australian posse and after a 3 hour train ride to Baltimore we were checking into the Tremont Plaza for the 4th year in a row. I had forgotten I had booked a suite so I was pleasantly surprised to find I had a huge space to myself with a separate bedroom. I felt guilty that other mates were crammed into smaller rooms but I was happy to pay for it all myself and have the luxury of lounging around in my undies as often as I pleased (try not to picture that). After a quick shower I was off down the blasted hill towards Sonar and the first day of MDF!!
There had been an earlier unrelated gig at Sidebar which is up the road from Sonar where death metal band Derketa played but I suspected I arrived in Baltimore too late and also didn’t want to miss out on Bolt Thrower merch! Apparently they were bloody awesome and I could have bought the BT merch at either of the other gigs of theirs that I went to so now I regret not checking them out. The queue outside Sonar moved quite fast compared to later days so in 30 minutes I had my wristband and was inside. During this time locals Noisem (previously Necropsy) had played so they were just a blur of noise from the queue. For some reason my wires had been crossed and I thought they were the old Finnish death metal band Necropsy and wondered why they were on so early so, considering I missed them, I’m glad I was wrong.
Filipino band Deiphago were next on and they were my first experience with the sound quality (or lack thereof) of the “inside” tent stage which was just a marquee set up on the road out the front of Sonar. Sadly most bands that I saw in the tent sounded like crap and I was unsure if it was the PA or the sound guy. Unfortunately Deiphago sound pretty chaotic at the best of times and I don’t know any of their songs so of course they sounded like total arse and I didn’t mind leaving after a few songs to commence my merch assault. I wandered inside where most of it was set up and immediately saw a huge queue snaking through the room and ending at the Bolt Thrower stall. However using my crafty skills I managed to not very subtly push in with some fellow Aussie Bolt Thrower fanatics and thus missed half the wait. I was restrained and only bought 4 of the 5 BT shirts on offer (only because I didn’t care for the 5th) and decided to make a quick run back to the hotel to dump them off. I foolishly offered to take my mates hauls too and ended up with about 17 shirts which do weigh a bit. I also grabbed an MDF condom which they were wisely giving away although my is still unopened as I’m a good boy. I got some amusing comments from the people queuing to get into MDF and had fun telling them I had cleaned out all the BT shirts. After a quick rest and taunt of friends back in Australia via Facebook I scooted back to watch Pallbearer.
Pallbearer’s doom stylings worked ok with the dodgy tent sound although the vocals could have been louder. Despite the weather being pretty horrible, the tent was already warming up and I wasn’t looking forward to thousands of people cramming in there later that night for Bolt Thrower. Devoid Of Redemption was up first and is my favourite Pallbearer song so I was in heaven! They continued with a few more songs from their killer album Sorrow And Extinction and then finished with a new song which was bloody excellent and heavy as hell (check it out below). Can’t wait to hear more new material from these chaps.
Abigail followed them but the tent was packed and I was in social butterfly mode and was catching up with some of my US mates who I hadn’t seen for some time so I only half listened to them from outside. They sounded noisy as hell but I was unsure if that was intentional or not. Sorry Abigail fans but not much to review other than the fact that the beer selection at MDF was somewhat limited but I grew to like the Yuengling which was miles better than the Flying Dog IPA and I didn’t even bother with the Miller Lite they also sold.
Cobalt were next and the heavens opened and it pissed down rain thereby ensuring most hoodies on sale were quickly purchased. Cobalt are a band that Jonesy used to play on radio sometimes so I was keen to check them out however from where I was standing it sounded horribly boomy and I could barely make out anything. I’ve talked to friends who loved their set but it sounded like a big mess to me so I braved the rain to buy a hotdog and then went into the covered over carpark and just listened where it sounded similarly woeful. I sat on a concrete wall and then got busted by police for the heinous crime of balancing my foot on the bumper a car parked next to me. I suspect they were expecting more serious crimes to be occurring and were bored. Amusingly I saw some of my US mates walk straight past the cops carrying their “faderade” which is usually a horrible concoction of vodka, flavoured iced tea and probably several other types of booze. Nice police work there folks! Cobalt seemed to drag on forever and sounded more repetitive than I remembered.
The rain stopped pretty much as soon as Cobalt did and a big Bolt Thrower chant went up, although of course it was pissing down again by the time they started. This was actually a problem as it meant the tent was incredibly packed inside and I can’t imagine how hot and stuffy it would have been at the front. I actually wish this Thursday gig had been held at the Soundstage venue which is a different club they used on the main days of MDF for the more hardcore type bands as it was a decent sized space with excellent sound and facilities. Thankfully Bolt Thrower’s sound guy got a reasonable sound out of the crap PA but I wasn’t too worried as I was seeing Bolt Thrower at two club gigs after MDF and figured they’d have superior sound there (I was right). Even with average sound BT were bloody awesome and really put on a great show with a good selection of songs from most of their albums. They opened with War / Remembrance from their amazing ..For Victory album and I commenced my edging forward mission as I had started their set just outside the tent (ie. getting very wet). I did eventually make it about 3 metres into the tent by the end of their set although in reality I only had to brave the rain for a few songs and I was drenched before that anyway. A few songs in they busted out the song War Master and I couldn’t stop smiling, headbanging and screaming the lyrics. Other highlights for me were the songs ..For Victory, The IVth Crusade and of course the double barrel assault of World Eater and Cenotaph. I had heard they usually only played the start of World Eater before fading into Cenotaph so I was over the moon happy when they continued into the blasting bit and then played the whole song!! From what I could see the band were enjoying themselves and I made a note that vocalist Karl sounds quite a bit like Lemmy with a throaty, gruff sort of voice. They finished after the start of Where Cannons Fade and I’m wondering why their set was cut short as it was an “indoors” stage and bands were scheduled to play the same stage until 12am on the other nights. Maybe the curfew is earlier on a Thursday night. At any rate I joined the masses and stumbled up the blasted hill to the Tremont and had a nice warm shower.
Despite the nasty weather and dicey sound it’d been a fun night and Pallbearer and Bolt Thrower were as killer as I hoped. Props go to the bloke in a denim jacket with the odd combination of Bolt Thrower and Neil Young patches!
The first stop of my 2013 US trip was the lovely city of Portland, Oregon where I stayed with my good mate Ryan and his lovely partner Tricia. The first night was a mellow one as I had just flown 20+ hours so we just went to Ryan’s local pub and managed to sink more beer than I expected while playing pinball. The next night was the Portland leg of the Decibel Magazine Tour 2013 which featured the rather kick arse lineup of Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, Immolation and Cretin. Finally I get to see Immolation live!!!
Earlier in the day we’d had lunch at a pub called White Owl Social Club owned by Matt Jacobson (Relapse Records head honcho) who I briefly met and forgot to thank for unleashing Transcendence Into The Peripheral onto the world. The bar was cool and I had a fascinating chat with a bloke about how to beat urine tests for drugs (lots of water and also some kind of Monster energy drink that makes your piss the right colour) and smuggling hash in military tanks. I was on a mission this year to try lots of dark beers from US brewers so I had a Elysian Dragonstooth Stout that was pretty scrumptious. Matt also owns several pizza shops called Sizzle Pie where we ate several times [/namedrop].
The gig was at the Wonder Ballroom which was a pretty big hall with an upstairs bar and I quickly managed to piss off the security lass who didn’t like my slip-past-the-queue-waving-my-stamped-wrist entry tactics so after a talking to I was a good boy for the rest of the night to avoid getting kicked out. There was a local band who opened but I can’t remember their name and was boozing in the bar anyway. Sorry lads.
Cretin sounded great and worked through their Freakery album material and a few new songs including one I think was called Itch that was killer. New guitarist Liz from Dreaming Dead fit in perfectly and they were all spot on. The crowd seemed to enjoy it too and a mosh was started which was fairly friendly until an aggressive mosher with the strange combination of patches (an anti-Nazi one, a Cramps one and a horribly bootlegged Cradle of Filth one that looked totally out of place) started the usual I-just-like-smashing-people-and-looking-like-a-dickhead moves. Cretin even had a killer bass solo in the 2nd last song. Great show.
Up next were Immolation who I was super keen for and were my main reason for attending this gig as I had never seen them. While waiting for them to start, a strange older guy with a quality skullet was staring intently at my Captain Cleanoff shirt but thankfully he didn’t try to talk to me. I knew they were only playing 7 songs and that those were mostly new ones but they still put on a hell of a show! The sound was awful at first with drums being about the only thing that could be heard but it was quickly fixed which was great as I could finally hear Vigna’s amazing solos. He was a sight to behold on stage with much arm waving and flamboyant stage moves and it was great to finally see the master at work and really enjoying himself. The only old song they played was the song Dawn Of Possession which was cool but I was hanging for mid era songs from Unholy Cult or Close To A World Below. Although now that I check other setlists they played on this tour some include Father, You’re Not A Father and Close To A World Below! Bugger! That said their new songs were great live and really show their sense of rhythm and dynamics. The crowd loved it too with aggro Cradle mosher in full force as well as the inevitable I’ll-just-go-the-wrong-way-in-a-circle-mosh knobend. Immolation really did kick my arse and I managed to do my usual “come to Australia” fanboy routine with Ross when buying a shirt off him as I’d kill to see a headlining set from them.
By now I was somewhat buzzed from scoffing Ninkasi Spring Reign beers and decided to try a Bridgeport IPA which was a poor choice (curse you America and your obsession with IPAs!). It was only 9pm and three bands had played which seemed odd but it was an all ages gig and Cannibal Corpse did play for quite a while. A mate told me the opening song by Napalm Death was a classic so I quickly sculled my beer and made my way back down to the floor. From where I stood I watched the mosh guys limbering up (not a bad idea for Napalm) but then they started headbanging to Sad But True which was playing over the PA and I typed “fucking kids” into my notes in disgust. The whippersnappers were probably enjoying listening to what they consider “old” Metallica! [/oldmanrant]. Anyway Napalm did start with a classic – Multinational Corporations!! – so I was a happy chappy. After a few new songs they busted out Pride Assassin which blew me away as I certainly didn’t expect it so much headbanging ensued and continued with From Enslavement Into Obliteration. I was tempted to gloat via text message to Mark about Pride Assassin as he likes that song but I was nice and I didn’t gloat text anybody back at home this trip. Everytime I’ve seen Napalm they have played Suffer The Children (usually at twice the original speed) and I’m usually just waiting for that killer last riff but tonight I must have been the perfect level of drunk as the whole song was the highlight for me. I have a note stating “Someone should tell Barney and Mitch that they can’t sing” which was due to new song Leper Colony which just dragged and was reminiscent of the woefully forgettable Inside The Torn Apart/Words From The Exit Wound era. I kept thinking they could have squeezed 2 classics in there instead. For half the set I had been waiting with baited breath for them to play one of my favourite ND songs If The Truth Be Known as I’d seen a setlist from an earlier date which had it listed, however someone in the crowd yelled for it and Barney said something like “not tonight son” and I was crushed. I am now even more crushed as I’ve checked setlist.fm and they did play it at other shows on this tour. Oh well I did end up seeing Czech grinders Ingrowing cover it twice over the next week. I was happy with the sound tonight as last time I saw them (MDF 2012) it sounded horrible but I still reckon they need a 2nd guitarist to fill the sound out more. They ended with the usual classics Scum, Life, Deceiver, The Kill and Dead with Nazi Punks Fuck Off closing the set. Goddamn Deceiver is such a great song!! Excellent bloody set! By this time I was getting quite tipsy and was a bit worried when I only recognised Dethroned Emperor being played over the PA from one of his grunts instead of the music. At this stage I was seriously eyeing off a Napalm Death “Life” shirt when they had for sale even though I already own a different coloured bootleg.
The beers had gone straight through me so I scooted off to the dunny where I did Australia proud by unleashing a horrible death fart that had locals commenting how sick it sounded (yes I am aware this is too much information but the looks on their faces was priceless). The Ninkasi had run out by then so a Sierra Nevada pale got a run which was quite adequate. I watched the first few songs of Cannibal Corpse from up in the bar and it sounded pretty average from up there so I moved down to the floor area. I hadn’t seen Cannibal since their 1993 tour of Australia when Chris Barnes was singing for them so I had only ever seen Corpsegrinder on video and at first his grunting did little for me but he was certainly enthusiatic and had some quality stage banter so I warmed to him eventually. It was also really great watching Alex play bass with no pick. I’ve never been a huge fan and Gallery of Suicide is the last album of theirs that I own so half the set was unknown to me but they really did put on a great show and some of the newer songs impressed me with slower song Scourge Of Iron being the highlight. I was quite surprised they didn’t drag out Meak Hook Sodomy but I was happy when I Cum Blood was played as it was an old favourite on our radio show. The last 2 songs were of course Hammer Smashed Face and Stripped, Raped and Strangled and they went down a treat, although all though Hammer I kept thinking of this Disney version which actually made it even more fun. Ryan and I screamed along to the Stripped verses in drunken glee and then it was all over. The Napalm shirt was still calling to me but I ended up buying a different one. The worst backprint of the night goes to young hipster dude with Pagan Storm Over Vinland shirt with sideways hip trucker cap which just beat the an Aborted shirt that I think I’ve ranted about before.
Afterwards we loitered around outside waiting for a cab when I loudly announced to my mate that I bought an Immolation shirt “with the usual godawful huge backprint” only to be told Immo axeman Bob Vigna was standing quite close. He didn’t seem to notice thankfully. We finally got a taxi and made our way back to Ryan’s along with one of his friends who could barely walk as he had hyper extended his knee in the mosh. Down to the basement we went where several of the fancy beers I bought that day were consumed before I realised I should get some sleep before flying to New York at 7.30am the next day. I got 2 hours sleep and somehow made it through airport security where everyone was too busy complimenting me on my Sizzle Pie shirt to notice I was still drunk. The flight was OK until I sobered up and then spent a few hours nodding off and waking immediately which must have looked comical to the poor bugger next to me.
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