Maryland Deathfest 2013 Day 4
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.
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