Here is my extremely late review of Maryland Deathfest 2014 which was my fifth in a row and the biggest fest yet.
Day 1 of MDF commenced with my usual train ride from New York to Baltimore although this time we were in the “quiet” car which was pretty quiet except for the very loud PA announcements which would have woken a tranquilised bull. The contrast of exciting and glamorous New York City to seedy and lurid Baltimore is always amusing and each year I remind myself that I’d never normally go to Baltimore if MDF wasn’t on there. However in reality it’s not that bad and I’ve never had any trouble and have probably just watched The Wire too much. This year I stayed at Brookshire Suites instead of my usual trusty Tremont Plaza mainly because it was close to the final 2 venues of the night but also due to the fun times I had in the Cloud Club last year. The hotel was very nice and the friendly staff immediately upgraded me to a suite without me even slightly hinting at it (probably due to my dashing good looks and accent). Only downside was that the hotel has photos of famous Baltimore musicians everywhere and for the next 4 days I had to stare at photos (including one hung above the toilet!) of some bloke from Counting Crows.
After a nice stretch and relax I wandered up the road to Rams Head Live! which was the venue for the first night’s festivities. It was only a few hundred metres from the Soundstage venue from last year and was set among a cluster of clubs and bars called Power Plant Live! (what’s with all the exclamation points?) where I felt nicely out of place among hordes of trendies. Overall I really like Rams Head as it is a purpose built venue with several levels, excellent sound and, best of all, many bars scattered around. Plus I was very happy to discover they had a delicious oak aged stout on tap which was the only beer I scoffed there for the rest of the weekend. Sadly Triptykon had pulled out due to the funeral of HR Giger so each band received a bit longer to their sets.
I arrived too late for Seven Sisters Of Sleep however I’d seen them several days earlier in NYC. Whitehorse started just as I arrived and I was pleased to see a large crowd enjoying them as they are one of Australia’s hardest working bands who tour overseas regularly and do our country proud. As expected they were heavy as buggery and hunky frontman Pete sounded as intense and scary as usual. Sadly it wasn’t quite loud enough for my ageing ears and it didn’t help that the last time I saw them was at Evil Invaders where they had one of the heaviest sounds ever and a particularly punishing bass sound. The lower volume was good as I found plenty of my American mates and proceeded to catch up with them. The crowd loved it though and I noted my first viewing of the ever present chicken suit guy who was having a grand time as usual.
Sourvein followed and sounded as southern as I expected but my socialising and boozing continued and they were just good background noise for me. I think I wandered outside for some grub and discovered some Aussie friends loitering near the entrance to Power Plant where the poor bouncers warily eyed masses of metalheads.
Up next were Torche who I was very keen to see as I’m big fan of their strange doompop stylings. I was a tad apprehensive that they wouldn’t go down too well at MDF but I needn’t have worried as they immediately kicked arse with a killer sound and some thick riffs and the crowd loved it. I especially loved the super heavy bottom end which was very powerful on songs like Tarpit Carnivore and Charge Of The Brown Recluse. Only downsides were that they didn’t play King Beef, the vocals could have been louder and there was some nasty feedback on Steve’s guitar between songs. It was good to see a band with such a good sense of dynamics and I’m looking forward to their new album. For me they were the band of the night. Thanks again to Return To The Pit for taking infinitely better photos than I ever could.
It’d only been 2 days since I’d last seen them but too much Coffins is never enough! The crowd anticipation seemed very high and of course they went off the second the band started. I wasn’t surprised though as Coffins have a wonderful stomping style as I call it where the mid paced riffs are just the perfect speed for a mosh pit. The setlist was mostly songs the last 2 albums Buried Death and The Fleshland although they cranked out a few favourites at the end with Evil Infection and my favourite song Slaughter Of Gods. Below is a pic of my lifeloving mate Corey enjoying himself during Coffins.
I saw Crowbar in 1993 in Atlanta supporting Sacred Reich at a rather eventful gig which included watching a car get stolen, skinheads galore in the nastiest mosh I’ve seen, the most alert and active security guards ever, several stabbings and some skanky chick showing her bare arse to my mate Jesse. At any rate Crowbar were amazing that night with the three big lads on guitars and the scrawny very hard hitting drummer and they outshone even Sacred Reich. I later tried listening to their albums but they totally lacked the vitality of their live show so I never really bothered with them after that. All this is a longwinded way of saying I didn’t watch Crowbar and scurried back to the hotel to try and fight my worsening cold (the nice beers I had been consuming surely helped with this). Apparently they were bloody great though and kicked some guy in the head but oh well.
I had one more comment on my notes on my phone for this night of “La Blue Girl” which I had no idea what it meant until I just looked it up and it’s some sleazy anime which “features a large amount of tentacle rape”. Haha sounds like I’d been having an interesting discussion with some pervert that night as there’s no way I would have seen that on prudish US tv! After half scoffing some dodgy Subway food sleep beckoned and the snoring commenced. Keep reading for Day 2.
MDF proper started on day 2 with the big new Edison Lot compound being used for the 2 main stages and merchandise and food stalls. But before the screeching music could begin I embarked on another party bus adventure with my American mates where we toured delightful Baltimore in an air conditioned bus drinking booze and listening to Lil Boosie. As with the previous party bus, we had to start early as people actually wanted to see bands so we all rendezvoused at some shonky strip club near the big MDF lot. It was hilarious watching mates arrive badly hungover from the previous night. I didn’t get too smashed although I was pretty tipsy by the end. We toured around and managed to see some areas that were scummier than last time that were quite reminiscent of Hamsterdam from The Wire so I was happy. We also had a great laugh watching a woman in a car next us picking her nose and eating it! Another killer BBQ at Chad and Shelley’s place was scoffed and we had a fun play with their dog Teddy and then back in the bus for the return trip. Once again I managed to avoid being conned into dancing on the bus. Sadly there was no gorgeous Playboy model in a gold mesh body suit this time but I still managed to get a few kisses.
This year I’d had the brilliant (or stupid) idea to make a battle Hawaiian shirt as I had plenty of patches and wanted something stupid to stitch them onto. I bought the gaudiest cheap yellow Hawaiian shirt I could find and hastily sewed a smattering of patches on just prior to the festival. In fact it turned out to be awesome as it deflected the heat well and kept me cooler than just wearing a black shirt in full sun. Plus it was priceless seeing the perplexed looks on tough metallers who probably liked the Left Hand Path backpatch but not what it was sewn onto. I received quite a few requests for photos and below are a few pics I found on Instagram of the shirt as well as a mention on a more popular metal website than this one.
The bus dumped us back at the Edison Lot area and thankfully it only took 5 minutes to get in which was a relief after the debacles in 2013. The new main stages setup was pretty decent (for a carpark) and was easier to move between bands and the merch and food stalls. I rapidly sussed out several important factors and was pleased to find a small shaded seating area which was handy for someone of my vintage, as well as the fact my favourite food vendor from 2013 was back again serving BBQ items. However I was not pleased to discover that the beer menu was exactly the same as 2013 and consisted of very average choices even though I recall the MDF guys specifically mentioning getting a better range for 2014. I may have had 1 or 2 beers for the whole weekend from Edison Lot and just drank water or Gatorade. Don’t worry intrepid readers as I more than made up for it at the other 2 venues as they had awesome beer!
First band up were Castevet who had a decent live sound but didn’t do too much for me at all. I decided to save my poor feet, found a table and was pleased that the sound was pretty good from there. I grew to like these benches as they were generally in shade and the sound for both stages was quite decent from there. I’ve seen so many bands that I really don’t need to stare at another bunch of hairy blokes and am more than happy to just listen.
Polish black metal blokes Mgla were on next and boy those fellas must have been hot in all that denim, leather, hoods and black masks in full sun at 3.45pm! The sunlight was a problem for several bands as they lost a lot of potential atmosphere and mystique being on a huge outdoor stage. I completely understand why the promoters would like the fest to become bigger but I prefer less sunlight and more indoor stages. I wonder how a band like Skepticism will go on the outdoor stage at MDF 2015. Anyway back to Mgla who despite the heat put on a great performance to a large crowd. I really enjoy their With Hearts Toward None album and they played quite a bit off it including my favourite song (first track). While watching them I noticed several toddlers with huge ear muffs being held by their parents and I mentally congratulated them for exposing their kids to quality black metal that early in their life. Enjoy my poorly focussed photo below.
Ruins of Beverast followed and I wasn’t that familiar with their albums and thought they were slower but I was mightily impressed. The song Daemon was a highlight although they too suffered from the lack of atmosphere from the blazing sun. I commenced my merchandise browsing as you have to be careful at MDF as bands only usually have a few hours to sell stuff. Tshirt hoarding is a curse I know all too well although it’s worse when you see people wearing shirts that you missed (tragic I know).
Fellow Germans Necros Christos followed and were bloody awesome! A couple of Aussie mates and I stood right in front of the mixing desk and the sound was perfect which was great as the stage near the merch had patchy sound throughout the festival. Vocalist Mors Dalos Ra had a spiffy top on and their chunky death metal went down a treat. I later talked to a die hard fan in Chicago who whinged about all the old songs they didn’t play but I was more than happy. Surprisingly they only played one mellow interlude as I was expecting them throughout the set. Unfortunately Necros Christos heralded the beginning of an issue that pissed me off mightily about the main stages – the continual invasion of the side stage by self important hangers on. For most of their set there were about 3 people on the left side of the stage including the below lady who seemed to think she was a backup dancer but just embarrassed herself. I labelled her Necros Distractos which was a nice title compared to some I heard. I later saw her at a gig in Chicago and she did the same “ooh look at me getting into it” moves on the stage. For other bands I saw more people up there and it was like when a stage diver loiters too long and you just want the band to violently boot them off the stage. I paid to see the band and not some self-aggrandising knob trying to be cool. OK rant over and Necros Christos were excellent.
I left after Necros Christos and heard a bit of Solstafir who sounded really good. Oops probably should have stuck around but I cabbed back to the hotel for some food and a rest. I managed to miss Mesrine and most of Capitalist Casualties due to nearly falling asleep (curse those comfy beds). Capitalist Casualties are older than me so they probably understood. They were killer for the last 15 minutes of their set although not quite as intense as a few years ago when their singer had just had leg surgery but still played.
I scooted back up to Edison Lot hoping to catch a song or two of Cancer. I found some mates in the crowd and then stood there rather puzzled for a while thinking that Cancer must be playing some newer material I wasn’t familiar with. I finally discovered that it was actually Agalloch I was watching which made a hell of a lot more sense! D’oh! Despite the lack of death metal that I was expecting Agalloch sounded great although I did note on my phone the expression a band probably doesn’t want – ‘good background music’. It didn’t help that I mostly saw new songs I didn’t know and nothing off The Mantle.
At The Gates headlined that night and I expected them to be good but they were great! I’ve always enjoyed them but never been a die hard fan so I was surprised how many songs I knew. They predominantly played songs off Slaughter of the Soul (duh) but had a couple from each album, although they hadn’t released the new album so nothing off that. I saw the bulk of their set but had to leave early to catch Bölzer so I missed what I figured would be the last 3 songs, All Life Ends, Blinded By Fear and Kingdom fucking Gone. I did enjoy songs like World Of Lies, The Swarm and Cold which sounded tough as hell.
I jumped into a taxi and sped down to Rams Head to catch Swiss duo Bölzer who were replacing Aeturnus. I was bloody eager to check them out as I love their Aura EP and I wasn’t disappointed at all. The sound was a bit shitty but they still sounded kick arse for a 2 piece. The setlist was Roman Acupuncture and Zeus.. from the demo, CME and Entranced By The Wolfshook (my highlight) from Aura and new song Labyrinthian Graves. They have such a strange style but it worked well and I was very pleased that he did the wailing vocals well. Great set that you can enjoy below.
I’d knocked off 2 stouts rather rapidly which got me nicely warm and keen for Impaled who were on next at Soundstage. While exiting Rams Head the security made me take my hoody off from around my waist to walk outside which I found bizarre. They are happy for me to walk around in horrible metal shirt and shorts but I can’t have something tied around my waist? Maybe it was so I couldn’t conceal a weapon but as with most security they weren’t overly verbose in their directions.
Impaled were the final band at Soundstage that night and they went down a treat with the crowd who were moshing and stage diving galore. The party brigade had a grand time too with more blow up toys and glow stick shenanigans. Tonight they only played the first album The Dead Shall Dead Remain and had old vocalist and top chap Leon del Muerte out front. I was very happy as I finally got to see the song Trocar live after hassling Leon to play it every time I’ve seen any of his many bands. The whole album rules but Flesh & Blood was the other highlight for me although I did miss seeing newer songs like Operating Theatre or Raise The Stakes. There was a really great energy in the crowd and it was one of the most fun sets I saw all weekend. I also enjoyed the beers at Soundstage and had a tasty local Du Claw Nut Brown Ale or two while watching.
Final band of the night was Incantation and due to Impaled starting late I managed to miss some of their set but there was no way I was skipping any Impaled. I went upstairs to grab a stout and watch and rapidly came to sensible conclusion that Incantation are a great band but definitely music I can sit to so I watched from lounge area and it sounded great so I didn’t feel guilty. To quote Danny Glover “I’m too old for this shit” although when they played The Ibex Moon I somehow managed to stagger over to the railing and thrash. Shame I missed the Onwards.. songs but I’ll survive as it was my 4th time seeing them. It’s a little hazy but I believe I piked early and miss the last couple of songs to instead stumble back to the hotel and commence snoring.
I started day 3 of MDF by heading over to Max’s Taphouse for a birthday lunch for my mate Richard from Sydney. The pub has a killer selection of beers and some tasty food and fun times were had. The highlight beer was by The Bruery from California called a Sour In The Rye which was delightfully sour. That brewery can do no wrong as I had a few others beers of theirs in Chicago later.
I had planned on starting my day with Diocletian who were on at 1.55 however it took me ages to get a taxi and in the end I’d probably walked halfway there before I got some useless guy who didn’t seem to know downtown Baltimore at all. Thankfully I did so he didn’t get to take me on an extended scenic route. However I arrived just as Diocletian were ending which was a real bummer as from all reports they kicked arse. I did however see this stylish chap walking to MDF on my way in and had to take a pic as he out-styled my stupid battle Hawaiian shirt by a mile.
Up next were Swedish death metal blokes Entrails who were excellent. I only vaguely know their songs but it didn’t matter too much as they all had great dynamics and honestly I’ll love anything played through a HM-2 pedal. It’s unlikely anything will ever beat the Swedeath sound that Demonical had at St Vitus bar when I saw them and Black Breath at MDF 2012 but today Entrails came close with a excellent thick sound. I was going to post that it mustn’t be too hard to bugger up the sound for that style however I’ve seen Entombed about 4 times and they only sounded decent once. Another band I can add to the list of side projects of Adde from Birdflesh that I’ve seen which also includes General Surgery and Jigsore Terror although sadly I never saw Sayyadina.
I love me some Machetazo and this was my second time seeing them and unfortunately the second time seeing them with pretty average sound. It was a shame that they didn’t play at Soundstage as it would have sounded much better. That said they still ruled and once my ears adjusted I had a great time enjoying the grind and standing near the mosh which certainly contained its fair share of dullards. I wrote down my highlight songs as Banquete Funerario, Trono Des Huesos, Torso and “tremelo song” but buggered if I know what those last one is called as I can’t find a setlist. During their set I had two people ask to take photos of my battle Hawaiian shirt which was a pretty regular thing over the weekend and below is a clip of Torso where you can see me on the left of screen with my hat on enjoying the tunes. Sadly this ended up being one of their last gigs as they split up a few months later. Thanks for a fun 20 years chaps and I’ll never forget the first time I put on Trono.. and was blown away as soon as the blast in Banquete Funerario kicked in.
I think it was during Machetazo that I noticed this shithouse tattoo on a giant tank of a man so I surreptitiously took a pic instead of calling him out on it.
The old school fun continued with ancient Swedish death metal blokes God Macabre back from the grave and putting on a killer show. They played most of the songs off Consumed By Darkness and The Winterlong as well as a Carnage cover and further reinforced why I love Swedeath so much. Thankfully they were on the good sounding stage so everything was nicely heavy and crisp. While they played I wandered around the distros and saw Asphyx doing a signing session and enjoyed seeing Martin van Drunen grinning like an idiot next to a tiny women he was posing with.
Up next on the crap sounding stage were the mighty Nocturnus! Well Mike Browning and some other blokes calling themselves Nocturnus AD but oh well. Honestly I’ve never cared for their widdly diddly take on death metal so my hopes weren’t up and I felt guilty that some of my mates weren’t there as they worship Nocturnus (damn boonz). They played all of The Key and after watching two thirds of their set I must admit I was slightly won over but I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. I was happy they opened with Lake Of Fire as I do like that song and I liked Andromeda Strain and Droid Sector. They weren’t helped by the awful sound and the fact that one of his toms was way too loud. Sadly I missed the cover of Chapel Of Ghouls they finished with but oh well.
I left Edison Lot and sadly missed Tankard but I’d never been a huge fan and I wanted to check out Victims and I knew Tankard would wait until last to play Empty Tankard (which they did). Victims are one of those bands that I always meant to check out but never got around to so I’m glad I caught them as they were top notch and played heavy as hell hardcore. Can’t say I knew any songs but the crowd did and I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
Dropdead followed and were damn furious! Unsurprisingly the crowd loved it and went off. The whole band got into it but most noticeably was the wild caveman drummer with a massive beard who was having a great time. Somehow I forgot how preachy they are between songs and after a while I just tuned out although one rant about clothes made from animals was beautifully punctuated by chook suit guy’s appearance and stage dive. The set was made even more special towards the end when the original Siege drummer came out and they played some songs from the Drop Dead ep!! While Dropdead were playing at Soundstage, Sarke were playing at Edison Lot and had Nocturno Culto singing for them. I figured they’d play a Darkthrone song and was dreading that I’d miss seeing In The Shadow Of The Horns but I’d been sly and looked up recent setlists and they only played newish song Too Old, Too Cold. Sure enough that was the one Darkthrone song they played so I wasn’t upset although they also covered Dethroned Emperor which would have been cool to see.
Birdflesh followed and as expect the party brigade went berserk with blow up sea animals & dinosaurs, glow sticks and a sex doll being flung around while the mosh pit churned nicely. It’s an always welcome sight at a fest and Birdflesh always bring the smiles especially with intros like ‘This next song is about the anal’ in their strange accent. The setlist featured plenty of classics as well as several songs from the recent split with P.L.F. although sadly not the song Night Of The Ultimate Mosh. Great fun as always.
Once Birdflesh were done I had the worst clash I’ve ever had with MDF – 3 bands I wanted to see, all on at the same time! They were War Master, Noothgrush and Unleashed and for me War Master won out as I really love the pure death metal of their Pyramid of The Necropolis album. I figured Unleashed wouldn’t play much old staff and were very unlikely to play the song The Immortals (I was right) and I’d seen a bit of Noothgrush a few years ago. So I returned to Rams Head, reaquainted myself with the lovely oak barrel stout and sadly discovered that none of their merch fitted my curvaceous frame. Due to the clash the crowd was small at first but it increased as the short set went on. To put it bluntly they were FUCKING AMAZING and put on an awesome show. The stage was draped in camo netting and the band were a mass of flailing hair. The sound was absolutely perfect and was the best sound of the festival for me. I had a great time with two of the biggest War Master fans I know either side – my US mate Ehd and Aussie mate Django (a War Master 3 way!) – and because the crowd was sparse my berzerker mate Corey had plenty of space to dance up a storm in his usual style. Other than the killer songs one of the highlights was singer Rahi (who I’ve now seen live in War Master, Insect Warfare and Hatred Surge) who was in fine form channeling Randy Macho Man Savage with crazy rants between songs punctuated with repeated Yeah! Fuck Yeah! calls. He also waved around a sword for a while which they had to sever the head that didn’t bang. The set was only 6 songs including a couple of newies and 2 each from Blood Dawn and Pyramid.. but it was 6 songs of bliss for me and I was very stoked to have seen such a killer set. Below is a convenient clip of the whole set although the quality doesn’t do their sound justice at all.
Apparently I could have run over to Soundstage and caught most of Noothgrush but I figured they were over and just waited for Bölzer to set up. Shit!!! While waiting I saw an ad for some band called Zomboy which seemed to offend me enough to write a note in my phone so I’ll make sure to never check them out.
Dark Angel were playing at the same time at Edison Lot but I’ve never been a huge fan and I thought that two nights in a row seeing Bölzer seemed like a great plan and thankfully they played a different set the second night. Sadly they took bloody ages to set up and so only got to play 3 songs but they were the 3 from their awesome EP Aura so I was a happy chappy. I must admit that I watched half a song and then retreated to my couch to preserve my very sore feet. It still sounded great and I could watch the video feed and C.M.E. had me head banging from the couch. Can’t wait for a full length album as the recent EP Soma was in my top 10 released for 2014.
Finns Hooded Menace followed Bölzer and honestly they weren’t that exciting after several faster bands. I love their albums and have seen them live a few times and they played well but tonight just didn’t click for me. I’ve since watched some footage and they sound great so I guess I just wasn’t in the right mood. I think they needed a few slightly faster songs to provide some more energy as they just seemed to drag. It probably wasn’t helped that I was super eager to see Pungent Stench (I’m not calling them anything different). So I boozed on with more stout and chatted with mates while half listening to them. I believe I may have discovered the pizza slices they were selling too.
By now I’d reached the peak gig drunkeness and just in time for the mighty Pungent Stench. I couldn’t care less that this was just one member of the original lineup and neither did the crowd who went apeshit. Plus I am old and crusty enough to have seen them with the original lineup twice on their notorious first tour of Australia which was incredible. My notes say “awesome x100” and I completely agree with my drunken self as I had a ball! We crammed in up close to the stage, headbanging like maniacs and screaming filthy lyrics and it was great to see my usually stoic mate RonJon going off. Their set was mostly first album (and before) material with a few from Been Caught Buttering, one from Club Mondo Bizarre and of course they closed with Viva La Muerte. Thankfully there were no songs off the last 2 albums which I’ve never really cared for. I was so stoked to see Just Let Me Rot, Shrunken & Mummifed Bitch and Bonesawer and it would have only been better if they played Blood, Pus & Gastric Juice, and And Only Hunger Remains. I don’t think I stopped smiling for the whole set.
While walking to Soundstage I bumped into some of my US mates and had a swig of their fabled faderade (rocket fuel and ice tea) and it was even more horrible than usual. Thanks lads but I’ll stick with the beers. I expected Soundstage to be exploding for grind legends Excruciating Terror much like Infest the year before however it seemed more sedate and smaller than I expected. Maybe I just got there early as the pics I’ve seen for later on show plenty of people going off. Despite their legendary status I only watched about 10 minutes and just had to sit down as my feet had me in agony so I trundled back to Rams Head.
Asphyx closed the night at Rams Head and were heavy as hell and sounded absolutely killer from the lounge. Yes by then I could barely stand and so chose sitting on a comfy leather couch over standing staring at some ugly guys even older than me. Plus there was a TV in there that showed them on stage so I was all set as I could still perfectly hear Martin van Drunen’s roar and the chunky death doom that they excel in. Wasteland Of Terror and M.S. Bismarck were the highlights for me and I really wish I’d had the energy to stand in the crowd and thrash as they deserved it as they sounded amazing.
Saturday was an awesome day with 2 of my favourite performances of the fest from War Master and Pungent Stench. But the night wasn’t over as once again the Cloud Club conference room on the top floor of my hotel recevied a thorough working over with another beer tasting after party. As I was wisely staying there, I went to my room to get changed and then lugged up my stash of beers that I bought over from Australia with the aid of heaps of bubble wrap. This time I bought some New Zealand beer too and I think the list of what I supplied was a couple of bottles of each of the following:
Moon Dog Jumping The Shark 2013 barrel aged truffled imperial stout
Red Duck Ra#2 Egyptian bread beer
Bridge Road Aurora Borealis #2 tripel
Bridge Road Nordic Saddle Buffer barleywine
Liberty Sauvignon Bomb IPA
The tasting was messier than 2013 and sadly I took no tasting notes and was pretty drunk before we started but I do remember people liking the truffled stout and the barleywine. I can look at the photo of all the beers and vaguely remember enjoying the Cantillon Rose De Gambrinus, the Russian River Damnation, Goose Island Bourbon County and Firestone imperial stout but I certainly didn’t taste a bad beer all night. Thanks a million to Mike, Justin, Brett, Shelley & Chad and whoever else supplied goodies for us to devour.
The one thing I definitely do remember is being introduced to a spirit called Jeppson’s Malört which is insanely bitter yet surprisingly addictive. It’s a Chicago based liquor of Swedish origin made from wormwood. Below is a photo of my initial tasting and I really wish I bought a bottle home with me to inflict on unsuspecting mates.
By the end of the night (or morning really) we had plowed through the below amount of beers as well as countless lesser beers and poor Ray unwisely decided to finish the Malört. The rest were still partying when I went to bed and apparently had a hilarious workout session in the gym with some random metalheads we met. All praise to Poseidon as I remembered to drink water before bed and was only partially hungover the next day. Below is a pic of some of us and also a Malört-enhanced version.
In my usual tradition I was hungover to buggery after little sleep and feeling damn seedy on the final day of MDF although I think the promoters are sympathetic to my cause and scheduled nice relaxing doom for a lot of the day.
Windhand started off proceedings at Edison Lot and I was very glad they had a good sound as that stage had sucked yesterday. Their sludgy doom easy on the ears and they played 3 songs from their latest album Soma but my favourite was the epic Winter Sun from their debut lp which was heavy as hell (if a tad derivative of Electric Wizard). I’m not sure why but I enjoyed this Windhand set way more than the one they delivered at Doomsday Festival in Australia a few months later. Maybe it was the bigger event, or maybe my nasty hangover or maybe they played too long in Sydney but the MDF set definitely was better and won me over. While they played I had 2 more requests for photos of my idiotic battle Hawaiian shirt.
The sludge continued with Bongripper who were just ridiculously heavy sludge!! Definitely not standing-up-on-the-last-day-of-a-4-day-fest music so I wisely just listened from the seats. I often wonder about instrumental bands and what they’d be like with vocals and all I can imagine with Bongripper would be some really low growls or horrible screeches. They weren’t quite as interesting as Windhand but the last song Endless was monolithic and got heavier and heavier. Good job lads.
Graves At Sea rounded out the sludge onslaught and were the highlight of the three bands with just the right mix of sludge and groove. They mostly played new songs with Betting On Black having a killer swagger to it and they ended with the awesome old song Praise The Witch. Bloody excellent and I wish they’d had a longer set.
By the end of Graves At Sea I’d seen only 10 songs in 90 minutes from 3 bands! Misery Index certainly picked up the pace though and were tight as a nun’s proverbial! I actually listened to them while shopping and amusingly bought Jason Netherton’s excellent book Extremity Retained: Notes From The Death Metal Underground while he played live. I can’t recommend this book highly enough as it’s an excellent recounting of the early days of the global death metal scene from the bands themselves. I’d seen Misery Index before but this time they seemed more interesting and were a nice pick me up while I rehydrated and woke up fully.
I decided to skip Pseudogod and Wrathprayer as I was seeing them in Chicago a few days later and I figured their sound would not translate well on the big stages. I caught the end of Wrathprayer and my suspicions were confirmed as they sounded like arse. Up next was another clash for me with Melbourne grinders (and mates) Internal Rot vs Colombian black metal horde Inquisition. I reasoned that Inquisition were rarer so they got the guernsey although I regretted it after as they seemed a little flat to me and I heard that Internal Rot went off which I don’t doubt that for a second. I’ve listened again to the songs that Inquisition played and they are all good ones but something seemed a little off to me. I suspect the lack of slower songs like Desolate Funeral Chant meant they were less dynamic and also not playing the classic Crush The Jewish Prophet was a shame as it would have been fun seeing the large crowd chant “crush”. Maybe it was also the outdoor setting and the fact they were really bloody awesome the previous time I saw them at the Evil Invaders festival in Sydney.
Soilent Green followed and I had wondered how their odd combination of sludge and grind would go. I can report it went really well and I thoroughly enjoyed it even though they mostly played new songs that I didn’t know. I particularly liked that the drums sounded like rototoms and their whole set had a wonderful 90s Relapse kind of feel to it. I left part way through Soilent Green for a break and foolishly missed Gorguts who I was told were amazing. I only caught a bit of them at a previous MDF where they had awful sound and so today I decided to keep my memory of an amazing gig they played with Portal in Brooklyn unsullied.
I’d been told that Left For Dead were legendary killer hardcore and worth seeing so after a dinner break I strolled back to Soundstage to check them out. I thought it’d be a good idea to stand near the huge security guard as I thought the pit would be huge but was it was pissweak with about 4 guys ambling around. Maybe it picked up later but it was tame while I watched. They put on a good show and I’ve since found an album of theirs on my harddrive which is pretty decent but overall I wasn’t blown away.
I made it back in time to catch half of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats who sounded suitably fuzzy and hairy. I had seen their rabid fans in action earlier waiting for their merch to be available and then crowding around the small bit of table they had. I seem to recall their shirts were rather boss but I’m not the biggest fan and couldn’t be bothered waiting. They certainly sounded decent and the song 13 Candles rocked hard but I was way too amped to be seeing Candlemass and My Dying Bride after them! Here is the shirt in question thanks to TShirtSlayer.
Candlemass were one of the main draw cards for me this year and I certainly wasn’t disappointed as they were on fire! I figured they’d be good but they were bloody awesome and definitely one of the highlights of the whole weekend. Prior to the show I’d wondered who the vocalist would be and I was pleased to see Mats Levén walk out as he has a hell of a set of pipes and I love his work with Therion and Krux. Obviously it would have been killer to have Messiah (or even Johan do Epicus..) but I was glad it wasn’t Robert Lowe as then they would have played heaps of new stuff instead of the greatest hits set they did. With only one newish song the rest of the set was complete classics including my fave song Under The Oak (which was amazing), Solitude, At The Gallows End and Bewitched. I thought it was a shame they played A Cry From The Crypt instead of something like Edge Of Heaven, and I was surprised at the lack of Demons Gate but oh well. It was really great to see the band enjoying themselves and the crowd loved it to with some quality singing along and thankfully an excellent sound. Incredible set that was full of energy and I guarantee most of the crowd were smiling their heads off the whole time.
Headliners for the day were My Dying Bride, another doom band I’d wanted to see live for 20 years, and they were simply incredible. Coming down from my Candlemass high was similar to a problem that I’d had at MDF 2007 when I saw Regurgitate after going berserk for General Surgery and it took a song or two for me to realise how incredible RGTE also were. They also opened with The Dreadful Hours which takes a while to kick in and was a subdued start. Vocalist Aaron is the obvious focal point in a white shirt and tie and he played the tortured, anguished part well and spent a lot of time kneeling and looking forlorn. His singing voice was better than some of the live videos I’ve seen and his growls were killer. For some reason I’d always though he was really short as I’d seen them earlier doing a fan signing and I’d wondered where he was. Oops. Plus it was good to see the other original guitarist Calvin playing with them again. The crowd warmed up nicely with Like Gods Of The Sun and then Crown Of Sympathy which was excellent. Like A Perpetual Funeral was the only recent song played and it went quite well live although it was followed by From Darkest Skies which has always been a favourite of mine. It was epic and heavy as hell and I was a very happy chap! The hits continued with She Is The Dark which was incredible for the heavy growled bits and then the epic Turn Loose The Swans which is just timeless. Next was a bit of an anticlimax for me with The Cry Of Mankind which was popular but has never been a favourite of mine and just drags on and doesn’t really get anywhere. They ended with The Thrash Of Naked Limbs which was old school and bloody great but wasn’t the Vast Choirs or The Forever People that I really hoped for (or the Symphonaire.. or The Return Of The Beautiful that I dreamed of). With a simple “goodnight” it was all over at Edison Lot and the masses then joined a huge throng at the gates. Despite being completely exhausted my night wasn’t over as I still had the mighty Immolation at Rams Head closing the whole fest.
As I left Edison Lot for the last time I noted a guy wearing a stylish “Fuck you asshole” Arnold Schwarzenegger shirt but foolishly didn’t get a photo. Mitochondrion had sadly been knocked back at the Canadian/US border so they were replaced by Diocletian who I managed to miss again. I could have probably caught half their set but chose the comfort of my hotel for an hour or so. I also missed Ulcerate but am not the biggest fan so I wasn’t worried. I did however stagger back for the incredible Immolation who closed the whole festival. I was super excited as I was finally going to see a full set after the tantalisingly short set they played when I saw them in Portland. Everything was getting nicely messy by that stage and yet more stout was consumed by me and my mate Ted who was also pretty damn plastered by then. We had a grand time as he is a huge fan and was quite animated. The band were in fine form with vocalist Ross commanding the rapturous crowd with ease and guitar legend Bob has some of the best stage moves I’ve seen. The setlist had a tonne of new stuff but finally I got to see a song each from my favourite albums Unholy Cult (Of Martyrs And Men) and Close To A World Below (Lost Passion) so I was stoked! One of the highlights was ancient song Those Left Behind from their debut which was just heavy as hell. For some reason they chose to end with a song off the latest album which I thought was a wasted opportunity to blast another old classic like No Jesus, No Beast or Nailed To Gold. I mean who doesn’t to scream along “Can you hear us..death to Jesus”? At any rate they still ruled supreme and put on a hell of a show which the crowd enjoyed immensely. Below is my crappy pic which shows Vigna in his usual warp form.
Here are a couple of final random shots with the first guy being a cool cat who was standing near me for a few bands and was hammered and had to be restrained by a friend for going off too much. Nice chap.
Well that’s it for my review folks. MDF 2014 was a blast as usual and once more I was left hungover, barely able to walk and very, very happy. My adventures continued in Chicago with plenty of gigs which I may get around to reviewing in a decade or so. Sadly I won’t be attending MDF 2015 but hopefully I’ll be back for 2016. Cheers for reading and keep your eyes peeled for a regular feature coming soon on Mendicant Music which will keep you amused.
Hi folks it’s been a while! I’m back to deliver my top 10 albums and gigs of 2014 but I do plan on eventually finishing the reviews from US trip of 2014 (including MDF) as well as a more amusing look at all the useless metal paraphernalia I’ve collected over the years. The following list is also at Cacophemisms along with lists from some other fine chaps so make sure you check out the excellent site. Enjoy.
I must be mellowing with age as later Bethlehem (much like recent Katatonia) just always seems to be playing even though I have over 240 days (!) worth of music in my library. After seeing them only play old stuff live and the harsher Stonkfitzchen EP I was expecting a return to the depressive black doom of old but this is their most mellow album to date and very much in the vein of Schatten aus der Alexander Welt and Mein Weg. The highlights for me are the vocals from Guido Meyer de Voltaire who has an excellent range of deep gothic vocals to growls to screams and also the beautiful guitar work from Olaf Eckhardt (sadly the 2 blokes who have left Bethlehem). Great album that I’m sure I’ll continue listening to for many years.
These lads can do no wrong and this album stayed in my car for weeks after I first obtained it. This is just exceptional doom with superbly intricate songwriting, epic heaviness, great leads and beautiful mellow sections. I suspect a crossroads and a deal occurred around 2008 when they formed the band as music shouldn’t be this consistently great. Can’t really pick a favourite song however the main riff of Watcher In The Dark is a mandatory fistclenching headbanger and the slightly more forceful feel to the song sets it apart. The hype this band receives is well worth it.
Good old fashioned blasting death metal bliss! Exceptional song writing and execution with masterful use of melody and great dynamics. The song Schisma is a prime example of intense speed with wonderfully climactic leads and a heavy as buggery middle slower section. Incredible album and this, Bethlehem and Pallbearer should all be equal number 1 really.
Much like their Aura EP, this took a while to sink in but I’m certainly glad it did as the 2 songs are as powerful as earlier work. They have an odd style with plenty of tough riffs as well as heaps of tremolo sections that for some reason always remind me of fast stoner rock. Great use of different vocals too which lend a ritualistic feel to the songs. So glad I saw these guys twice at MDF this year as for a two piece they were astounding live. Bring on the album!
It took a long time for these chaps to finally click for me but they certainly did with this album. I’d almost call it languid sludge as they take as long as they damn well please to get to the point yet someone manage to stay interesting the whole time. I rarely read lyrics these days as they are usually woe-is-me, pussy slashing or ritual goat sodomy style but Thou have very interesting and thoughtful songs. Bloody awesome atmospheric sludge.
Out of all the reuniting extreme bands it was Godflesh that I was happiest about, partly because I had never seen them live, but also because I was keen to hear more music from the duo. Well I saw them live at MDF in 2012 and they were amazing and now I have the excellent Decline & Fall EP and this new album so I’m a happy chappy! Bludgeoningly heavy with quite a few nods at most of their earlier works. My only complaint is that the bass doesn’t seem as loud or snarling on the album as the EP (especially on Playing With Fire). Can’t wait to see them live in Australia although I’m praying for side gigs so I don’t have to go to bloody Soundwave.
Catchy grind with screamed and pitchshifted vocals is one of my favourite things in life and Super Fun Happy Slide certainly deliver on their 2nd album. Seems they are not the most prolific writers though as I noticed that half these songs are on a rehearsal demo of theirs from 2006 plus it was recorded in 2009 but only just came out. Lazy bums! Extra points for sampling Alf from Home and Away and Shaun Micallef too. Killer grind and about as close to my precious Magnacite that it gets.
I’ve been a fan of these blokes since I picked up their Weeping demo at Impact Records 20 bloody years ago (damn I’m old) and I think they just get better and better. Everything is stellar but the lead guitar work on this is just superb with “soaring” being the most appropriate cliché I can think of. I long to see them live again in their 3 guitar glory although I suspect it will be a while. It’s a shame this is only 30 minutes worth of such exquisite grief.
Wonderfully odd thrashy death metal that stand heads and shoulders above their debut album The Chills. This really sounds like it should have come out of Florida in the early 90s with the Atheist/Death guitar/bass noodling and the tortured throaty vocals that are quite van Drunen-ish at times. I love the Swedish guitar sound too which is quite reminiscent of Black Breath (and of course the bands BB are borrowing from). Really nice artwork too which makes me wonder why I haven’t bought this on vinyl yet. Quite a shame I missed seeing them play a pre-MDF gig this year as my train arrived too late.
As much as I admire The Great Righteous Destroyer and The Serpent Inquisitor’s other bands, I always love that StarGazer seems to be their outlet for the weirdest aspects and while 2010’s A Great Work Of Ages never really quite grabbed me, this newie is exceptional. Highly intricate and always changing, their music maintains a tough heavy metal feel while allowing the instruments to wander quite far from the path with the bass the most exquisite and adventurous.
Arizmenda: Stillbirth In The Temple Of Venus
Autopsy: Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves
Corpsessed: Abysmal Thresholds
Doombringer: The Grand Sabbath
Innsmouth: Consumed By Elder Sign
Internal Rot: Mental Hygiene
Jig-Ai: Rising Sun Carnage
Pantalones Abajo Marinero: Heridas Por Armas Blancas
I’ve also decided to produce a top 10 gigs of the year list however this doesn’t include Maryland Deathfest which will be reviewed by itself soon.
Top 10 Gigs:
1. Neurosis (Manning Bar, Sydney)
“Intense” is about the only word I can use for this performance which was flawless and made many long time fans very happy. I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years for them to tour.
2. Twisted Sister (Starland Ballroom, New Jersey)
I was expected TS to be good, really good in fact, but they were outstanding and I just couldn’t stop smiling! Perfect setlist and so much energy. The only downside was having to drink bloody Budweiser. My 14 year old self was ecstatic and my 40 year old self was pretty bloody happy too.
3. Conan, Looking Glass (Basement, Canberra)
This gig was LOUD!!! The sound was perfect and the sound guy knew just which bits to max the bass to and create a chest rattling rumble that I hadn’t felt since my very earliest gigs. Plus they are a killer band and played Satsumo. Shame they kicked the drummer out after the tour as he was the most talented part of the band. My hearing was rooted for days after. Looking Glass played mostly new songs which all kicked arse which is a good sign for the next album.
4. Undergang, Cauldron Black Ram (Basement, Canberra)
Danish death metal juggenauts Undergang kicked lots of arse as did CBR who cranked out Devil Bellied on request. Very glad I saw Undergang as I couldn’t remember if I saw them at Chaos In Tejas or not and I love their releases. Quality sludgy death metal done right.
5. Swans (Music Hall Of Williamsburg, New York)
I was very happy to see Swans in their native New York and I was even more happy to snag a seat as they play for bloody hours! They mostly played new songs and bugger all really old stuff but they were spellbinding and Gira seemed in a good mood too which was a surprise.
6. Jig-Ai, Cripple Bastards (Basement, Canberra)
I was too slack to head down to Melbourne for Obscene Extreme this year mainly because Jig-Ai were playing in Canberra! They were incredible and CB were better than I remembered from MDF 2007. Several of us tried to work out if the Jig-Ai singer was using a pitchshifter pedal but couldn’t see one so we were scared that he could make those sounds naturally.
7. Coffins, Ilsa (Saint Vitus, New York)
Plenty of doom in my favourite NYC venue with one highlight being some bloke in the crowd asking “so is this one of those loud gigs? like a rock band?” just prior to Coffins obliterating everyone. Plus Coffins played Slaughter Of Gods which is my fave song of theirs. Ilsa were nice and heavy too with some killer mid paced sections.
8. Pseudogod, Wrathprayer (Beat Kitchen, Chicago)
Pseudogod sounded pretty average at MDF however they smashed it at this club gig with a super intense set of barely controlled chaos. Really fun gig where I got to scoff great beer, meet artist Putrid (who had a better knowledge of early Aussie metal than me), watch the Blackhawks win, and laugh at Necros Distractos doing her arm flailing thing on the side of the stage.
9. Anathema (The Metro, Sydney)
I love modern Anathema as well as the ancient death doom they started with so I was happy with the later era set which thankfully included my favourite recentish song A Simple Mistake. The sound was perfect too and the crowd were way more keen and lively than I expected.
10. Cruciform, Psychrist (Basement, Canberra)
First gig back for Psychrist after reforming was a corker with barely any cobwebs showing. They only played the EP and first album material but the songs sounded as timeless as always. Kel was back on vocals and put on a great display of rolled eyes and grimaces. I’d forgotten how great the EP songs are with Tears Of The Deceased standing out as well as an extended version of Spiral. Cruciform are another recent reformation and were also in fine form although they didn’t play my favourite song Gutter which was a shame. I actually really wish they still remembered how to play the newer songs they played before splitting originally as there were some humdingers! Both bands are playing in Sydney soon at the Under The Southern Cross festival on 24 January at the Bald Faced Stagg so check them out.
Well that’s enough rambling for now so thanks for reading. Up soon will be reviews of MDF 2014 and various other US gigs I attended as well as a look into my hoarding obsession of metal goodies.
Damn I’m slack as it’s been a year since I last updated this site. But I’m back in the USA for my yearly Maryland Deathfest pilgrimage for the fifth year in a row so I might as well document it for you fine folks. This first post is just laying out (aka gloating) about the gigs I’m going to.
I’m writing this on the mighty exhilarating 14 hour flight from Sydney to Dallas which has been good as I have an empty seat next to me but also bad as my video screen keeps freezing. Only 2044 km to Dallas!!
My first stop is New York City where I’m staying in a B&B in Bedford Stuyvesant. There’s always plenty to do in that lovely city and of course I have several gig options for pretty much every night I’m there. First up is a rather bizarrely mixed gig called Hardcore Activity In Progress which features Napalm Death alongside lots of experimental noise/drone bands and some hip hop too. It’s sponsored by Red Bull who appear to be trying to appeal to several markets. But it’s only $10, has some different sort of bands I want to check out and how can I resist Napalm Death.
Saturday night has me trekking out for the first time to New Jersey to see TWISTED SISTER!!! Yes I can’t bloody wait as they are the first band to give me the addictive taste of heavy metal. The singer of Ratt is supporting which does nothing for me except maybe give me a good laugh. I’ve heard Twisted Sister are still awesome live so my hopes are high.
Sunday night is my not definite night although I’m pretty tempted to hit up the 2nd night of Black N’ Blue Bowl to see Discharge and Agnostic Front. Sadly I’ll miss the first night which has Biohazard on the bill as they’d be fun to see in New York.
Monday will see probably the most punishing gig of the trip with Swans playing. I have my industrial strength earplugs to counter their extreme volume and considering they usual play for 2 – 3 hours I think I’ll try and find a seat to watch then from to preserve my poor feet.
Tuesday night sees me venture back to my favourite NYC venue, Saint Vitus bar. This gig is Coffins, Ilsa, Bones and Seven Sister Of Sleep and should be a ripper!! They always have the best live sound there and I’m keen to have a few milk stouts too. I suspect this gig may be preceded by another meat fest at Virgil’s Real Barbecue with some other Aussie larrikins.
Wednesday sees another Saint Vitus show this time put on by the good folks at Catbomb. Bands are Cripple Bastards, Hooded Menace, Archagathus, Maruta and Detroit which is handy as I think CB and Arch both clash with other bands I want to see at MDF.
Come Thursday I’ll be hoping on the train to Baltimore with hordes of Aussie bogans and will sadly miss this gig which would be a ripper!
If I’m really keen and feeling somewhat energetic I might go to this matinee show before MDF starts to see Horrendous but I wouldn’t be surprised if I just go shopping for supplies instead.
That night MDF begins and doesn’t let up for four days! Thankfully I don’t have too many clashes although I’ll miss several cool bands like Unleashed, Noothgrush and Unholy Grave.
After Baltimore I fly to Chicago to stay with a mate and thankfully not every night is booked (yet). I’ll probably go to see Melbourne grinders Internal Rot at this gig as they clash with Inquisition at MDF and may be missed.
Friday sees a decent looking gig with Wrathprayer and Pseudogod.
Saturday night is either Diocletian & Manticore or High On Fire although I’m leaning towards the New Zealanders.
Monday sees D.R.I. play and as I just missed them in Australia I may well be tempted. They put on a killer show at MDF a few years back and any chance to see Couch Slouch live again will most likely be taken.
Then on Wednesday I begin the long trip home no doubt exhausted and with too many new tshirts.
I didn’t think that seeing Bolt Thrower twice in a week was quite enough, so the day after the Portland show I jumped on a train and went to Seattle to see them one more time. The scenery on train ride was quite picturesque although whenever I’d see a small town next to the tracks I’d think of Twin Peaks which was filmed in the state. In fact after seeing some disused train carriages I got major chills up the spine (watch the series if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
After several hours I arrived in an overcast and cold Seattle and made my way to the hotel which was about 400 metres from the Space Needle. Seattle is a nice town with interesting architecture but I was pretty happy to just jump in a cab and not bother trying to work out public transport.
I had developed a nasty cold after MDF and today I felt absolutely terrible from constantly coughing and was considering not going. But it was my last night in the US and we’re talking about Bolt Thrower after all so I pulled myself together. After lounging around for a while, I caught a taxi over to the venue which looked to be in a pretty happening area of Seattle despite all the bums/crusties around. I wandered around looking for some dinner and decided on a Thai restaurant which ended up being an awesome choice as I had the BEST crispy fried calamari I’ve ever eaten. I also had Paad Thai which was yummy but strangely sweeter than I’m used to in Australia. I strolled back to the venue where I met Aussie drongos Stu and Django and their mates from Aldebaran and Shadow Of The Torturer and we went to a coffee shop and I had a divine hot chocolate.
The venue was quite decent and had an upstairs viewing area that was pretty cool. I can’t remember exactly what beers we were scoffing but I think an IPA won out. First band up was locals Deathraid who played a heavyish d-beat style that seem to go down well. I only watched a bit but I swear I heard the singer yell “your mother sucks cocks in hell” during one song which was maybe sickness-induced wishful thinking. I could hear them from where we sat upstairs and they did a great job.
I was more than happy seeing Bolt Thrower 2 nights in a row but Benediction was another matter and I only ended up watching a few minutes while I took some snaps. They sounded killer and the crowd were loving it but I thought that sitting down and drinking beer with mates was a better use of my time. Unfortunately the table we were sitting at was under an open skylight so it was a bit draughty which wasn’t helping my cold.
Bolt Thrower put on yet another awesome performance and I think I really could handle seeing them live every week for the rest of my life! The sound wasn’t quite as amazing as the previous night in Portland and I felt like shit from the cold but I still had a blast. The crowd went apeshit and the stage divers seemed to be getting a good range. It’s always good to see stagedivers who know what they are doing instead of the classic idiotic moves of getting up there, being scared and just dropping into the crowd, or the stage hog “look at me I’m in the band” tossers. The setlist was fairly similar but War Master got another run and was the highlight for me. I had hoped to see Unleashed (Upon Mankind) or a different song from Realm Of Chaos but no luck. I was also surprised they didn’t play At First Light off their last album as that’s a corker and seemed to be a regular in their old sets. Once again the band looked to be really enjoying themselves and each night I saw them I noted that Jo Bench was headbanging the hardest. I think they finished with In Battle There Is No Law again (it’s all getting a bit hazy) and after saying my farewells I hailed a taxi and returned to my hotel. No late night boozefests tonight which was probably quite a good thing. I was very happy that the final band I saw on this trip was Bolt Thrower.
The next day was my final day in the US and I did a bit of sightseeing around Seattle as my flight wasn’t until late afternoon. As it was just down the road from my hotel, I went to the Space Needle which has a pretty cool view although the real highlight was a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture display next door which was simply stunning.
I then did my classic manoeuvre of it-doesn’t-look-too-far-to-walk-on-the-map and of course walked way too many bloody miles to the Pike Place Market which is pretty legendary. I thought it was a bit crap actually but I did see a fish get thrown at a customer and had a nice fish and chips meal. Plus I found a boss comic store where I was sorely tempted to spend way too much money on the below Alien bust. I ended up just buying a small Simpsons figurine in blind packaging and got lucky with an Otto figure.
This trip I’d been distracted with the usual beer consumption and music shop browsing and hadn’t bought my darling Ann a decent present so I stopped by a jewellery store and picked up a nice necklace (better late than never). At one point the nice prim looking sales assistant looked at my shirt and asked me if I enjoyed the gig the night before! She had been at Bolt Thrower of course and was suffering some bruises from the mosh. Small bloody world!! I returned to the hotel and while waiting for a taxi to the airport I witnessed a bizarre spectacle. A strange tweaker who looked to be on various substances strolled in and started asking how much it would cost to book out 10 – 15 rooms there. He didn’t seem to give an explanation as to why he needed so many rooms but kept trying to bargain the prices down. He went on and on and asked strange things like if they would accept payment in pennies or dollar notes. I could see the poor receptionist rolling her eyes at me and probably debating about calling security. He then asked if he could be paid to haul away the old CRT TVs which were piled out the front for $5 each which seemed like a strange request from someone who wants to waste thousands of dollars on a dozen rooms. I really wish I’d taken a surreptitious photo of him as he had on a cheap suit, huge sunglasses and wild hair. I was a bit disappointed when my taxi arrived mid way through the shenanigans. After several stimulating and thrilling hours in Sea-Tac airport I began the journey home, the highlight of which was finally getting around to watching The Departed. Finally I arrived back in Canberra and was picked up by my darling one with a box of hot, freshly cooked sausage rolls!! Thankfully both the vinyl I bought and the spiffy beers I bought home from Portland survived the trip and I didn’t end up with a suitcase full of damp clothes and broken glass and records. Ahh life is good and I had a whole week to recover before spending 2 days in Sydney for the Evil Invaders festival!
I arrived back in Portland on the Monday after MDF and was unsurprisingly pretty tired and knackered so that night we just took it very easy and Ryan barbequed some divine home made sausages. After 4 days of questionable MDF food it was so good to have a full meal. We also quaffed some tasty beers including my 2nd taste of a Westvleteren 12 which was similarly amazing and also my first taste of the lovely Duchesse De Bourgogne.
Prior to the gig we drove around sightseeing a bit more and they took me to a rose garden that was bloody huge and quite beautiful. It was an amusing contrast wandering around smelling roses just a few hours before seeing one of the heaviest bands on the planet! However I am a man of culture so I enjoyed myself and took way too many pictures of roses for my darling Ann back at home as she is very keen on roses.
We stopped by the 2nd Sizzle Pie pizza joint in town where I had several caffeinated beverages to try and stay conscious as I was still on east coast time. There was some quality crazy hobo action out the front of the place which provided some depressing entertainment until management convinced him to depart. We then walked to the venue and after the security looked strangely at my Canberra drivers license I was finally let in and was very pleased with the size and layout of the venue. I do enjoy large festivals like MDF or the old Metal For The Brain gigs in Australia however there is nothing quite like seeing a band you love in a medium sized venue and I reckon Star Theatre was about 500 capacity which was perfect. It looks to have had quite a history over the years which you can read about here with it being a burlesque joint and porn movie theatre and also owned by Gus Van Sant for a while.
I grabbed an oatmeal stout which was pretty decent and had a seat at a comfy booth while the first band set up. 2 random tweakers asked to sit at my booth which was fine and I had a great time listening to them talk complete shit. One guy had tattoos on his face and was rambling to his dopey mate about not wanting to show people his metal shirts as they only “for him”. He also said the same thing about his tattoos which was very amusing considering he had one on his forehead! We then had a chat about the pre-White Zombie band that I can’t remember the name of and can’t seem to find any information on so maybe it was all in his imagination. They then noticed there was an upper viewing area to the venue so they quickly cleared off leaving me to my beer. I ventured outside into the beer garden and commencing drinking PBR (the beer selection outside was somewhat limited) and was introduced to a few Portland metal folks including legendary growler Gurge (aka Dave) from Lord Gore and quite a few other Portland death metal bands who was a nice chap.
First band of the night were locals Night Nurse who played a crusty death metal style not too dissimilar to early Bolt Thrower and they were excellent. They had a female singer who had a great scream although after a while it sounded like a death metal band fronted by John from Nuclear Assault which was an odd combination. Portland is nearly as incestuous as Melbourne and sure enough Night Nurse had members of Splatterhouse, Blood Freak and also Hellshock who were up next. The guy from Hellshock was having guitar problems and took some time fixing them but it was understandable considering he had another set to play. Overall I quite enjoyed their set. Around about then I met fellow Aussie blokes Stu and Django who were both doing the same Bolt Thrower side gigs as me although Django is obviously the most metal of us as he was also going to Chaos In Tejas to see them. Apologies for the crap photos but it was quite dark and I hate using a flash plus I was pretty drunk.
Following them were Hellshock who I’d missed in New York a week earlier as I was too busy boozing outside and laughing at mates getting busted for pissing in the streets by an overzealous cop in a golf buggy (I hope you guys paid the fines). Hellshock are still metal but are a bit more crust punk than Night Nurse but to tell the truth I was expecting a little more from them. They seemed to lack a vital spark needed for that style and just sounded a bit too safe and inoffensive. I wanted more grunt and aggression from them. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly played well and the crowd seemed to enjoy it but I was somewhat underwhelmed.
Benediction were up next and my suspicions were finally confirmed that the current singer was the guy from Anaal Nathrakh who I had seen wandering around MDF. In fact now that I look it up he’s been with Benediction for 15 years which shows how much attention I’ve been paying to them. In fact I’ve never been a huge fan of Benediction with Subconcious Terror being the only album I own that I’ve listened to regularly but they were surprisingly good live even if I didn’t know any songs. Part way through Django observed that they sound like Harmony Corruption era Napalm Death and from there on I kept hearing lines from Suffer The Children whenever he sang which was quite amusing. I also noticed at that point that there are a lot of tall people in Portland!
Up next was the godly Bolt Thrower and this ended up being the best set of the whole trip!! Unlike the tent at MDF, I wanted to be able to see the band so I moved forward to a spot right next to the mixing desk (a trick I learned long ago to get the best sound) which was still in the boozing area and slightly raised above the pit. The curtains opened to reveal the huge Bolt Thrower backdrop that was actually too big for the stage and I also noticed that the rack toms on the drumkit were bloody huge and looked like floor toms. They opened with The IVth Crusade and I was stoked that the sound was near perfect and super heavy! I was so happy to be able to hear the killer solos perfectly, thumping drums, throaty vocals and of course the throbbing bass. The crowd unsurprisingly went wild and I coped some shoving as I was near the entrance to the pit area. Thankfully I’ve been to a LOT of gigs and am well versed in the art of allowing the crowd/moshpit to slide past me (even though I’m a fat bastard) while maintaining my position. Tonight the song War Master got a rest and they played Where Next To Conquer instead which was fine by me as it’s my favourite song off The IVth Crusade. From there they played …For Victory, World Eater, Cenotaph and No Guts, No Glory which was an intense section of amazing songs. They also had no time restrictions so we received a full setlist which included the full version of When Cannons Fade as well as the title track of the first album as part of the encore. Even though BT generally only play festivals, they really seemed to be enjoying the cozy conditions and put on a great show. In fact this would rate in my top 10 gigs ever and I think the other Aussies agreed that this was their best performance of the tour.
Apologies to Travis and his date who were standing next to me and probably got whipped a lot by my rapidly thinning hair. As soon as they finished I complimented the sound guy on doing such a fine job and then asked for his setlist which he gave me and is now a treasured possession.
It was pissing rain outside when we left and Ryan and I jumped into a cab and drove to a pub for a few nightcaps. It had actually closed for the night (it was nearly 2am on a Tuesday after all) but my host knows the owner who opened up for us and gave us a few free beers! Yay! The bar was in the process of being refitted and was nearing completion so it was interesting to hear about all the problems and issues and other business aspects even if I was a bit hammered at the time. No idea what beers we had but they were tasty and it was a cool end to an awesome, awesome night.
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!!
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