Ahhhh it is finally mid-May. Which means the annual countdown to Maryland Deathfest is well in place. Of course, the reason MDF has become an annual tradition is because of all the incredible memories from past experiences. And what better way is there to reflect on some of the better moments from America’s premier death metal festival than with this particular piece of content? Let’s start by revisiting the highlights of MDF 2014…
But there are a couple questions I’m assuming you all have that I want to clear up first. For one, why 2014? It’s true that 2013 would have made more sense, with it being my first pilgrimage to Baltimore during Memorial Day weekend and all. But since I only came up with this idea today, and there is only one more Tuesday before MDF, I decided to stick with the two most recent years. Following that up, my 2015 highlights will be published next Tuesday. And then secondly, why are all the bands listed from the Edison Lot performances? Welllll… this was back when I was an idiot. And by that I mean this was back before I discovered the wonders of the all-in pass. So, stuck with a couple days at Edison I was. Also, I was less… educated in the depths of more extreme metal and didn’t recognize nearly as many names as I would, say, today. That all cleared up, let’s begin!
At The Gates (5/23/2014, Edison Lot Stage A)
Of course I’m starting with the biggest name (in my book) from 2014. At this point, At The Gates hadn’t been up to much in the last… well, couple of decades. At least in terms of new music. Yet, here they were, gearing up for their release of At War With Reality at the end of the same year. Yet this set provided a healthy dose of all the classics from Slaughter of the Soul, The Red in the Sky Is Ours, and more. It was a solid set, and running into John Haughm during it added to the enjoyment. No complaints here whatsoever.
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats (5/25/2014, Edison Lot Stage A)
This was my first encounter with Uncle Acid and damn was I impressed. A hot, draining Sunday afternoon eventually succumbed to nightfall, and it was as the sun was setting that Uncle Acid took the stage. It was first time during the day that I was fully captivated by a set from start to finish. Since this performance, I’ve revisited much of his/their material on a routine basis. Certainly one of the highlights from this day.
Taake (5/23/2014, Edison Lot Stage B)
I probably don’t need to say a ton here, since we just spent some significant time raving about Taake after their Boston performance a few months ago. But, like many of the bands on this list, this was my first encounter with the Norwegian black metal legends. Friday at Edison back in 2014 was incredible from the start of the day straight through At The Gates’ closing set, and Taake was nestled nicely in the middle of it all.
Windhand (5/25/2014, Edison Lot Stage B)
The Richmond-based stoner/doom metal band kicked off “doom day” at MDF in 2014 with a brief, yet very effective, half hour set. Within a year of their Soma release, Windhand was on a roll and proceeded to further cement themselves in metal perception with this set. It was captivating, it was interesting… they kicked ass. Too bad I wasn’t as high on their 2015 release that was Grief’s Infernal Flower. Oh well.
Sólstafir (5/23/2014, Edison Lot Stage A)
Of course I’m going to mention the Icelandic post-metallers. By this time, I had completely fallen in love with their dynamic blend of heavier music that many wouldn’t even consider metal these days. I don’t care. They primarily performed the best tracks off of Svartir Sandar, which served as a proper atmospheric driver to their set. I had just seen them within a week before in Cambridge, but that certainly did not lessen this experience.
Gorguts (5/25/2014, Edison Lot Stage B)
But the time Gorguts hit the stage in the early evening on the final day of MDF 2014, we (and must of the rest of crowd) were spent from the heat radiating on the expansive parking lot. But Gorguts promptly woke us the up. True masters of their death metal craft, their technical ability was on point and the sheer pace of their music was a welcomed dose of energy to a doom-heavy day in the lot.
Candlemass (5/25/2014, Edison Lot Stage B)
Obviously, Candlemass was one of the biggest names on the bill this year. No, I don’t care that there is really only one remaining member. And no, I don’t care that we perhaps left well before the set concluded. Seeing Candlemass live was still an absolutely awesome experience. They sounded great, they looked great. I’ve always had a fondness with these classic doom metallers out of Sweden and finally getting a chance to see them in person did not disappoint.
Mgła (5/23/2014, Edison Lot Stage B)
Due to my inability to obtain a full weekend pass, this was the set that kicked off my MDF 2014 experience… and things could not have gotten off to a better start. The Polish black metallers followed up this performance, which was probably the most impressive 35 minutes of music throughout the weekend, by releasing Exercises in Futility in 2015. If you want to know what exactly defines black metal as a genre at this point in time… look no further. Yes, one of the shortest sets I witnessed was also one of the most memorable. This band is THAT good.
Agalloch (5/25/2014, Edison Lot Stage B)
Interestingly, we’re rounding this whole thing off with the band that played right before At The Gates, the first band I discussed. I still find if hard to believe that seeing Agalloch at MDF 2014 would be the last time I get to see them… at least as I know them. Every single Agalloch album is a masterpiece. The anticipation and hype that led to the release of The Serpent & The Sphere was well worth the wait. They simply could not do wrong at that point in their careers. This particular set included a nice blend of the new album, plus older material that included the likes of “Into the Painted Grey”, my favorite Agalloch track. The entire set was a dream. My third time seeing them was unique in so many ways and I would be completely wrong is stating any other band as my favorite performance from this MDF year… even if the bass was perhaps too high, as so many have pointed out.
Alright. That’s all I got for this week. Check back exactly one week from now to recap my favorite performances from this same festival one year later. And spoiler alert… it’s even better. Until then… enjoy the garbage bootleg footage linked above.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”