For the fifth year in a row, I found myself down in Baltimore over Memorial Day weekend for Maryland Deathfest. Although this year, things were a little different. For one, there was no outside stage — an omission that, I hoped, wouldn’t prove to be a death knell for “America’s Biggest Metal Party®.” For another, my two longtime MDF-attending colleagues — our co-host emeritus and Literati Overlord — decided not to partake in this year’s festivities.
Still, with a compelling enough lineup and plenty of other metal comrades flying in for the weekend, I decided to take the plunge again. And, lucky you, you get to hear all about it! (SPOILER ALERT: Reports of Maryland Deathfest’s, erm… death… were greatly exaggerated.)
I was going to try to write up these recaps as I go, but the reality is, that was never going to be possible. (You know, because of concerting and catching-up-with and other shenanigans. And maybe sleep, too.) Oh well, with all that said, here goes…
Day 1: Thursday, May 25, 2017
Unlike in years past, I was a little late to the party this time out. A quick perusal of the Thursday lineup revealed that, with apologies to the SubRosa fans, there really wasn’t anyone I particularly cared to see until around 10:30 that evening. So, after driving down to Baltimore on Thursday afternoon, I spent time with my hosts, Kevin Davis and Lauren Wolfson — eating, drinking, Hulu-ing, more drinking, etc. (Shout outs to Orchard Market, Waverly Brewery, Metalocalypse and Boulevard Brewing’s Show Me Sour Ale for the assistance on those fronts.)
Once all that wrapped up, it was time to head down to the SoundStage to catch…
Decrepit Birth — pictured above, despite the Cryptopsy banner appearing to indicate otherwise — took the stage at around 10:30 PM, and proceeded to level the room with tech-death aggression. Despite mentioning a couple of different times that they had a new album coming out, (Axis Mundi, out July 21 via Nuclear Blast) I don’t recall actually hearing any new material during this set? I might be wrong on that. But either way, a solid performance, enhanced by some entertaining between-song banter from vocalist Bill Robinson about his love of psychedelic drugs.
I actually ended up leaving Decrepit Birth a bit early to cross back over to Rams Head and see Tiamat, one of the festival’s main draws for me this year. And while missing the end of the former’s set was a bit of a bummer, doing so to catch the latter was unquestionably the right decision.
As far as I’m aware, this was the Swedes’ first appearance at the festival, and they certainly made the most of it. While many fans had been clamoring for a full performance of the band’s seminal 1994 album, Wildhoney, what we got was something entirely different. The set drew primarily from the band’s later, gothic era — 2003’s Prey and 2008’s Amanethes each had multiple representatives — but the band sounded great throughout, and cowboy-hatted lead vocalist Johan Edlund simply owned the stage. (At one point, he even mock-strangled guitarist Roger Öjersson — who, to his immense credit, managed not to miss even a single note through the whole display.)
Terrific stuff throughout, and a remarkable MDF debut.
Montreal’s Cryptopsy have been playing their classic album, None So Vile, on tour recently, and their set at MDF was no exception. By the time I got over from Tiamat’s set, they were about halfway through, with twin banners bearing the album’s cover art adorning each side of the stage. And honestly? A couple of songs was all I needed. By 12:30 in the morning, I just wanted to head home and collapse. So I caught my couple of songs and peaced out. Sorry, Cryptopsy!
- Shout outs to Invisible Oranges, No Clean Singing, Metal Bandcamp, and other friends from Seattle, Ohio, DC, New York and all over the damn place. Reunions and catch-ups continue to be low-key my favorite part of this festival.
- What is it with singers and cowboy hats?
- Okay. So. I do miss the Edison Lot. But that said, the condensed, two-venue festival setup hasn’t been bad so far. A million times easier to get from venue to venue when you eliminate half-mile walks to and from the lot. Plus…
- Surprisingly, neither venue felt overwhelming in terms of crowd packing. I was expecting something akin to the crowd for Dragged Into Sunlight at Rams Head last year — to compare it to sardines in a can wouldn’t even begin to cover how tight it was — but instead it’s been surprisingly pleasant. Crowded, sure, but with enough room to draw breath, move around, etc. Granted, the weekend is young…
- All that being said, of course it’s in the 70s with low humidity every day of the fest the year there’s no outside portion. Of course.
Stay tuned for the rest of the MDF recaps!
Keep it heavy,