Let’s forget about the frustration that was the lead-up-to / early-departure-from Autopsy and pretend instead that Friday simply went out with a bang. (With Vader, duh.) We were a full day and change into a festival that — judging by the nuanced reactions of THE INTERNET — was supposed to be a total disaster, and yet things were…not just going off as planned, but also actively thriving? Well, spoiler alert, Day 3 at MDF would only prove to be a continuation of that. Let’s get into it.
Day 3: Saturday, May 27, 2017
Once again, this year’s late start times proved to be a godsend — not just for purposes of rest and recuperation, but also for the sake of terrific pre-fest hangs with my non-Fest-attending hosts, Kevin and Lauren. Case in point: before heading into the Power Plant area on Saturday, the three of us drove out to a no-kill animal shelter in nearby Ellicott City so they could adopt a dog. No, seriously. His name is Toki. Look at him.
Dammit, if that little fur ball wasn’t just about the best way to start a day of metalling, I don’t really know how you’d top it. So before we jump into the metal, congratulations first and foremost to two of our former podcast guests on becoming new dog-parents.
Anyway, the metal…
Embalmer / Necropsy
No disrespect to these two bands here, but I just didn’t get enough out of them to merit a full write-up for either. And in both cases, the fault’s my own. For Cleveland-based death crew Embalmer, it was because I didn’t catch enough of their set. What I did catch sounded fine, but…I just didn’t see much of it because I was late. Here’s what I can tell you: they’ve dropped two albums in 28 years, and were making their first MDF appearance in a decade. For a band with such an unorthodox trajectory, it was nice to simply see them show up and kick an ass. Which they definitely did, from what I saw.
Anyway, Necropsy was a different story, in that I spent much of their set charging my phone. (Having lucked out and had my phone die on me right as my Lyft driver was pulling up at the end of the previous day, I wasn’t about to take any chances this time out.) Apologies to the Finns, but I ended up watching the entirety of their set on a TV at the second floor bar area at Rams Head. And you knwo what? They sounded pretty good, too. In different circumstances, I’d have probably been able to enjoy both sets a lot more, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
The same could not be said of Uada. The band was a late addition to the festival lineup — replacing Batushka, who were forced to drop out last minute due to visa issues — but you’d hardly have known it given the immense quality of their set. Simply put, they took every single one of their 40 minutes and slayed them all.
With only one album’s worth of material to choose from, setlist options were limited for the band. Fortunately for the audience, though, that album was last year’s Devoid of Light, a terrific slab of Dissection-worshipping melodic black metal. And as good as that album was, it took on an entirely new dimension in a live setting. The band opted not to use the Rams Head’s house lights, and instead brought a set of white floor lights that pierced the fronts of their amps. Factor in a healthy amount of artificial fog and their hooded stage attire, and you get what felt like pretty much the apex of ominousness. It was like the color had been sucked out of the room, and that suited their music perfectly.
In the end, this was the rare set from the weekend that didn’t feel long enough. Even though we got the band’s entire album, you couldn’t help but want more at the end. A top-three set of the weekend for me, without question.
So I’ll be honest with y’all, I don’t remember a damn thing about these guys, other than that it took place at Rams Head. Oh, and they’re from Chicago. Here’s a picture, though!
For quite a while now, Exhumed has been one of those bands I perpetually “need to check out” but never actually have. Nothing against Matt Harvey and Co., it’s just that #metalbandcampgiftclub has given me an embarrassment of musical riches that I can never hope to fully digest. (That, and all the new releases we take in here, which…good lord. As a very wise man once said on an Instagram post of mine, “Are there too many music? YES.”)
Anyway, let’s not mince words. Exhumed kicked an ass or four. The death/grinders were just a ton of goddamn fun. The pit got rowdy. Harvey cracked a very well-received Deafheaven joke. The band’s chainsaw-wielding mascot (does he have a name? Again, I don’t know these things.) came out multiple times — including a return during the final song during which he had fake entrails forcibly removed by a woman I drunkenly referred to as “evil doctor babe” in my notes.
Simply put, Exhumed had charisma for DAYS. Was it a top-five set of the festival? Perhaps not. But easily one of my top ten, and another very clear case of The Rammstein Effect that we’d already seen before in the Fest. Great, great stuff.
Yes, I’m aware of the hilarity of MDF scheduling Exhumed and Exumer back to back. Anyway, I digress. The latter of those two hail from Germany and really, really want their audience to like thrash metal. Seriously, I can’t remember how many times vocalist Mem Von Stein (what a name, by the way) posed some sort of variation of “DO YOU LIKE THRASH METAL?” or “WHO WANTS TO HEAR MORE REAL THRASH METAL?” to the audience, but I’d guess it was around 20. We get it, dude.
Anyway, the band (and, to be fair, much of the audience) was feeling that THRASH METAL a lot more than I was, so I decided to take the opportunity for another phone-charging sesh on the second floor. Sorry, not sorry.
Next up, it was time for the day’s first trip over to Soundstage to catch Fucking Invincible, a hardcore supergroup out of Providence, Rhode Island, with whom I wasn’t previously familiar.
(Apparently they’ve got members of Daughters, Dropdead and a whole bunch of others in their lineup. Who knew? Not this guy.)
Suffice it to say, they were fucking intense. So intense, in fact, that I wasn’t able to get a clear picture of them to share with you here; Soundstage was just that lit during their set. Just a filthy performance, in the best possible meaning of the word.
Aaaaand finally, a chance to redeem myself for missing the first-ever Agoraphobic Nosebleed live set back at MDF 2015. While there were a handful of reasons for that error in judgment two years ago — I wasn’t a grind fan back then, our host didn’t have Soundstage passes, etc. — there were exactly zero that were going to keep me from seeing them this time out.
ANb has gotten its feet wet in the live setting a number of times since that 2015 debut, so you’d be forgiven for wondering if the novelty might have worn off slightly for some since then. If it did, though, the audience at Soundstage this time out sure missed the memo. The fifteen-or-so minutes I caught of Scott, Kat, Richard et al — Yes, I know. Only 15 minutes. A guy’s gotta get his Grave fix, though! — were simply electrifying. There were no pictures of Agoraphobic Nosebleed for me. Pictures wouldn’t do it justice. Hell, a video barely qualified.
This was one instance where I almost wish there’d still been an outside component to the festival at the Edison Lot. (The first such instance of longing at this year’s fest up to this point, believe it or not!) The Edison Lot — and the 10-15 minute walk between it and the Soundstage — would have forced me to pick a venue for the end of the night, hunker down and stay there. Which might have allowed me to catch all of ANb. Instead, the proximity of the Rams Head and Soundstage meant that I could easily shuffle back and forth to close my night out with ANb, Grave and Insect Warfare and thus, that I had to try. I’m glad I saw all three bands, but I wish I’d been able to see more of them.
Oh well. ANb rules. Next!
Another Rams Head late-nighter, another ridiculous delay getting the band onstage. (Am I being too much of a whiny-ass about this? Maybe I’m being too much of a whiny-ass about this.) This time, the 20-minute difference between advertised set time and actual set time kinda got on my nerves, because any tardiness here cut into the amount of Insect Warfare I’d be able to see back at Soundstage. (And, also, the amount of ANb I had to miss to get over “in time” for Grave.)
Fortunately, Grave is not Autopsy. (Or Craft, for that matter.) They were fully worth the wait and then some.
For their first MDF appearance since 2008, the Swedes kept things mostly old-school. Of the ten tracks in their set, seven came from the band’s first three albums: Into the Grave, You’ll Never See and Soulless. (Including the title tracks to all three, the middle of which sent my Nine Circles comrade Drew Zalucky into an absolute frenzy.) Frontman Ola Lindgren sounded as vicious as ever, and the rest of the band kept perfect pace throughout, sending the floor into one of the more furious pits of the weekend.
Grave was a highlight for me not just because they kicked ass, but because of the timing of this performance. I’ve been on a BIG Swedeath kick over the last several months, poring over records not just from these guys, but also their compatriots in Entombed, Dismember and others. The scene, and the HM2-driven sound it spawned, is just having another moment with me right now, so seeing one of the most important architects of that scene just utterly destroy lives in Baltimore during MDF weekend…it was pretty damn cool.
But alas, I didn’t make it to the end of Grave. Instead, I found myself crossing back over to the Soundstage to close out the night with infamous Houston grinders Insect Warfare, reunited last year and making their first appearance at MDF since the 2007 pre-show. (A fact the band would ultimately acknowledge at the end of the night by telling the audience, “We’ll see you in 2027.”)
That year, the band released their now-classic World Extermination album. I hadn’t heard of them back then. I didn’t like grindcore in general back then. (In fact, I’m pretty sure Opeth was the most metal I got back then. Oh, how far we’ve come!) I can’t pretend to have appreciated their set this time out as much as folks who had been there back then, but still…immediately after I walked into Soundstage, I got it. There was something in the air as Insect Warfare all but demolished the place. I can’t personally compare it to the first ANb set from 2015, because I wasn’t there, but from what friends said afterward, it was a similar vibe. Just totally unhinged. This was the kind of thing that’s made me start to get into grind. This pure fucking energy that swallowed everyone in the audience whole.
I can’t pretend to comprehend whatever vocalist Rahi was ranting about between songs, nor can I claim to know every song in the evening’s setlist. All I know is I walked out of Soundstage at the end of the night feeling, yes, exhausted…but also — and more importantly — completely satisfied with the evening. I can’t say for sure if I’d have gotten the same shit-eating grin out of Morbid Angel over at Rams Head, but if I had to Magic 8-Ball it, I’d say the chances are “ask again later” at best.
- Came across Ross Dolan from Immolation chatting it up with Damian Leski from Gorgasm (and also Broken Hope). Also came across Dan Lilker from [just-about-every-band-imaginable-but-most-relevant-to-this-fest-was] Stormtroopers of Beer palling around with, I’m pretty sure, the bassist from Exhumed. Also, Matt Harvey just chilling and being Matt Harvey. Random sightings at MDF are my favorite.
- Got all my merching out of the way on Saturday. Ended up with the following:
- Blood Incantation — Starspawn t-shirt
- Motorhead — Snaggletooth back patch
- Bolt Thrower — full-color logo patch
- Sepultura — original logo mini patch
- Judas Priest — Sad Wings-era logo mini patch
- Vader — logo mini-patch
- Chepang — pin
- There was also this, which I wanted oh, so badly to get, but did not…
Check back soon for the final day’s recap of MDF XV!
Keep it heavy,