by Jay H. Gorania
As hessian metalheads strolled the streets of downtown Baltimore like zombies on a mission, they weaved in and out of Lacrosse athletes and fans who were there for the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship. I was working out at my hotel’s gym alongside one of Virginia’s players who appreciated my condolences. His now former teammate, George Huguely, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love, a member of the Virginia women’s team (supposedly the two had previously dated).
Early Sunday, however, a drunken Lacrosse player-hating lady friend of mine wasn’t so kind to some Virginia men’s players we encountered in the elevator. I’m surprised the elevator didn’t turn into a boxing ring after she was vocal about her perception of their sexuality and considering her negative comments about their personal hygene.
But my friend certainly wasn’t the only victim of partying at MDF. The marching metal fan/zombies were walking noticably slower by Sunday.
Mid afternoon at the Sonar, we saw Dan Lilker perform once again following his set with Autopsy the previous evening. This time, he took to the indoor stage with Crucifist, a no-nonsense band with old-school black metal at heart and a penchant for doom. On Demon Haunted World, Ron Blackwell‘s vocals seemed to be an unintentional parody of Nocturno Culto; however live he fared better vocally and entertained with his whiplash-inducing headbanging and unmistakable passion. And, thankfully, Lilker’s bass wasn’t as absurdly loud as it was during Autopsy’s set.
A drastic departure stylistically, New Jersey’s Gridlink proved to be one of the most lethal bands of the weekend with their first-class, face-breaking grindcore. Featuring Burnt by the Sun bassist Teddy Patterson and drummer Brian Fajardo—who has just recorded, or is about to, with his other bands Kill The Client, Phobia and Noise Ear (there’s no rest for the wicked)—their music was just as well structured as it was brutal and relentless.
To call Seattle’s Black Breath a mix of punk with classic thrash and death would be accurate, however not entirely representative of their impressive output. But to merely call Entombed an “influence” upon Black Breath, or Trap Them, for that matter, would be as much of an understatement as saying Johnny Depp is kind of weird (whether he was serious or not, Hellbound boss Sean Palmerston blasphemously proclaimed Black Breath to be better than Entombed).
Earlier on the outside side stage, Krallice proved why there is so much hype about the band with an skillful execution of their progressively-inclined black metal. Rich with nuance and great musicianship, they used their prowess to enhance their music rather than hold it down as many prog/tech bands tend to do. Concurrently, they evoked the mysterious spirit of Morbid Angel with an end product that is more soulful than mathematic.
Many black/death singers were unintentionally comical with their cookie monster vocals between songs (at least Incantation’s John McEntee laughed at himself when he slipped up and briefly used “human” vocals during a songbreak), so it came as a refreshing surprise when singer/guitarist Mick Barr politely, and normally, said “thank you” to the crowd.
Sweden’s longrunning blackened death metal act Necrophobic took the stage looking a big silly, like any corpse-painted band playing a fest under a shining sun, but in terms of music and performance, it was everything any fan of old school Swedeth or black metal would want. Scathing vocals, spooky faces and music focused upon evil melodies.
From the chilling winds of Scandanavia, the fest shifted its creepy eye well below the Mason-Dixon line to the swampy marshes of Louisiana.
New Orleans’ legendary sludge kings Eyehategod apparently sobered up enough from their previous evening to pull off an incredible sounding set that definitely distinguished itself from the majority of everything else that was going on at MDF.
Their style definitely lends itself better to smaller clubs, however perhaps because they’ve played larger fests before and opened for Pantera, they transitioned smoothly onto the outdoor mainstage.
Another batch of pioneering hedonists playing powerfully slow metal played later on the opposite outside stage. Though reviews of modern day Pentagram are mixed, the doom metal pioneers were on the ball in Baltimore. Looking like a cross between a shaman and a homeless person, legendary frontman Bobby Liebling performed with truckloads of charisma.
Clearly the fest’s strongest day, the classic bands just kept coming. Next up: Entombed.It’s been several years since he’s been in the band, but Uffe Cederlund’s second guitar is definitely missing. Their sound isn’t as full as it could and should be, especially during the solos (a common problem that followed Pantera throughout their career).
In spite of that drawback, their set was absolutely “brutal,” “crushing,” and every other badass word you can think of. There was an authentic kind of darkness inherent to much of their music that seemed even creepier because unlike posers needing to feign image, in person they really seem to be a relatively normal bunch of dudes.
Eyehategod’s Jimmy Bower was screaming at Entombed from the side of the stage to play “Damn Deal Done,” the death ‘n roll rocker from DCLXVI: To Ride Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth. Either he was reading their setlist, or they chose to oblige, but they jumped into that track from an album that definitely resonates an Eyehategod-like quality.
But unlike most extreme metal bands who engage in a never ending pissing contest (to be the most brutal, evil, fast, et cetera), Entombed has stood the test of time because they write incredible songs that stay with you long after the music has finished playing. And at MDF, they proved that they’ve stood the test of time and can perform their songs energetically and entertainingly.
This combination of strong songwriting and live performance carried forward with Florida’s Obituary. I caught one face-slicing Converge song before running outside the Sonar to focus on Obituary, whose pit was just as lively as that of Entombed.
Donald Tardy’s drum-solo seemed more self-indulgent than anything, but it actually did provide a much needed intermission in the midst of their violent set that uniquely crossed the atmosphere of the most abysmal black or death metal you can imagine with the in-your-face aggression of old school hardcore. And not only was John Tardy able to pull off what he does on record, on some songs and during some screams, his trademark “YEEEAAAARRRGGHH” was even more gut-wrenching and drawn out.
Winding down both the evening and the fest, new school grinders Magrudergrind reliably performed well, and then powerviolence legends Capitalist Casualties kicked the beaten up fest-goers while they were already down for the count.