Maryland Deathfest 2011 Recap Day 1

Last weekend saw America’s biggest metal party, the annual Maryland Deathfest, happen at Baltimore’s Sonar club. The fun started on Thursday night with an evening’s worth of bands indoors at Sonar. Here is what Hellbound’s Kevin Stewart-Panko, Laura Wiebe and Sean Palmerston thought of the bands they saw that evening, with live photos by Albert Mansour.


NOISEAR (6:10 – 6:40)

A common and admittedly excessively annoying refrain from my yap during the drive down to Baltimore was, “Hey dudes, let’s get going. Noisear go on in X hours.” I think I must have busted out this little nugget every time we stopped to allow someone to fill their guts and/or empty their bladders. I thought it was hilarious. No one else did. When we found ourselves stuck in a rush hour traffic jam north of the city, I figured I was going to miss this band’s first appearance east of Chicago, ever. Using our grindcore super powers, we made it just as these New Mexicans were taking to the stage with their quirky, slash and burn grind that owes as much to Voivod and Botch as it does Brutal Truth and Napalm Death. Generally, backwards baseball hats are equated with a lack of stage presence, though generally I like to settle into a venue before settling in to watch a band, so I didn’t notice their guitarists’ comparative stoicism. I was just happy to be there. Drummer Bryan Fajardo drives this band like a fist through rice paper, not that the other dudes slack or scrimp on the dissonant chords, dynamic interplay and guitar duels. Well worth the race down I-83. (Kevin)

Kevin really really really wanted to see these guys, so we skipped checking in at our hotel room and went straight to Sonar to see them early on Thursday night. Thankfully they were completely worth it. As we found out just before seeing them, this was their first time playing east of Chicago ever and the grind outfit did not disappoint. It was a great kick off to four days worth of music – and one of the best sets that I saw on Thursday. (Sean)

FLESH PARADE (8:35 – 9:10)

This New Orleans grind unit did an admirable job blasting out a competent set of quick blasters, but the real highlight of the set was seeing the MDF Party Patrol come out for the first time with their neon glowsticks, inflatable toys and penises and costumes. Nothing says welcome to MDF like getting gobsmacked when not looking by a huge inflatable set of cock and balls. (Sean)

EXTORTION (9:25 – 10:00)

These Aussie punk rockers were awesome. I wasn’t familiar with them before they hit the stage, but knew it would be good when I saw their singer’s S.O.B shirt and bobbed haircut. The band alternated between grind and punk, with said singer parading back and forth across the stage like a maniac. Great fun! (Sean)\



BUZZOV*EN (10:15 – 11:00)

Seriously, what the fuck? They started off alright, but these long time purveyors of debauchery soon found themselves prey to the momentum killing curse of the live show: extending between song space to figure out what song to play next. You know long in advance how long your set is (fuck, anyone who looked on the website could have told you), figure out what’s going to fit in that time before you show up. And try not to be too drunk. Or high. (Kevin)

I did not know Buzzov*en but I knew of them. I was expecting more spectacle but was most affected by the one band member removing and replacing his hat (and possibly his shirt – this pointed was debated). With two dudes passing vocal duties back and forth, they sounded gungy and dirty, looking and playing it rough. But it was a fun set and a good length for my attention span. (Laura)

Right before they went on stage, a hispanic guy sauntered over to me to ask me a few questions. “Have you ever seen these guys before?” “Are you as excited as I am to see Buzzov*en tonight?” My answers were (1) yes, I had seen Buzzov*en back in 1996 and thought they were okay and (2) I wasn’t that excited to see them, no. As soon as I said that, my new friend left and went and found some other dude who was really excited to see them. He then went and bought them both Jager bombs and kept buying him drinks all night long. My loss. Oh, and that Dixie Dave is one wicked bass player. (Sean)

TRAGEDY (11:15 – 12:00)

Tragedy were entirely unknown to me before this performance, and turned out to be much more core-ish than the doomy goth metaller in me would expect from their name. (I was too new to the fest, and too tired from the road trip to make more sensible genre predictions than that at the time.) They kept me awake and interested, despite my fatigue, with the right amount of melody fused through their hard, aggressive edge. I doubt I’d throw on their record, but I’d go see them again.

Tragedy were hands down the best band I saw on Thursday night. The band gave no introduction, they didn’t speak once in between songs and they didn’t acknowledge the crowd at all. What they did to however was lay down an impressive set of progressive d-beat punk that straddled the line between Neurosis-style heaviness and the ferocity of crust punk. It was my second time ever seeing the band live and, as impressive as they were the previous time, this time they were absolutely incredible. They let the music do the talking and did so in grand style. Impressive. (Sean)

CATHEDRAL (12:15 – end)

I witnessed a Cathedral performance only once before this, in Toronto with Anacrusis and Flotsam & Jetsam opening for King Diamond (or what is Mercyful Fate? – I can never remember) back in 1993. The Brits’ farewell to North America was my main reason for arriving on Thursday and I was so hoping to be wowed. I enjoyed them – rocked in my head to oldies like “Midnight Mountain,” “Ride” and “Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)” – but I missed most of Lee Dorrian‘s onstage banter, and though the band seemed up to their usual entertaining antics, it wasn’t enough to make me forget I was exhausted, and only sheer force of will kept me standing to the end. (Laura)

Not being a super-fan on par with Sean, who’s probably going offer a litany of complaints about their set list, even I was scratching my head about the omission of “Soul Sacrifice.” There was a whole lot of excessively slow, five beat per minute, “waiting-for-something-to-happen metal” from their early, early days that bored me silly. Though they did bust out cracking renditions of “Funeral of Dreams” and “Midnight Mountain” complete with killer hand claps. And yes, that was the dude from Repulsion playing bass. (Kevin)

This was a bit of a letdown. I was so excited to finally get to see Cathedral once again, some eighteen years after seeing them support Fight in Toronto in 1993 that my expectations were incredibly high. In the late nineties the Coventry doom band were hands down my most listened to band, with their The Carnival Bizarre album still a favourite. When I found out they were headlining Thursday I made sure I had a four day ticket. Chalk it up to being too excited about it, but their set, which has now become their final on North American shores, was more than a little anti-climactic. The set list was a complete mystery, so much so that when I saw singer Lee Dorrian the next day I asked him how they could even think of not playing “Soul Sacrifice”. And that was just the start of it. The band concentrated a little too much on the second and third albums, playing three songs each from The Ethereal Mirror and The Carnival Bizarre while completely skipping over some of their great albums like Endtyme. Of course, it was still great to hear Gary Jennings crank out the riffs and some sweet solos, and Repulsion’s Scott Carlson did a great job stepping in on bass again (where was Leo Smee?) but in the end this just wasn’t what I expected nor what I really wanted. (Sean)


Join us Monday for our Recap of Day 2 of Maryland Deathfest 2011

Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.