Maryland Deathfest 2011 Recap Day 2

Continuing on from our collected review of Thursday’s show, here is what we thought of the bands we saw which played Friday, Day two, of the 2011 Maryland Deathfest. Reviews by Adam Wills, Laura Wiebe, Kevin Stewart-Panko and Sean Palmerston, with photography by Albert Mansour.

NOCTURNAL (4:25 – 5:00, Outdoor Stage 2)

Having never heard this band before, I dug their retro thrash metal sound. Their singer did a good job getting the crowd going. Not sure if people dug her because she had a great voice or because she was a woman and they weren’t, but overall I thought their set was a nice introduction to the outdoor stage portion of the weekend. Need to find out more about this band for sure. (Sean Palmerston)


NAILS (4:45-5:15, main room)

When you’re a three-piece band, playing a stage the size of the one in the main room of Sonar can be a daunting task. Your band can easily be swallowed up by the expanse, seem lost and no matter what you do, you can never exhibit enough physical acitivity and stage presence to keep viewers occupied. California’s Nails shit all over that notion. Despite Todd Jones being essentially glued to the mic as the trio spit out venomous grindcore and powerviolence diatribes with brevity and anger as their theme, the band still came across as vicious and compelling as watching a black bear tear up that one obese guy who just couldn’t run quickly enough. (Kevin Stewart-Panko)

PULLING TEETH (5:30-6:00, main room)

Pulling Teeth are local yokels with a Canadian connection who, despite MDF’s committment to diversity over the past handful of years, stuck out like a bit of a sore thumb. While it was refreshing to hear a bit of old-school metallic hardcore and that holy terror sound injected into the weekend’s mix, apparently the majority of patrons didn’t think similarly. Their plodding intro didn’t help generate energy in the main room, neither did PT’s Integrity-meets-Converge battlecry, nor their singer flopping around with little regard for his immediate safety. It should’ve though. (Kevin Stewart-Panko)

I slipped it to see one song and liked what I saw, but it seemed to be going over the heads of those in the room at the time. Too bad. (Sean Palmerston)

AURA NOIR (6:00 – 6:50, Outdoor Stage 1)

After spending the day enjoying the wonderful weather, as well as a trip to the National Aquarium, I arrived in time to see the “ugliest band in the world”, Aura Noir. I had seen them at their previous appearance at the festival in 2009 and once again, the Norwegian blackened thrashers put on a great performance. Front-man Apollyon’s self deprecating humour only added to my appreciation of their live performance (“The bass cut out? Oh… it probably sounded better that way anyways”), and despite not being familiar with any of their recordings, I’ll happily watch them live whenever I can. (Adam Wills)

For three guys that claim to be the “ugliest band in the world” Aura Noir don’t sound or look particularly repulsive. My first outdoor set of the fest turned out to be even better than I expected – black, crusty and entertaining, with more personality than I’d been able to pick up through the band’s recordings. (Laura Wiebe)

I loved the rough, crappy Venom-esque approach of this trio? Something fucks up, ah well, probably sounds better anyway. That seemed to be their motto and I appreciated their raw intensity. (Sean Palmerston)

MACHETAZO (6:40-7:20, main room)

I don’t know what other fans of these Spanish death/grinders thought, but I was disappointed. Seeing Machetazo for the first time reminded me of when I saw Exciter as a pimply thrasher back in the day. Excitement and anticipation brewed in the on-deck circle as both bands kill it on record, but because their drummers are their singers, and the other two dudes in the band aren’t exactly the most kinetic of performers… well, I’d rather just listen to their records. (Kevin Stewart-Panko)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY (7:20 – 8:20, Outdoor Stage 1)

Early Corrosion of Conformity – the classic line-up and sound on this year’s MDF stage – has never appealed to me as much as the band’s later material (it was Blind and Deliverance that made me a COC fan). For a moment I thought they were going to break down and play one of their more southern bluesy tracks, but it turned out to be a just a tease. Still, the original dudes have held up well, delivering a combo of raw attitude and tight professionalism. (Laura Wiebe)

I lapped this set up. It was like the tastiest comfort food after a hard day’s work. I haven’t listened to those classic COC albums in a long, long time, but it put a smile on my face to see them out rocking them and having fun in the sun. Great set, only disappointment was that they didn’t have any XL shirts of the classic logo in blue by the time I got over there. (Sean Palmerston)

CRIPPLE BASTARDS (8:25-9:05, main room)

10 fucking skulls! (Kevin Stewart-Panko)

What that guy above said! (Sean Palmerston)





NEUROSIS (9:10 – 10:45, Outdoor Stage 1)

Neurosis has been at the top of my “must see” list for quite awhile now… and as soon as it was announced that they were playing at MDF, I was making plans to attend.

As the stage was being prepared for the onslaught to come, the forecasted thunderstorm finally made an appearance. Lightning lit up the entire sky, and the rain quickly changed from a light sprinkle to a full-on downpour. While the band and stage crew discussed the fate of their performance (the band wanted to play, but the stage crew wasn’t allowing them to), the crowd grew restless. Nobody was concerned about the weather… they just wanted to see Neurosis.

Thankfully, the rain came to a halt after about 15 minutes, and the crew quickly went about to dry off the stage. Omitting a full on sound check (“I thought we’d just go ahead and play”), Neurosis started, sending the soaking wet crowd into a frenzy. Opening with “A Sun That Never Sets”, the lulling opening quickly segued into an onslaught of some of the heaviest riffs that I’ve ever witnessed in a live environment. Steve Von Till took his frustration with his equipment troubles out on the microphone (both sonically and physically) while the rest of the band tore through a set list heavy on songs from their latest album, Given to the Rising. Much to the pleasure of long-time fans, they didn’t forget older material, including “Locust Star” and “Through Silver and Blood”.

All in all, their performance was everything I was hoping for, and well worth the long wait. (Adam Wills)

As I stood in the partial shelter of my friends’ umbrella, watched the rain pour down around us and the lightning split the sky above, it looked like Neurosis might not play. The lightning continued but the rain stopped and soon the band members were taking their places, images projected behind and over their heads. It was a little surreal, being sucked into the hypnotic cadences of aggression and atmosphere that Neurosis creates while spotting Baltimore city buses drive by on the street behind the stage. I wasn’t familiar with everything the band played, but they never disappointed. (Though it wasn’t enough to distract me from my appetite – I watched the final few songs from the back with a veggie burger in hand.) (Laura Wiebe)

Dave Edwardson told me on Sunday that it came really close to Neurosis not playing on Friday night, as the PA company shut everything off and were not prepared to let the show go on unless the thunderstorm stopped. Thankfully it did and the veteran act put on, as always, an incredible show. Although I saw the band at least thirty times in the nineties, that was my first Neurosis show in a decade. I watched most of it underneath the Neurosis merch tent, helping a friend get everything in and out of the rain gave us a good vantage point so I just stayed there, and the show was awesome. So good to see them play again, and the song selection was a nice cross-section of their career. (Sean Palmerston)

KYLESA (10:45-11:25, main room)

Bathing the room in the the swirly black and white design that adorns the cover of their latest album, a Kylsea set has now moved into the realm of full sensory experience as opposed to a simple show. They may have made the mistake of playing their most popular track, “Don’t Look Back” first and Laura Pleasants’ vocals were obnoxiously loud in the mix, but paying witness to the dual drumming showdown and watching bassist Cory Barhorst throw his entire being into his performance opened up a new understanding of this Savannah band and the presentation of something that was already special to begin with. (Kevin Stewart-Panko)

I sacrificed the beginning of Kylesa’s set to catch all of Neurosis, who were ending late because of the rain delay. When I walked indoors the band was deep into the heavier end of their spectrum and it was only later that things opened up to create space for the more ethereal female vocals woven into their songs. I couldn’t see the stage well from where I stood but soaked in the sounds (and particularly enjoyed the giant floor tom featured near the end of their performance). (Laura Wiebe)

Immediately after Neurosis’ crushing set, the swarm of festival goes headed back to the indoor stage to catch what was left of Savannah, Georgia’s Kylesa. Upon entering the venue, adorned with their accompanying light show, we were greeted with a set well in progress, but it seemed that late arrival of most of the attendees didn’t bother them at all, showing everyone why they’ve been such a force on tour. Their double drummer setup, combined with a dual vocal assault creates some intriguing patterns of rhythms, while a sludgy layer of guitar holds everything together. While the band’s albums are strong, having seen them a couple times now, it has become clear that this is a band that is best experienced live. (Adam Wills)

EXHUMED (11:45-12:25, main room)

Welcome back! My thoughts on, and love for, Exhumed have been well-documented over the years (despite Leon del Muerte continuing to still give me shit some 12-13 years down the line about once jokingly referring to them as Carcass wannabes) and to say I’m welcoming their return is like saying the price of gas is kinda expensive. Always the consummate performers, Exhumed temper their propulsive death and thrash with a flair for songwriting and and belly laugh or three which makes winessing them in the live arena the sort of thing that could easily flip a degranged serial killer’s switch as much as it has jerks like me grinning and drooling like a cretin. Not only is it good to hear some old material along with the new, but bless ’em for the showmanship: the chainsaw, the spotlight guitar solo, the decapitated head, the blood drinking. Fuck yeah! (Kevin Stewart-Panko)

High energy and intensity, Exhumed’s MDF set satisfied a lot of people, but after the song-to-song flow of Kylesa, the long between-song pauses and death metal stage talk felt anti-climactic to me. I might have gotten over that, but from where I was standing their riffs disappeared into a steady pounding of snare and kick drum and the only guitar work I could clearly pick out was the odd over-the-top lead. (Laura Wiebe)

Coming off a long hiatus, Exhumed returned with a ferocious display of Carcass-inspired gore metal. Riff after grooving riff had the crowd in a frenzy, while the shared vocal duties of frontman Matt Harvey and Leon del Muerte were as gory as ever. However, while positioned at the back of the venue, the sound mix was less than fantastic, and the only reason I was able to pick out the riffs, was because of my familiarity with some of the material. During less familiar songs, the guitars were quite hard to make out (except for the solos, which were as clear as day). With another long day in the books, and still two more to go, I called it quits partway through their set, and headed back to the hotel, missing the last band of the night Marduk, in order to get some rest. (Adam Wills)



Come on back on Wednesday for our recap on Day Three of this year’s Maryland Deathfest

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