If you’re a metalhead who haven’t been living under a rock or born 2 hrs ago, you already know this past weekend was Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore. The extreme metal fest, in its 13th year, has been growing exponentially from the past years. What started as a humble festival with bands like Suffocation, Dying Fetus and Devourment, has now become one of the biggest and most important festivals in the US, with over 100 bands of all statuses reaching across four stages and spanning four or five days (if you want to count the pre-shows). Here’s my takeaway from it:
I started my experience on Thursday night at the Baltimore Soundstage. The organizers made sure to start big with a lineup consisting on heavy hitters like Origin, Internal Bleeding and Devourment, who don’t know anything but madness and destruction for the crowd, with non-stop blast beats, punishing growls and fast riffing. It was not just them who brought the house down. One of the most anticipated bands from the night was the recently-reunited Skinless and even after so many years under the radar, the brutality emanated as strong as expected.
On the other side of the road, Rams Head was being torn apart by others like Mantar, who have proven that all you need to create insanity in the form of metal music, is a guitar, a drumset and a real desire for chaos; Jex Thoth delivering their psychedelic rock doom widely appreciated by the audience; and finally YOB who lead the night til its end loud and clear, despite some technical difficulties.
The previous night was brutal and it took its toll to my aggravated body but that didn’t stop me from catching the first band at the Edison Parking lot, where the two outside main stages are located. Artificial Brain had no time for sensitivities and played a solid performance. As if Will Smith’s vocals weren’t enough for the early birds who were there, the guest performance of singer Paolo Henri Paguntalan from Andromorphus Rexalia had to satisfy even to those standing in line outside waiting to get in.
One of the highlights of this day was the long awaited first time performance from Aura Noir with Aggressor, who had to be one of the best sets of the entire fest, with a perfect sound, hand picked setlist and the energy to deliver a black thrash attack! While there were many first time appearances at the fest, there were also the veterans like Suffocation or Obituary, who knew how to handle the thirsty crowd easily. As a black metal fan, there’s no need to express my anxiety to see bands like Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult or Aeternus along with many others during the rest of the festival and my expectations were met and satisfied, even with the slight technical issues Rams Head was having during those performances.
Bloodbath had never played in American soil before and that caused a horde of avid fans to swarm the stage minutes before the show started. The sea of metalheads must have impressed the Bloodbath’s rank because they executed spotlessly a show that can only be topped by the collective singing of the fans during the chorus for “Eaten.”
This one was one of my toughest days at the festival, and that is counting my head injury I had the first day and left me with 10 stitches as a souvenir. But the difficulty was to catch all the bands i had set myself to watch and refused to miss due to the importance of what they meant to me. Arcturus has been on my last of bands to see for at least 12 years since I started listening to extreme metal and while the setlist chosen was not the one I was hoping for, my high school, teenage desires have been met.
Other favorites among most of us there were Blood Red Throne, started playing sort of early but had a large crowd as if it was the peak of the night; Thrash metal maniacs Bulldozer and Razor putting to shame the circle pits you see on European festivals by making a hurricane; and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, who unfortunately couldn’t shoot because the venue was at full capacity and the only pictures I got wereof everybody else’s head.
The end was nigh, but that never stopped anyone from enjoying the last day to the fullest, forgetting about the post-festival depression usually hitting the next morning or next week. First band on my list was Primordial, and I have to say, they are so fun and actual showmen and I’m sure it was one of the favorite bands from the entire experience for many attendees. The energy from A. A. Namtheanga was unparalleled and the rest of the team did not fall behind one bit. Other notable performance was Neurosis’ towards the end of the Edison Lot show and if you have ever seen them before, you can figure out how their music felt after the whole ordeal. Demilich was another highlight of the day and very accepted by old and new fans who enjoyed their concert.
The festival closed down with Portal at the Rams Head Live! venue and the atmosphere lurking about the room was eerie and frightening, but equally mesmerizing to witness, but the mood was killed by the venue when they turned the lights on and shut down the sound. Fortunately, Portal didn’t care and the night was finished properly. Maryland Deathfest is definitely one of the best and biggest festivals we have here and this year was no different with a great lineup, excellent staff, and the shared memory of a Memorial Day weekend spent with like minded metalheads in Baltimore..