Ahhh, Maryland Deathfest, one of the most wonderful times of the year. Nothing but a vacation consisting of metal, drinking, debauchery, eating deliciously unhealthy fest food, and raging with friends. For those of you not in the know, Maryland Deathfest (abbreviated as MDF) is a 4 day heavy metal festival held over Memorial Day Weekend in Baltimore and is often called the biggest metal festival in America, bringing international bands and fans alike for the metal fueled weekend. For many of these bands, MDF is their first time playing in the United States, and some who would otherwise never play the States will often do one-offs just for the festival, with past acts including Asphyx, Ihsahn, Godflesh, and Electric Wizard. The fest is held across 4 different stages, 2 outdoor and 2 indoor venues, Baltimore Soundstage and Rams Head Live, with the former being more for grind and hardcore, while Rams Head is more for black and death metal.
My first exposure to MDF was in 2012, but it was always just a pipe dream until 2015 when I finally made the pilgrimage along with thousands of other metal fans to the mystical land of Baltimore, and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I got to meet a multitude of people from all over and made friends with a variety of characters, many of whom I had gotten to reconnect with this year, go on hunts throughout the city to find cheap food, and see bands I thought would never play again, let alone play the states (it still blows my mind that I got to see Demilich, Anaal Nathrakh and Portal, all in the same day, no less)!. After the time I had, I just knew I needed to come back next year. It almost didn’t happen, but I manage to put together the trip at the last-minute, and boy, was it worth it! I’ve been to multiple festivals across a variety of genres, but none of them compare to the intensity and pure joy that MDF brings, and my experience this year was no different! Now, on to my actual fun at the fest!
Day 1 is very different setup wise compared to the rest of the fest. Normally, there’s a mixture of different genres sprinkled on every stage each day, but this day is set up where only the 2 indoor venues are open, and one is exclusively stoner/sludge/doom, while the other is in-your-face brutal death metal. Opening up the festival were Baltimore hometown heroes Visceral Disgorge on the Soundstage, making their MDF début. I had been hyped to see these guys since they released their début (and currently only) album Ingesting Putridity back in 2011, and they absolutely did not disappoint, ripping through their set with ferocity as well as hilarity, with the vocalist cracking jokes about their song titles such as “Spastic Anal Lacerations”.
After their set, I made my way over to Rams Head to catch a bit of Crypt Sermon, a Philly-based doom band that reminded me a bit of Candlemass mixed a little with Warning. Personally, not my style of doom, so I ended up leaving to go catch scum grinders Waco Jesus. I wasn’t too familiar musically, but they caught my attention and I was pleasantly surprised. They ripped through song after song, with the vocalist making the occasional joke about the amount of women in the crowd and quips about having them flash them, or at the least show them a foot.
When they finished, I retreated back to Rams Head to catch part of Buzzoven’s set, but mainly to get a good spot for Chicago’s Bongripper, who were one of my most hyped bands of the fest. Flying through a crushing 3-song, 45-minute set, they were easily the loudest band of the day, with the bass in particular being able to level the venue on its own. Opening with “Hail”, the band just dominated that stage and did not stop until the last note of their song ‘Worship’, then gave their thanks and walked off. One thing I took note of was that they were the only band there that were selling their own merch, going back after their set to hang out with the fans after the bombardment their merch table received. Proceeding them were North Carolina natives Weedeater, whose fuzz-fueled set included hits such as ‘God Luck and Good Speed’ and ‘Weed Monkey’, and after their set I went to see California slammers Disgorge, where their set turned into a party, with circle pits and glow sticks flying everywhere.
Italian maestros Goblin led by Claudio Simonetti then took the Rams Head stage, and knowing nothing about him besides that they composed soundtracks to horror movies, I was immediately sucked into their performance. The visuals they had came from the different movies, such as Dawn Of The Dead and Suspiria, and they synced everything flawlessly with what was going on, and I was kicking myself for not knowing more about them earlier. Catching the beginning few minutes of Severe Torture, I closed out my night with Earth, and their droning, minimalistic, yet loud riffs was a perfect way to unwind and end the first day of MDF.
WORDS BY JASON MEJIA