Hitting the halfway point of Maryland Deathfest is usually a milestone that no one really notices and those who do will actually not speak of it. No one wants to think the weekend is going to end nor that the end is already halfway here. Instead, hangovers are nursed, more questionable food is consumed, and everyone marches back to Rams Head Live and Baltimore Soundstage for another day of partying. Fortunately for myself and my party of friends, we know how to party but dodge the hangovers. So, we made sure to be on time for Soundstage opening up with the first band playing slightly before four in the afternoon. That included polishing off a bottle of vodka left behind by the previous renters of the Air BnB. Thank you to those unnamed heroes!
After a quick walk from the Air BnB to Soundstage, we dispersed around the merch areas on the side and back of the venue. Right on time came Disparo who kicked off the day with their grindcore attack and got the crowd who was there “early” up and moving. Myxoma was up next and continues what Disparo had started. Slowly but surely the pits grew larger while the amount of stage diving became more frequent. Flash Out then stepped it up with even more aggressive grindcore, heavier and faster than the previous two. A friend of mine had left a little early to Ram’s Head as he wanted to check out UADA who started during the Flash Out set. I headed over to Ram’s Head to witness this black metal spectacle and was absolutely blown away. Only a single light on behind the drummer, tons of fog, and the whole band were in robes. Easily one of my Top 5 favorite bands from this year. After a quick bite to eat at the local 24/7 Subway show, we headed back to Soundstage for Boston’s very own, Goolagoon. While we did not get any of the nostalgic SpongeBob Squarepants samples to start the songs, the band made sure to bring the powerviolence aggression. I was thrilled to see the Soundstage as packed as it was for a band from my city traveling to come play their very first MDF. While I was expecting to be at Soundstage through most of the evening, I did sprint back to Ram’s Head once more for today to catch Exhumed which was complete with mad scientist running around on stage and having his intestines yanked from his body. The tennis match continued as we made our way back to Soundstage for Fiend and then Fucking Invincible! After what seemed like years (there’s a joke in there somewhere), the heavyweights in Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Insect Warfare each had their sets and absolutely dismantled the Soundstage. I absolutely lost my mind for AnB’s closing song, ‘Not a Daughter’, off of their latest EP from last year, as my fist found the stage a few times (no injuries outside of a scrape or too, I am surely not that crazy). Insect Warfare was equally as chaotic as waves of bodies were jumping from the stage out into the audience. In fact, even a guy in a giant penis costume (complete with testicles) jumped on stage and dove off for some deep belly laughs. After a quick foraging of the floor to find a few pins and a Fiend hat, we ventured back to the Air BnB for a good night’s rest before a relentless final day.
For the first morning all weekend, I had slept in, a tell-tale sign that the final day of MDF for this year was upon us all. After a large breakfast, multiple coffees, and some proactive packing, we made our way to the Power Plant Live area once more for merch shopping. We skipped the first few bands but made sure to get to Ram’s Head for death doom group, October Tide. On a slightly overcast day with a bit of rain, this band landed on the perfect day of the festival. After a quick sprint over to Soundstage, I had a straight shot of bands to see without heading to Ram’s Head for the time being. Die Choking was up first (great name by the way) which was more grindcore assault to get my heartrate up after what was a mostly relaxing morning/day. Right after them were one of my highly anticipated bands to see, Florida’s very own sludge band, Junior Bruce. The riffs were plentiful and the pits were moving for this band which was a great sign especially for Day 4.
Suppression was up next and played a quick set of noise punk which was one of the shortest and strangest sets of the weekend. By the time I realized what was going on it seemed like they were done. Solid showing for sure. Another highly anticipated group was up next, powerviolence outfit, UxDxSx. Even though there was a brief pause due to some technical difficulties, the set was a remarkable yet chaotic whirlwind of aggression and riffs. I got to chit chat with the guitarist afterwards who was a real down to Earth guy and he even gave me a patch for no cost! With the next band dropping off, Skeletal Remains picked up the slot to play for the second time on the festival and I was actually able to catch them this time around. A great blend of the old school death metal sound mixed with some thrash and that provides thirty minutes of absolute mayhem. I even found my way into the pit during their last song of the set. I was then summoned to Ram’s Head to catch the second half of Oranssi Pazuzu whom may have very well stolen the entire weekend for best performance. Psychedelic black metal filled the venue and put everyone in a headbanging trance. In the Woods… came up next and was equally as trance-like as the previous band. Sadly due to some issues with the mix and a late start, I only got a few tracks in before I had to sprint back over to Soundstage for Iron Lung. The two-piece powerviolence group were tearing apart the venue as each song seemed to grow more and more aggressive. I then had to sprint over to Ram’s Head once more so I could catch even just a glimpse of Ackercocke in all of their splendor. Sadly I could not bring myself to watch all of their set, which was fantastic, but the final band of the weekend was about to start. My final sprint to Soundstage was both filled with excitement but a little bit of sadness knowing this was the last time for this year. At any rate, Terrorizer took over Soundstage with their World Downfall set. As the set grew on and I was taking it all in, that is when my body started letting me know I was all done. After battling through the last few songs, just like that, it was all over.
After a quick walk back to our Air BnB and some reminiscing on our favorite sets from the weekend, we went to bed so that we were well rested for our road trip back home to Massachusetts. I did not think the magic I felt at my first MDF would be there for the second time but I am happy to report that I was wrong! It has become apparent to me that this festival is in a league of its own and I look forward to each year’s lineup announcements to see which bands from my long bucket list get added to a future year for my own pleasure and punishment. If you have not gone to one of these crazy weekends quite yet, do it. Save the money. Buy the early bird passes. Rent an Air BnB. Drive down with buddies. You can thank me later.
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
PHOTOS BY HILLARIE JASON