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! Continue reading
Memorial Day weekend in the United States is a time to remember our veterans who have served in the country’s military and most will commemorate such an occasion with cookouts. In Baltimore, Maryland, the partying starts a few days before the weekend but the celebration is about extreme music. This weekend is known to the fans as simply, MDF, or in full, Maryland Deathfest. Doom metal, black metal, grindcore, punk, and of course, death metal, take over multiple venues in the Inner Harbor area of the city all weekend long as the streets run black with hideous, graphic band t-shirts. For me, this is my sophomore year of the festival and could not be more excited to return. Continue reading
The heaviest metal festival in the history of Scotland is right around the corner as Heavy Scotland is set to kick off April 1st and 2nd at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh. Behemoth is headlining in a UK Exclusive performance, along with Arch Enemy, Finntroll, Blaze Bailey, Destruction, Havok, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Grave, Warbringer and more! Continue reading
Maryland Deathfest 2017, sure to be North America’s metal event of 2017 has already announced its daily lineups. Headlined by Morbid Angel, Candlemass, Autopsy, Tiamat, Cryptopsy and others, according to a post to the MDF Facebook, there are now less than 100 4-day passes available and less than 200 Rams Head 3-day passes available for MDF XV. Once these are gone, they won’t be releasing more. Full details are below. Continue reading
With a final salvo of bands, 2017’s Maryland Deathfest XV is set at last. Added to the final line-up are legends like Candlemass (Nightfall set), Tiamat (Exclusive U.S. Appearance), Grave (Exclusive U.S. Appearance), Root (Exclusive U.S. Appearance), Oranssi Pazuzu, Acheron, GosT, Samothrace, and more. Continue reading
There’s nothing wrong with just picking something you’re good at and sticking with that. Some of Metal’s most influential and respected bands have become so through a lifetime spent mastering one narrow subgenre, but it’s a difficult road to tread – standing out above other bands while deliberately playing generic music is often a lot harder than being weird for its own sake.
Out Of Respect For The Dead (Century Media) is Grave’s eleventh full-length album since 1991, and anyone who comes to it expecting anything other than unrepentant, old-school Swedish Death Metal has made a grievous error, but you might not be expecting a group of veterans to sound quite so savage. From the moment ‘Mass Grave Mass’ bursts out of its fairly innocuous intro into a full-on face-kicking, it’s clear that over two decades of playing this style haven’t wearied them in the slightest, and the savage pace continues across the whole album, relenting only for the purpose of delivering crushing, Doom-tinged slow passages.
Unfortunately, the price they pay for this level of aggression is a loss of character, and it’s a price that may not be worth it. Old-school Death Metal can’t stand alongside some of the newer hybrids for sheer aggression – it’s the ability to juggle violence with sinister melody that keeps the style so appealing, and Out Of Respect… shows rather less of that than it should. Tracks tend to bleed into each other with little to separate them, and though they can catch your attention through sheer Fucking Hell aggression, they find keeping it much harder. At a time when old-school DM is so well represented by both fellow veterans Autopsy and Bloodbath (whose Grand Morbid Funeral stands as a modern classic of the style) and newer colleagues like Disma and Vastum, Grave are very notably lacking the personal touch that would make them stand out.
Out Of Respect For The Dead is, beyond question, a solid and competent album of genuinely savage Death Metal, but in a field already full of similar releases, it’s hard to really recommend it above anything else.
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Dagger, a band featuring former members of Grave and Dismember, might be a bit scuzzy. A bit riffy. A bit, denim-jackety. And, well, a bit Death Metally. You’d be forgiven, but you’d be very wrong. The Dagger (Century Media) swims in a different pool of influences to the past escapades of its protagonists, swinging its pants at Classic Rock and proto-NWOBHM with plenty of Deep Purple, Sin After Sin era Priest and The Who prevalent in the sound.
The first thing to note is the astonishing attention to detail. The Dagger doesn’t just reference these bands or that period, it has been painstakingly crafted to sound like it was recorded in the 70’s, finding those classic warm Fender guitar tones, that fuzzy bass groove and that thick Ian Paice pound and tickle on the skins. Vocalist Jani Kataja could well be singing on Very ‘eavy… Very ‘umble both in terms of his own delivery, but also in terms of the meticulously recreated rock sound playing around him.
But life is not all aesthetics, and while The Dagger has the tones, does it have the tunes? Opener ‘Ahead Of You All’ suggests so, as does the Mott The Hoople inspired ‘1978’ with its tales of weekend warriors and the Iommi worshipping Mob Rules of ‘Dogs Of Warning’. Elsewhere ‘Electric Dawn’ could have been one of the songs Iron Maiden left behind at the Ruskin Arms as they strode towards a recording contract, and ‘Call Of 9’ is all Blackmore stomp and swagger.
But for all the smiles it induces, for all that it is an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes, you can’t but think that while the sounds can be replicated, for all the homage being paid, one thing that can’t be copied or magicked out of nowhere is greatness. Where are the distinctive, iconic riffs, and timeless choruses of the Purples, Rainbows, Mountains? The Dagger are a good band, losing the listener in a bygone age, but this album holds no ‘Speed King’, let alone a ‘Child In Time’. (Try and) sound like the true legends and you will invariable come off the worse for the comparison.
But, when the twin guitars bring in ‘Inside The Monolithic Dome’ like Saxon’s ‘Strangers In The Night’, or ‘The Dark Cloud’ dances like it belongs on a Di’Anno era Maiden album, The Dagger can be forgiven their indulgences in paying reverence to their forebears.
The Sunday started a little bit late due some technical problems with my mode of transportation. But luckily enough Grave was there to cheer me up. Grave gives you a full force band with the strength of a bulldozer. The filled up room might have given them that little bit of extra energy, to give us a hell of a show. Although Grave can sometimes disappoint you because of the typical show they put on, they pumped you up with their well known classics, they didn’t live up to their reputation at all. It was the best show in ages, according to the voices all around me.
Misery Index is a known force at the Neurotic Deathfest and didn’t surprise me at any point. But they did interest me and this is a very good live act! For those who don’t know this band, they are pretty versatile with their sound and play with different styles in the death metal genre. The biggest mistake for me was to stand in front of the pit, that hurt.
Just like Misery Index, Severe Torture is a name that you can find often on the bills from previous years. I am proud we have these kind of bands from the Dutch grounds and we see that we do take part in the death metal scene. I am not proud that the following band named Pestilence comes from the same land. I heard of their bad live reputation but I wouldn’t believe it. I have to admit they were right. I am sorry for being so negative, but I cant find a single positive thing about this band. They sucked, and this needs to be said. If you read this and you are in a band, don’t follow Pestilence’s example. This band was known for their awesome shows and good songwriting, but with this new lineup, they are on the edge of extinction. They only float along on their former pride.
Once again the national memorial of casualties of the second world war fell on the same date as the Neurotic Deathfest. Strange enough this was one of the most epic moments of the whole festival, all death metal fans were quiet for a moment of silence (exceptions for some nitwits that just can’t keep their mouth shut). It gave me shivers. This is the example that it doesn’t matter how brutal you can look, you can still have some decency. The bands also took part of it and that is why Pentagram Chile started a little bit later than they should have. They gave us a whirlwind of a show with a guitar sound that was beyond recognition. Their debut album came out last year which is pretty late for a band started from the 80s. They played a nice mix of thrash/death with a sound that clearly evolved since the early days of this band.
Pentagram were a pretty good lead in to the final band of the Neurotic Deathfest, which is not a death metal band at all, Dark Angel. They gave us some much needed thrash metal. The band around Gene Hoglan seemed to be a welcome guest at this death metal festival, unfortunately the drums were pretty loud in contrast with the guitars which was a bit of a downer for this show. Luckily after a few songs the sound guy woke up and set things straight. After that we were happily surprised by some nice high quality thrash metal. All hell broke loose when the front man Ron Rinehart turned the venue into a party zone where beer was flowing richly. After this we left the festival with a smile on our faces.
WORDS: KAAT VAN DORMALEN
PHOTOS: SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS