The first ever Quebec Deathfest took place last month, from the folks that brought you Maryland Deathfest, Netherlands Deathfest, and more. Taking place across several venues in the metal capital of Canada, Quebec, the fest had many of the highlights of other festivals (multiple stages, vendors, lots of beer) that make this a worthy inclusion of your annual concert calendar. Bands on the bill included death metal greats like Autopsy, Demolition Hammer, Exhorder, Uada, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Malignancy, Unleashed, Skinless, Skeletal Remains, Outre-Tombe, Bell Witch, Dehumanized, Tomb Mold, and many more. Check out these EXCLUSIVE photos by Hillarie Jason Photography and we’ll see you next year! Saluer et tuer! Continue reading
If I learned anything from spending my Saturday afternoon at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston it’s that silence can be crushingly heavy. That’s if coupled with the right music and atmosphere of course.
And there was music. And what wonderful music it was. Concrete like slabs of riffs and drums that slammed like vault doors. Unnerving electronics drowning in waves of feedback squeal. But between the noise and the fury, all four performers, Neurosis with support from Sumac, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and The Body had nothing to say between their numbers. It was eerie, yet quite refreshing. I’ve been to too many metal and hardcore shows, so I’ve grown accustomed to frontmen demanding for circle pits or to throw the horns in the air. Not the case here. Just a whole lot of heavy.
The Body took the stage first and set the mood with a sound that I can only describe as a future Eyehategod that travelled back in time to preach of the upcoming apocalypse. The only thing harsher than their cold electronic noises were the nihilistic shrieks let out by guitarist Chip King.
Seattle legend Tad Doyle (TAD, Hog Molly) was next with his newest musical endeavor, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Despite being involved in extreme music for close to 30 years, Doyle can still churn out Sabbath strength riffs in rippers like ‘La Mano Poderosa’ and ‘Unnamed.’ Interestingly, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’s self-titled début (Neurot Recordings) was just released earlier this year, but they ended their set a new song not featured on that LP, ‘Magnetar.’ New music so quickly? No complaints from me.
I was very excited to get to see guitarist and vocalist Aaron Turner’s new and bone snapping project, Sumac, live as I am still mourning the passing of the mighty Isis (Boston band, not terrorist organization). While they may lack the melodic touches or musical finesse that Isis was displaying in their mid to late years, Sumac is as crushing live as they are on their debut The Deal LP (Profound Lore). Personal highlight was watching skinsman Nick Yacyshyn pound out the jazz freakout in the middle of ‘Hollow King.’ Bearded wonder Turner says he intends to keep Sumac going as a full time band. Let’s certainly hope he does.
But for all the intensity and knee-buckling volume that the aforementioned bands brought, nothing was quite like watching Neurosis live. Few bands can make thrash and death metal sound quaint, but Neurosis is one of them. Eschewing their elaborate visual presentation of yore and going for a more spartan aesthetic, these rugged Oaklanders took the stage with no backdrop and sparse lighting. This after all was their most wide reaching tour in more than ten years, so the music was front and center. The set moved almost as an ocean ranging from the more passive sounds of set opener (and highly underrated) ‘A Sun that Never Sets’ and ‘My Heart For Deliverance’ to the earth rattling bits like ‘The Doorway’ and ‘Times of Grace.’ While they covered a wide selection of their discography, tracks from early Neurosis standards Souls at Zero and Enemy of the Sun were unfortunately absent.
And just when you thought you had reached the zenith of heavy music, Neurosis closed with the song. The title track. I think you know this one. A certain little song called ‘Through Silver in Blood.’ If you’re like me then you’ve heard this song about 4 million times in your room or car, but live is a different animal. As soon as the opening sample kicks in you will feel something otherworldly seize your spine and it won’t let go until the final pounding tribal rhythms. The audience was in a full trance. And as soon as it ended they walked off the stage with nothing to say. Musical bliss finally had been achieved.
It may have possibly been the heaviest show I have ever been too, but at the same time it didn’t necessarily feel like one. I now learned that I could live without some obnoxious frontman shouting to mask his insecurities. If your band is truly heavy then don’t say a word. We’ll know how extreme you are by the silence and the storm that follows it.
WORDS BY HANSEL LOPEZ
With many bands out in the world of metal today playing full albums on a live setting, it was only a matter of time for Tales from the Thousand Lakes (Relapse) to be played by death metal legends, Amorphis. We were lucky enough to speak to drummer, Jan Rechberger, at Maryland Deathfest this year to understand why is now the right time.
“Well we had the idea because of the anniversary, it was pretty clear to us to play the whole album because it is considered a classic in the scene. It seemed like a good idea to play it in between the process of writing a new album. We’ve been playing a few shows, 1 tour through Germany and Switzerland along with a lot of festivals this summer, like here in Maryland. It’s been going really nice, only a few shows yet, maybe 12 or so but so far it’s been real good. Meeting a lot of nice people and getting good feedback from the audience, it’s been a blast.”
Prior to the classic Tales record, Amorphis was known for a more traditional death metal sound but then they revolutionized death metal by evolving the sound to one of the pioneering folk metal sounds popular today. Jan reminded us that musical directions just kind of happen naturally.
“It’s a long process basically. We were basically metal heads at the time before Tales and just listening to metal really. After that we started listening to progressive music like progressive music in general and getting into bands like Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull, and all those classic bands and we had a keyboard player so that probably changed the game a whole lot. It just started to happen when we jammed out playing our influences and coming up with a unique package. Like most things in music, these things happen accidentally at the end of the day. So it’s really a mix of our influences through the years and it’s a never ending journey really with more to come.”
Kalevala is a Finnish national epic poem of which Tales is heavily based upon. During the writing process of Tales, Kalevala strongly resonated within their creative minds. Over two decades later, is this story still as meaningful to them as it was back then?
“It does, but it’s something we learn in school as kids. It’s a huge thing in Finland, it’s like a national treasure in a way. And back then no metal band used it. Some Finish jazz bands did but it was mostly instrumental anyways and a lot of Finish composers used it as an influence. It’s been a major influence for artists in Finland. A lot of nice stories and unique stuff. I guess it was right after recording Karelian (Editor’s Note: The Karelin Isthmus- for Relapse Records) that I had the idea of maybe using Kalevala on maybe the next album and we did! We’ve been using it on new material too since Eclipse is basically based on Kalevala stories and characters. The new one and Circle are not straight from Kalevala but influenced strongly by it in some ways. I find it to be an original thing for us and feels natural for us to use as it’s something we already have. There were times where we didn’t use Kalevala in our music as we had other lyrical influences at the time on different subjects. I find it fits in our music well.”
Nowadays, folk and pagan metal as some call it is quite popular in the metal world and flourishing quite well. Many of these bands have cited Amorphis as a major influence to their sound and it is clearly heard in their own work. We were wondering if this comes off to Jan as a band “ripping off” the Amorphis sound and got a response after a few seconds of laughter that shows what kind of legacy they have created.
“Sometimes, but I do not see it as a rip off but more of a compliment. Like if I were to do hip hop or some other kind of music and some hip hop guy sampled my music I would be honored! Mainly because we were influenced by a lot of other bands. So if some younger bands take influences from us, I see that we actually created something that matters somehow. But yes, as you said, there’s been some bands like Ensiferum and bands like them that are friends with us in the first place and how we are a big influence on them. There’s lots of bands that remind me of our older stuff, but I find it to be cool. So I encourage the younger bands to keep doing what they like.”
Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end, but there was still a solid day of heavy metal left to enjoy! Once again my cohorts and I found solace (and assistance to hangovers for some) in our now traditional diner for breakfast. Having been up late the night before, and an early start over at Edison, we did not get to the lots until right before Goatsnake hit the stage.Goatsnake, by Hillarie Jason Photography Primordial, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Sunday may have been the hottest, temperature wise, of the festival and it hit most of the festival goers early. Next to the far end stage at the Edison Lot was a shaded area with picnic tables, many filled with metal heads with their faces on the table top. I held my head up while enjoying Goatsnake from afar and then got a few songs in from Primordial. Right in the middle of the Irish Black Metal band’s set, I did have to leave for a short while as I had an interview with Amorphis outside of downtown Baltimore. Fast forward a few hours and it finally hit me… I was exhausted, gained quite a nasty cough from one of the thousands in attendance, and was incredibly hungry/borderline dehydrated. Now at this point, feel free to point and laugh at your screens, but I went back to the hotel room, chugged some water, inhaled a fruit cup as well as a small sandwich, then took a power nap. Yes, at the young age of twenty-five, I took a nap on the final day of Maryland Deathfest. However, now energized, I nearly sprinted back to the Edison Lot to catch some sets by Demilich and Neurosis.Neurosis, by Hillarie Jason Photography Neurosis, by Hillarie Jason Photography Fans at MDF, by Hillarie Jason Photography Amorphis, by Hillarie Jason Photography
After coming down off of a journey like performance by Neurosis, I made my way over to the far stage to catch what would be one of the greatest sets all weekend, Amorphis performing Tales from the Thousand Lakes album in its entirety. The piano introduction of the album hit while the crowd went into hysterics as each member made their way to the stage. Track by track they played, right through to the end of the Tales masterpiece of an album. Having caught my second wind thanks to my power nap, I was able to get through these last few Edison Lot bands before the Lot was closed until next year. After a quick rest and a short chat with Dave Edwardson from Neurosis, my roommate and I ventured once more over to Rams Head Live to watch the mysterious, yet terrifying, Portal. I had to pinch myself a few times to comprehend what I was watching as, yes shame on me, I had never heard a single story about this band, all of which were masked and performed with stage names. Playing under dim red lights for the whole set with strange videos playing behind them, the Australian five piece brought the crowd into a trance like state. One of my friends in attendance actually described the experience as uncomfortable, but awesome at the same time. Portal did not show any signs of slowing down as curfew came and went. The house lights came on, the PA was shut off, but they just kept on playing until the final note. Then, just like that, MDF was officially over. We all walked back in disbelief of the live stage show that Portal had to offer, yet also the fact that this crazy pilgrimage had come to an end.Portal, by Hillarie Jason Photography Portal, by Hillarie Jason Photography
The drive home the following day was bittersweet. I was bummed that the festival was over for the next year, but on the other hand I was happy to get home and return to the usual daily life I typically live. Maryland Deathfest was my first show outside of the New England area and it was everything I dreamt of and more. I urge every person who is reading this to find time and money to make this journey, this pilgrimage, to really understand how big of a festival MDF really is. Now the only thing left is to ponder what bands will be signed on for next year.
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
Crowd shot, by Hillarie Jason Photography Twilight of the Gods, by Hillarie Jason Photography
The next morning was upon us, which meant more breakfast food from the diner down the street. While we mapped our days out, I determined that I would spend most of my day at Edison once again (not that this was a problem). Prior to heading out, my roommate and I gathered cheap beer, ice, and turned our bathtub into our own little fridge. Happy with our work, we applied sunscreen, threw on our denim vests, and headed out to Edison. By the time we got to the lot and got inside, Twilight of the Gods was a little over half way through their set. Personally, the entire day revolved around Triptykon, so naturally I had a lot of built up adrenaline and found myself walking around and meeting new people. To release some more energy (after buying more patches of course) I slammed in the pit for most of Blood Red Throne. As if I was rewarded for my efforts, one of the guitarists threw me a Blood Red Throne lighter! After a set by Einherjer, I took a quick bio break, filled up my water bottle, and ran straight for the barricade where Triptykon guitar and drum techs were hard at work. Fortunately, I was still able to watch Bulldozer from a distance, but was just too anxious for Tom G. Warrior to hit the stage. The time did finally arrive as I fought off crowd surfers while screaming lyrics to old Celtic Frost songs with security. Yes, security. Specifically two of them right in the middle were headbanging and screaming lyrics with all of us crazies in the front row. During ‘Circle of Tyrants’ the two security guys even jumped the barricade and crowd surfed! I spent the next set drinking water and grabbing dinner as I really gassed myself. After my quick break, I met up with my roommate for the week to watch Arcturus play a great set and then join the mass exodus over to the headliners for the day, Razor. The Canadian thrashers brought forward an amazing set (first US set since 1992 according to many) which left fans begging for more. Some of the biggest pits all weekend were during Razor’s performance which made my inner thrash fan oh so happy. Even with Edison Lot closing for the night, there was still a set to be a part of over at the Soundstage. However, a few of us took a detour to the hotel to pre-game so we could avoid the bar lines. After a brisk walk across town, we were inside Soundstage and awaiting the first ever live appearance of Massachusetts’s own grindcore legends, Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Song after song after song flew by, as did an inflatable phallus, which brought fans to hysterics and joy at the same time. Unfortunately with the shortness in song lengths, as well as the shock of seeing Anb live, I had a hard time following along all of the songs being played. If I had to guess, we may have received around 30 songs. This was probably the largest crowd of the entire festival and it seemed more than reasonable that it was for this set. After stumbling back to the hotel, sing-a-longs, shot gunning beers, and other hilarities ensued in the hotel room to close out one of the best days of the festival.Triptykon, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Security crowdsurfing during Triptykon, by Hillarie Jason Photography Arcturus, by Hillarie Jason Photography Tsjuder, by Hillarie Jason Photography Razor, by Hillarie Jason Photography Agoraphobic Nosebleed, by Hillarie Jason Photography
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
After a quick breakfast at the hotel and going over merch purchased from the previous day, we made our way out to the main venue, The Edison Lot. The Edison Lot is the center of Maryland Deathfest for the second year in a row and I do not see this changing any time soon. The lot is located underneath the freeway in a parking lot of what appeared to be a storage unit facility. On opposite ends of the lot were both stages that alternate back and forth between one stage sound checking and the other stage having a band performing. Right next to both stages were conveniently placed stations to purchase beer, water, and other beverages. On the opposite side of the stages were food vendors, merch vendors, and a corner dedicated to Port-A-Potties. The food vendors, which were arguably on the expensive side, did offer great variety. The best food vendor was a toss-up between the taco stand and the BBQ truck. The taco stand had superb pork tacos with a slew of dressings on it (one of which was “pure evil”). A friend of mine got the goat tacos and those were reportedly amazing as well. The BBQ truck served a slew of different BBQ favorites, but I went with the pulled pork sandwich. On a table next to the truck were a small selection of different sauces. My favorite was the spiciest selection, “Fuck” Sauce. I feel the sauce earned this name for a multitude of reasons, all having to do with people saying “Fuck” after consuming this hellish sauce. As for the merch vendors, I felt as if I had died and gone to metal heaven. Literally an alley of tents was before me. Each tent contained various shirts, patches, hats, scarves, pins, vinyl, and so on and so forth. In fact, there was even a vendor that was selling, um, “glassware”. After raiding the alley and filling my messenger bag with merch, it was time to really turn my attention to some of the bands that were playing.Aura Noir, by Hillarie Jason Photography
At this point, I had just enough time to get a great spot for Vallenfyre who were just coming off of the Decibel Magazine tour. Turnout for them was great which I was happy to see. Right after them, my group all ventured over to the Baltimore Soundstage to catch F.I.D. (Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation). The Japanese grindcore band ripped apart the Soundstage and had quite the turnout for mid-day. Right after this, I opted to return to Edison for the remained of the evening. Aura Noir, Suffocation, and Obituary all put on great sets with great pops from all in attendance. However, as good as these bands were, everyone at the Edison Lot was waiting for Bloodbath to make their US début. The Swedish super group delivered an amazing set ranging across their whole discography. Obviously the encore set opener, ‘Eaten’, got the biggest pop of the night. The walk back to the hotel felt almost victorious knowing I had just seen the only US appearance Bloodbath has ever made. After a quick switch of rooms at the hotel due to the lock mechanism in the door breaking, it was off to bed to rest up for another crazy day!Lock Up, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Napalm Death, by Hillarie Jason Photography Suffocation, by Hillarie Jason Photography Bloodbath, by Hillarie Jason Photography
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN