Editor’s Note: In the wacky world of publishing, some stories don’t see the light of day. Whether they sit on the backburner until they become irrelevant, positions change hands or they just plain get cut, it’s just one of those things. Today, one of those unpublished articles will finally get its due as we traverse the archives of “The Vault.”
Back in late 2013 when the full line up for Maryland DeathFest 2014 was announced I knew I HAD to go. Last time I went was in 2011 (I had no money in 2012 and in 2013 I came close but didn’t go due to being in the probationary period at a new job. By now I had been working for almost a year and was going to earn vacation hours, so I found a group of friends to go with, booked our hotel and we were ready. May 23rd came soon enough (wasn’t able to do the Thursday date) and the MDF journey began .
I arrived just in time for the doors to open. Even when standing right in line I was greeted by friendly metalheads from around the world. I met up with a few of my concert going friends from my area as well as some people I hadn’t seen since 2011 – all before the first band got on stage who turned out to be…
First up was this “hipster” black metal/hardcore fusion from New York City. For the most part, bands who fall under post-metal or post-anything genres generally tend to bore me and this band was no exception. I could barely pay attention as the band just sounded like Deafheaven with a small bit of punk influence. After a few songs, I just walked over to the other Edison lot stage awaiting something unholy.
Hailing from Poland comes the unholy two-piece (a four-piece during live onslaughts) known as MGLA. This band played an intense set of raw drawn out black metal that reminded me a bit of Darkthrone during their most acclaimed era. If someone introduced me to this band as part of the 90’s Black Metal Inner Circle I would believe them. Though their sound fits well into that style, they did not sound like a carbon copy “kvlt” tribute band. MGLA was the first of many raw black metal bands to play the fest for the second time.
The Ruins of Beverast
First of the bands on my MUST SEE list for the fest was The Ruins of Beverast. If you read my previous blog on my top ten albums of 2013 then you know I LOVE this band. I was in such disbelief when I found out they were added to the bill. I had no idea this one man act from Germany played live shows at all, let alone that I was actually going to see them. This band killed. Though Ruins atmosphere works a little bit better in studio (and probably at indoor venues), the band still sounded pretty damn creepy live and they played a great set of songs – including my all-time favorite Ruins track “I Raised This Stone as a Ghastly Memorial.” After their set my friend and I headed out of Edison to go get a bite to eat as well as walk over to sound stage to see…
ACXDC (Anti-Christian Demoncore)
Laugh at the name all you want, these guys kick ass. Originally I wasn’t planning on seeing this band as I had not heard a single song by them, but my friend Jason was heading over to Soundstage and I had no idea how to get there – plus a band I wanted to see was scheduled on the same stage right after so I figured why not? ACXDC sound nothing like AC/DC (though that would have been awesome). Instead, they play a modern take on 90’s powerviolence. Their set was intense with the pit going wild and Jason stage diving like crazy. All and all, ACXDC was a pleasant surprise and since I was already at Soundstage i didn’t have to worry about being late to…
Japanese extreme giants Coffins were one of Fridays two outliers for Soundstage (the venue was mostly a punk line up). They play a style of death/doom that leans more towards death metal similar to Asphyx and Autopsy. Originally they were scheduled to only play Thursday and missing them would have been the only reason I was regretting not getting a Thursday ticket (I had already seen Crowbar twice and Tryptikon would eventually drop off the bill), but when when The Secret dropped and Coffins took their time slot my regrets went out the window. Whether its games, movies, music or anime, Japan is known for making things energetic and over the top and Coffins’ live performance was no stranger to this. For a band that falls under doom they had tons of energy and it reflected in the audience as the pit transformed from punk rock circle pitting to extreme metal moshing. Sound-wise Coffins were definitely one of those bands that sound better live then in studio. I left their set 10 minutes early so I didn’t miss a minute of…
Heading back to Edison (while hanging with a girl I met at the 2011 MDF and the bassist from ACXDC), I got back just in time to see Hoest’s crazy outfit. This was Taake’s first US show so there was no way in hell I was going to miss this. Hoest has always been one to get attention from the black metal crowd whether it be saying “Go suck a Muslim,” performing with his penis exposed or making out with the lead vocalist of Sweden’s Shinning and here he performed in a costume that made him look worthy of a Sith lord. This of course did not distract from the intensity that the band brought on. They had a great set list playing favorites from both old and newer albums. Taake blew both Ruins and MGLA out of the water but even their extreme intensity was no match for …
Ever since my buddy Nick first showed me them a few years ago I had been curious to see them. CC is a pioneering West Coast powerviolence band that has been around since 1986. These guys may be old timers but they had more energy the most bands half their age . This set had the most intense mosh pit I had ever seen. Old-school powerviolence bands were known for their intense pits but were balanced out by the fact that they played small shows with a limited crowd. Here we had those same intense PV pits but at a huge fest. The pit area became a battlefield which, along with seeing Nick live his childhood dreams made the show even more entertaining. They played a 45 minute set of short songs. As much as i enjoy grind and powerviolence bands with short songs, I feel bands like that are meant to have short sets. CC was though a huge exception as not a minute went by where I was bored. After their set I headed back to Edison yet again to see…
I had been a big fan of Portland’s Agalloch ever since I first heard “Not Unlike the Waves.” Call it, dark metal, black metal, folk metal, etc., Agalloch’s unique sound has been labeled as so many things and on every album they have evolved and seem to always put out quality work. Their album “The Serpents and Sphere’s” is destined to make my top ten of 2014 and is my second favorite album of there’s next to 2002’s “The Mantle.” Like Ruins, they were one of the bands I was most stoaked for on Friday. Sadly, they were the biggest disappointment on the whole fest.When I got to the Edison stage I noticed that they were already playing though they were not scheduled for another 10 minutes. At first that sounds cool like, “Yeah more Agalloch, right?” But in reality, it meant they rushed their soundcheck. The bass overpowered every other instrument. Since Agalloch were never much of a bass-driven band, this just made them sound like a mess of noise as they butchered not only their new album but their classics as well. Hopefully next time they will do better. After Agalloch it was time for the last Edison band that night.
At The Gates
Along with Ruins, Agalloch, and Incantation, Sweden’s melodeath creators At The Gates were one of the top of the must-see bands criteria for Friday. I have been a fan of At The Gates since I was in the 10th grade and felt extremely nostalgic when watching their set. Their set list was mostly songs off of “Slaughter of the Soul” with a few older tracks. To some that sounds disappointing (I even heard a drunk dude in the back say it’s “metalcore without breakdowns”), but personally, I greatly enjoyed that album and as for the litany of bands that ripped it off…not so much. There was a big rumor going around that they were going to debut songs from there then upcoming album “At War With Reality” at MDF, but it turned out to be false. Either way, I didn’t care as I was just happy to finally see these guys live. They ended their set with “Kingdom Gone” – my favorite track off the debut. The gates of Edison were closing and it was time to go to return to SoundStage to see…
Carcass worshipers Impaled are mostly known for being the unmasked members of the crossover thrash band Ghoul. They were the 2nd outlier on the Soundstage that day as well as the headliner. I did not get to watch too much of their set as their delayed sound check pushed them set back 15 minutes. From what I did get to watch (about like 20 minutes) they were pretty fun and I kind of wish I could have watched more but i had to leave for Rams Head at 12:30 to make sure I caught…
The time had finally come for the band I wanted to see the most on Friday; the nights feature presentation: Pennsylvania classic death metal act Incantation. I absolutely love this band. They have been around since the early 90’s and still are able to put out killer releases (the album “Vanquish in Vengance ” was one of my top ten 2012 releases). I had once seen guitarist/vocalist John Mcentee’s other band Funerus play with Krisiun and Abnormality up in my area code last year but now was time to see his main band. Jason and I met up with my New Jersey friend Herb and we chilled as we awaited this moment. Once Incantation started we were all blown the fuck away. Rams Head by far had the best sound system of all three venues. The bands powerful sound was given great justice and they were loaded with energy. Incantation’s set list was great as they played plenty of songs from both the old and new eras. Incantation won the night and was a perfect closer for MDF Friday. After the set Jason and I went back to our hotel for some sleep after a successful night of metal. After all, we were just warming up, things were only going to get better.
Read Part 2 here.