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The Vault: Mayhem Fest 2015 at the PNC Bank Arts Center (7/21/15)

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Editor’s Note: In the wacky world of publishing, some stories don’t see the light of day. Whether they sit on the back burner 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 Today, one of those unpublished articles will finally get its due as we traverse the archives of “The Vault.”

Rockstar Energy’s Mayhem Fest, the annual touring metal festival with a more mainstream lineup than others. Due to the festival being a haven for nu-metal and metalcore artists, I usually never bother to go.

However,in 2012 I planned on going to see Motorhead, get a second round with Slayer and Anthrax and in 2013 Amon Amarth and Mastodon; but car repairs and work schedules made it impossible. When King Diamond was announced for 2015 I knew I had to go.

I went down to the PNC Bank Arts Center with my friend Drew as well as my middle-aged metalhead friend Jay for our chance to see the King. Due to the amount of crappy bands on the bill, we decided to get there in time for Jungle Rot, skipping the first three hours of the fest. Due to the PNC Bank Arts Center being 90 minutes away and New Jersey being traffic land, we left with an extra hour in between (just in case we got stuck).

Sister Sin

We got there around 3:20. Drew and I had free tickets while Jay still had to buy his. After waiting for Jay at the box office we then walked over to the Victory Records stage, where Sister Sin was playing. Drew and I watched them while Jay looked at merch. Sister Sin were a hair metal throwback band from Sweden and while Drew and I both agreed that though not our thing, they still performed well.

Jungle Rot

Jay came back just in time for us to catch these death metal legends. Both Jay and I have seen these guys before but its been years for both of us. Drew had yet to ever see them and was very curious. As they always had been for us, the band’s hardcore influenced death metal delivered. Due to having a short set they didn’t get to play a lot of their classics like “Fractured” and “Victim of Violence.” This aside, the set was still good and the pit was pretty violent.

Thy Art is Murder

I had already sat through this terrible deathcore band about a year ago at Summer Slaughter and they were the worst band on the bill (although neither them or Within The Ruins stopped it from being one of the best shows of 2014). During their set we just got some disgusting overpriced dinner and came back to hear their last 2 songs (which sucked).

Whitechapel

Drew is a big fan of the first two albums (2007’s “The Somatic Defilement” and 2008’s “This Is Exile”) by deathcore pioneers Whitechapel. He’s also had five chances to see them and missed them every time. Though the setlist only had two songs from that era, Drew still wanted to see them because he missed them so many times before.

Jay and I on the other hand are not fans of them at all. During this time I noticed Jungle Rot were at their merch booth. I waited in line to meet vocalist Dave Matrise in person, whom I’ve also interviewed. Matrise was a really nice guy. I then watched the rest of Whitechapel’s set. Neither Jay or I were impressed while Drew was only impressed when they played the two older songs.

The Devil Wears Prada

Around 6:30 p.m. I was scheduled to interview Slayer’s Paul Bostaph behind the main stage. This left me with about 20 minutes with The Devil Wears Prada. We all walked to the main stage where they were playing. Drew and I had close seats while Jay sat a little higher up. None of us wanted to see them. They played very boring and very generic metalcore. When I was finally called to go back stage I was very happy to not be watching them anymore while Drew and Jay were stuck.

Hellyeah

After that awesome interview with Bostaph, it was time for the show to shift from generic metalcore to generic groove metal. Drew and I KNEW this was going to be bad. Jay on the other hand was curious simply because Pantera’s Vinnie Paul was in the band and had never heard them before (he ended up hating them).

The band looked straight out of Oniontown (a hick part of Dutchess County, NY) and the vocalist Chad Gray of Mudvayne always annoyingly chanted about metal brotherhood. Four days before this show I saw Superjoint Ritual play live. Seeing these two in within a week reminded me why I respect Phil Anselmo more.

King Diamond

The time finally came for the main reason why I was here. Drew and I were huge King Diamond fans for many years and never thought we would ever see him. Jay had not seen him since he played The Chance ten years ago with Behemoth, Nile and The Black Dahlia Murder (where are these tour packages now?). Jay realized that the seating area was pretty empty and that security was pretty bad.

King opened the set with “The Candle,” getting Jay really hyped. The stage was very theatrical with coffins, grave stones and a woman who would play characters from King’s songs. The set contained classics like “Tea,””Welcome Home,””Eye of the Witch” and “Sleepless Nights.” It got even better midway through the set. Slayer’s Kerry King got on guitar and they played the Mercyful fate songs “Evil” and “Come to the Sabbath.” King then ended the set with THREE songs from his 1987 masterpiece “Abigail.”

Slayer

The final act of the night was Slayer (or as people like to call this lineup, “Slayodus”).

I saw Slayer once five years ago with Megadeth and Anthrax. Slayer had the original lineup and played all of  1990’s “Seasons in the Abyss” and some other random songs. Megadeth played all of their greatest album (which also came out in 1990) “Rust in Peace,” plus some random songs as well. Rather than keep tradition and play all of their 1990 classic “Persistence of Time,” Anthrax met the others halfway and just played seven random songs.

Jay has seen Slayer many times with the last time at this point being Mayhem Fest 2012. For Drew this was his first time. They started the set with mostly newer songs. If you had read my ranking on Slayer albums you know I mostly like the older Slayer albums other then a few songs (which some of those were played). The band then shifted into a set of older songs. I was really glad they played “Hell Awaits,” ”Postmortem,” ”Chemical Warfare” and “Ghosts of War”- which were all songs they didn’t play last time. While it wasn’t the original lineup, it still was a great set and all three of us were glad we went (which is all that matters anyway).

 

The Vault: My Experience At Maryland DeathFest 2014 Part 2 – Saturday

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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.”

After Fridays success, my friends and I were highly excited for Saturday. The lineup looked amazing as it’s usually considered to be MDF’s main day. After finding an awesome Japaneses place to eat, my friends and I headed back to the Edison Lot to see if Saturday was worth all the hype.

Goat Torment

Having no idea who this band was, I decided to watch them as they were the first band up for the day. By the name alone I made a wild guess that they were a black metal band (I couldn’t be more right).These guys couldn’t look more black metal if they tried. They even yelled “Hail Satan” after every song. With that said they were still an awesome band. Goat Torment played raw, straight-forward in-your-face black metal and made for a great warm up.

Diocletian

Next up on the stage was a black metal band from New Zealand known as Diocletian. Though they were of the same style as Goat Torment, their songs were not as interesting but were still enjoyable. Next up was the first band of the day I knew…

Entrails

Entrails are an old-school death metal band from Sweden that formed in the early 90’s, but made it absolutely nowhere until around 2010. Entrails’ performance had tons of energy, intensity and their sound was spot on. Before this set I had only known a few songs by these guys but now after seeing them I feel the need to explore their discography.

Machetazo

This was my second time seeing Spanish deathgrind greats Machetazo (the first time I saw them was at MDF 2011 in the small indoor stage). They killed then and this time as well. I always find it cool when a drummer is also the lead vocalist. Like last time, the crowd was very energetic and wild. Though I greatly enjoyed their set, I preferred the first time because I just think that indoor venues work better for this band.

God Macabre

God Macabre were a lesser known pioneer of the 1990’s Swedish death metal scene. This very same scene was known for greats such as Grave, Dismember and Vomitory. But how do these guys rank compared to those others? Decent but nothing too great.  God Macabre’s performance was that of a run of the mill death metal band. I wasn’t fully bored by them but didn’t really find anything memorable about their music.

Nocturnus A.D.

I was real excited for this one. For those who don’t know, Nocturnus was a death metal band formed by singer/drummer Mike Browning after he left Morbid Angel (after guitarist Trey Azagoth had and affair with his girlfriend).

Nocturnus’s debut album “The Key” was a very distinct old-school death metal album as it featured keyboards, shredding and lyrics about science fiction instead of the  violent and gory lyrics the genre was known for. The band performing was actually Browning’s  post-Nocturnus band After Death but were playing all of “The Key” so they played under the name Nocturnus A.D.(get it?).

“The Key” is the only album I really knew by these guys so hearing a set completely dedicated to the album made me excited.  They played the whole album in its entirety and sounded great doing it. The only down side was at times the keyboards were a little drowned out but it wasn’t too big a problem.

After they played through all of “The Key” they ended the set with an awesome cover of the Morbid Angel song “Chapel of Ghouls.” The entire crowd (including me) was screaming along to this iconic death metal classic. Nocturnus A.D. was definitely one of the best performances at the entire fest.

Tankard

German beer thrash classics Tankard were up next and the first old-school thrash band I saw at the fest. While not my favorite 80’s thrash band, I never had a problem with them and was curious to see them. The crowd turned into a gigantic drunken circle pit as the band played both old and new material. After every few songs the lead vocalist Gerre would ask audience members for a beer and after they played “A Girl Named Cervesa,” they got two girls from the audience to dance on stage as “Cervesa.” Both the band and the audience just got more and more drunk as the show went on, making it wilder and wilder. After being possibly the one non-drinker watching all of Tankard’s set it was time for me to head over to Soundstage.

Dropdead

I returned back to Soundstage just in time for powerviolence pioneers Dropdead.  Just like Capitalist Casualties yesterday these guys played an awesome set of short songs and like CC I wasn’t bored for a minute. Towards the end of the set came a great surprise. Members of the hardcore punk legends Siege came onstage and with the members of Dropdead, finished the set with several classic Siege tracks. After this great two-for-one set I stayed at Soundstage for…

Birdflesh

Swedish comedic grindcore trio Birdflesh were by  far the wackiest band on this year’s fest. While they were setting up these two guys asked me and a bunch of other people to help inflate these balloon ghosts. When the band performed the two guys threw the balloons along with glow sticks at the audience who then threw them at each other and the band, who performed in their trademark over the top costumes.

Though this band is comedic they still put on an intense and powerful performance with the audience both moshing and throwing glowsticks and balloons. I didn’t stay for the whole set but I got to hear a decent amount of songs. The next band on was Noothgrush – a band I wanted to see but had to sacrifice as they played the same time as…

Unleashed

I rushed back to Edison just in time to catch these Swedish viking themed death metal masters. Unleashed’s set started out with lead vocalist Johnny Hedlund calling the audience warriors. Though I enjoyed their performance, I wasn’t too familiar with the songs they played. I only know Unleashed’s first and third albums (1991’s “Where No Life Dwells” and 1993’s “Across the Open Sea”) and they played virtually nothing from them. I was very confused by the set list in general as those omitted albums contained some of the bands most well known tracks such as “Before Creation of Time” and “The One Insane.”

Dark Angel

The time had come. The moment about 90 percent of people at this fest were waiting for. Not only were they the most hyped band of 2014’s Maryland Deathfest, it was also Dark Angel’s first U.S. show since 2005 and their ONLY U.S. appearance of that year.

As they were setting up, everyone was wondering if they would be able to live up to such hype. They did and you better believe it. Dark Angel delivered their aggressive and powerful brutal thrash metal just as good if not better then everyone expected. The intense guitar riffs, powerful vocals and crazy drumming by none other then Gene Hoglan himself translated perfectly from album to live onslaught. During their set it started to rain. Eventually it got real windy as rain blew towards the stage, adding to the atmosphere.

They had arrived.

After Dark Angel’s epic set Jason and I ran as fast as we could to Soundstage to make it in time to see the next band there.

The Extinction of Mankind

The two of us lucked out and made it just in time for these British crusties to start. Before seeing these guys, all I knew was their split with the legendary Doom. Like the other punk based bands on the bill they were filled with raw intensity and had tons of intense circle pits. After watching there set we walked over to the Ramshead stage.

Schirenc (playing songs from Pungent Stench)

Martin Schirenc

I will admit I was never a big Stench fan (always found them to be pretty mediocre death metal). When we got there, Schirenc had about 20 minutes left in his set and i just sat upstairs chilling with my friend Herb as Schirenc’s music was not interesting me one bit. Once he got off the stage things go more exciting as it was time for the nights last act.

Asphyx

Saturday night ended with Dutch death/doom legends Asphyx (as well as meeting Hoglan on the way to the bathroom). Dark Angel had an insane performance that I thought would be topped by no one else at the fest (I was wrong).

Asphyx had the most crushing performance of the night and of the entire fest. Like it had for Incantation the night before, the great sound system did justice for this bands intensity and Asphyx had a perfect setlist. I have always thought of Martin Van Drunen as of the best vocalists in all of death metal and this live performance showed that he’s even better live then in studio (Hell, this whole band sounds better live then they do in studio). I was pretty tired but even that wasn’t distracting me from watching every second of Asphyx’s magic. After their set we headed back to the hotel once again to rest for the final night at this massive fest.

The Vault: Top Ten Metal Albums of 2013

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.”

2013 was a year of madness and mayhem. Plenty of albums came out, but only a few stand out way above the rest. In no particular order, here are my ten best metal albums of 2013.

10. The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer

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Alexander’s back with another helping of his distinct brand of atmospheric black metal. This album is a lot more doom metal influenced then the last three, almost to the point where one could argue that this is more of blackened doom metal then actual black metal.While this album is the among bands weakest work, it still packs a punch with its creepy atmosphere and killer riffs. If you want to hear this band sounding their best check out the previous album “The Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite.”

9. Fenrismaw – Helcult

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Hailing from Poughkeepsie, NY comes the debut album from the Norse themed blackened death metal band Fenrismaw. Full of awesome double bass, crushing riffs, monstrous vocals and an overall menacing feel, this band feels like something that would come straight out of Sweden (there’s  even a Grave cover as a bonus track). Next time your friend tells you that all local level bands suck show them this album.

8.Gorguts-Colored Sands

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The first album in 12 years by Canada’s own tech death masters. For an album by a band that hasn’t done anything in so long this release is pretty damn good. The album continues the bands avant-garde influenced sound that started with their 1998 classic”Obscura.” With a sound that’s similar to old Opeth and a vibe that reminds one of Behemoth, “Colored Sands” is this year’s best tech-death release.

7. Windhand – Soma

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A band I discovered through being a fan of Cough. This album is Richmond’s second helping of female fronted Electric Wizard worshiping stoner doom. While the music is not as fun as their debut, this is still a worthwhile album for fans of slow sounds.

6. Motörhead – Aftershock

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Metal pioneers Motörhead prove that they (almost) always put out great material. This album is must more energetic then most of their other recent releases, reminding you how awesome classic Motörhead was. This is Motörhead’s best since at least the early 90’s. How many other bands can you say put out an awesome 22nd album?

5. The Melvins – Tres Carbones

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Here’s a last-minute entry as I listened to this an hour before writing this. These dudes have always been a favorite of mine and every album released by them has been something different (for those who don’t know, they’ve played both grunge and sludge metal before those were even genres). Like about 90 percent of the Melvin’s releases, this album is schizophrenic as fuck. The albums starts off with a few of their traditional sludge tracks with Buzzo’s awesome unconventional riffs in the lead. After that, the album continues with some free-jazz influenced experimental songs, reworks of traditional songs and covers of obscure punk bands. If you’re a Melvins fan this release will not disappoint.

4. Aosoth – IV: Arrow to the Heart

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Out from France comes a band I never bothered to check out till this year and boy do I regret waiting. This album is full of ambiance. Bizarre spoken word parts over soundscapes, guitar work that’s similar to Portal, and eerie sounding songs such as the title track make this album one horror filled ride to Hell. Arrow to the Heart washes the awful taste of Deafheaven’s “Sunbather” right out.

3. Deicide – In The Minds of Evil

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Deicide and Suffocation are my two all time favorite death metal bands. Sadly, the albums that followed 2006’s “The Stench of Redemption” were pretty lackluster, showing signs of Glen Benton losing his touch.That was until “In The Minds of Evil.” Out is the bands failed attempt to go more melodic and in is the evil and brutal sound we come to know and love as Deicide. This album doesn’t sound exactly like the classic Hoffman brothers era but more like a fusion of the new and old with the worst elements of the new sound removed.

2. Inquistion – Obscure verses of the Multiverse

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The two piece Inquisition has been on a winning streak ever since they started, providing us with a unique style of black metal.This album is no different. Not much to say here as it doesn’t differ much from other Inquisition releases (other then the thrash demos). A must have for Inquisition fans.

1. Carcass – Surgical Steel

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And we end off the list with the return of British extreme metal legends Carcass.When Carcass announced a new album everyone wondered what it would sound like. Would it be goregrind like the first two? Simple death metal like the third? Melodic like “Heartwork?” Some even wondered if it would sound like “Swansong” (so glad it didn’t). The answer is a mix of all (sans Swansong). The album’s full of fast intense death metal with the touches of “Heartwork’s” melodeath (such as the solos). Not a single track on this album feels like filler. The whole thing is full of energy and flows perfectly. Though this list is in no order, I believe this album deserves the number one spot.

Runners up: Noisem – Agony Defined, Exhumed – Necrocracy, Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam

EP of the year: Bill X Nye – Richard X Lenski

Non Metal album of the year: David Bowie – The Next Day (with Chelsea Wolfe’s Pain is Beauty a close 2nd)