This review is quite long. But then, Maryland Deathfest was a long festival. It was full of bands I wanted to see. I also remained sober through the entire festival. This meant a few things: I saved money for the massive amount of merch that was available. I didn’t wake up each morning feeling like dog shit. And most importantly, I remember every moment of this spectacular music festival. And that’s good – because I did my damnedest to watch every band I wanted to watch! So here are my thoughts on every performance I was able to see at Maryland Deathfest 2014.
Wednesday – it begins
The first thing I thought when I saw Noisem on stage was “Wow, these guys are children.” And yeah, they are teenagers actually. But as I watched their first song their ages really stopped mattering because of how tight they were as a band. Vocalist Tyler Carnes was all over the place, pacing back and forth on stage, moshing in the pit (while growling), and climbing all over the balcony. Meanwhile, his band of teenage death metal miscreants shred out music they’re way too young to be able to play this good. Color me impressed – I can see exactly why this local band isn’t just some “local band.”
Seattle, Washington’s Black Breath certainly didn’t disappoint. They are Seattle-by-way-of-Stockholm, Sweden, but with a touch of American rock n’ roll. Their old school death metal sound was punctuated by more than one bluesy solo and groovy hook and I found myself head-banging voraciously and making my first impulse merchandise purchase of the festival: a Black Breath baseball t-shirt. Well done, chaps!
Misery Index are also kind of a local band for Maryland Deathfest, but are far more established than their teenage counterparts in Noisem. Misery Index is a death/grind band that features the current drummer of Pig Destroyer and a former founding member of Dying Fetus. I’m not a huge fan, but I know a pro band when I see one on stage, and Misery Index had more than several dozen loyal followers head-banging along savagely. My one complaint from this band is their drummer has way too many splash cymbals. He has three of them and they would pop up on the off-beats of just about every song. Once I recognized that I couldn’t un-hear it and I kept hearing it over and over through their set.
Immolation were the headliners of the first night. While the entire Deathfest bill was lined to the brim with amazing talent old and new, Immolation are a band that will continue to outclass just about all of it. That’s high praise, I know, but in my opinion it’s totally true. This is a band that has cut its teeth on the live performance nonstop for 20 plus years and you can tell. No notes are out of place. Ross Dolan is one of the nicest guys in death metal on and off-stage. Bob Vigna headbands and slings his guitar around so viciously I was convinced he was going to hit me in the head with the headstock several times. Their set list focused heavily on newer material, which isn’t that bad a deal considering their newer material is still very strong. But the crowd definitely reacted to a few older cuts thrown in for good measure, particularly “Into Everlasting Fire,” which was taken from their first album.
Thursday – we all miss Triptykon
When Tom G. Warrior decided he needed to cancel Triptykon’s performance, it made me far less excited for this day of the festival. Warrior’s reasons for cancellation were understandable, but I was still quite disappointed.
I got into the Ram’s Head venue in time to see Sourvein take the stage. Sourvein’s vocalist, T-Roy (Troy Medlin) doesn’t have the look of a metal vocalist, nor the clothes, but he has the voice, I guess. Sourvein are an okay band, but out of bands of their style I still prefer Eyehategod. They are one of the bands from the American south that forged the grungy, slimy blues-tinged sludge doom style from the mid-90s. They were decently heavy, but I didn’t find myself enjoying their set as much as others.
Torche played next. And they were by far one of the most disappointing bands of the whole festival to me. I guess I just don’t understand them. They seemed to have some fans here and there within this crowd, but just didn’t seem to fit. That, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had some TERRIBLE feedback issues with his guitar/amp/pedals. It wasn’t the kind of feedback you want. It was a piercing, high-pitched squeal that happened every time his guitar wasn’t playing. He was visibly getting more and more upset every time it happened, but I give the guy credit for pushing through and giving the people a full set.
For all the lack of anticipation I had for Torche, I was stoked to the brim for Coffins. I love doom metal. This festival brought some amazing doom metal to the United States and Coffins are toward the top of the heap in my opinion. With all that anticipation, and Coffins being the only band of this night I was truly excited for, I wondered whether they match my expectations. They did, kind of. They sounded tight and heavy, and had a great set list of material old and new. But vocalist Jun Tokita seemed a bit tired on stage, and the rest of the band had a similar lack of vitality that could perhaps be explained by a long trip from Japan, their home base. Regardless, the sound didn’t really suffer at all. They crushed, and were an extremely heavy addition to this festival. Plus, they had so many rabid fans in the pit that had never seen them live that I acquired several scratches and bruises during the set (just a few of many through the rest of the fest!).
I’ve seen Crowbar before and it was getting late, so I watched a few of their songs and left early. But I can say this: I didn’t leave because I was watching a bad performance. Crowbar sounded amazing. The guitars were crisp and lively and had a great amount of harmony for a band of this style. And Kirk’s voice was equally loud and aggressive. I just needed the rest for the next three days to come. On a side note, there has been enough written about the incident of the fan coming on stage with Crowbar and Kirk Windstein getting “tackled” by a fan. I’ll admit that I didn’t see it.
My review of Thursday is cut short by the fact that I didn’t attend much of it. I was visiting with a non-metal friend of mine who lives in northern Virginia.