This year, both of us attended Maryland Deathfest to witness the metal event of the year. Not only did we join Chris Dick of Decibel for band sets, Bergers cookies, and late-night chili dogs, but we also met Mark Rudolph of Requiem Metal Podcast to talk shop about podcasting. The weather in Baltimore was unseasonably pleasant, and we all had a blast hanging out and breathing in the not-so-fetid air of the Charm City. Shout-outs to our comrades Sean Palmerston, Kevin Stewart-Panko, Gordon Conrad, Ian Christe, and Magnus Henriksson! All the following songs were played live and are in chronological order:
“Incarnated Solvent Abuse” from Carcass’ Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991, Earache)
The reunited Carcass—well, Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, and the new blood—came to slay, and slay they did indeed. The godfathers of UK grindcore who pioneered the melodic death metal subgenre even have a new album, Surgical Steel, out October 1 on Nuclear Blast. Mark your calendars!
“Ephemeral” from Pelican’s Ephemeral EP (2009, Southern Lord)
Some fans may’ve thought that post-rockers Pelican didn’t belong at MDF, but actually they added a much needed diversity to the brutal mix. I found it touching that before playing two new songs, guitarist Trevor de Brauw asked the crowd politely to refrain from recording the songs and posting them online: a heartfelt plea from a true artist. Sadly, this made even more people pull out their cells and record the proceedings!
“Skybone” from The Obsessed’s Incarnate (1999, Southern Lord)
The Obsessed, the true grandfathers of doom, formed in 1976 (!) but hadn’t played together since the band broke up around 1995. A few festival gigs and here they are in Baltimore, their first hometown gig in twenty-odd years. For all you collectors: “Skybone” was originally released on the 1991 Hellhound Records comp What the Hell! and later included on their final full-length, The Church Within (1994, Columbia/Hellhound). Wino’s long locks are graying and sophisticating as the years roll on.
“I Am God” from Broken Hope’s Loathing (1997, Metal Blade)
Chicago’s Broken Hope have peddled meat & potatoes death metal since 1991, to varying levels of acclaim. Critics severely panned their early albums, but 1997’s Loathing introduced a more technical style, furthered by 1999’s Grotesque Blessings. Founding throat Joe Ptacek left in 1999 and tragically died in 2010, but the band reunited with Gorgasm vocalist Damian Leski and recorded their first album in almost fifteen years, Omen of Disease, out September 30 on Century Media!
“Night Goat” from Melvins’ Houdini (1993, Atlantic)
Ahh, the Melvins…what can we say about these guys?!? We’ve loved them ever since Houdini blew our minds back in high school, regardless of how spotty or inaccessible their output has been since then. We thought that their inclusion at MDF didn’t make the most perfect sense but were glad when they stuck to their Atlantic catalog for their set list. King Buzzo dressed like a wizard for the festivities, and thankfully Dale Crover was NOT wearing only a Speedo!
“Lifer” from Down’s NOLA (1995, Elektra)
Down is Phil Anselmo’s most famous on-and-off band outside of Pantera, still going strong since 1995. Our enthusiasm for their albums has decidedly waned since the initial fireworks of NOLA, mainly due to the band’s extreme lethargy in releasing albums (usually 5-7 years between them, due to the obligations of the members’ main bands). Yet they released the new Down IV Part I – The Purple EP last year, and it wasn’t half bad. We just wish Pepper Keenan would rejoin COC and set them straight!
“Independent” from Sacred Reich’s Independent (1993, Hollywood)
Straight-up thrash from Phoenix, Sacred Reich was an early signing to Metal Blade in 1987, and major-label Hollywood Records picked them up for only one album, 1993’s Independent. We feel that the Reich hasn’t received a whole lotta love over the years, so we were very pleased with their very enthusiastic reception at MDF. As bassist/vocalist Phil Rind commented during their set, “You younger fans don’t know that we used to a cool band. Now we’re just fat!”
“Dragonaut” from Sleep’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain (1993, Earache)
Since 1991, San Francisco’s infamous Sleep have been the progenitors of stoner doom alongside Kyuss and Monster Magnet. They’re also one of the only metal bands that’ve released only one truly great album before breaking up, the pioneering 1993’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain, which spawned numerous sound-alikes. Check out the original video for “Dragonaut” here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-FjO3E8K-E].
“Road of Kings” from Manilla Road’s Open the Gates (1985, Black Dragon)
Three crucial game-changing points to remember about Manilla Road: (1) their hometown is the awesome Midwest burg of Wichita, Kansas; (2) they began crafting their cult traditional metal sound in 1981, while most of their fans were still sucking their thumbs; and (3) they’ve released a whopping 18 official albums! The MDF crowd was visibly stoked to see these guys, especially founding guitarist/vocalist Mark ‘The Shark’ Shelton, now 56 years young and rocking like he was a teenager!
“Treat Me Right” from Pentagram’s Last Rites (2011, Metal Blade)
If you haven’t seen the recent documentary Last Days Here about Bobby Leibling’s return to metal, please binge-stream it on Netflix asap. The elder statesman of Sabbath-inspired doom, Leibling was late as usual, but this crowd didn’t mind as they gave this 60-year-old metalhead an ear-splitting ovation as he shuffled onstage. Bug-eyed Bobby aimed to please with fan faves like “Be Forewarned,” “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head,” “20 Buck Spin” (which inspired the record label of the same name), and of course “Forever My Queen.”
“Black Metal” from Venom’s Black Metal (1982, Neat)
We’ve never quite understood the appeal of England’s Venom. They’re known for extremely influential proto-thrash that started as the NWOBHM movement was ebbing. They coined the term “black metal” as the title of their 1982 album and inevitably named an entire metal subgenre/movement. They formed in 1979, before most of their fans were born. But when Cronos took the stage to the fathoms-deep bellows of the MDF crowd, we understood everything. This is metal, after all.