Maryland Deathfest X, Day 2 – 5/25/12

The second day of MDF had begun, and I was recuperated and ready to go. I was looking forward to seeing a lot of bands on Friday, most notably the incomparable Godflesh, but there were a lot of other wicked offerings on display as well. A lot of bands in the early afternoon were ones that I’d wanted to catch, like New York black metal weirdos Castevet and post-hardcore institution Today is the Day, but there was a bottle of root beer liqueur that my friends and I had to get through first. That priority took precedence over all others, and I do hope our readers will understand.

I made it to the Sonar in time to catch a good portion of Ghoul’s set, although I was unfortunately too far back in the crowd to get any fake blood spilled on me. Damn shame, that! For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Ghoul play a fantastic oldschool crossover-thrash treatment with stage antics borrowed from shock bands like Gwar. While they didn’t have Oderus Udungus chopping off Osama bin Laden’s head with a battleaxe and fifty giant sperm-spewing foam cocks sprouting from the neck stump, they certainly came close with their zombie-inspired costume getup and massive blood fountains. The music wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but do you really need exemplary music with a stage show like that? Hell no. If you want to get into Ghoul, see them live. Just like Gwar, there’s no better way to experience them.

While I was mainly occupied with chowing down on delicious ‘fest food and browsing merch stands during Demigod, it was hard not to headbang the entire time. And do you know how hard it is to eat chili while you’re headbanging? Pretty fucking hard. With a killer setlist jam-packed with cuts from their legendary Slumber of Sullen Eyes, Demigod gave the heshers a monstrous selection of oldschool melodic (but not too melodic) death metal in the vein of Carcass and Bolt Thrower. And any band that sounds even remotely like Bolt Thrower is A-OK in my book, because Bolt Thrower is the best fucking death metal band ever and I’ll fight you if you don’t agree with me. Bolt Thrower.

Conversely, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s overly-technical death metal. A multiplicity of strings and notes and scale changes and rhythmic switchups played with all the precision of a well-oiled soulless machine, it’s impossible for me to listen to music so devoid of passion and emotion. I don’t like music that sounds like robots made it, unless if it’s more in the no-hope-for-mankind-in-the-impending-Rise-Of-The-Machines way. But Macabre definitely threw me for a loop with their performance. While the bass guitar had six strings for some reason and they spent a lot of time noodling, you could tell that they were actually having fun, which is a lot more than you can say for the carbon-based automatons of Necrophagist. I think there’s definitely something great to be said about a death metal jig about Nero Caesar played by a guy in overalls, and a guest visit from “the Zodiac killer,” a hooded guy in a black sackcloth indiscriminately firing toy cap guns into the audience. It’s always good to see band members actually having fun in a genre dominated by emotionless wankery.

Next on the outside stage was Artillery, the Danish veterans of thrash. I’m a shameful metalhead and am not familiar with their repertoire at all, but I liked literally everything I heard. For some reason, a set of oldschool thrash can fit in just about anywhere at a metal festival. Whether you’re into crusty death metal, misanthropic black metal, chaotic goregrind, bonecrushing doom, or even some goofy European power metal shit with glitzy keyboards where they have a song called “Chasing The Dragon” that’s unironically about chasing dragons, you’re sure to love some thrash metal, the great communicator. And thus, you’re sure to love Artillery.

The time had then come for Napalm Death to take to the stage. With a wide and varied set sampling every single album from the band’s illustrious career (still just over half an hour! GRINDCORE!!), the creators of grind crashed the party and showed the rest of us young’uns just how it’s done. There were multiple circle pits breaking out throughout the crowd, with multiple metalheads risking life and limb to thrash without a care to a handpicked Whitman’s Sampler of the band’s best. I’d love to get the guys from Napalm Death to design their own box of chocolates, actually. They’d probably all be filled with gunpowder and razorblades and thermite and napalm (of course), but I’d probably buy at least like three or four boxes just because. From the classic Scum all the way up to their latest, Utilitarian, Napalm Death’s set was a perfect gauntlet of grind, and an excellent introduction for the unfamiliar listener. And yes, they played “You Suffer.”

I had to cut my presence at Napalm Death short, though, because I had to be up at the front for Godflesh. There was no compromise to be made in this regard. I had to be so close to the stage that I could not just hear, but feel every single tortured feedback keening Justin coaxed out of his guitar, every chugging and percussive pulse of GC’s bass strings, and every lurching mechanized grind of the drum machine. And when their opening drone erupted into “Like Rats,” every single one of the 206 bones in my body was instantly liquefied. I had cranked Streetcleaner and Pure as loud as they could go on multiple occasions, but that was nothing compared to this. It’s a good thing I was wearing earplugs, as it physically felt like I was getting deep-throated by a jackhammer. And I loved every single monstrous second of it. Moving through a wide selection from Streetcleaner, Pure, Selfless, and even a few deep cuts off the unreleased Tiny Tears EP, Godflesh’s set catered pretty much exclusively to their early period stuff, which is arguably their best work. And when “Slateman” finally ended with Justin contorting his guitar in front of his enormous Marshall stack, conjuring out anguished squeals of feedback like only he can deliver, I knew I was one step closer to dying happy.

As much as I would have loved to have seen Unsane and Nasum, there was no way I could stay standing after the Godflesh pit. I retired to the hotel room for the night, hitting the bed like a falling skyscraper. I had to save my strength for tomorrow, when Morbid Angel would take the stage. Who knows, maybe they’d turn the circle pit into a rave!


I Got My Face Ripped Off By: Godflesh, Napalm Death, Demigod.
I Was Pleasantly Surprised By: Artillery, Macabre, Ghoul.
I’m Sad I Missed: Today Is The Day, Castevet, Negura Bunget, Unsane, Nasum.
I Made Dismissive Masturbatory Hand Gestures During: Nobody! Fuck yeah.