Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top 10 of 2013

I’m reasonably confident I won’t hear anything else in the 3 days left of 2013, so it should be safe to finally compose and produce my own year-end list for this year.  Ultimately opinions and tastes in the genre are subjective, but here’s what I thought.

For fun, you can also revisit my 2012 and 2011 lists.
10.) Imprecation Satanae Tenebris Infinitas

I’m a sucker for the Incantation sound, and I don’t mean that to lump a giant swath of bands into being Incantation clones, but when bands have low vocals and muddy low tuned guitars and the music churns a certain way, I get the warm and fuzzy feeling all over.  2013 saw the release of a debut by a band who released their demo back in like, 1993 or something?  At any rate, the theme for this year has been older, established bands producing some of the best music of their respective careers, so it would only make sense that a band like Imprecation finally emerges from the depths of obscure demo world to join the fray.

9.) Darkthrone The Underground Resistance

When I was really beginning to discover the metal underground in my late teen years I wasn’t much of a fan of Darkthrone; part of me wonders if today my opinion would change if I revisited Soulside Journey or A Blaze In The Northern Sky? That said, at some point Fenriz and Nocturno Culto evolved well beyond black metal into something 80’s inspired, celebrating crust punk and classic heavy metal.  And they didn’t do it in a faux ironic way or in an attempt to get cool points by being retro.  It has been authentic, genuine, and dare I say tr00?  The Underground Resistance, with its dirty Mercyful Fate in a garage vibe, is the peak of the path they’ve been on.

8.) Officium Triste Mors Viri

Probably the first underground subgenre I really took to as a teenager (approximately 1996?) was doom/death and the big three British bands (Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost.)  Mors Viri, with its massive crushing distortion, emotive guitar harmonies, tasteful and subtle keys, and grisly low growls takes me back to that time.  Not a particularly trendy subgenre in 2013 when most bands want to rip off early Katatonia, but this is the peak moment in the career of this longstanding Dutch band.

7.) Wormed Exodromos

It had been nearly 10 years since this Spanish band had released Planisphaerium, and the wait had been worthwhile.  Full of jagged time shifts and almost djent style riffing, Exodromos is one of the most unique sounding slam death albums to have ever come out.  And absolutely sick sick sick vocals.

6.) Carcass Surgical Steel

The most important album to come out in 2013 ended up being one of its best.  While certainly I would have preferred a little more of the goregrind era, I cannot dispute the quality of the songwriting or the execution of Surgical Steel.  Carcass immediately re-established themselves as one of the kings of the metal genre and proving that the old guys can strike with more venom than any of the younger bands borrowing their ideas.

5.) Jasad Rebirth of Jatisundra

Indonesia might be the next hotbed for brutal music, and if there’s justice in the world, Jasad will be the band that makes it big.  Another band with a huge gap since their last album, Jasad came back pissed off, brutal, and raw as ever.  This is raw, primitive death metal not too dissimilar to Japanese Slam, only better.  Sevared Records is distributing this one here in the States, so hopefully that’s a sign that Jasad is about to get a bigger profile in the near future.

4.) Suffocation Pinnacle of Bedlam
The reward for keeping my faith in this band, and a giant “I fucking told you so” to those who wrote them off.  Suffocation’s reformation was always going to be a difficult proposition; both Pierced From Within and the Despise The Sun EP are among the most lauded releases in the history of death metal and would represent a hell of a legacy to try to live up to.  Unfortunately, the albums that came were uneven at best, and suffered from a terrible production/mix that made the drums sound way too upfront and the music ploddingly slow.  That all changed with the replacement of drummer Mike Smith with Dave Culross (ex-Malevolent Creation, played on Despise The Sun) and Pinnacle of Bedlam is the result.  Sounding like logical followup to Despise the Sun, this is a leaner, cleaner, slightly thrashier Suffocation, yet it may have stayed in my car nearly all year long.  This album needed to be good if Suffocation was going to remain relevant in the scene, and it more than re-established them as lords of the genre they helped create.

3.) Defeated Sanity Passages into Deformity

Intense.  The fourth album by this German band is a relentlessly brutal yet technically exhilarating roller coaster of slams, breakdowns, and blasts.  I believe that Passages Into Deformity will be remembered as the album where Defeated Sanity emerged from the bowels of the underground scene to the big time.

2.) Vreid Welcome Farewell

The best melodic black metal album since Rotting Christ’s “A Dead Poem”, this is an album that should have had a lot more mass appeal than it ended up having.  The black metal snarls, tremolo picking, and grim vibe are all here, but so are the guitar harmonies and solos and big catchy riffs that would transcend that genre.  Another album that lived in my car for almost all of 2013.

1.) Gorguts Colored Sands

I don’t know how often I agree with the metal consensus, but there is no disputing that Colored Sands is a massive and epic listen.  I think what makes this album so awesome is that plenty of bands have tried to do the noisy, discordant sound but so few of them can do it with the focus and purpose that Luc Lemay did here.  This isn’t Ulcerate worship (I do like Ulcerate, btw); this has movements and a nearly orchestral sort of flow.  The way those clangy riffs synch up with John Longstreth’s double bass is extremely Immolation-like.  Yet among the dense and harsh sounding cacophony, there’s moments of classic death metal release too (that solo in “Enemies of Compassion” is a good example.)  Hopefully there isn’t a 12 or 14 year wait before the next one.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Metal musicians that bitch about money can GTFO.

Recently, guitarist Daniel Dlimi of 3rd tier Swedish death metal band Aeon announced his departure from the band and from "professional music", basically blaming it on the fact he couldn't make money doing it; lamenting that over the course of several tours the band lost money and that record sales were terrible.

To which, I ask "what the fuck did you expect, man?"  

Totally destined for the cover of "Entertainment Weekly"
The sort of musicians who become rich and famous are the fashionable types who produce syrupy sweet easily digested pop music. If you're into that sort of thing, cool. Whatever.  Have fun with it.  But Daniel Dlimi signed up to play in a fucking death metal band.  Your vocalist growls lyrics such as these:

"Preacher fake healer false prophet you must die 
I would love to see you nailed to a cross
Like your pathetic little god Jesus Christ
Lies you preach to your brain dead congregation
Take them with you and die"

(from the song "I Wish You Death" from their most recent album, "Aeons Black")

 Fucking hello, that's not a recipe for commercial success.

This probably isn't in your future if you play in a death metal band.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Aeon's music; because I have for the most part.  But there's a small audience of people like myself who are into this kind of music, and most of us aren't able to buy every single new album by every single band that comes out on a weekly basis so we can subsidize your fucking rock n roll fantasy.  If I have to download it until I can find the time and cash to drive 30 fucking miles to the nearest independent record store that might have it on the shelf...shouldn't you just be glad I'm at least jamming on your tunes and encouraging others to do the same?

(Seriously, Aeon is a really solid band, and you should listen to the song above and I'd tell you to go to their website and buy some merch and CDs directly from them...except they don't fucking have any!

What I'm trying to get at isn't "hey everyone steal the album online so you can listen to it 3 times and then totally forget about it amongst the flood of other bands whose albums leak on an hourly basis" but that if making money is part of your equation in forming a death metal band, you're already doing it for the wrong reasons.  The entire business model that people have deluded themselves into following is absurd.  I mean, does it make sense to leave your job that you need so you can pay rent so you can get into a crappy, doomed to break down van with 12 other dudes and instruments, living on a per diem of ramen noodles and malt liquor, and fly across the ocean so you can tour 28 US cities; playing most of those shows on weekdays when working people can't actually even make it out to them?

- Side rant: I don't think most bands, American or European, realize what an undertaking it is for many fans to even go to a show.  Prior to my relocation to a major metropolitan area, going to a concert meant pleading with my job to get a day off or at least off from work early/come in late the next day, after which I had to beg and conjole a friend into doing the same thing so that I wouldn't fall asleep on the ride home after driving between 2 and 3 hours to the nearest date on the tour that *totally fucking awesome headliner band* was playing...assuming that after driving across creation to "the city" wasn't in vain because the club owner decided (while I was in route to the venue) to cancel the show because of poor ticket pre-sales (meaning, the 6 shitty high school bands the promoter put on the lineup in exchange for pay-to-play and selling tickets didn't work out.)  After arriving at said show, and spending money I didn't really have on merch and watered down beer, I hope to have gas money and spare change for some gas station food and that the mildly grumpy friend (who isn't even as into extreme metal as I am) won't pass out in the passenger seat as I drive under the moonlight across miles upon miles of cow fields trying to beat the sunrise home.  I easily did that over 100 times before I moved, and I know of people who still do it.  So dudes in bands need to stop bitching; most of your fans go through hell just to show up at that half-empty club on a Wednesday night. /end rant

This shit gets old when you're 70 miles from home and you've been up 23 hours already.

It's just dumb on the part of the bands to try to do things in this manner.  I've long advocated fewer of these long tours and more weekend festivals and short regional tours.  Brutality and Skinless playing at the Delaware Deathfest this past weekend?  That was a big deal, and I wish I could've been there.  Because its not likely you'll see either of those bands on a cross-country tour again. Basically, if all bands did things the Pig Destroyer way, nobody would be complaining about money so much.  

Or if you're going to insist on doing it the way the labels and club promoters have set it up for the last several years, at least embrace it and have a sense of humour about it, like Fuck The Facts bassplayer Marc Bourgon.


Monday, August 19, 2013

RIP God Forbid

A few months ago, I wrote about Frank Mullen of Suffocation having to take a step back from touring full-time with the band because of grown up responsibilities, and how I respected him for making the decision and how I was glad that at least he's still actively recording music.  Killer music I might add.  Today, reading Metalsucks, I stumbled upon further evidence of band falling by the wayside because someone...well...grew up.

I never really gave a shit that God Forbid was part of the metalcore movement that sprung up at the turn of the century; I always admired how hard the guys in that band worked jumping on every tour regardless of whether or not it made sense (opening for Opeth in 2001?  Really?) and putting on devastating live shows (particularly when they were touring for "Determination".)  While they were never one of my favorite bands, I always found some substance worth enjoying from each of their releases, save "Earthsblood", which I admittedly never gave a serious chance too; I've been willing to give the band a pass for being metalcore but not from relying on the harsh singing verse/clean sung chorus dynamic that other metalcore bands used.  

Apparently reality has set in for the band.  Doc Coyle, one of the creative forces behind the band, made the announcement via Metalsucks that he was quitting God Forbid and the rest of the band was going their separate ways as a result.  He noted that the band had basically peaked, and were on a downward descent in terms of the business side of things if not the creative side (I liked the final album "Equilibrium" for the most part.)  Metalcore declined as a trend, supplanted by "nu-thrash" and later other subgenres that haven't really taken hold for very long or with the same dominance that metalcore held over the genre from 2001-2008 or so (i.e. "deathcore", "occult rock", "djent", etc.)  God Forbid accordingly declined in relevance, when in difficult times for record labels attention and resources have to be devoted to artists who are going to produce a return on investment.  In essence, God Forbid's "window" had closed.

Its probably for the best.  Breaking up now ensures they don't evolve into a pathetic hanger-on that would be accused of following some new trend every time they try to freshen up their music with a new element.  They leave behind a solid legacy; alongside Shadow's Fall and Lamb of God they helped spearhead a movement that in the commercial sense eradicated much of the first wave of Walmart-core/nu-metal and paved the way for later bands to progress back to thrash, death, and genres I actually am passionately interested in.  Their live show never became an uninspired and dull husk of what it was at their peak.

One of modern metal's most underrated frontmen.

Metal is a young man's game, ultimately.  And the game is changing rapidly; long nationwide treks in a shitty tour bus with 4 other bands are going to be obsolete.  Record labels are becoming increasingly outdated; 360 deals ensure the bands that rely on the old structure get even less money at the end of the day, while Kickstarter and self-funding has shown promise to bands willing to embrace the new reality.  God Forbid had their time, but they're not young men anymore.  Frank Mullen accepted this and made a decision that I think is the best for both him and his band.  The members of God Forbid, whether or not they ever record music together again, will remain active in music.  And if it goes back to being a hobby rather than a career, then I'd imagine the quality of what they produce artistically will benefit, even if working a 9-5 job most of the time means it takes longer to record and distribute it.

I guess I'd just like to take a moment to thank God Forbid for helping kill nu-metal as a popular trend, and for fighting the proverbial good fight.  RIP


Sunday, August 18, 2013

They call it "Walmart-core"

Apparently everyone's least favorite purveyor of poverty wages and unsafe Chinese made products, Wal-mart, has begun promoting artists whose records they sell (edited, of course) on their shelves.  Metal tabloid site Blabbermouth decided to inform us that Five Finger Death Punch, the latest miserable label-manufactured cock rock tough guy "metal" band meant to cater to Hot Topic shoppers and rural mullets, was recently featured on their website.

These guys are the world champions of douchbag fake toughguy radio rock.

It's brilliant, really.  Five Finger Death Punch is mass produced, cheaply manufactured, and a false version of genuine heavy metal.  As an analogy, Wal-mart shoppers also prefer the taste of Easy Cheese over a nice Roquefort or perhaps Brie.

At least Easy Cheese comes in "Bacon" flavor. 

So my question is, who else fits into this new genre of "Walmart-Core" and is there an identifiable sound or history to the genre?

It would seem that Disturbed would be the alpha-dogs of Walmart-core; bands like Godsmack, Korn, and their ilk fit in.  It seems like the peak of the First Wave of Walmart Core peaked around the time of Ozzfest 2003.

Absolutely brutal.  In the wrong way.

Before anyone passes judgement, go to the next major corporate sponsored "rock" or "metal" festival (like those things that Rockstar Energy Drinks sponsors) and I defy you to tell me the crowd isn't almost entirely lower income white trash.

I think Walmart just struck up a winning formula here.  We may soon see the Second Wave of Walmart-core.  Evil bastards.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Another rant (LOL Varg!)

So I come home from work, retrieve a cold beer from the sacred beer fridge (which must never be profaned by anything other than beer, other alcoholic beverages, and beverages that can be mixed with alcohol...) and out of habit more than anything, I scour the headlines of

At one time, probably around 2002 or so (?) was a daily source of news regarding heavy metal music, its assorted subgenres, and events relative to it.  Being the complete asshole I am, I vividly recall hitting refresh on my browser hoping to see a new body count of the fire at a Great White Concert, which was frequently updated on the site (over 100 hair spray hags and mullets died that day!)  Long since, Blabbermouth has deteriorated into the metal equivalent of the National Enquirer or TMZ, obsessed over the latest batshit insane quotes by Dave Mustaine or the never-ending retarded drama between Geoff Tate and QueensrycheBlabbermouth has long been surpassed by wittier, more interesting websites who offer better reviews, but I think as a mere matter of habit I find myself checking the site 2 or 3 times a week alongside Metalsucks, Lambgoat, AngryMetalGuy, etc.

I think Varg gets photoshopped almost as much as the guys in Immortal.

Anyhow, if we're going to have a metal tabloid, could it possibly be complete without good ole Varg Vikernes?  Convicted murderer, unrepentant racist, and totally lousy musician?  Most famous for being a member of Mayhem long enough to have a cup of coffee and kill Euronymous, Varg seems to love attention and the spotlight.  He's also not a particularly bright fellow; for all of his longwinded ramblings about European identity and what nationalism means to him, etc...which you can read in it's brutally non-comprehendable nature here (seriously, did he learn to write by reading Mein Kampf?  Talk about fucking long-winded...), he doesn't seem to grasp that when he, or his wife, buy guns that based on his past history of violence and controversial statements that legal authorities in any jurisdiction might be concerned.

Well, the fun part is that after Varg's recent hijinks and legal issues, Blabbermouth has informed us that he has decided to "crowdsource" a legal defense so he can sue those mean French bastards that busted into his house while he was wearing his orange underpants (his words, not mine.)  I guess crowdsourcing would be appealing; after all Obituary is running quite the successful Kickstarter campaign to record a new album.  But if I know anything about fans of Varg, I know that they all seem to be basically broke-asses, and their unfortunate broke-ass-ness seems to be what drives their "anger" towards everything else which in turn draws them into NSBM and the philosophies that associate with it (feel free to disprove me.)  

I'm curious to see how many people cough up any spare change so Varg and family can sue those mean frog police; I'll be particularly interested in seeing how many people from non-European backgrounds donate to his cause.  It's not like Varg has had anything nice to say about cultures and ethnic backgrounds that aren't North-European....

This ironic fellow is probably not welcome in Varg's home...

Gotta say, I think throwing your change to Obituary to do that proper Morrisound Documentary is more worthwhile.  Just my thoughts.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I don't have worthwhile things to say, but this guy does...

I was never a particular fan of The Berzerker, they had the misfortune of coming out on the underground metal scene wearing masks and using various samples at a time when Slipknot was breaking out huge in the commercial metal scene (1999-2003) and of course, us underground metal cavemen and simpletons are too quick to find a reason to piss on everything, and accordingly The Berzerker didn't get the appreciation that perhaps they deserved during this era.

With age and perspective, it's pretty funny that in 2003 that The Berzerker got shit on for wearing masks and using samples, while Immortal can wear face paint and stupid spikes and no one cares.  Likewise Anaal Nathrakh can distort their vocals, use drum loops and samples, and it's considered avant-garde.  I guess its unfair how the metal scene works, and how as a fan someone, including myself, can be susceptible to the "groupthink" of a segment of the scene.

Anyhow, I'm writing this post because I stumbled upon the blog of one of the former members of The Berzerker which I think is a fantastic read.  Sam Bean maintains a blog called The Senseless (which also happens to be the name of his current band.)

I think Bean's recollections of the touring life in a signed band, particularly his experiences in America, are hilarious and quite telling of how things really are on the road.  As a native of the state of Virginia, I completely agree with his assessment:

"We went to play Jaxx in Virginia again and were banned from even parking in the parking lot. If I get the access codes and the red button tomorrow, I guarantee you there will be a massive radioactive crater in Springfield Virginia where Jaxx used to be. We played at some wonderful venue in Norfolk which seemed to be staffed by hobgoblins, and had a gloriously comfortable backstage…the catering was sensational, and there were steam rooms and a jacuzzi to relax in. I asked one of  the staff if the venue was owned by a touring musician who’d won the lottery. He smiled enigmatically and said “something like that”.

He's referring to the Norva, which is in fact one of the absolute most gorgeous clubs in the world based on both my experience and that of others.  And Jaxx, which was taken over about 2 years ago by a new owner who renamed the club Empire but supposedly still sucks.  Funny how often the experience of both fan and artist are the same, despite different perspectives.  Perhaps I'll write something about the local DC/Maryland/Virginia venues and my experiences with them someday.

So about The Berzerker now that I'm older, wiser, and such?  I don't think they're bad, they definitely were extreme enough for my tastes.  And shit, they made music videos with slutty half naked women because slutty half naked women totally are what comes to mind with this music!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maryland Deathfest XI: A Weekend Narrative.

Living in the Washington DC metro area comes with many positives.  Ethnic diversity means lots of good eats.  It has franchises competing in all four major sports, and the Capitals are even competitive most of the time.  It has 3 major airports, decent public transportation, and since it’s along the I-95 corridor, it’s in close proximity to the other population centers in the Northeast.

Another one of those positives is that the Maryland Deathfest takes place about 40 miles from where I’m sitting typing this.  I’ve actually been to at least a day of every year of the festival, so I’ve literally experienced the evolution of the festival from one that catered to NYDM and goregrind for a select audience to one that covers the entire metal underground for an audience that in 2013 was rumored to hit 6,000 per day.  This year was another positive experience, but I’m not sure that bigger was necessarily better…

The layout of the festival was kinda goofy this year; bands were booked to play in 2 different locations.  The main area was still outside of Sonar, which no longer exists as a club since the old owner got busted for trafficking marijuana.  The space is now called “The Paparazzi Room”, which is currently half-way remodeled from its previous existence.  What this meant was that there is no stage inside of the Paparazzi Room/Sonar, since the Paparazzi Room plans to be a “Las Vegas Styled Dance Club”.  Nevertheless, the building was opened so festival attendees could access the restrooms, the bars, and half of the vendors set up shop in the main room.

Because of this, the hardcore/grindcore bands seemed to be relegated to performing a 15 minute walk away at the Baltimore Soundstage.  There were even separate (and much cheaper) tickets for this stage, which sold out very quickly.  Rotten Sound was the only band I had any interest in seeing that performed there, so I wasn’t particularly depressed about this.  But all accounts suggested that everything at the Baltimore Soundstage ran very smoothly.  This would be in contrast to what took place at the main grounds.

I picked up M from work around 3pm on Friday, and made the painful crawl against Memorial Day traffic to Baltimore in about 3 hours, which sucked since it meant I missed all of Convulse and the largest portion of Ingrowing, who were playing inside at the “tent stage”.  Yeah, the “tent stage.”  I found this rather annoying since after Thursday tickets sold out in about a day, Bolt Thrower was uncooperative towards playing on one of the festivals 2 outdoor stages; rumor was that they only agreed to play MDF if they could play indoors.  So they headlined Thursday night inside a fucking tent.  I took solace in the fact that apparently because the tent is obviously outdoors, the Baltimore noise ordinances resulted their set being cut quite short at 11pm.  At any rate, the outdoor stages covered much more ground, as MDF closed not just Saratoga Street, but Holiday Street next to it.  There were still some outdoor vendors, and a lot more food stands that weren’t staffed by crusties.  Some of the offerings actually smelled pretty good, but aside from a mediocre basket of undercooked fries with a small glop of processed cheese flavored food product and a single can of coke (which cost us $9 fucking bucks!!!) M and I stuck to the usual Inner Harbor go-to’s (Chipotle, Panera Bread, etc.) during the weekend.

The first band we saw was Benediction, who benefited from playing on stage #1 (closest to the entrance to the Paparazzi Club.)  The guy working the soundboard for this stage did a great job all weekend; every band that played there would sound outstanding.  Benediction drew from their entire catalog including the albums I’m most familiar with (“Transcend the Rubicon”, “The Grand Leveller”, and “Grind Bastard”.)  Absolutely ferocious and intense, their primitive style of death metal went over very, very well.

I skipped out on seeing Pig Destroyer on stage #2 because I’m just not a huge fan of theirs.  Instead, M and I opted to watch Evoken perform at the tent stage, who were phenomenal.  Funeral doom/death is not a style that’s easy to make interesting live, but Evoken managed to break up their walls of downtuned distortion with flourishes of aggression; think Winter or even really early My Dying Bride.  I’ve been a fan since “Embrace the Emptiness” came out way back, so it was cool to finally see them.


M and I took a dinner break during the sets of Repulsion and Righteous Pigs, so I only managed to see maybe 3 songs by each band (Repulsion kinda sucked, Righteous Pigs were, um, righteous!) which meant that Friday’s headliner, Carcass, already were hitting the stage by 9:45pm or so.  I found myself disappointed by their set; I like “Necroticism” and “Heartwork” both plenty, but I didn’t recognize very much at all from “Symphonies of Sickness” or “Reek of Putrefaction.”  The two new guys performed quite capably alongside Steer and Walker, and the band sounded quite polished and professional.  It was good enough to make up for the bad luck M and I had trying to see them in 2008 I guess.  Pelican finished the night off at the tent with an impressive set; they were far more “in your face” and heavy than I expected for a band from the same sort of post-metal realm as Isis or Red Sparrowes.  It was actually really cool to go to a festival and for there to not be a single weak band performing from the time we arrived until the time we left.  This would actually continue throughout the weekend.


Saturday’s lineup was also very solid, but unfortunately the atmosphere and mood of the festival would change for the worse.  When we arrived back in Baltimore around 3pm (traffic was much more cooperative during the weekend) there were a whole new set of security measures in place that hadn’t really ever been in place at past MDF’s, much less on Friday.  There was a huge line to enter the festival which moved mostly at a snail’s pace.  The security staff themselves appeared to have multiplied dramatically in number and they were not in a good mood towards festival goers.  I found myself subjected to a full pat-down, and M found herself subjected to even worse; in addition to the usual bag check (entirely reasonable) and pat-down, the women at the gate took unusual scrutiny in looking through her wallet, thumbing through her money.  Later in the day we would hear rumors that members of security were mugging inebriated attendees, selling set lists, roughing people up, and attempting to sell drugs or stolen goods (beer, merch, etc.)  You can read about a lot of it here.

Let me be clear; the dumbasses who thought they should be allowed in with their pocket knives deserved to be treated like shit.  Same also goes to the idiots who couldn’t leave their weed and other drugs back at the hotel room.  M and I witnessed one douchebag attendee give the business to a parking lot attendant because he felt he shouldn’t have to pay full price to park his motorcycle.  There were a lot of shitheads who brought trouble on themselves.  The problem with the security staff at MDF this year (and to a lesser extent some past years) is that a lot of innocent bystanders seem to be victimized as well.  At least one person told me that his friend was prohibited from entering the main festival grounds on Sunday because she simply dared to ask why entry lines were so inefficient at getting people in.  It looked like the people Evan and Ryan (the festival promoters) entrusted to handle security outsourced a lot of dubious individuals to work the gates at the festival; people who lacked experience but carried serious bad attitudes.  And at the risk of pissing off any politically correct reader, there was obviously a problem with having ALL of the security crew being black and from Baltimore.  It’s unfortunate to have to acknowledge this racial component, but online comments have made it clear that for some festival goers (mostly the same people who were trouble makers to begin with) the ethnicity of the security was an issue, and it was clear that some of the security were in fact behaving in a manner that supports uncomfortable and negative stereotypes.  At any rate, the worst that M or myself directly experienced were the long lines, the frisking, and the obsessive searches of M’s bag and counting of her money.  

Aside from that the weather continued to be extremely cooperative, which was great because it kept M from bitching about how uncomfortable the weather made her.  We did get to see Iniquity, which was the first band I saw fully from stage #2.  As good as the sound guy was from stage #1, the guy working stage #2 sucked.  It sounded like he basically turned up all of the levels on the soundboard to their maximum, resulting in sound that was physically disorienting to experience and a lot of unintended distortion.  Iniquity themselves were good, not as good as I was hoping but solid.  Weedeater and The Obsessed both followed, and it was great to see both bands.  I’m actually a bigger fan of The Obsessed than I am Saint Vitus because Wino is a riff master.  

We came back from a food run in time to catch Broken Hope, who by the nature of their style of brutal death metal were less affected by stage #2’s sound issues.  I guess they’ve got a new album coming out this year.  I wish MDF still booked more bands like this, really.  If they can have a stage for hardcore/grindcore bands, why not one for brutal death/goregrind?  Maybe that’s a way to grow the festival without having to book a Slayer/Anthrax level band? 

The Melvins were really fucking loud; I didn’t realize that they had 2 drummers in the band now.  Lots of stuff from “Houdini” and “Stoner Witch”, which made me a very happy camper.  Ihsahn played stage #2 after that; no Emperor covers but nevertheless his band sounded great, considering the ineptitude of the soundguy.  Lot of stuff from “Emerita”, which makes sense since that’s his most recent album.  I was really happy that the band wasn’t as boring as I had heard, and I’d love to see these guys again.  

Down was the headlining band on Saturday.  Contrary to some of my friends, I actually really like Down.  There were rumors that Down requested that no members of the audience be allowed to wear spikes or studded clothing into the venue, which seemed asinine.  Given that Phil Anselmo is still paying for the sins of his drug induced douchebaggery of years past, these rumors took some legs quickly.  I personally think they’re bunk; Phil openly walked around the festival shopping for merch and taking pictures and chatting up anyone who’d talk to him.  That’s not something a nervous guy would do.  I think that the rumor was the product of Saturday’s security making the decree on their own, and saying that “one of the bands” requested it.  Since Down is by far the biggest band to ever play MDF, and Phil’s rumored issues with regard to Dimebag’s on-stage murder, someone made the assumption and it took off from there.

Edit: On 5/30/13; Evan Harting, one of the MDF organizers, specially addressed the issue regarding studs, spikes, belts, and Down, stating that:

"It was basically a misunderstanding. It does have something to do with Down because they had a security rider that does enforce those things but I think that’s more for different types of concerts they’ve done. I have talked to their agent about it a while back and he said, “Don’t worry about it. We’re not going to enforce that at the fest it’ll be fine.” And then they get there and their security guy said that we need to enforce all of that and he didn’t know anything that I’ve worked out with the agent previously. So that’s why that was going on and we had to really talk to him about it and he eventually was like “It’s fine, at your discretion just do what you want” so we lifted that. But Phil himself didn’t seem to care about enforcing that at all so I’m not really sure exactly where that started."

Evan also addressed many of the festival's shortcomings in an interview with DCHeavyMetal, which can be found here.

So basically, I was half-right. /End Edit.

Down was every bit as good as I expected.  I thought some of Phil’s stage banter was funny, and some of it was borderline asskissing, but clearly he is a fan of the festival and a fan of several of the bands playing (he was giving shout-outs to Cobalt and Righteous Pigs, among others.)  What I will say is that the man commands a presence on stage, as do the rest of the members of Down.  I didn’t recall many songs played from the third Down album (a shame since that’s actually my favorite) but they played their “hits” and closed with an absurdly long version of “Bury Me in Smoke”.  The worst part of Down’s set was that I also had no problem hearing Vinterland, who were playing in the tent about 50 yards away.  For what it’s worth, Vinterland sounded great!   Neither M or I were particularly enthusiastic about staying for Saturday’s closing band (Antaeus) so we called it a night.

The next morning Facebook was loaded with comments regarding the nightmare situations getting into the club and fear that the security staff had inspired amongst the festival attendees.  The MDF staff even posted statements saying that they had “resolved” the issues but unfortunately this was not true.  M and I arrived on Sunday at  around 3pm (too late to see Cruciamentum, ugh) again to see massive lines at the entrance; some festival goers complained of waiting 90 minutes and missing bands while in line.  The security’s tactics that Ryan and/or Evan said had been stopped were back in full force, and even stepped up a bit in terms of intensity and bad attitude. 

Photo: To those who say there are no problems getting in an out at MDF; you're full of shit. Nothing has changed.
After our eventual entry, I took advantage of the opportunity to knock out my CD shopping, picking up the following:

Abdicate Transcend Through Sacrifice 
Abdicate Framgented Atrocities 
Abraxas Damnation
Blood Red Throne Blood Red Throne
Cianide The Dying Truth
Cystic Dysentery Culture of Death
Execration The Acceptance of Zero Existance
Fumes of Decay Devouring the Excavated
Goreinhaled The Art of Sickness
Jasad Rebirth of Jatisunda
Necrotic Disgorgement Documentaries of Dementia
Waco Jesus Mayhem Doctrine
Wormed Exodromos 

(Awful lot of record buying for a confessed downloader, yes?)


  After doing that expediently as to not annoy M (who always complains about boredom when I’m CD browsing, grrr…) we managed to catch Midnight on stage #1.  Fucking awesome, of course; they’re one of those types of bands that old schoolers and hipsters alike oughta be able to agree on; when the band sounds like a blend of Motorhead and Venom what can go wrong?  I guess a lot of people looked forward to Pagan Altar, but I don’t think it even mattered that they were playing on stage #2, the vocals were all powermetally and gay and not my thing at all.  M agreed so we went and stared at Gride instead, who sounded loud, fast, and ugly…and completely indistinguishable for 90% of other grindcore bands.

Sacred Reich probably ended up playing my favorite set of the weekend on stage #1.  I remembered liking this band since I found “Independent” on the used rack at a Plan 9 records in high school, and of course they were yet another band that I knew of that nobody else in my hometown seemed to know or give a shit about.  They had perfect sound, and their hyperactive drumming and groovy thrash was way better than the band they replaced on the bill (Exodus).  Covered all of their albums, played “American Way” and their version of “War Pigs”.  I was very happy after seeing this set.

Manilla Road was sooooo fucking good; they deserved stage #1’s sound.  I only ever heard one of their albums, and they just sound so distinct from other bands…at once classic and power metal-ish but also kind of proto-thrash.  Great vocalist.  I really hope these guys come back, and get better sound.  I think I also caught a piece of Integrity’s set; I liked them more than I expected to considering I’m not really a hardcore kind of guy.

They were followed by Sleep, who I am a fan of.  And they were good, but they played too long of a set.  They weren’t as good as The Obsessed or Weedeater or The Melvins, and on top of that they played almost 20 minutes past their scheduled time.  Their style of doom, which is minimalist in riffing, and dreadfully slow in tempo, just isn’t something I can take in more than 30 minute doses.  That’s why “Jerusalem” sits on my shelf collecting dust.

Pentagram suffered from Manilla Road’s bad sound.  They also started really late.  Bobby seemed to be in good spirits, and their sludgy, pained sound is a good fit for MDF as it exists in 2013.  Unfortunately, because they started late (probably to give Sleep time to finish, or because Bobby is a bit of a mess as a person…just watch “Last Days Here” if you think I’m talking smack) they got cut off before their last song. 

Halfway or so thru Pentagram’s set, because of their bad sound, I decided to check out Ascension at the tent stage.  Ascension suffered from bad sound as well, too much reverb on everything basically, but what I heard sounded like a pretty awesome sort of black metal with melody, atmosphere, and the ability to blast violently.  Probably something I should download or buy so I can evaluate properly. 

Venom was the headliner, and the last band to play the weekend as well.  They also started late, probably because Pentagram started late, etc.  Fuck you very much, Sleep.  Anyhow, they opened with “Black Metal” and ran thru their classics…between lineup changes and experience Venom actually have become good musicians, which makes them a lot more fun to see live than to listen to on CD.  Unfortunately, being the end of the festival, which by Sunday night had a palpable tension between audience and security (which was odd, considering that people didn’t appear to be as shitfaced drunk as previous years on Sunday night…) I figured it was better to leave 5 minutes early than late.  So M and I caught the last 2 songs from the Gay St. Parking Garage where we parked each day when at 11:03pm, Venom got cut off before the end of their set.  Baltimore city curfew.

Knowing a bad scene was about to break out, M and I hopped in the car and made our commute back to Arlington.  Mid-commute of course we get a text message from someone saying that the shit went down at the main festival grounds; security wasn’t letting anyone leave and started kicking the shit out of people who may or may not have had it coming via their own belligerent behavior.

I guess it was a fitting end to the weekend.  M and I never really dealt with more than some annoyances and inconvenience but the schedule of the bands and weather were both favorable to us having a fantastic time overall.  At the same time, the ominous presence of aggressive and sketchy people working security at the entrance and among the crowd wasn’t comfortable, and my instinct to leave early was astute.  Especially after the retarded mace incident between security and a group of drunk fans 2 years ago that resulted in a lot of bystanders getting caught in the aftermath, I do not think that the promoters of MDF XI took the audience’s security concerns seriously enough.  They kept posting on Facebook that the situation was resolved, only to delete the postings as though nothing ever happened and nothing was ever said acknowledging it happened.  I’m willing to forgive bands being cut off because of curfews because that kind of thing happens at festivals all of the time, keeping everything on schedule is a hell of a challenge and MDF does a remarkably good job most years, including this year overall, of keeping to it.  I also thought that the security working the stages, and the Sonar/Paparazzi Club staff were all working very hard to make the experience for 6,000 attendees the best it could be, given the circumstances.  My heart goes out to the cleaning staff in particular for having to battle to keep the overworked restrooms at least somewhat working, if not as sanitary as everyone would have liked.  There was no waiting for beer, everyone was polite.

But knowing that there was a huge problem regarding security, particularly at the entrance to the venue, I can think of no excuse why either of the promoters did not stand out there and supervise matters, or at least send one of the security people they claim to trust and feel so confident about to do it.  My only guess can be that the hired extra security working the festival must have intimidated the promoters themselves, because there’s no excuse for them not being involved.  Which in itself is a problem.

The Sonar/Paparazzi Club location on Saratoga St has been a good one, but when the festival is now drawing 6,000 (by far the biggest incarnation of MDF I’ve ever seen) each day, it’s too big to keep hosting in that location.  Next year will have to be a new location, and that will mean some sort of sacrifice and logistical pain in the ass for both the promoters and the audience.  The big thing though that has to change is the security of the festival; both in terms of the professionalism and the composition of the security staff.  Post-MDF messages from the promoters say that there’s a core group of security that they trust, and that the incidents of violence are the result of a few bad seeds.  Well these bad seeds keep working the fest every year; at some point it’s time to consider if the “trusted core group” of security staff are the bad seeds.  If they aren’t, keep them around.  But the rest of the security needs to at least somewhat reflect the demographic of the festival attendees; there’s obviously a dangerous tension that exists between a security staff that is inner-city and black and an audience that’s basically everything BUT inner-city and black.  This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hire any black security, but the security hired should come from other backgrounds as well to help prevent the “us against them” mentality.

Lastly, festival goers should stop being entitled little fucktards.  There isn’t a festival or concert venue anywhere in the Western World that allows you to wear 6 inch spikes and brandish a knife everywhere you go.  If you’re hell bent on consuming drugs in a place of public accommodation, then surely accept the consequences that you might get jacked up by another lawbreaker or actually arrested.  That’s your dumb fucking fault, not the promoters, not the venue.  Just because you’re from out of town and attending a music festival in a shithole town like Baltimore doesn’t mean that Baltimore’s laws don’t apply to you.  If you act irresponsibly, accept the fucking consequences.

All that said, this year’s hassles aside, I had a great time and look forward to going back next year.  It’s at least as safe as any larger festival such as Mayhem or Ozzfest, I love visiting the merch tables, and it’s great to see bands that perhaps I won’t get to see again (Iniquity, Venom, Manilla Road, etc).  I just hope that after this year that the MDF staff responds to audience concerns more proactively and more responsively.