I’m a bit ashamed to admit that this year’s Maryland Deathfest lineup is largely Greek to me, consisting of tons of bands I’ve never heard (and many I’ve never heard of). Last year, I knew a much higher percentage of the MDF lineup, and even so got totally overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar music. So this year I’ve decided to go through the entire lineup and at least listen to a little bit from each band, to get a sense for what bands I’m going to want to pay attention to this year. Here are my listening notes for the first few.
Note: regarding the bands that are new to me, these are all very much snap reactions and I’m sure I’ll change my mind on a lot of these with more familiarity and/or after MDF VIII. So, take it all with a grain of salt.
- Gorguts: The main band I’m excited to see at MDF this year. No research needed. Obscura is one of my favorite metal albums of all time.
- Possessed: Released one classic album in 1985, Seven Churches, considered one of the founding pillars of the entire death metal genre. Just listened to a few tracks and I’m not a huge fan; it all sounds very “proto” to me, an album that was undoubtedly groundbreaking at the time but has since been surpassed a thousand times over. I’ll probably dig their set but I’m not feeling like it’s mandatory for me.
- D.R.I.: Now this is an interesting choice. D.R.I. is far more hardcore than metal, though they’re generally considered crossover thrash. I don’t really like the vocal style, but there are tons of juicy, head-nodding riffs throughout their music and this is definitely crowd-pleasing stuff. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s crowd-pleasing when the crowd is a bunch of death metal fans instead of punk kids.
- Watain: No research needed. I like these guys’ take on black metal well enough, although the show I saw them play in 2008 left me with much more of an olfactory impression than an aural one.
- Coffins: BOOM. Nasty, doomy Japanese death metal that feels like a solid punch to the gut. They’ve got an unnaturally guttural vocalist and one hell of a thick, sludgy guitar tone. It’s like if Devourment actually wrote interesting compositions instead of nonstop slams. I’m going to love these guys, I think.
- Nazxul: Hey, look! Epic, symphonic black metal. For whatever reason, I always need a lot of time to properly digest black metal, moreso than any other kind of metal. At first listen though, this stuff sounds pretty damn good to me. This is another band that released one highly-acclaimed album in the mid-90s, and then a recent reunion album. The new one seems to be getting tons of acclaim too, so it looks like these guys will be in fine form. The keyboards should offer a nice break from all the guitar-centric bands at the fest.
- Trap Them: Saw and heard them at last year’s MDF. They seemed like largely unremarkable deathgrind. Listening to their recordings now, they’re definitely better than I gave them credit for, but there’s not a whole lot to set them apart in a festival with 50+ similar bands. Not going to be a priority for me.
- Gride: Not much death metal here, this is pure chaotic grindcore. I dig it. Not as hyper-aggressive as some of the current grind leaders, but it’s speedy, unpredictable and intense as fuck, just the way grindcore should be.
- Birds of Prey: At first, upon hearing this band’s straightforward, sludgy hard-rock take on death metal, I fully expected to totally hate it. But something happened: I started unconsciously nodding my head, and got swept up by a ridiculous abundance of catchy riffing. To make an obscure reference, this sounds to me like a hookier yet heavier version of DC locals King Giant. There is absolutely nothing complicated or innovative about this stuff, but it’s for exactly that reason that their live show will probably be awesome.