[We bring you Part 2 of globetrotting metal addict Aaron von Lupton's filth-riddled diary of his excursion to Baltimore, Maryland, for Deathfest X.]
Waking up and not feeling too good, Perry and I headed out for some of that magic hangover cure: Thai food! Feeling a bit better, we headed back down to Sonar knowing we were going to have to take it easier today. Did I mention Baltimore is fucking hot? Last year was brutal but this year was like living in a sauna while soaking in hot sauce. With the humidity, it was well over 40 degrees Celsius (approximately 104 degrees Fahrenheit) for most of the day.
October 31, King Fowley of Deceased’s more traditional heavy metal band, played late in the afternoon in a rare appearance. Though they aren’t known as a horror band per se, the horror themes that make up Deceased’s lyrics were represented by the band throwing VHS tapes into the crowd. I couldn’t help but notice the guy who caught a copy of Theatre of Blood was wearing a Rue Morgue hat circa 2004.
Recently reformed Midwest thrash miscreants Morbid Saint played next and while the majority of the audience, myself included, had never heard of them before, their finger-snapping speed metal was most enjoyable. Vocalist Pat Lind looked like a customer service rep at Rona but he could scream better than most.
I ducked out at this point of the day and met a lady friend at a posh brewpub in one of the safer parts of the city, though not before running into the awesome Liz Ciavarella-Brenner of PR giants Earsplit in the parking lot, where we entertained each other with stories from the night before. After the pub, I quickly headed back to Sonar to catch sludge punks Noothgrush. I was looking forward to seeing the California doomsters as they were a regular feature on the mixed CDs (remember those?) that I used to make in university. They did not disappoint, providing a nice and easy dosage of misanthropy after Friday’s night’s brutal grindcore carnage. Noothgrush were using a new live vocalist, Dino Sommese – not that you could tell a difference from the band’s albums.
We spilled outside the venue right into Morbid Angel’s set (pictured above and below). The Florida death metal institution had created a bit of controversy in recent times with their latest album Illud Divinum Insanus drawing extremely negative reviews from the hardcore metal community, but on this night the band delivered a solid set of classics spanning its discography. At one point, we noticed a fan that had set up shop on the overpass overlooking the stage was being taken away by three police officers. Once the fan had left, the police decided to stay on the bridge themselves and take photos, and were promptly met by a very large number of middle fingers from the crowd below.
Back inside, Norwegian black metal outfit Tsjuder was ripping into a set of face-destroying odes to Satan and H.P. Lovecraft. I didn’t get to see much black metal on this day so this was a nice pick-me-upper.
Finally it was time for Haemorrhage! The Spanish gore-grinders are personal faves of mine so I was very excited when muscle-bound frontman Lugubrious came running out soaked in blood screaming god knows what at the crowd. I saved myself for their set and gave everything I could in the pit, but after the brutality of the previous night’s Nasum show, the crowd was kind of tired. It was a mild but brutal set nevertheless.Day 3
After two days of drunken metal mayhem, it took us a while to get going. We had brunch at an awesome restaurant near the waterfront and then it was back to Deathfest, which started with a set by Australian grindcore brutes Agents of Abhorrence. Loud, fast and dirty, it was a good wake-up call.
Church of Misery were one of the biggest draws for me this year and they played later in the afternoon as the sun was setting. Though the Japanese doom metal legends sounded huge, the fact that the audience watched their Sabbath-worship take place while staring directly into the sun was a bit of a drawback.
We headed inside to see some more glorious doom metal courtesy of Yob. The Oregon lads brought the beatdown, delivering massive riffs and grooves to pummel the audience into something resembling the murky puddles that had accumulated on the floor of the club (which happens to have been a former car garage).
Suffocation took the stage outside. Being one of the old-school death metal bands I’ve never seen live, I was stoked to take in their set. As good as they were, though, frontman Frank Mullen comes off as an idiot. While he acknowledged that the next day was Memorial Day and paid tribute to the troops, following it by saying, “If I wasn’t in death metal, I’d probably be in the armed forces. To me, that’s a dream job. You get to shoot guns and kill people. Bad people,” doesn’t make anyone look good. Even worse, he introduced one song by informing the audience that he doesn’t believe in God or Heaven, that it’s all a bunch of lies meant to control people, that we should not live for tomorrow, but today. “After all, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing people that he didn’t exist!” I’m pretty sure he missed the meaning of that quote from The Usual Suspects.
It was time for some Indian food. On our way to the restaurant, someone launching water balloons from a high-rise apartment building attacked us. Thanks Baltimore…like you didn’t already suck enough. It rained as we were eating, and as we exited the restaurant the city felt unusually cool after a sweltering few days.
Nearing the point of exhaustion, we went back to catch Sargeist. The mysterious Finnish black metallers (the band members’ real names unknown) looked plenty spooky in their elaborate corpsepaint. They shrieked tales of Satanism, darkness and depression into the gloomy club – the floor now a sea of beer, blood, sweat and God knows what. After that set, we stumbled back to our dwellings, needing sleep to prepare for the long journey home to Toronto.
Despite a less impressive lineup than 2011, Deathfest was an amazing, if not overwhelming, experience. There’s no way you can see every band, or even every band that you want to see. Strategically pick a few acts you can’t live without seeing, then spend the rest of your time hanging with your fellow metal nomads. It’s the personal dynamic that makes Deathfest what it is. But by all means, come next year and look for us. We’ll be the ones in black…and blood.
Aaron von Lupton