Photo gallery of the first day of Maryland Deathfest XI, featuring Bolt Thrower, Cobalt, Abigail, Pallbearer, Deiphago, Noisem.
This was my first journey to Baltimore, the city that plays host to both The Wire and the nation’s pre-eminent underground metal event. Luckily there were no shootings or stabbings that I heard about, but the subject matter of most songs resonated with dire agony, doomed futures or senseless violence. In other words, everyone had a blast. The intro day would only have bands on stage 3, inside a tent. The popularity of the event has pushed it into a new format, with two other large, open air stages used for the following days, as well as the indoor Soundstage venue which was a eight minute walk and featured mainly hardcore bands. Highlights of the day included the oppressive doom of Pallbearer, leavened by the higher key singing of Brett Campbell. Japanese rockers Abigail turned in a workmanlike effort of thrash metal, and Cobalt really surprised with a powerful live performance, underscored by the fact that this was really their first official live show. I have no idea how they get that tone of out a Telecaster but if that’s possible, a cure for cancer must be just around the corner.
Some people bitched about the tent, and the capacity was no match for the number of people in attendance for day 1 and spilled out the sides and back for a few sets, but it came in handy during the torrential downpours that started with Cobalt’s set and lasted into Bolt Thrower’s. The long-time running death metal band from the UK is doing a very short US tour, and this would be their only East Coast appearance. Anticipation and expectations were running high, and the cramped quarters of the tent made for interesting smells. Unfortunately the band decided to clear all the photographers from the pit before they started, but security had their hands full with the number of bodies coming over the top so maybe they were just safety-minded. Brutal and relentless, songs like “World Eater” and “Cenotaph” had the double kick drum blast beat stoking the engine while the heavy riffage of Baz Thomson and Gavin Ward kept fists pumping throughout the night. Which, in a precursor of things to come, got cut a bit short when they hit curfew and “When Cannons Fade” sputtered to a quick halt. All in all, a great way to kick off the fest.