Samael, all photos by the author
Living in Baltimore, late May marks several things— the moment when lingering winter suddenly lurches into summer, when crabs become as plentiful as orange and black O’s hats, but for some the ultimate sign that summer is truly here is when a legion of metal fans clad in black, leather, denim and studs descend upon downtown, as Maryland Death Fest takes over several city blocks.
Now in it’s 14th year, MDF remains, thankfully, buried deep in the heart of downtown, though over the years MDF has gone from a one venue, one day fest to a multi-day one spread over 2 venues in the tourist Inner Harbor area (which always results in lots of befuddled looks from suburban families in town for the weekend), as well as a sprawling parking lot which is repurposed into an open air festival setting with two stages and dozens of vendors.
What sets MDF apart from other festivals in the US, in my view, is the sense of camaraderie among the crowd, the international audience it brings, the friendly security staff (many of whom you will catch singing along to the acts— they manage to find security that actually loves this stuff) and the curation strategy, bringing together a mix of classic acts as well as Euro faves like Paradise Lost or Samael that rarely tour here, which means you can always see a few bands that you wouldn't expect to ever see, or maybe had never even heard before.
This year the biggest surprises was the influx of older bands - you expect headliners Mayhem, Venom and Testament to rock and put on a super pro show, which they did, but it was great to see other bands of those eras like Satan, Hirax, or Demolition Hammer put on a show that was just as flashy and powerful to huge, appreciative crowds. Personally the most energetic band I saw the whole week was Excel— Dan Clements was clearly having such a great time you couldn’t help but grin watching.
Aside from a smattering of rain on the final day that cooled things down, and a few band cancellations (Discharge was particularly painful), this year seemed to go off without a hitch. Bring on next year, Deathfest gods.
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin
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