Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wolves In The Throne Room at the Echoplex

Atmospheric and flawless. My official review of the show can be found, as usual, here at Heavy Metal. I arrived at the Echoplex to catch most of Volahn's set, but I was not able to squeeze in to get close shots. Volahn were quite good, and I wonder if this was the first live appearance of a band associated with the Black Twilight Circle.


Wolves In The Throne Room

A "shortie" at Heavy Metal...

Ancient Altar

The third edition of Dave's Demo Roundup has been published at Metal Bandcamp featuring reviews of demos from Gruesome, Deceptionist, Ghastly, and Tetragrammaton.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sargeist, Nightbringer, and Ritual Combat at the Black Castle

The mid-July temperatures are soaring in Southern California, and what better way to celebrate than to trek down to the Black Castle, swelter in the heat, and witness Sargeist and Nightbringer hit the stage. I also made it in time to catch Ritual Combat.

I wasn't scheduled to formally review this show, but, as is always the case with promoter Hatewar Productions, this was a great concert. I skipped most of the openers, but arrived in time for Ritual Combat. Ritual Combat were a little looser and sloppier than the last time that I had seen them, Nightbringer were good, but repetitive, and Sargeist were spot on. The Black Castle was packed to capacity, and the temperature inside was approaching 100 degrees. The pit went nuts for Sargeist.

Here are a few iPhone pictures.

Ritual Combat



The t-shirt haul!

Here's a huge backlog of recent review links. First, some full-length reviews published at Heavy Metal at over the last few months...

Vader Tibi Et Igni

Mayhem Esoteric Warfare

Corrosion Of Conformity IX

Incantation Dirges Of Elysium

Tombs Savage Gold

Goatwhore Constricting Rage Of The Merciless

Origin Omnipresent

Next up are a bunch of "shorties"....

Dead Congregation Promulgation Of The Fall

Dust Bolt Awake The Riot

Vassafor/ Sinistrous Diabolus Split

ACxDC Antichrist Demoncore

Cemetery Lust Orgies Of Abomination

Terminal Death Terminal Death

Here are a few reviews that I've written over at Last Rites...

Mournful Congregation Concrescence Of The Sophia

Misery Index The Killing Gods

Bastard Sapling Instinct Is Forever

Lastly, I wrote a second edition of Dave's Demo Roundup over at Metal Bandcamp...

Next up....


Brief iPhone clip. Sargeist at the Black Castle in Los Angeles. July 11th, 2014.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Maryland Deathfest 2014

Maryland Deathfest 2014

I’ve now attended two consecutive Maryland Deathfests and although I probably cannot yet be considered a veteran, I can’t say enough about how much of a great time that I have at this festival. Attendance at MDF will surely be a yearly event for me and my closest Los Angeles-based friends. I would never try to “cover” this festival in any official fashion; it’s just too much. I only go as a fan and as a devotee to heavy metal.

Say what you will about all of the great bands that appear at this festival, but, for me, first and foremost, what’s most important is the gathering of American metalheads for what is mostly a convention, a party, and a meet and greet of like minded individuals. The camaraderie and the sharing in the joy and enthusiasm that we all have for this beloved art form is awe inspiring. To the uninformed, the world of underground heavy metal seems foreboding and violent. As we all know, this is simply not the case and never will you find a more diverse group of individuals who genuinely care for one another and a progressive, secular society.. Outsiders will never understand this, and that is their profound loss, not ours.

The organizers of MDF have repeatedly overcome numerous obstacles in putting this festival together, and the 2014 affair occurred almost flawlessly. The main venue of the Edison parking lot initially seemed to be an odd choice, but the band rotation on the two stages occurred without a hitch and on time, and the food and drink choices were reasonable. There was shade as well as picnic tables to sit down (more next year, please), and the Port-O-Potties were plentiful and about as clean as one could hope for under the circumstances. 

The weather was pleasant with sunshine, scattered clouds and temperatures in the upper 70s all weekend. Minor complaints would be the lack of free water (a possible problem if the weather was much hotter, and I did witness a few people suffering from dehydration, nonetheless), and the addition of hand sanitation stations would probably be a necessary amenity in the future.

The vendors were plentiful with lots of merchandise from shirts and other clothing items, patches, vinyl, books, etc. The bands that were playing each day were also given merch space and loads more merch was available each evening at Rams Head Live.

The indoor venue of Rams Head Live is head and shoulders above the old Sonar location. An indoor venue on par with the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip for comparison, Rams Head Live sports good acoustics, a clean, safe environment, and nice amenities such as lounges with couches. The air conditioning was also welcome even though the weather was mild. Rams Head Live is just over a mile from the Edison lot and is easily walked to even though the Edison lot borders on some of the sketchier areas of Baltimore.

As everyone knows, this year’s festival lineup was absolutely top notch. Here’s my brief take on what I saw and, believe me, I tried to take it all in, attending every performance that I could.


Things kicked off on Thursday evening at Rams Head Live. We arrived after meeting and greeting tons of friends at Max’s Taphouse in the historic Fells Point area, a few miles away. We walked in just as Whitehorse were finishing up. Up next, Sourvein were good with their version of Southern sludge. I skipped Torche, choosing instead to lie down in the lounge (more on my redeye later), only to revive myself for Coffins. I had previously caught Coffins the week before in Pomona, California, at the Scion fest (I never posted about that festival as my phone died early that day), but Coffins were excellent. They would play another set the next day at the Baltimore Soundstage, right down the street. Incidentally, I never did attend any of the Soundstage shows, being mostly interested in what was going on at Edison and Ram Head Live, instead. Crowbar, another band that I caught at Scion the previous week, closed out the night.

With humble respect, I should mention that the understandable loss of Triptykon this evening was profound. However, all of the conversations around me, without exception, were supportive of the band’s decision to drop out of the festival, and were respectful to the family and friends of H.R. Giger for their loss.


We arrived at the Edison lot just after noon in order to get some shopping done before the bands began in earnest. This year, I had a list of classic shirts to obtain and I knew which vendors to check first. My research paid off as I managed to find what I wanted (I’ll have another list next year, I’m sure). Throughout the rest of the weekend I also shopped for a few friends that did not attend, as well as making a few more impulse purchases. As for the bands scheduled that day, what a killer lineup! Huge highlights in the early going were Mgla, Taake, and The Ruins Of Beverast. Also quite good were Necros Christos and Castevet. I skipped Solstafir, opting instead to check out more merch, eat, and drink.

The biggest disappointment of the day was Cancer, obviously ill prepared for a live performance with guitar sound problems and poor musicianship.

In the evening, the big highlights were Agalloch and, obviously, At The Gates, who absolutely brought the house down. How many were in attendance this evening at the Edison lot? Hard to say; maybe 7,000?

After At The Gates, we sprinted to Rams Head Live, only to just miss Bölzer’s first of two sets this weekend. Enthroned and Incantation finished off the evening at Rams Head Live; both were excellent with Incantation finishing at about 1:45am.


If Friday was largely “Black Metal Day”, then Saturday was largely “Death Metal Day” with killer performances from Entrails and God Macabre in the early going. Also quite good were Diocletian, relative unknowns Goat Torment, and, the surprise of the day, Sacrifice. Nocturnus A.D. were a huge disappointment, coming across as woefully unprepared with bad musicianship. Case in point was Nocturnus A.D. having to restart their cover of “Chapel Of Ghouls” two minutes into the song. Really? Ugh.

More of a novelty than anything else was the appearance of Sarke. As everyone knows, this performance would mark the first appearance of Nocturno Culto on American soil, an event that was hugely anticipated by the crowd. Sarke’s set of black n’ roll was enjoyable enough, but Nocturno Culto is obviously an introvert unused to being on stage and being lauded upon by the crowd. He very occasionally smiled, though, and warmed up enough for the set closer, the one two covers punch of “Dethroned Emperor” and, dare I say it, a Darkthrone song, “Too Old, Too Cold.” What’s obvious from Sarke’s performance is that Nocturno Culto could use Sarke as a backing band for a full blown Darkthrone tour with Fenriz in place behind the drum kit. We could only hope, but this was a landmark event in the history of heavy metal.

The evening was anchored by Unleashed and the reunion of Dark Angel, another hotly anticipated event. A bit shaky at first, Dark Angel really tightened up by their third song to thoroughly blow away the appreciative crowd. The crowd was a bit sparser for Dark Angel than for At The Gates the previous night, but every metalhead in attendance appreciated what they were witnessing.

After Dark Angel, we sprinted to Rams Head Live, only to just miss Bölzer’s second set, yet again. Oh, well. Hooded Menace were good, Pungent Stench were good when they were grinding away, and Asphyx were great. Frankly, though, the lack of a second guitarist for Asphyx was noticeable, and they just didn’t quite hit as hard as they should have. Asphyx finished the day at about 1:45am.


“Doom Metal Day” was Sunday (some black metal would creep in, as well). Windhand, another band that I had caught in Pomona the previous week, got things going with a crushing set. Other highlights during the day time were Bongripper and Pseudogod, who were simply awesome, despite the afternoon sunshine and temperatures creeping northward of 80 degrees. Later on, Inquisition, Gorguts, and Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats were all fantastic on a day where there weren’t any disappointments.

The evening highlights were crushing performances by Candlemass, in particular, and My Dying Bride. Mats Leven, the vocalist for Candlemass, was fantastic, belting out classics with confidence and power. The festival ended at Rams Head Live with performances from Ulcerate and Immolation.


How do you survive a marathon such as MDF? No small task and a great deal of prior preparation will go a long way towards making your experience one of pure joy and not one of frustration.

I live in the Los Angeles area, and, realistically, I can really only get away with missing two days of work, Thursday and Friday, to attend MDF. Therefore, that either means taking a redeye on Wednesday night from LAX to Dulles via Virgin America, or you can take an early morning flight on Thursday from LAX to BWI, but you’d have to connect. You lose three hours going east, but you can just make it to the festival just before it starts barring any flying issues.

I’ve opted for the redeye the last two years, and it works reasonably well, as Dulles is an easy airport to go through. Dulles is about 60 miles from downtown Baltimore, though, and a rental car was the way to go for me with the cost being split amongst me and my friends.

The hotels in Baltimore are as good as they would be in any major American city, but a friend and I opted to do an Airbnb this year, renting a guy’s apartment for four nights for just over $400. Our host let us to check in early on Thursday morning after we arrived, allowing us to grab some much needed sleep after an exhausting flight. The apartment was located in a nice area of Baltimore on Park Avenue near the universities on the west side, and was just over a mile from the Edison lot.

Being unfamiliar with Baltimore, we drove the rental car on Thursday night and on Friday. Thursday was necessary as we had the meet and greet party at Max’s Taphouse in Fells Point to go to in the afternoon, but we should have skipped driving Friday as you end up paying through the nose for parking. We decided to walk everywhere on Saturday and Sunday, opting to take a cab home at the end of the evening. That ended up being a smart choice, one that we will definitely make next year.

Other keys to surviving MDF involve your choices of food and drink. Alcohol consumption is tempting, but I smartly limited myself to one drink per day as dehydration and exhaustion always seem to be lurking nearby. The food choices at the various venues were a bit up and down, but, at Edison, two vendors featured choices with lots of fresh vegetables: a Greek food vendor with lots of choices, and a 100% vegan soy hot dog vendor with a kale dog as a good choice. Water and Gatorade were $3 and $4, respectively, and I made sure to drink something every hour or two. I also packed chewable vitamins for the trip, which is necessary for keeping possible viruses and bacteria at bay in a crowded, rather dirty environment (people coming down with “Maryland Deathflu” at the end of the weekend seems to be common).

Getting enough sleep is also important, especially for this forty something metalhead. Going east, I lost three hours, but that actually works out really well as MDF exists in a sort of a time warp, anyway. Getting home after the Rams Head Live shows ended at 2am felt more like 11pm, and I wouldn’t end up going to sleep until 3am. I’d rise at 11am, which felt like 8am, just in time for a solid breakfast, shower, and walk to Edison before the show began. This schedule precluded attending any other get togethers with friends outside of the festival, but it worked well for me.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, the best part of MDF is seeing and having fun with all of the wonderful people. With that in mind, I would like to say thank you to the following people for making MDF 2014 such an awesome experience. 

First, and foremost, the best posse of L.A. metalheads one can hope for: Aaron Lariviere, Adam L. Murray, Mike Rivas, and Joseph Aprill. With us in heart and mind all weekend were our absent members, Robert Baggs and Farhaad Esfandiary. Jay Lane from the east coast joined in the fun with us, as well.

The Last Rites Crew: Zach Duvall, Jeremy Morse, Jeremy Witt, Matt Mooring, Jordan Campbell, Doug Moore, Konrad Kantor, and Marlo Reghenas.

The L.A. Metal Brethren: Adam Sperber-Compean, Andrew Melendez, Kimberly Galdamez, Anna Hummell, Cris Giesbrecht, Jason Thomas, and Christina Liebling.

The Texas Metal Brotherhood: Van Darden and Andy O’Connor.

Other Metal Scribes: Tom Campagna, Atanamar Sunyata, Kim Kelly, and Joseph Schafer.

Cheers to you all! See you next year!

Here are a few iPhone pictures. I didn't try very hard to position myself for good shots; so, for what it's worth...


At The Gates





 Dark Angel




Goat Torment

 God Macabre


Hooded Menace





Misery Index

My Dying Bride

Necros Christos


 Pungent Stench




The Ruins Of Beverast


Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats



The food and merch...

The t-shirt haul...