Monthly Archives: May 2012

House of Hellbastards – Part 1

For the last couple of days I have been hosting the UK band, Hellbastard, in my home, prior to their gig at the Maryland Deathfest on Saturday. Read a short band profile here and a short interview with Scruff Lewty the vocalist/fire breather here.

Don’t let the name mislead you. These fellows have been stellar house guests. What I am losing in sleep, I am gaining in amazing memories. Here is what Scruff and guitarist Tom McCombe, bassist Paul O’Shea, drummer Josh Harris and their sound engineer Laine Pearce-Rees have been up to, aside from cooking us dinner, consuming massive quantities of cheap been, and giving the dogs more attention than they get in a year.  Watch below.

Come out to see them on Saturday, May 26 at 3:25 p.m., outside on Stage 2.  More later. I have to get some sleep.


INTERVIEW: Maryland Deathfest organizer Evan Harting

Think about all the bands you like to listen to. Now imagine bringing a few dozen of those groups together to perform for you and a few (thousand) of your friends. That, in a sense, is exactly what Ryan Taylor and Evan Harting created when they created the Maryland Deathfest in 2003.

Over the last 10 years the Maryland Deathfest has grown into the largest and most well known metal festival in the US. This year Maryland Deathfest celebrates its tenth anniversary and takes place from Thursday, May 24 to Sunday, May 27 at Sonar on 407 E. Saratoga St. in Baltimore. Sixty-one different bands will perform on three stages over those four days.  Up to 1,700 people are expected for the Thursday night show and as many as 4,000 each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Saratoga Street between Gay St. and Holliday will be completely blocked off. The event will include vendors and food tents. It’s a pretty big deal. 
Evan explained that he Ryan take care of every detail of the festival pretty much by themselves, from booking to scheduling to ordering the MDF t-shirts and working with vendors to the fulfillment of each band’s concert contract rider. The project takes an entire year to plan and execute, Evan said, and has grown so much over the last decade that the two men don’t really have other full-time jobs.

“THIS is our main job,” Evan said.

Evan and Ryan began thinking about a festival when they were just 18 and 20-years old, respectively, and both working in the restaurant industry. It was after a trip to the now defunct Ohio Deathfest in about 2000 that the notion first occurred.”

Boxes of MDF mech ready to go. (Harting)
“That was the only festival we had been to, but I think that kind of stated the gears rolling,” Evan said. This was also around the time that the Milwaukee Metal Fest began to fall out of favor, which used to be popular in the 1990s. Apparently, Evan said, the organizer of that fest charged the bands to perform.

The team didn’t have a budget to work with, in fact, Evan said, even now they don’t have a budget set aside for the event. Instead, the money comes from ticket sales.

“We figure if we announce a lineup like this, and we get a minimum of this many people, then we will estimate that we will get this amount,” Evan explained. And so far, their formula has worked. “People appreciate the fact that we have done this for 10 years without any financial help.”

Of course, a little help from your friends does not hurt. Evan said that despite the fact that they have never organized a huge event before, they were not entirely unknown in the metal scene.

“We had both been in bands and had played out, especially Ryan,” Evan said. “The first Maryland Deathfest was initially only supposed to be a day-long fest with bands from the East coast. But as soon as we announced it, it went viral, and bands started writing to us from all other the place. It ended up being a 3-day fest the very first year,” Evan said. “I think people were just happy that someone was just giving it a shot.”

In addition to fulfilling an apparent hunger for live death metal, the team’s networking also led to a significant headlining act that first year.

“We ended up getting the reunion show of Suffocation, and that really helped things to start off. We had some other cool names on there, but having the reunion of Suffo really pushed it to the next level,” Evan said. (By the way Suffocation will play again this year on Sunday at 7:20 p.m.)

Over the years, the bands asked to play MDF have reflected the organizers’ somewhat obscure musical tastes. Essentially, they put together a lineup that does not mirror market trends but instead, demonstrates their deep knowledge of the genre and all its subgenres. The lineups at MDF over the last decade also seem to have become more diverse.

“As the festival grows, we still try to have an underground touch to it,” Evan said, “We listen to some obscure bands, so we like to keep that as part of it. And even before this current festival is over, we will already be talking about who we are going to have next year.”

Evan said that he has developed long lasting relationships with some of the groups that have played MDF. “It is really cool when we have bands come back and they aren’t even playing but they just come and hang out. We also know that we have friends all over the world; if we needed a place to stay, that would never a problem. For some of these big name bands, it has been cool to meet them on a personal level.”

Although they have been at it for 10 years, Evan said he and Ryan have no intention of calling it quits. “We will continue to do it for as long as people keep coming and without selling out and as long as we aren’t getting washed up bands.”

INTERVIEW: Red Fang’s Bryan Giles with podcast

My first exposure to Red Fang was on a Relapse Records sampler. The song was “Number 13” from their album Murder the Mountains. As someone who listens to a lot of death and black metal, Red Fang’s massive, swinging sound stood out to me as somehow “Southern.” It wasn’t what I usually listened to but, hey, I really liked what I heard. I can listen to both kinds of music, HEAVY and METAL, can’t I? And Red Fang was definitely heavy.

Only later did I learn this stoner metal group hails from Portland, Oregon. I put them on my list of bands I needed to see live. And I hate myself for missing their sold out show at the 9:30 Club in the fall of 2011 when they toured with Mastodon. What did it matter that I had a final paper to write?
I can nearly forgive myself now, as Red Fang embarks on a short tour with another heavy stoner metal band, The Sword, form Austin, Texas. The combination of Red Fang with The Sword should bring out an interesting crowd of PBR-drinking, long-haired biker types. 
Red Fang starts off June with a short headlining tour before meeting up with The Sword on their home turf. The duo plays Baltimore on June 21 at Sonar, which is where I will see them,. For this show, and a couple others, they will be joined by Liquid Metal favorites, Kyng from Los Angeles.
Again, these three bands sharing one stage is almost too much to comprehend. The evening will be ruled by beer bellies, big beards, heavy guitar riffs and clean melodic masculine vocals. If this show only had a BBQ going in the alley and a burnout contest in the parking lot, my sweaty, rocking’ redneck-y evening would be complete. 
I had the chance to speak with Red Fang’s guitarist Bryan Giles recently, and he told some interesting stories about their recent European tour with Black Tusk (another band I need to see live). The conversation ranged from the importance of funding art in public schools to wardrobe and hygiene while on tour. Thanks for the chat, Bryan.
You can listen to the entire conversation at this the link below. 

Red Fang headling dates include:
June 1: Seattle, WA @ Highline

June 12: Boise, ID @ Neurolux
June 13: Salt Lake City, UT @ Bar Deluxe
June 14: Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
June 16: Denton, TX @ Rubber Gloves

Red Fang mini-tour supporting The Sword dates include:

June 17: Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds (feat. Honky)
June 18: New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues Parish (feat. Honky)
June 19: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade (feat. Kyng)
June 20: Raleigh, NC @ Kings Barcade (feat. Kyng)
June 21: Baltimore, MD @ Sonar (feat. Kyng)
June 22: Westchester, PA @The Note (feat. Kyng)

Countdown to MDF X: (1) Electric Wizard

The last band to play outside on Sunday, May 27 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest will be UK stoner doom stalwarts Electric Wizard. After four straight days of all manner of death metal, black metal, grind core and noise, the crowd will be ready for something a bit more laid-back and introspective. Well, maybe that’s not an accurate description of Electric Wizard, but this is certainly music devoid of blast beats and rich with layers upon layers of doom-y spacey goodness.

Founded in 1993, Electric Wizard consists of founding member Justin Oborn (Guitar & Vocals), Liz Buckingham (Guitar),  Simon Poole (Drums) and Glenn Charman (Bass). Their music sounds like it’s being piped in from an earlier era. It is chockfull of fuzzy, psychedelic and distorted guitar riffs and droning bass.  The group has taken their throw back aesthetic to the extreme, in that their entire 2007 album Witchcult Today was recorded on vintage equipment from the 1970s. Nothing says authentic like recording in analog.

Drugs and the occult form the basis of the group’s lyrical content. Even the Electric Wizard logo looks like the thick smoke billowing up from a pipe or bong. Hearing just a few chords of one of their songs makes me want to dig out my bell bottom jeans and fringed leather jacket, if I had them to dig out.

Electric Wizard is working toward releasing a new full-length album but until then, the group has issued a 7-inch single entitled “Legalise Drugs and Murder.” Their appearance at MDF is the group’s first trip to the US in more than a decade. I don’t know if they all have any kind of psychedelic slide-show back drop, but it would be kind of cool if they did.

Countdown to MDF X: (2) Saint Vitus

The word “legendary” is usually never appropriate when describing even the most well known musical acts. Its overuse can make it meaningless. In the case of doom metal band Saint Vitus,  however, the description of legendary may qualify as officially sanctioned.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Saint Vitus quite possibly invented doom metal.  I won’t insult you or the band by attempting to recount their history over the last 30 odd years. You can read that all on the official Saint Vitus website.

What I will say is this. Their first new album in 17 years, Lillie: F-65, comes out just two days before the start of the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, where Saint Vitus will play outside on Sunday, May 27. They will play a few festivals in the US this summer, including the Scion Festival in Tampa and the Chaos and Tejas festival in Austin before heading over to spend the rest of the summer in Europe.

The group’s current lineup includes founders Dave Chandler (guitar) and Mark Adams (bass), on and off and now on again vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and newest member Henry Vasquez on drums. I’ve seen Wino perform solo, but never with Saint Vitus, nor have I ever seen any incarnation of this band. As a newer  fan of doom, I am particularly excited to catch their performance this year. Here is something brand new, as well as something old from these doom metal pioneers. Wino sings vocals on both.

Countdown to MDF X: (3) Suffocation

Suffocation is from Long Island, New York. This will be evident the minute vocalist Frank Mullen opens his mouth to speak, which he is want to do between songs. When the band begins to play, however, you will forget all about his New YAWK accent and turn your attention to not being killed in the mosh pit.

Did I say Suffocation plays brutal death metal? Did I say they were pioneers of the genre? Be warned. Suffocation plays outside on Sunday evening at the Maryland Deathfest and the violence that will undoubtably erupt will be on concrete and asphalt. There will be blood, my friends, there WILL be blood.

The current line up of Suffocation includes the aforementioned Frank Mullen (Vocals), Terrance Hobbs  (Guitars), Guy Marchais (Guitars), Derek Boyer (Bass),  and the recent return of drummer Dave Culross who played for the group in the late 1990s.

The following live video is not the best looking, but the sound and feeling of Suffocation’s live performance are accurately captured. Expect to be obliterated.

Previous drummer Mike Smith is seen in this music video from 2009. 

Countdown to MDF X: (4) Morgoth

I am no Tolkien fan, but I do know the name of Germany’s death metal band Morgoth comes from book The Silmarillion. Although disbanded for more than a decade, the group has experienced a rebirth since 2010 and is set to release a DVD of live performances in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of their album Cursed.

Not only that, Morgoth will play a string of European festivals and appear on the inaugural Barge to Hell cruise in December. Not bad from a bunch of guys who went their separate ways in 1998. Of course. they don’t have their complete original line up, but the spirit of the music is still there. 

Morgoth’s current members include founding members Marc Grewe (Vocals), Harry Busse (Guitar), and Sebastian Swart (Guitar) with newest additions Marc Reign (Drums) and Sotirios Kelekidis (Bass).

Morgoth is down and dirty death metal with perhaps some black metal influences. Their live performances are energetic and fun. But I particularly like this instrumental title track from their second full-length album Odium. They play the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Sunday, May 27.

Countdown to MDF X: (6) Yob

Yob. The name evokes memories of that disturbing Warner Brothers cartoon “Rocket-bye Baby” in which a Martin baby is mistakenly delivered to Earth parents.  Few people under the age of 40 will remember this cartoon.

As a band, Eugene, Oregon’s Yob can be just as unsettling. Grinding, doom-y guitar riffs, plodding and pulsing rhythms and other-worldly vocals make Yob’s sound memorizing. And as most of their songs are around 10 minutes long or much longer, they give you plenty of time to fall victim to their hypnotic charm. It is the perfect stoner metal.  Given the right circumstances (ahem, if you know what I mean), you could still be hearing the sound of Yob for many minutes after a song actually has ended and not even realize it.

Yob is Mike Scheidt ( Guitar, Vocals), Aaron Reiseberg (Bass) and Travis Foster (Drums). They play the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Sunday evening, May 27. Even without a bong in hand, you will probably enjoy them.

Pentagram Chile guitarist talks first US gig, new drummer and first studio album

Pentagram Chile is not the first band in the world to place a country designation after their name to avoid confusion with another well known group. Usually this is required because of copyright, but in this case, the group did it out of respect to the doom metal band Pentagram that started in the late 1970s. Once you have heard this South American group, you will never have a reason to confuse them.

Death and black metal are definitely the foundations upon which Pentagram Chile’s sound was built. Pounding heavy drums and blazingly fast guitar riffs under a death growl is what Pentagram Chile brings to this heavy metal banquet.  You can definitely hear the influence of groups like Slayer in their earlier recordings. Founded in 1985 by guitarist Juan Pablo Uribe and vocalist and guitarist Anton Reisenegger, the band has had its ups and downs since the group’s inception in 1985. Even while disbanded, interest in the group was maintained through fans trading tapes of their demos and one EP. To date, they have never produced a studio album, but that is about to change.

Now the group is back in action and Anton Reisenegger was kind enough to reply to my basic email questions to give us North Americans a glimpse into what is in store for us on Sunday, May 27 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

Who are the current members of Pentagram Chile?
The two original members Juan Pablo Uribe (guitar) and myself, Anton Reisenegger (guitar, vocals), our new drummer Juan Pablo Donoso and CRIMINAL’s Dan Biggin filling in on bass. [See Pentagram Chile’s Facebook page for more specific details from Anton on the group’s recent line-up change.]

What songs will be on the set list?

Since it’s our first time in the US we’ll be focusing on the classic demo songs, but we might play one track from the new album. We just thought since it’s not out yet it wouldn’t make much sense to play more of it.

Will you be playing any other shows in the US while you are here?

We are focusing on finishing our first-ever studio album, so we had actually decided not to play live for a while, but MDF was something we couldn’t refuse. There’s nothing else planned on the live front so far, but as soon as the album’s finished and a release date is set we’ll start working on tours.

What special items will you have for sale at MDF?

We’re going to have a re-issue of an old, semi-official shirt design that’s very cool. And also of course the classic “bat” shirt.

Anything else you want to say?

PENTAGRAM CHILE is here to stay. Watch out for our new album, it’s going to kill!

INTERVIEW: Tatsu Mikami wants you to join his Church of Misery

I am not a fan of church membership in general. But if I were to be a congregant in any church, it would be Church of Misery from Japan. Spacey, psychedelic, doomy and ultra heavy, rest assured Church of Misery will do a great job transitioning the audience at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Sunday afternoon to the grittier soundscapes expected later that night from Saint Vitus and Electric Wizard.

For whatever reason, Church of Misery likes to write songs about serial killers. But their sound is so 70s old school psychedelic that you will have to keep checking to make sure you are not listening to something recorded around the time of Black Sabbath’s first album. In addition, their live performances are reminiscent of Cathedral.

Founding member and bassist Tatsu Mikami earns a beer from me for his replies to my basic interview questions. He wears his bass slung so low on his hip that I am not sure how he manages to play it. But I guess that is his secret to success. Other current members include Junji Narita – drums,  Kensuke Suto – guitars, and Hideki Fukasawa – vocals and analogue synthesizers.

This is first time we will play the US. So we are prepared to play our ‘BEST’ set list including all three albums. All C.O.M fans surely will be satisfied!” Tatsu said.

Just before MDF, Tatsu said C.O. M. will be finishing their seventh European tour. This latest three-week outing included the UK, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. I know the Swedes were digging their sound, as this New Wave of Psychedelic Doom Metal is really popular there.

While they are in the US, Church of Misery. will be making several stops. Tour dates can be found here. Each date includes Gates of Slumber and either Rwake or HailHornet.

What special surprises will they have for deathfest attendees? “We will bring special T-shirts for MDF. It’s available only at MDF – very limited!” Tatsu said.

Church of Misery seems anxious to perform for America. “I would like to say – very sorry for keeping you waiting! We will be devastating all venues like GOZILLA!”


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