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Tuesday January 23rd 2018

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Maryland Deathfest synopsis: Day Two

The Chasm’s Daniel Corchado

We continue with our overview of MDF VIII, this time with a focus on Day Two, which very well might’ve had the most intense lineup out of what was already a respectable 3-day listing. “F***in’ Autopsy” were definitely the main draw here, but there were so many great bands on the premises that this reviewer could scarcely cover the lot of them. Scroll down below to take in an approximation of Day Two’s metal mayhem…

The Chasm: The first notable performance of the day was delivered by the morbid shamans of The Chasm, whose style of epic and cryptically-melodic metal de muerte have garnered them the highest of honors in their native Mexico and utmost respect amongst death hordes the world over. Their early afternoon slot meant that the stage bore the full, angry brunt of the sun’s rays, but The Chasm’s collective live presence couldn’t be described as anything less than indefatigable– they destroyed their panting, sunburnt audience with a setlist containing selections off their excellent new album, as well as more than a few old favorites (a gripping rendition of “A Portal To Nowhere” still stands as particularly memorable). Guitarist/vocalist Daniel Corchado snarled and howled like the mythical Coyote himself, and demonstrated adroit command over the fretboard despite some recurring amplification problems. He alternately addressed the crowd in English and in Spanish for the sizable number of metaleros in attendance, sometimes heckling people for their flaccid and pathetic posture (“What, are you guys tired!?”) but mostly apologizing for the compromised tone coming from his amp. It should be said, though, that as far as festivals go it’s truly a rarity for bands to attain optimal sound settings; The Chasm slayed everyone who came out to see them, and no amount of technical mishaps can discredit that fact.

Possessed (or, really, Sadistic Intent featuring Jeff Becerra)

Sadistic Intent/Possessed: As previously mentioned in the Day One review, Possessed were rescheduled for Day Two because of a missed flight. So instead of Possessed and Sadistic Intent each getting their own respective time chunk as it was originally planned, the two bands were crammed onto the same slot, with Possessed logically taking the lion’s share of showtime. Seeing how present-day Possessed is basically just original vocalist Jeff Becerra with the exact same personnel of Sadistic Intent as his backup band, the whole rescheduling issue really isn’t a big deal– but, it still would have been nice to hear Sadistic Intent get to play more than a mere three songs.

After blowing through their considerably truncated set, Sadistic Intent stepped back to let wheelchair-bound Becerra take his place at the helm, thereby reconstituting themselves as Possessed. Ever since the good name of this band was controversially exhumed in 2007, there have been varying reports on Becerra’s viability as a frontman: the worst accounts describe him as a drug-addled drunkard who can barely handle vocal duties anymore. Fortunately, all worries were put to rest once Becerra kicked in with his signature growl on the mandatory opener “The Exorcist”– he was clearly not under the influence of any recreational toxin, and sounded about as feral as he did as a teenager (a delightful twist of irony, since lately it seems that old age has pelted the poor man like a brick). The blazing sun was still an annoyance at this hour; Becerra repeatedly gave himself impromptu showers with the arsenal of water bottles sitting at the base of the drummer’s kit. “It’s freakin’ hot up here!” he remarked. “It feels like we’re…Burning In Hell!” Aahh, cheesy song introductions never go out of style!

There isn’t much else to say here: Possessed reliably–even powerfully–tore into their classics from Seven Churches, Beyond The Gates, and The Eyes of Horror EP. It was all too appropriate that they exited with the song “Death Metal”, which served to remind all the festival attendees exactly why they stood where they were, and to give hails unto the great ancestor of the genre.

Incantation

Melechesh: Totally missed their set– sorry! You can find an actual review from another reviewer here, if you’re interested.

Incantation: The performance from these veterans of Northeastern death metal was just full of surprises. They began with some newer opuses that were of course only a pale shade of their ’90s albums, but still enjoyable for that distinctive Incantation sound we’ve all grown to know and love; the latest offering came from the 2010 EP Scapegoat, which John McEntee–ever the entrepreneur–announced was for special sale at the Ibex Moon Records stall. Then came the first surprise: their cover of Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”! None other than Martin Van Drunen of Asphyx ran on stage to belt out the chorus in his infamous caterwaul. The second surprise was another, more heartfelt cover: “Mob Rules” from the Black Sabbath album of the same name, which was their first featuring the recently-deceased singer Ronnie James Dio. Plenty of bands during this Deathfest took time to voice their respect for Dio’s legacy, but with their charismatic interpretation of “Mob Rules” Incantation definitely paid one of the loftiest tributes (they even decorated their amplifier cabs with Mob Rules t-shirts). The song dovetailed right into “Devoured Death” from The Masterpiece Onward to Golgotha, which dealt a herculean one-two punch in what was surely a rousing setlist.

Repulsion

Repulsion: This timeslot was originally supposed to be filled by Spain’s Haemorrhage, but the loss was more than generously compensated by an appearance by the original gore-grinders themselves, Repulsion. Though they had about as laid-back a stage presence as is possible, they lashed out with a vicious performance that whipped the center of the crowd into a frenzy of hair, fists, and steeltoed boots. Everything of note from Horrified was reenacted in their full necrotic glory, but fans were additionally treated to covers of “Death Dealer” by Slaughter and “Schizo” by Venom. They also delivered a more obscure favorite of theirs, “Helga (Lost Her Head)” (she don’t need it– she’s dead!), to the joy of old-schoolers. However, this reviewer decided to skip the very end of their set to get a spot up front for Asphyx…

Asphyx

Asphyx: One of the heroes of last year’s Deathfest, Asphyx were no less honorably welcomed this time around. Due to Sodom’s cancellation, they were entitled to some extended stage-time, making up for their abbreviated appearance during MDF VII (as soon as he had the opportunity, vocalist Martin Van Drunen was more than happy to slag “those bitches in Mayhem” for causing that particular scheduling disaster). This performance was lamentably marred by a bad sound mix, which made the opening song “Vermin” sound more like a trainwreck than an actual composition (though it’s always a thrill to hear that one live). The acoustics would improve slightly over the course of their set, and what a set it was!– taking into consideration how great the latest album turned out to be, the Van Drunen-fronted material of this band is arguably flawless, and they simply can’t put forward a song selection that is weak in any way.

Some weird hijinks went down amongst the crowd: at one point, there was this giant pink blow-up phallus (?) being tossed about, but it was quickly devoured into the raging mob at the foot of the inclined stage; Van Drunen, headbanging behind his silvery mane the whole time, didn’t even seem to notice (but he did make a hilariously lewd gesture in associating “Bloodswamp” to a nightmarish lay with a girl on the rag). Asphyx finished off the show with the epic torturer “The Rack”, which they were presumably able to play in full this time (this reviewer bailed at the last moment to try and stake out standing room in front of Autopsy’s stage).

Autopsy

Autopsy: The collective anticipation for Autopsy was so hypercharged that it almost felt as if the air could seethe and fatally combust at any moment. There was also some apprehension: Autopsy hadn’t played live since the early ’90s; what were they going to sound like now? Sloppy and drunk? Senile? But thankfully, before people could start biting their fingernails down to the bloody quick, the masters of gore strode out into the spotlight and battered the audience to the brutal strains of “Destined To Fester”– and it was as well-rehearsed as anyone could ask. A band famous for wearing through quite an array of bassists during its lifetime, Autopsy had enlisted help for the night from no less a celebrity than Danny Lilker (i.e. one of the single most important figures in New York’s metal circuit, and a fearsome bassman). Lilker appropriately poised himself at the fore of the stage as a sort of “silent frontman” for drummer-vocalist Chris Reifert, who was content to lurk back in the shadows, spewing blood-drenched epithets and thrashing savagely at his kit. In between songs, though, Reifert assumed a casual, almost unobservant demeanor; he affectionately referred to his hordes of fans as “sick f***s”, and sometimes introduced songs in laughably nonchalant fashion, “OK, someone told me they really wanted to hear ‘Disembowel’, so…let’s do it.”

Autopsy’s setlist, while sensibly displaying a bent towards their first two classics, pulled material from all their releases– even the irreverent and irrelevant S**tfun. Their musicianship was uniformly tight and clearly disciplined, and in regard to acoustics they were mixed very decently (maybe a minor complaint would be that the bass tone largely overpowered the guitars, but when you have Danny Lilker on bass you just don’t voice a complaint like that). Without question, the best band of the night, and perhaps even the entire Deathfest.

Deceased: Autopsy’s and Deceased’s sets must have overlapped by a fair amount, because this examiner walked in to what appeared to be the last half of the show (bummer!). Vocalist King Fowley’s grizzly bear-like theatrics were in full swing; though there is somewhat of a stylistic gap between the early death metal albums like Luck of the Corpse and the more traditionally speed metal later-period works, Fowley’s prowess in the art of growling made for smooth transitioning throughout their varied set. Much like Incantation, Deceased paid tribute to Dio in song by covering “Stand Up And Shout” off Holy Diver. It was also their last song of the night, and Fowley exited the stage with some spirited words, “Metal is alive and well! Rest in peace, Ronnie James Dio.”

Portal: The enigmatic Australians Portal were the final band for Day Two, which unfortunately meant that their audience was rife with dopey, staggering drunkards. Still, even the most inebriated of standers-by gummed up their traps in astonishment when the band-members finally came to the fore– Portal are infamous for costuming themselves in an unsettling manner, with their faces completely obscured by funereal headgear. In particular, the vocalist was wearing a impressively tall black priest’s miter (sometimes he also wears a witch’s hat or a giant clock-face– for him, variety is the spice of life). It’s too bad that their captivating performance art only serves as an exciting vehicle for some seriously tedious music. While the songs nail the “disturbing” aesthetic perfectly, they’re almost totally incoherent, made up from hamfisted riffs that never really develop into substantive ideas. Killer costumes, though.

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