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Josh Sisk

Metal afficionados at Maryland Deathfest 2010.

Unnatural Selections

Local metalheads pick the best of Maryland Deathfest

Photo: Josh Sisk, License: N/A, Created: 2010:05:30 17:10:31

Josh Sisk

Photo: Greg Szeto, License: N/A

Greg Szeto


Photo: Josh Sisk, License: N/A

Josh Sisk


Photo: , License: N/A


Photo: Sarah Kimble, License: N/A

Sarah Kimble


Maryland Deathfest

May 26-29 at Sonar

For more information visit

Arguably Baltimore’s biggest musical happening exists far off most of the city’s radar. Three stages, 60-plus bands (most from out of town, all vital), four days, several thousand black-clad acolytes of extreme metal. This is the ninth year of the Maryland Deathfest, which returns to Sonar for four days/nights of various unholy sounds that make up the largest event of its sort in North America. MDF comes courtesy of a pair of metalhead friends, Evan Harting and Ryan Taylor, who decided in 2003 to just do the damn thing and make it huge, and have done so since with scarcely any outside support—municipal, corporate, or otherwise. Just lots of fans.

If you ask someone into extreme metal—and someone “into” metal means someone living metal—how they were introduced to the vast genre, they’ll probably tell a story about being indoctrinated by an older brother or high school friend. And never looking back. This year, we reached out to a group of Baltimore metal heavies—imagine that older brother—for their favorites of the festival. Some clear don’t-misses emerged.


Derrick Hans plays drums in Mopar Mountain Daredevils, the Pilgrim, and the negative-space-chasing doom/black-metal band Oak, which playa MDF for the first time this year on Sunday afternoon.

Voivod:War and Pain and Killing Technology are two of the most mind blowing and seminal thrash-metal records ever. I really don’t know what else there is to be said about this. Completely essential.” (Saturday night)

Dead Congregation: “Totally filthy, depraved, Incantation-style death metal from Greece. Crushing.” (Sunday afternoon)

In Solitude: “Not so much a ‘don’t miss,’ but more of a curiosity for me. I got turned on to them really recently and have only heard a few things that sound totally promising. Really interesting early-‘80s-inspired heavy metal in the vein of Mercyful Fate. Again, I don’t know much about this band, but looking forward to seeing what they’re about live.” (Saturday night)


Singer/guitarist Nick Skrobisz performed with Virginia-based doom band Carrion until 2003, and now plays with that band’s descendant, the inscrutable psych/punk/other outfit the Wayward, along with his brother Jesse. He keeps it short and sweet.

Buzzov*en: “Kind of like a Southern-fried Black Flag, and hopefully they will play ‘Whiskey Fit’ somewhere up in that mix.” (Thursday night)

Neurosis: “[O]ne of the best live acts one could probably ever see.” (Friday night.)

Voivod: “Piggy [guitarist Denis D’Amour, who passed away in 2005] is gone, and I never saw them live, but that band is cool.”


Domenic Romeo runs Baltimore’s A389 Records, arguably the city’s most vital currently active heavy-music label. His band Pulling Teeth, specializing in brute-force hardcore/metal, performs at MDF on Friday afternoon.

Lack of Interest: “Many years ago, one of my best friends, ‘Goatlord,’ turned me onto Lack of Interest. He described them as similar to Spazz, but with vocals that sound like a fat guy going ‘Yum yum yum!’ That memory always holds near and dear to my heart. It can be awkward to see certain bands play on Sonar’s bigger stage (i.e. Despise You, Haymaker), but I’m still stoked.” (Thursday night)

Voivod: “I haven’t seen Voivod since the Angel Rat tour. I think I was in high school when that happened. They were opening for Anthrax and White Zombie. A lot of my friends prefer their early material, but I hope they play a lot of songs from their Nothingface album. That record makes me feel like I’m slowly freezing in a cryogenic laboratory.”

Cathedral: “Along with Bolt Thrower a couple years back (which was a contender for my top five sets of all time), Cathedral will totally be another set I anticipate re-living in my head for many years to come. They totally sold me on this year’s lineup. I hope they play ‘Utopian Blaster.’” (Thursday night)


Andy Gardner plays guitar in Baltimore black-metal band Xeukatre, a young corpse paint-and-all outfit that flies the extreme-metal flag high.

Marduk: “It’s called the ‘Deathfest,’ but it’s nice to see some black-metal bands in the lineup (although I wish there were more). Marduk has been around since the early ’90s and claims to be the ‘most blasphemous band in the world.’ What metal fan wouldn’t want to be a part of that?” (Friday night.)

Corrosion of Conformity: “I used to listen to C.O.C. when I was a kid, around the Eye for an Eye/Animosity era. I was teetering between punk and metal at that time, and C.O.C. was one of the bands that helped me lean more toward metal. It’s really cool that they are touring with the Animosity line-up.” (Friday night.)

Ghost: “Our drummer and a friend recently saw Ghost at the Roadburn Festival in Holland, and they were both really impressed. Ghost has an interesting experimental/progressive sound; I’m told that you need to see them live to fully experience [it]. Fenriz of Darkthrone commented on their demo as ‘a fist in the face of those with incredibly bad music taste.’” (Sunday night.)

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