Maryland Deathfest XI, Former Sonar Compound, Baltimore, MD May 23-26

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Maryland Deathfest XI

Former Sonar Compound

Baltimore, MD

May 23 – 26, 2013


Review by InfamousButcher

Photos by SheWolf and InfamousButcher


MDF Poster 2013
MDF XI Poster

It’s time for some blasphemy, gore and mayhem people! It’s Memorial Day weekend, and in Baltimore that means one thing to us metalheads, MARYLAND DEATHFEST (MDF for short)! 2013 marks the 11th time us lucky east coast metalheads get to enjoy the best metal festival the United States has to offer! 4 days of death, black, thrash, speed, classic, and stoner metal in an underground atmosphere no festival can match! This year’s headliners include black metal legends Venom, goregrind innovators Carcass, and the death metal war machine that is Bolt Thrower! In addition, we also got killer performances from UK death metallers Benediction, reborn gore masters Broken Hope, and 90’s thrash purveyors Sacred Reich. Salivating yet metalheads? Let the headbanging, moshing, and crowd surfing begin!

The layout of MDF is unique. It is basically a parking lot / alley / field around Club Sonar with 3 stages. Cars go right above us on Rt 83 as bands are killing it and fans go into berserker mode! One stage was covered like a circus tent while the other two were open air, one in the alley and one in a closed off section of the street. Despite the makeshift stages, sound quality was surprisingly good, plenty of volume without much distortion. Half of the fun at MDF is the fucking merchandise! Vendors were all over the grounds and inside Club Sonar selling CD’s, vinyl, t-shirts, patches, bullet belts, and pins. Lots of great deals, I always feed my metal need and come home with a bunch of rare shirts, CD’s and patches that you can’t find anywhere else. I love the underground metal community atmosphere that MDF has. I saw more tattoos, black shirts, piercings, patch jackets and bullet belts per capita than I have anywhere else and I felt completely at home. Metalheads are generally very friendly and passionate about music. I reconnected with friends from past shows and talked to lots of people I’ve never met before about bands, shows, and albums and just had an awesome time. I love 60s – 70s rock too but you just don’t get that type of vibe at a rock concert.


Bolt Thrower
Bolt Thrower – Jo Bench, Karl Willetts, Barry Thompson

For Day 1, only the covered stage was used. Unfortunately, weather was not on our side the first 2 days of MDF and we got heavy rains Thursday, which meant everyone was crammed into the tent to see the legendary Bolt Thrower. The fans were rabid with anticipation chanting BOLT THROWER over and over as we waited, packed in like fucking sardines. When Bolt Thrower took the stage with “War”, I found them to be underwhelming. Karl Willetts’ voice was hit or miss, throughout the set he was frequently downed out and his growling wasn’t consistent. Guitarists Gavin Ward and Barry Thompson and bassist Jo Bench were on the mark with great renditions of “Mercenary” and “The IVth Crusade” (best song of the set) but were sloppy during the classic “Cenotaph” which is surprising because that is likely a song they play at every show. I didn’t even recognize “Cenotaph” initially. Maybe I am a hard ass; most of the fans didn’t seem to mind as the pit was intense throughout the set. The old “World Eater” from REALM OF CHAOS got the most violent fan reaction and was delivered with gusto by Karl. With all of the hype surrounding Bolt Thrower as a live band, I was disappointed.

Bolt Thrower 2013
Bolt Thrower – Jo Bench, Karl Willetts

Bolt Thrower set list

1. War

2. Remembrance

3. Mercenary

4. Warmaster

5. Anti-Tank (Dead Armour)

6. The IVth Crusade

7. Entrenched

8. …For Victory

9. The Killchain

10. Powder Burns

11. World Eater

12. Cenotaph

13. When Cannons Fade (intro only)

Bolt Thrower
Bolt Thrower – Jo Bench, Karl Willetts



Benediction 2013
Benediction – Peter Rew, Dave Hunt, Frank Healy

For the Benediction set, I secured a good spot at the barrier and prepared to be bludgeoned! Only the hardcore deathmetallers know about these British madmen and they have not toured the US in more than 10 years, so most of the crowd was caught off guard and blown away by the intensity and power of Benediction’s performance. For me, MDF had officially begun! New singer Dave Hunt (since 1998) was all over the stage growling his head off, an amazing death / punk hybrid style that is all his own but fits perfectly with the classic material from the Barney Greenway / Dave Ingram era. Guitarists Peter Rew and Darren Brooks chugged out grinding riffs and Frank Healy blew out my fucking ears with a bass line that I felt from head to toe! The band was very together and tight and I enjoyed every minute of their 50 minute set. Benediction’s best know album TRANSCEND THE RUBICON is 20 years old this year so we got blistering renditions of “Nightfear” and “Unfound Mortality”. My favorite part of the set was the one-two punch of crushing old classics “Jumping at Shadows” (I love this serial killer shit! BLOOD FAMILY – DARKENED DEATH!!) and “Subconscious Terror” (Barney would be proud!). Dave’s vocals were very deep during “Jumping at Shadows” and he made eye contact with me as I bellowed the vocals simultaneously, spit flying from my mouth! Other brutal highlights included “The Dreams You Dread”, “Nothing on the Inside”. “They Must Die Screaming” and from the mid 90s EP of the same name, “The Grotesque”. Overall a sensational set that got the crowd headbanging and moshing like banshees. I hope this is the launching pad for Benediction to record a new album and begin touring America. Given their talent they should have had a better time slot for MDF. Can’t wait to see them again on another tour!

Benediciton 2013
Benediction – Peter Rew, Dave Hunt

Benediction set list

1. Intro

2. The Grey Man

3. Nightfear

4. Nothing on the Inside

5. They Must Die Screaming

6. The Grotesque

7. Unfound Mortality

8. Shadow World

9. The Dreams You Dread

10. Suffering Feeds Me

11. Jumping at Shadows

12. Subconscious Terror

13. Magnificat


Benediction 2013
Benediction – Dave Hunt, Frank Healy
Benediction 2013
Benediction – Peter Rew
Benediction 2013
Benediction – Peter Rew, Dave Hunt


Carcass 2013
Carcass – Bill Steer, Jeff Walker, Dave Wilding, Ben Ash

Few extreme metal bands are as respected as Liverpool’s Carcass. The inventors of goregrind later morphed into straight ahead death metal, melodic death metal, and finally death and roll. I am a huge fan of SYMPHONIES OF SICKNESS and NECROTICISM: DESCANTING THE INSALUBRIOUS but I could take or leave their other material. Friday night’s show would be Carcass’s only US performance of 2013 and they had not been to the states in a few years, so people were really amped up! As soon as Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, Ben Ash, and Dan Wilding hit the stage, it was absolute pandemonium in the crowd, an angry sea of moshers! “Buried Dreams” kicked things off and right away the musicianship was stellar, tight, intricate, brutal and at times beautiful. I was most impressed with Bill Steer’s flawless guitar work. He effortlessly churned out riffs and solos, matching or bettering the sound heard on the albums. Clearly he is one of extreme metal’s best guitarists, right up there with Trey from Morbid Angel. New guitarist Ben Ash did a fine job and new drummer Dan Wilding was solid. The set was a mix of material from all 5 Carcass albums; I was thrilled that we got 5 tracks from NECROTICISM, my favorite album. The vocals were a bit of a mixed bag. Jeff handled most of the vocals, even the deep ones which he is not particularly convincing with. He sounded great on “Pedigree Butchery”, “Carneous Cacoffiny”, and “The Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergide Composition”. However, his vocals were sloppy on “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” and “Pysosisified (Still Rotten to the Gore)” especially when covering Bill’s deep parts. Bill provided his sick baritone growls on two songs, classics “Reek of Putrefaction” (SNIFF THE SMELL OF CARRION!) and “Exhume to Consume” (GRIMLY I DIG UP THE TURFS!). I enjoyed both immensely! On both of these he sounded good but not quite as deep as he used to, I guess Jeff covers for him on other songs because he can’t sing a full set anymore. Several tracks were medleys, the most annoying of which was when we got the PREPARE TO DIE intro for “Symposium of Sickness” but only a few seconds of the song before it became “Pedigree Butchery”. Crowd was insane throughout and the night was unseasonably cold. The finale “Ruptured in Purulence” which blended into “Heartwork” was excellent. Overall good set, mind blowing music, decent vocals.


Carcass 2013
Carcass – Ben Ash


Carcass set list

1. Buried Dreams

2. Incarnated Solvent Abuse

3. Carnal Forge

4. No Love Lost

5. Edge of Darkness / This Mortal Coil

6. Reek of Putrefaction

7. Symposium of Sickness / Pedigree Butchery

8. Carneous Cacoffiny

9. Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergide Composition

10. Corporal Jigsore Quandary / Forensic Clinics/The Sanguine Article

11. Genital Grinder / Pyosisified (Rotten to the Gore)

12. Exhume to Consume

13. Ruptured in Purulence / Heartwork

Carcass 2013
Carcass – Bill Steer, Jeff Walker, Ben Ash


Carcass 2013
Carcass – Bill Steer, Jeff Walker, Ben Ash


Broken Hope 2013
Broken Hope – Damian Leski

Time for some old school uncompromising brutal death metal folks! I love bands that stay true to their roots: Slayer, Motorhead, AC/DC, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Asphyx, and BROKEN HOPE! No melodic death metal horseshit here folks, just a savage bloody beating! Back after a twelve year hiatus, guitarist Jeremy Wagner and bassist Shaun Glass have reformed Broken Hope with an awesome new lineup that is proving to be one of the best live acts in death metal! I got to see them perform an incredible gore soaked set last Sept with Obituary and the MDF performance was even more vicious! The band exploded onto the stage with “I Am God” and proceeded to eviscerate us! Throughout the set new vocalist Damian (Tom) Leski provided disgusting guttural growls at various tempos, fast (“The Dead Half”), slow (“Hobo Stew”) and mid paced (“Swamped In Gore”) as he stalked the stage, never once skimping on the challenging vocal parts. He is a perfect no nonsense death metal frontman! Like last Sept, the band was very cohesive and you could clearly hear killer riffs from Jeremy and Chuck Wepfer, powerful bass from Shaun, and insane blast beats from Mike Miczek. The set was quite a bit different, we got some killer fan choices like “Grind Box”, the old SWAMPED IN GORE track “Incinerated”, and the groove laden “Hobo Stew”. We also got LOATHING’s “He Was Raped” which Damian introduced as “Parting his cheeks like the Red Sea!” “Pitbull Grin” was dedicated to the late Joe Ptacek; Broken Hope’s fallen brother is remembered and honored much like AC/DC does with Bon Scott. New song “Womb of Horrors” was brutal and faithful to Broken Hope’s dismembered body of work. Crowd was hungry for blood throughout, soaking up every bit of brutality that Broken Hope dished out. While banging my head and screaming I caught a bass pick from Shaun and a guitar pick from Jeremy, how awesome is that?!? I think the band made a lot of new fans with the performance as I talked to several impressed metalheads later that evening. If you are an old school death metal guy, this is your band! New album OMEN OF DISEASE will be out in September on Century Media Records, I am all over that pile of gore! Great sick set, loved every fucking minute of it, this is what MDF is all about people!

Broken Hope
Broken Hope – Damian Leski, Shaun Glass, Chuck Wepfer

Broken Hope set list

1. Repugnance (Intro)

2. I Am God

3. Dilation and Extraction

4. Into the Necrosphere

5. The Dead Half

6. Swamped in Gore

7. Grind Box

8. Hobo Stew

9. WOMB of HORRORS (New Song)

10. Pitbull Grin (dedicated to Joe Ptacek)

11. Gorehog

12. He Was Raped

13. Incinerated

14. Felching Vampires


Broken Hope
Broken Hope – Damian Leski, Jeremy Wagner, Chuck Wepfer
Broken Hope 2013
Broken Hope – Shaun Glass


Broken Hope 2013
Broken Hope – Mike Miczek
Broken Hope 2013
Broken Hope – Chuck Wepfer, Shaun Glass
Broken Hope 2013
Broken Hope – Shaun Glass
Broken Hope 2013
Broken Hope – Damian Leski


Sacred Reich 2013
Sacred Reich – Phil Rind

Sunday, the final day of MDF, was like a heavy metal history day. You got classic thrash (Sacred Reich), blues / Cream / Sabbath / stoner metal (Sleep), classic old school stuff (Pentagram), and the origin of black metal (Venom). How’s that for 1 day?!? Sacred Reich was actually a replacement for Exodus, who dropped off the MDF bill a few months back. I’d only seen Sacred Reich once before (they opened for Pantera in ’93) and I was so drunk I don’t remember it, so I was glad they were added to the lineup. I was ecstatic once they starting playing “The American Way” – Sacred Reich hit us like a fucking tidal wave no one knew was coming! Bassist / vocalist Phil Rind acknowledged that they might look older and more rotund, but as he put it himself, “just close your eyes and imagine it is the mid 90s because we actually sound better now than we ever have!” Sound was a perfect blend of thrash and groove and Phil’s voice never sounded better. Up next was their best known song, the 1993 hit “Independent” which featured great crowd participation on the chorus! A big circle pit broke out for thrashers “Ignorance”, “Death Squad” and “Surf Nicaragua”. Jesus (some dude with a beard dressed in robes) took part in the moshing and crowd surfing, politely saying to us as he passed through “I must get back into the pit, my son.” Now I’ve seen everything! Other highlights included an emotional “Free” and a great cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” that everyone sang along to. Awesome set, one of the biggest surprises of MDF. I hope to catch Sacred Reich again soon on a thrash tour, how does Overkill / Death Angel / Sacred Reich sound? The fans were blown away by Sacred Reich’s brilliance and their set was the best of the day. If you came to MDF looking for thrash, you found it motherfucker!

Sacred Reich 2013
Sacred Reich – Wiley Arnett

Sacred Reich set list

1. The American Way

2. Independent

3. One Nation

4. Administrative Decisions

5. Love…Hate

6. Free

7. Ignorance

8. State of Emergency

9. Crimes Against Humanity

10. Who’s to Blame

11. War Pigs

12. Death Squad


13. Surf Nicaragua

Sacred Reich 2013
Sacred Reich – Phil Rind, Jason Rainey


Sacred Reich 2013
Sacred Reich – Greg Hall, Phil Rind
Sacred Reich - 2013
Sacred Reich – Wiley Arnett
Sacred Reich 2013
Sacred Reich – Phil Rind


Venom 2013
Venom – Cronos, Rage, Dante

The biggest draw on the MDF bill was the seldom seen Venom. I find it very interesting that for many years only musicians were big Venom fans. Many great thrash (Slayer) and death metal (Death, Obituary) bands have covered Venom songs and were heavily influenced by them. Nowadays with the popularity of black metal in the metal underground, Venom has become a revered innovator of the craft.

Venom 2013
Venom – Cronos

Venom took the stage at 10 and launched into their biggest hit “Black Metal”, triggering unbridled chaos in the crowd! Moshing, screaming, crowd surfing, a blow up doll, it was bedlam out there folks! Cronos sounded great; his vocals were much heavier and more powerful than they are on the albums. The 3 piece was on fire with thunderous drumming from Dante and evil riffs from Rage. Cronos is the only original member but it didn’t matter to me, this lineup is killer! Highlights of the set included “Welcome to Hell”, “Live Like an Angel (Die Live a Devil)”, and “Buried Alive”. We also got some newer tracks like “Hammerhead” and “Hail Satanas” which sounded great and were well received. The only pisser was that the 11:00 curfew prevented Venom from finishing their hit “Warhead” and fans were hoping for a few more songs. Hopefully I can catch Venom again soon and they will have more than an hour to play.

Venom 2013
Venom – Rage , Dante

Venom set list

1. Black Metal

2. Leave Me in Hell

3. Hammerhead

4. Welcome to Hell / Hell

5. Bloodlust / Black Flame (Of Satan) / Bloodlust

6. Possessed / Schizo / Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)

7. Hail Satanas

8. Antechrist

9. Buried Alive / Resurrection / The Evil One / Straight to Hell

10. Warhead

Venom 2013
Venom – Cronos


Venom 2013
Venom – Rage, Dante
Venom 2013
Venom – Cronos

Lots of people left MDF angry because they felt cheated out of a few songs. Not me. Once again it was the best collection of bands I will see all year. All hardcore US metalheads need to experience MDF, it’s become an institution in Baltimore and it’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger. For heavy metal, MDF is as real as it gets.