Saturday, April 21, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (33) Deviated Instinct

Deviated Instinct is credited with inventing the term "stenchcore," another way of saying crust punk. The crust punk lifestyle, in case you were not aware, involves minimal bathing, living on the streets or sqautting in abandoned homes and of course, listening to this extreme anarcho-punk-metal. The crust punks have essentially carried on the "traditions" and lyrical themes set forth by the anarchist punks from the 70s and 80s: that is, the world is going to hell anyway, so why bother. Their sound is often compared to the earlier recordings of another pioneering British crust punk band Amebix.

Staying true to all that is crusty and brutal, this British band that started off in the mid 1980s, has barely changed their sound in 28 years.  If you liked the nihilistic songs from their first recording, Welcome to the Orgy, you won't be disappointed by what they have to offer on the their later recordings. They enjoyed underground success until they broke up in 1991.

During the interim, interest in Deviated Instinct was maintained when songs appeared on compilations and also through guitarist Rob Middleton's short-lived industrial Spine Wrench project. Reuniting in 2007, the current line-up includes original members Leggo (vocals), Rob "Mid" Middleton (guitar/vocals), and Snapa (bass guitar), as well as drummer Tony who started playing sometime in the 90s.

Deviated Instinct plays Saturday afternoon, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. In June, they release a 12" vinyl EP, Liberty Crawls to the Santuary of Slaves. Hopefully they will have some on hand for sale. The newest songs might be a little darker and doomier than the fast tempo songs they have played in the past. I have included a live set video from 2011 that includes one of the songs from the new EP, "Blunt Instrument."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (34) Haemorrhage

Any fears you may have ever had about going to the doctor or being admitted to the hospital should be reinforced once you hear (or see) Haemorrhage, a 5-piece goregrind act from Spain. With song titles like "Splatter Nurse," "Open Heart Butchery" and "Doctors of Malpractice," you would think that every single band member had suffered some kind of trauma at the hands of a physician.

Founded in 1990 under the name Devourment, the group changed their name to Haemorrhage in 1992. Members include Luisma - Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals,  Ramón Checa - Bass, Fernando Errazquin "Lugubrious" - Vocals, Ana Belen de López - Rhythm Guitar and Daniel Rojas López - Drums. Luisma illustrates the comic art album covers.

Live performances are filled with blood and guts and the occasional severed limb. Band members dress in hospital garb and most of them are also drenched, or at least splattered, with blood. Musically, they play fast, punkish death metal featuring guttural vocals and catchy (or should I say "infectious") verses and choruses administered with a good dose of humor.

Honestly, someone should put this band in a of low-budget splatter film. I would watch that. I think a lot of people would.

Haemorrhage plays Saturday afternoon, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. It should be a scream-dream come true.

Countdown to MDF X: (35) Looking For An Answer

I will avoid the obvious puns that one could make from the name of this band, Looking For An Answer, and just tell you that they kick some major blast-beat butt.  This five-piece from Madrid, Spain includes members Iñaki (Vocals), Félix (Guitar), Makoko (Guitar), Ramón (Bass), and Moya (Drums).

The group's most recent record, Eterno Treblinka, which you can download here for $10, has everything: death growls, thrashy drums, super cool guitar riffs and memorable, circle-pit inducing melodies.

Looking For An Answer, founded in 1999, does not monkey around with extended solos, 10-minute long tracks or sound sampling. Do you want some break-neck-speed death metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse, only maybe a little younger, cuter and skinnier? Here it is, in Spanish. Now, shut the fuck up and mosh!

Looking For An Answer plays Saturday afternoon, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (36) Dragged Into Sunlight

Sometimes you hear music that makes your jaw drop. I did that the first time I heard Dragged Into Sunlight (DIS). The second time I listened to them, I knew I would never be the same. Dragged Into Sunlight will perform mid-day at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Saturday, May 26. I hope they are playing inside.

I don’t really want to categorize the music of DIS, but I will say this. They are, in a way, crusty, doom-y, sludge-y, blackish, death-like and certainly metal. Hailing from the UK and founded in 2006, the members of this four-person act choose to remain anonymous.

If the YouTube videos are any indication, their live performance will seem creepy and mysterious. The band begins their set in utter blackness while programmed introductory sounds or audio clips build to a deafening crescendo. As they strike their first chords, the candlelit figures are blasted continuously by strobe. Your camera is not going to work.

The band, except for the drummer, never faces the audience. You feel voyeuristic, like you have stumbled onto the rehearsal for some strange ritual. The relentless wall of sound simultaneously compels and repulses.

Pretentious? Yeah, maybe a little, but at least they don’t wear corpse paint, hooded robes, kilts, or rubber alien costumes. If this band’s only “gimmick” is that they choose to play inwardly, toward themselves, and not the audience, then I am down with that. Music written for the musician’s ear is typically 100 times better than music written to please a particular audience's expectations.

DIS’s most recent recording, Widwomaker, is a 45-minute continuous epic slated for release later this year on Prosthetic Records. Download two crushing songs from their previous recording, Hatred for Mankind, “Boiled Angel” and “Buried with Leeches” here. Prepare yourself. This is some of the weirdest, most powerful and otherworldly shit you will ever hear. Read a more comprehensive interview here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (37) October 31

Get your "invisible oranges" ready. Underground legends October 31 play true, uncompromising, epic heavy metal in the vein of more well known acts such as  Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but with a decidedly thrashy flavor. They perform mid-day on Saturday, May 26 at the Maryland Deathfest.

October 31 has weathered numerous line up changes since its inception in 1995 in Northern Virginia. It's founding member and vocalist King Fowley suffered a stroke and experienced a lengthy recovery. Still the group has perserved, simply because of their love for this traditional brand of heavy metal. They have established a reputation as a crowd pleaser based on memorable, riff-driven melodies and Fowley's powerful vocals. Their sound remains constant in the face of many metal subgenre trends.

The current line up, as far as I could confirm, includes Jim Hunter (bass), Jason Tedder (guitar), King Fowley (vocals), Dave Castillo (drums), and Brian Williams (guitar), who is the group's other original founder. Their most recent recording was an album called No Survivors, which was released in 2005. I have included a track from that album, as well as one from their 2000 recording, Meet Thy Maker. Enjoy!

Organizers want concert goers to enjoy the ‘Sweetlife’

What’s big, “green,” tastes delicious and comes with a sound track of some of the music industry’s most innovative and up-and-coming artists? It’s the second annual Sweetlife Festival coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, April 28. The all-day extravaganza has expanded its musical performances, enhanced its food choices and even added some elements to introduce attendees, not just to new artists and exciting flavors, but to an entire way of approaching life--the Sweetlife, that is.

“The ‘sweetlife’ is living your best life. It’s the idea that you can be healthy and still have fun,” says Jonathan Neman, who together with his partners, Nicolas Jammet and Nathaniel Ru, founded sweetgreen restaurants in Washington, DC in 2007.

All three met as freshmen at Georgetown University where they each majored in a different aspect of business. 

“We were sick of complaining about the food on campus and decided to stop complaining and do something about it,” Neman said. Sweetgreen restaurants offer healthy options derived from sustainable and locally available raw ingredients served at a fast food pace. Neman says, the Sweetlife Festival organizers say their event promises to promote the same philosophy they espouse in their 11 restaurants—that living a healthy lifestyle should be easy and fun. He says that every component of the event, from the menu to the décor of the grounds to the vendors and exhibits on display will somehow reflect this sentiment.

The Sweetlife Festival, however, developed from the need to attract attention to the opening of their second eatery. What started as simply playing music from a speaker out in front of the store, turned into a block party where they would invite local acts to play. In 2010, the first “unofficial” Sweetlife Festival was actually held in a parking lot adjacent to one of their locations and featured regional bands.

Just as the food served inside the restaurant had connected patrons physically by feeding their bodies, Neman explained, “the music we played outside connected people emotionally.” Establishing a full-fledged festival under their “sweetlife” umbrella brand just seemed like a natural progression for the trio.
Since then, the festival has grown tremendously and pick up sponsorships.

Musical acts for the 2012 event have expanded to two stages. On the main stage, festival goers will see headliners Avicii, Kid Cudi, The Shins, Explosions in the Sky, Fitz and the Tantrums, A$AP Rocky and Fun. Over at a second stage, called The Treehouse, acts like Twin Shadow, Zola Jesus, Delta Spirit, The Knocks, RAC, U.S. Royalty, Yuna and others will keep the party rolling. A total of 20 performers will appear throughout the day. Neman and his friends choose the bands based on personal preferences and styles range from indie rock to hip-hop to electronica.

Since its founders are also foodies, festival-goers this year will be treated to an array of tantalizing dining choices in the newly added Food Forest. Along with Sweetgreen’s menu, other gourmet offerings include José Andrés (gazpacho and flautas), Momofuku Milk Bar (pastries, coffee, ice cream), Shake Shack (all natural burgers and shakes), Taim (falafel and smoothies), Roberta’s Pizza (gourmet wood-fired pizzas) and many more. A total of 30 vendors will participate.

In addition to the music and the food, Neman says the festival strives to generate as much energy as it needs to operate.

“We partnered with the nonprofit organization Global Inheritance that will be provide all sorts of interactive games, see saws and bicycles, which will actually create power,” Neman said. “Some of the power we use for the festival will be offset by the power we create. We want this to be a ‘carbon neutral’ event.”

Global Inheritance will also feature their TRASHed store where festival goers can bring bottles, cans and other recyclables and trade them for small prizes. (This should make clean up a little easer for the grounds crew after the event as well!) Vendors and festival partners will be using compostable, biodegradable or recyclable materials to serve or package foods. Other items that may be for sale, t-shirts for example, will be made from sustainable resources and with organic fabrics and dyes. Coincidentally, the pavilion at Merriweather is itself supplemented by power from solar panels on the roof.

On top of all this, Neman and his team have turned the festival into a way to support community service organizations as well. Among the cuisine offered by famous restaurants in the Food Forest, D.C. Central Kitchen will also have a presence. D.C. Central Kitchen’s mission is to feed the homeless, offer job training, and support their communities through the recycling of leftover and surplus food from area, restaurants, hospital kitchens and food service entities. Neman says a portion of the proceeds from the festival will go to DCCK. Furthermore, Sweetgreen has started partnering with D.C. Central Kitchen to offer workshops on how to choose healthy foods to elementary school children in the Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia regions.

While many festivals feature a variety of music and sometimes themed vendors or exhibits, few seem to have attempted to promote the healthy and sustainable lifestyle philosophy, as well as the community consciousness, in the way the Sweetlife Festival attempts to do.

“Definitely there are some festivals that we look up,” Neman says. Some of the festivals he sites include Coachella, going on now in Indio, California, the food offerings at Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Bonaroo, something of a cultural event in Manchester, Tenn., and Wanderlust, which combines yoga, music and speakers for events, in Vermont, Colorado, California and British Columbia. “They all have something special about them,” Neman says.

Only the Electric Forest Festival, formerly called Rothbury after the town in Michigan where it is held, addresses issues of sustainability, environmental awareness, and is also a musical event, Neman says. “We just view Sweetlife as a party with a purpose,” he says.

Neman expects the Sweetlife Festival to sell out and VIP tickets, which went for $125, already have. As for now, general admission tickets to the Sweetlife Festival are $75 from Ticketfly. Gates open at noon on April 28.

Danish 'Artillery' finally landing on US shores

The Danish thrash metal pioneers, Artillery, will be coming to the US for the very first time in their three-decades-long career this summer to play just a couple of shows. One of those stops will be at the Maryland Deathfest. Via email, I interviewed one of the group's founding members, guitarist Michael Stützer. Together with his brother, Morten, they launched this European mainstay of thrash in 1982.

Michael is probably one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic rockers you are ever going to encounter. Don't be surprised if you see him headbanging along with everyone else in the crowd either before or after Artillery plays on Friday, May 25. From his replies that follow, it is evident he loves what he does.

Michael Stutzer
Artillery has been around for so long! What is the key to your longevity and resilience despite changes?

We love playing this kind of music. You know when you stand on the stage and feel the response from those die-hard thrashers, you are still being motivated so much so you overcome all troubles. We feel so grateful for this support through almost 30 years and are looking forward to hitting the USA for the first time ever.

What genres of music do you listen to?

We listen to a lot of music including blues and 70´s rock, but basically metal and hard rock like everything from Jethro Tull to Slayer. Bands like Black Sabbath, Exodus etc. are on my record player almost every day. I have a collection of around 3000 CDs. And none of them are downloaded.

I was surprised to learn that you had not toured the US (or anywhere in North or South America, for that matter.) Is that correct? And why not? What do you plan to do while you are in US? I see you have a show at Saint Vitus. What else is planned?

We are only playing the Maryland Deathfest and one show at Saint Vitus Bar in New York, then we are moving on to play South America with (German thrash metal band) Exumer. We tried for many years to come to the US, but it never really worked for us until now. But it´s never too late, and hopefully we will come back soon to play Texas, California and some of the other great places in the USA in the nearest future. We will stay in America between the 24th to the 28th of May, so I hope we will see a lot both in Maryland and New York.

Tell me about the metal scene in Denmark. What styles are popular now?

The most popular band in the "metal genre" at the moment is Volbeat. Bands like Mercenary, Hatesphere, King Diamond and newcomers in thrash like Impalers are also getting attention these days. Even old bands like Pretty Maids still have a lot of fans, but in my opinion the best metal act is still the defunct Mercyful Fate. As for Artillery, we are gaining more and more attention back home, which is great.

Are the Danes really the happiest people on the planet? 

I think Denmark is a very good land to live in. We really don't have those big problems and mostly people care for each other and help where it's needed. Denmark is a very small land with only 5 million people so it makes it easier to have a good security net. So maybe that’s why!

You are scheduled to play Barge to Hell. Have you ever played a musical cruise before? Have you ever gone on a cruise at all? What do you expect?

Yes, we played the Sweden Rock Cruise in 2009, and it was one of the highlights in our career so far. So we are looking forward to sail in the ocean between Florida and Nassau in good weather with all the other bands and the headbangers. Also the food I have heard is totally delicious. So we expect five great days away from the cold weather in Denmark!

What sort of merchandise will you have available for sale at the Maryland Deathfest?

We hope that we can have all our merchandise with us, T-shirts from all our albums, CDs, etc. You can check out our merch here or on our Facebook site.

Is there anything special that you think people ought to know about Artillery?

Yes, we really are so excited to see how the American thrashers are gonna react to our music. We will promise that we will deliver it 100%!


Thank you Michael! See you at MDF X!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Scott "Wino" Weinrich performing "Hold On Love"

Scott "Wino" Weinrich is among Maryland's most talented and well respected musicians. I recorded this clip during a Feb. 11, 2011 acoustic only performance at Sonar in Baltimore, MD. This was among one the best "small" shows of last year for me.

Wino has contributed to a dozen bands in his career so far including The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Probot, Spirit Caravan, The Mentors, Hidden Hand and many others. Saint Vitus will be performing Sunday at the Maryland Deathfest. While he is widely credited with crafting the doom sound, this song "Hold On Love" from the solo album Adrift, just proves he is at home in any setting. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Worshipping the riff with Infernal Stronghold's Gunslut

As part of my series on every single band playing at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, I have also tried as often as possible to get a few comments from some of the bands. Usually, I send them an email and see what happens. Gunslut, drummer for Internal Stronghold, was kind enough to reply to some of my questions. Infernal Stronghold plays early in the day on Saturday, May 26. Gunslut's real name, by the way, is Grzesiek Czapla. Here is something of a reconstruction of our email conversation.

What do you want people to know about Infernal Stronghold?

We've been making music since 2002 but started playing out live somewhere in 2005. We've always wanted to play black metal, and I feel like that's the goal whenever we make a song, but it's just not possible (er... extremely difficult) doing that while living in Philly. Punk and hardcore just easily crawls its way into the band. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

Do you have any new recordings in the works? 

The last recording we have is a demo of a new song (Flesh Totem) that we self-released with Absu in November of 2011 for our short east coast exhibition. We'll also have a very small number of the split with Absu with us (for sale at the MDF). That song will appear on our next full-length LP, which we are working on now.

What about a tour?

We'll be touring for around 45 days in the fall (Canada and the USA), and since our decade of existence coincides with MDF's decade of awesomeness, I figured we should make it special. Not sure how just yet, but it will be cool and ferocious. I am reluctant to post dates because the tour is the still in the planning stage, but I'd say we have half of it booked.

One thing I really like about your band is that it seems you stick to that old school black metal vibe, as opposed to some of the bands from the NYC area who to be going in a sort of "noise rock" direction that I am not hugely fond of.

I really appreciate your comment about our particular style of black metal, which is odd to say really because it's not really a particular style of black metal; it is black metal (kind of, sometimes?). These newer and atmospheric/noise rock/post black metal/weirdo bands that have been popping up don't really seem to have any riffs, but dynamics, parts that build up, and emotional dirges within songs that lack balls. We just want cool riffs and fast as shit songs, no god damn fussin' around with pansy songs.

Anything else?

Worship the RIFF.

And that, my friends, is excellent advice!

Countdown to MDF X: (38) Infernal Stronghold

Philadelphia's Infernal Stronghold delivers unadulterated blackened thrash that neither apologizes for its no-holds-barred sound or blasphemous lyrical content. Founded in 2002, Infernal Stronghold somehow seems to have crawled out of the  same hellish void that spawned bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Bathory.

With songs like "Your Soul Stinks Like Shit" and "Crashing Trucks Into Churches," there really is no question what you are getting into with Infernal Stronghold. Expect to hear some of the most extreme, punk influenced black metal that you will ever hear produced on American soil.

As described on their Facebook page, members of Infernal Stronghold include Gunslut: Baltic battery (that is, drums); Eddie Chainsaw: the voice. guitars; Abolish Yourself: guitars, Richie Rabid: ravishing Carpathia (that is, bass).

The most recent recordings from Infernal Stronghold were released in 2011 and include a 7" split with Pizza Hi Five, which you can check out on Bandcamp here.

There also exists a 7" split that Infernal Stronghold sold only at shows when they were on tour with Absu. Their last full-length recording, Godless Noise, came out in 2009. Both of the songs posted below can be found on Godless Noise.

Make sure you arrive early on Saturday, May 26 if you want to check out Infernal Stronghold at the Maryland Deathfest.