The MDF Experience (Part 2 of 3)

June 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

The single biggest factor for my decision to visit Baltimore was Candlemass. I packed all the records of theirs I owned for the drive down, along with a My Dying Bride collection, my copy of Gorguts’ Colored Sands, and a box of other CDS (long trip).

Candlemass performed second-to-last (before My Dying Bride), so there was plenty of buildup and anticipation for them that slowly simmered throughout the day’s heat. When Candlemass finally hit
Stage A in the deepening twilight with “Mirror Mirror,” it all burst forth, and I wasn’t the only one losing it.

Finally!

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Though it’s easy to bitch and moan that a 50-minute set is too short for Candlemass, they made every single note count. But even a 2-hour set will seem short for a band that was as ON as Candlemass was at this hour. They were worth every minute of the trip and every penny of my ticket.

1. Mirror Mirror
2. Bewitched
3. Dark Reflections
4. The Bells of Acheron
5. A Cry From the Crypt
6. Under the Oak
7. Emperor of the Void
8. At the Gallows End
9. Solitude

Mats Leven of Therion served as vocalist, and he was more than capable of the operatic singing needed for the job. But he also tossed in a Rob Halford-like shriek and a gravelly roar to lend a rich texture of vocals to the doom. He went above and beyond the call of duty.

Every note had the full force of the band behind it–amped-up double bass drumming and splash cymbals; top-notch lead guitar playing and the solemn presence of Leif Edling, who only broke his
silence to say, “Perhaps we should come back more often!” They’d better.

The undisputed dominance of Sweden’s doom legends was matched by the audience. People moshed HARD–not an easy thing to do with slow doom metal. A guy wearing a Horsehead mask galloped
around, crowd-surfed and kept getting sent back by the guards. Another guy hoisted a beautiful Indian girl onto his shoulders, and she swayed her body and her hands, singing every word as though
entranced.

The cool evening air descended…a spectacle, as we all sang “Solitude” in conclusion.

Although this was my personal highlight of MDF, I tried my hardest to catch at least a few minutes of each of the other bands, especially the ones I knew nothing about.

Windhand was tasked with kicking the whole thing off at 1:30pm. I knew of their Soma record and that they had a female lead vocalist (unusual for doom metal). They did well, but even better was
Bongripper, who followed them on Stage B.

They were another band I knew of but had never really explored, and I’ll be honest…after being hit in the front row with the magnificent stoner riffs of their mostly-instrumental set, it’ll be hard to settle for Bongripper’s studio albums. So they were a pleasant surprise.

Tearing it up…

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But the most pleasant surprise was Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.

I had heard them before, and I was happy to hear they had been chosen to support Black Sabbath on their European tour.

Up to this point, most of the afternoon sets consisted of extreme metal–the sludge/grind of Soilent Green, the beautifully executed black metal of Inquisition, and the mighty tech-death of Gorguts (who mostly played songs from Colored Sands). All of them turned in solid performances. But Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats took an axe to the guttural, hyperspeed rumble of the other bands and played an engaging, heavy-psychedelic, tuneful hard rock. It felt and sounded like a band my dad would’ve gone to see, like a trip to decades past. And maintaining a new listener’s interest for 45 minutes is a big plus in HOM’s book.

So horns up to Uncle Acid! They really surpassed my expectations and set the stage for Candlemass.

Aaron Stainthorpe, who capped off MDF 2014 with his band My Dying Bride, did not look like a metal star. With his black tie and white dress shirt, he wouldn’t have looked out of place sipping a martini behind a piano. Both his clean singing and demonic singing were in fine form, and his band was bathed in blue light.

“We haven’t been back here for nearly 18 years…it’s nothing personal, we’re just lazy,” he said. “I promise it won’t be another 18 years before we’re back!”

I observed most of My Dying Bride’s set while seated against the fence. And though fan favorites like “She Is the Dark’ and “Turn Loose the Swans” made an appearance, I thought a more traditional greatest hits set would’ve been appropriate for their triumphant return. Still a powerful presence, though.

1. The Dreadful Hours
2. Like Gods of the Sun
3. The Crown of Sympathy
4. Like a Perpetual Funeral
5. From Darkest Skies
6. She Is the Dark
7. Turn Loose the Swans
8. The Cry of Mankind
9. The Thrash of Naked Limbs

“It has been a night of great joy, fulfillment and happiness by all,” were his final words.

My ears with a happy ring in them, I drove off into the exquisite Baltimore night, eventually collapsing into my hotel bed after a glorious day of metal.

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