Maryland Deathfest 2014: Windhand, Bongripper, Graves At Sea – 25/05/2014
The pre-summer Baltimore, MD heat was on the rise. Day 4/4 of the infamous Maryland Deathfest saw me in search of doom at the expense of all else. Tattered Dismember T-shirts, stoned out, hung over followers and the smell of “Zombie” BBQ led me to Edison Lot, the transient “Mecca” for every death metal disciple this side of America. Extreme metal lovers of all shapes and sizes, creeds and kinds flock to this dual stage venue to witness unadulterated brutality in real time. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on classic Morbid Angel and Obituary’s ‘Cause Of Death’ is still in my rotation (hey, James Murphy shreds on that one!), but I was craving some head nodding, gut crushing groove and I was about as strung out as the meth-head couple that tailed me to the entrance. I got there early, hit the vendors, snagged a couple of T-shirts, and made my way to Stage B because no other than the mighty Windhand was set to kick things off at 1:30 pm.
I’ve spent the past 6 months alternating between Windhand’s self-titled debut and ‘Soma’; drive to work with a little ‘Summon The Moon’, drive home with a lot of ‘Woodbine’…Both albums are so much a part of my life that when the band opened with ‘Orchard’ it was like the sound of my own heartbeat. The rhythm section pummeled as the main driving riff tugged and pulled at the crowd; a sea of nodding heads moved in synchrony, and Dorthia Cottrell (vocals) crooned and “conducted”. Beautiful and reserved, she fed off the crowd’s energy and hit full stride in the transition to ‘Woodbine’. The band was in top form, and I could have just as easily been jamming to the polished record behind closed doors. Garrett Morris (lead/rhythm guitars) delivered (as expected) with an effortless cool, and watching his solo noodling was a nice ‘trance tangent’ for the crowd.
The band seemed to really enjoy playing ‘Winter Sun’; we (the crowd) could feel their excitement as they hammered out the opening riff. Cottrell sang with a heightened vigor and energy, and for the first time began to really engage us. By this time, she was geared up and in steady state; so of course she rocked the shit out of ‘Cassock’ (as an aside, if y’all are unfamiliar with this song, it’s a damn shame because the opening chord progression just fucking crushes). To stay on schedule, they had to (slightly) curtail the extended, droned out climax; but hearing the song at all was pleasure enough. 30 minute sets always leave you wanting more, but I couldn’t have hoped for a better performance and song selection from one of my personal favorites.
The distant sound of droning feedback cut through the crowd’s cheers at Stage B…Bongripper plugged in and the ceremonial ‘Worship’ had fucking begun. Hordes of doom fanatics swarmed the sister stage (A) nodding, stomping, and giving unholy praise to the slow grind…it was a badass sight to see. On their Facebook page, the band advised (in reference to the upcoming show): “…take your drugs early…” wise words my friends, and words to live by. Everywhere I looked a banging head, a puff of weed…16 minutes of slow motion sonic slaughter. I’m sure some of the speed/death metalers were wondering why anyone would want their music at 1 RPM; but fuck it, this is about the monolithic crush. ‘Endless’ capped off the final 15 minutes of the set, with more droning pound before trailing off with a frenzied guitar smash (aka “ritual guitar sacrifice”)…love it. The Dellacroce/Pleckham dual guitar assault had one objective: to obliterate the fuck out of Edison (Lot). Mission Accomplished.
Stage hopping was the rule as I rushed to catch Graves At Sea kick off ‘Confession’ (Stage B). Their recent revival has been a total ass kicking affair with the 1-2 punch release of “This Place is Poison” (EP) and the split with Sourvein. The new rhythm section has given their sound new vitality; venomous at the very least and Nick Phit (guitars) feeds off it with an endless supply of riffage. Phit has a charismatic and commanding stage presence, and the crowd was fully engaged from the opening seconds of the set. The band was spot on, tight, and delivered the goods. Nathan Misterek (vocals) was laid back and cool (as usual), his well worn rasp as familiar as ever; I can’t emphasize enough how great these guys are. After tearing through ‘Betting On Black’ and ‘This Place Is Poison’, they finished the 30 minute set with the classic ‘Praise The Witch’…all in a day’s work. As they cleared the stage, Misterek put a plug in for their shirts/merchandise; so what the hell, I bought more…you can never have enough Graves At Sea T-shirts, right?
Scribed & Photos by: Jeremy Moore
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