Memorial Day: It’s a time for reflection, a time for barbecues. And in Maryland, it’s also a time to bang your head — severely. Celebrating its 10th year, Baltimore’s Maryland Deathfest (MDF) has established itself as a Memorial Day weekend tradition for metal fans. The four-day-long extreme-metal fest is way more fun than a family cookout. Plus, the resulting hearing loss will render your next gathering of relatives much more tolerable. With more than 60 bands playing Deathfest, even the most hardcore metalheads will have a hard time catching every act. So, while you gather up your finest studded leather garments, check out our cheat sheet of can’t-miss bands and our handy guide to metal lingo.
Your Metal Tastemakers:
Metal Chris runs DCHeavyMetal.com, which features its own essential survival guide to Deathfest X: Bit.ly/mdfxguide.
Bob Lugowe is director of promotions and press for the venerable Relapse Records label, which has seven bands playing the fest this year.
Chris Moore books metal and hardcore shows around the D.C.-Baltimore area through Venomous Ideas and plays drums in local bands Magrudergrind, D.O.C. and Coke Bust.
Must See: Electric Wizard: Dorset, England (Sun., 9:30 p.m.)
Metal Chris: They haven’t been in the U.S. in years. I think the day they are playing is probably the best lineup of stoner and doom metal I’ve ever heard of anywhere. There’s also some great black metal at the fest this year: I’m really excited for [Finland’s] Archgoat (Sat., 6:45 p.m.), [Finland’s] Horna (Sat., 7:45 p.m.) and [Norway’s] Tsjuder (Sat., 10:35 p.m.).
Must See: Godflesh: Birmingham, England (Fri., 9:30 p.m.)
Bob Lugowe: They also haven’t been to the U.S. in ages. The band has such a distinct, crushingly heavy sound that’s the perfect soundtrack for the end of times.
Must See: Saint Vitus: Los Angeles (Sun., 8:15 p.m.)
Metal Chris: Saint Vitus features the legendary Wino [Scott Weinrich, previously of cult Maryland doom band the Obsessed].
Least Deathfest-y Band: Anvil: Toronto (Sat., 6:40 p.m.)
Metal Chris: Ever since their documentary [2008’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”], people have started taking more notice of this band. And I don’t see any other “classic”-style or power-metal bands playing this year.
Local Band to Watch: Dying Fetus: Upper Marlboro, Md. (Thu., 7:55 p.m.)
Bob Lugowe: Every show they play, they completely annihilate the crowd with their signature brand of punishing brutality.
Local Band to Watch: Extermination Angel: Linthicum Heights, Md. (Thu., 4:45 p.m.)
Chris Moore: Extermination Angel is a pretty new thrash/death-metal group from Maryland.
Looks That Kill
Metal is a genre that loves high theatrics. Don’t miss these acts, which are sure to bring some of the most fantastical stage shows of Deathfest:
Ghoul: Oakland, Calif. (Fri., 5:00 p.m.) – This thrash band wears executioner masks and brings along costumed characters such as the Mutant Mutilator and Kill-Bot.
The Devil’s Blood: Netherlands (Sat., 5:45 p.m.) – Epic ’70s- and ’80s-influenced occult metal band fronted by a brother and sister who fight like the devil and God. Shades of Blue Oyster Cult, with more Reaper, less cowbell.
Brujeria: Los Angeles (Sat., 8:25 p.m.) – The long-running death-grind side project of Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares and a rotating cast of extreme-metal vets, such as Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury.
Absu: Plano, Texas (Thu., 8:55 p.m.) – This Texas trio, above, makes intense, ritualistic metal on par with any of their Nordic counterparts, including Norway’s Tsjuder (Sat., 10:35 p.m.) and Finland’s Sargeist (Sun, 10:35 p.m.).
While MDF originally focused solely on death metal, it has expanded to include a variety of metal subgenres. Here’s a glossary for new initiates.
Black metal: Bleak, occult-influenced wall of sound, sometimes involving “corpsepaint” makeup.
Death metal: Fast, aggressive guitars, Cookie Monster vocals. A sub-subgenre includes “technical death,” which ups song-structure complexity to avant-jazz levels.
Folk metal: Fancy acoustic guitarwork, occasionally treads into Tenacious D territory.
Grindcore: Somewhere between hardcore punk, death metal, noise and comedy. Sub-subgenres include “goregrind,” which deals in shock-schlock horror imagery.
Hardcore: Faster punk, with emphasis on barked vocals. A subgenre includes “crust punk,” which is usually political.
Industrial: Electronic elements blended with traditional guitar-and-bass brutality.
Noise: Actual noise.
Sludge/doom/stoner: Slow, psychedelic, indebted heavily to Black Sabbath.
Thrash: Speedy guitar riffs, blazing ax solos. Less extreme than death metal, more extreme than Iron Maiden.Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St., Baltimore; Thu.-Sun., go to Marylanddeathfest.com for lineup, times and tickets; 410-783-7888.