Bolt Thrower at MDF (more by Fred Pessaro)
Maryland Deathfest

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Let's get straight into it. If you didn't see Revenge and/or Cobalt, you fucked up.

Maybe the Natty Boh guy winked at you a little too suggestively. Maybe you couldn't come in until Sunday. Maybe you're a hardcore kid who only went to the Soundstage shows. Maybe you were trying to get some action with the cutie with the Dawn of the Black Hearts backpatch. Whatever your excuse is, it's not good enough.

Cobalt's Thursday performance was their first as a full band, with Erik Wunder. getting behind the kit, Mutilation Rites' Michael Dimmitt on bass, Man's Gin's (Wunder's folk side project) Josh Lozano on guitar, and Phil McSorley taking charge with a commanding presence on the mic. This was not a band who looked like they were playing their first show. McSorley headed into the crowd on more than one occasion, confidence never wavering. He did the tried and true horns and thumbs down, but it wasn't contrivied showmanship. The whole band sounded triumphant. Cobalt managed to topple the mighty Bolt Thrower, who were no slouches themselves. The band put on a great performance, but the conditions in which they played may have been less than ideal. People cramped themselves into the tent to avoid rain, turning it into a sweat lodge. B.O., anger, and moshing make for a nasty brew. For once, Chaos in Tejas, where Bolt Thrower will play on Friday, might not be as hot.

After seeing Revenge, I'm not even sure a metal fest could truly handle them. The only appropriate act to play with them would be a hologram John Coltrane playing Interstellar Space. J. Read's playing would get him arrested for aggravated assault in some locales. A total rhythmic wall of noise. Funny how some bands tour all the time, and two that never tour put out some of the most phenominal performances. Scarcity could be a good thing. Phil Anselmo reportedly requested that the venue bar studs and spikes for safety concerns, but he clearly did not realize Revenge would brutalize him more than some crust kid's cute fashion accesories. Then again, he was rocking a Portal shirt during Down's set, so maybe he can hang.

MDF also broke my personal curse with Loss, who cancelled both Rites of Darkness in 2011 and Chaos in Tejas last year. The wait was more than worth it. Along with McSorley, Mike Meacham owned the thumbs down. His vocals were too low at first -- which seemed to be a problem with band playing inside the tent -- but the crawl was not blemished. The crowd was cut up, depressed, but together. Going back to Rites of Darkness for a bit, Pagan Altar also played, though where I was standing, the bass drowned out the guitars. Given that the lads had to deal with Danny Serna at one point, the fact they even got to play is a victory, and no small one at that. Terry Jones' gothic getup was also NOT the most rediculous thing worn on stage, thanks to Alan Jones' 'MURICA hat.

Where Pagan Altar faltered, Manilla Road more than made up for it. This may have been their biggest US audience ever, and they deserved it. Mark "The Shark" Shelton hasn't let his riff worship age at all. When they got into Crystal Logic material, that's when the adjectives for "awesome" started to fly. Europe may love Manilla Road more, but the crowd singing along to the chorus of "Necropolis" proved America has some fine heshers too. I could tell you how hard "Flaming Metal System" went, but it wouldn't convey just how goddamn HARD that song went. Catch them at Chaos in Tejas if you can.

Complaints about security seemed to proliferate more this year. Speedwolf opted to play a second set on Sunday because many people couldn't Ride With Death at 1:50 due to disorganization with the lines. I had no real run-ins with security, so I can't comment too much on choke-slams and whatnot, but what I did see I found somewhat baffling. During Antaeus' set, security got into the mosh pit looking to cut loose. Yeah, I don't understand it either. And what was with them spraying water on people? Craig Pillard from Disma told the crowd to stay hydrated last year, but this MDF was not as hot as years previous.

Our vacation is over. We've got to go back to our normal lives. We can eat real food again. With Chaos in Tejas on the horizon, I forsee being only able to listen to Boards of Canada and Juicy J for the rest of the summer. Maybe the rest of the year. Too much is never enough.

Tell us your stories! What were your favorite bands? What bummed you out? What was the worst thing you ate? Was the Thai food stand really that good? Did you catch anyone wearing NS band clothing?

— Andy O'Connor

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