Published May 25, 2014By Saturday, traffic between Maryland Deathfest's three venues seemed to hit its stride, and there was a steady stream of traffic between the Edison lot stages, the Baltimore Soundstage and the Ram's Head Live. The Edison lot shows kicked off early, with the blood-smeared and begrimed Goat Torment starting up at 1:00 p.m., their brimstone-and-damnation set incongruous with another day of sunshine. Classic Swedish death metal group Entrails performed a set that seemed to come out of a time capsule, perfectly preserved and with the unabashed energy of the genre's earliest days. New Zealand's Diocletian did a spectacular job infusing the day with a sense of battle-metal grandeur, the martial stomp and bloodlust of their set making it easy for the audience to picture spears and battle axes in their hands.
Over at the Soundstage, Winnipeg mincecore band Archagathus performed a wild, breathless wood chipper of a set, dressed in the most ridiculous, patriotic American shirts they found at truck stops along their way to MDF. The members of Los Angeles powerviolence group Stapled Shut seemed almost formally polite when they stepped on stage, but their set was nothing short of pure viciousness. The set from Seattle, WA's Black Breath was one of the hidden gems of the festival, a relentless and harrowing experience that mixed thrash metal abandon with a blackened, death-influenced nihilism.
Back at the Edison Lot, classic Toronto-based thrash metal act Sacrifice kept fists in the air and bodies flying in the pit, inspiring one fan to disrobe entirely before security stepped in. The set from Norwegian black metal band Sarke, originally a one-man project, was also something exceptional, featuring the incomparable Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) on vocals. Their set was ugly and foreboding, complemented by the ominous clouds that blotted out the sun and seemed to gather directly above the stage. They closed their set with covers of "Dethroned Emperor" by Celtic Frost and Darkthrone's "Too Old. Too Cold."
Classic Swedish death metal band Unleashed played a bloodthirsty and battle-ready set that made the crowd feel like a horde of Vikings, ready to face the "Fimbulwinter" and then embark on the epic raids depicted in "The Longships Are Coming." California thrashers Dark Angel closed down the outdoor shows for the day with a set that brimmed with exceptional energy (due in no small part to the indefatigable Gene Hoglan's peerless drumming) and was unexpectedly earnest and candid. Singer Ron Rinehart spoke to the crowd with raw emotion and gratitude: "I grew up in a home where I was told I didn't belong, but looking out over this crowd I can see exactly where I belong," he said, his voice trembling, as the crowd roared, beautifully, back.