Days Of Darkness 2017, Day 1


Event: Days Of Darkness Festival 2017
Written by: ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 04.11.2017


In 2017, the organizers of Maryland Death Fest branched out yet again and instituted another large gathering of very loud bands and the sweaty, unruly doofuses who listen to them: Days of Darkness Festival, a two-day event held at Rams Head Live, one of the main hosts of MDF every year. Despite being from Maryland, I have never attended Maryland Death Fest, unless unintentionally watching Candlemass from behind a chain-link fence across the parking lot counts; in fact, while I have attended individual days of festivals on a few occasions, until now, I had never ascended to that upper tier of concertgoer that includes so many of our other Metal Storm staffers: that of the more-than-one-day-festival-goer.

As such an idle shut-in, I was prepared to let this new event slip through my fingers unattended, until I saw that Warning had reunited to perform Watching From A Distance in its entirety, at which point I immediately purchased my two-day pass. It helped that a friend I hadn't seen since graduating college had expressed an interest in attending, due to the presence of Bongripper; with said friend now planning to stay the weekend, we had something to look forward to for the eight-ish months between early February and late October. Finally, on October 28, we attended the inaugural Days of Darkness Festival.

Actually, though it was mostly a two-day event, there was a pre-fest show on Friday the 27th that was announced some time after the festival itself. We considered attending, but eventually decided that two days of gigging would be enough for us, and elected to pass. Instead, we went to see Suburbicon. It was fine.

DAY ONE: DEAD BY DAWN

Daunted by the prospects of a 12-hour-plus concert two days in a row, we elected to skip the first several bands on both days of the festival; I regret not having the wherewithal to weather every artist performing that weekend, but I am only one man, and I need my rest. We instead stayed at home an extra couple of hours and watched Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. Right around the moment Ash racked up the first notch on his chainsaw, I counted myself lucky that I wasn't camped out in a mud field for four days, as you folks in Europe seem to do for your festivals. Baltimore is only 40-90 minutes away from my house, depending on what day it is, what time of day it is, and whether or not there is any kind of sporting event in the city, so driving there and back each day and sleeping in my own bed at night is quite feasible. Truly, this sort of lavish decadence is what being an American is all about.

PART I: "We arrived at exactly 4:20"

Our first set on Saturday was dälek, an experimental hip-hop trio from New Jersey. They were scheduled to begin at 4:20, which I'm sure somebody thought was terribly funny, and it is at that exact time that we parked across the street, as the name of this division suggests. Fortunately for us, the start of the set was delayed by a few minutes, so dälek did not take the stage until we had found a comfortable spot in the crowd and reassembled ourselves after the security check. Having sampled some of dälek's wares prior in order to get a glimpse of what I could expect, I had a rough idea of how this set would play out, but as is always desirable, the live experience put to rest my middling assessment of the studio material. MC dälek stood center stage, flanked by DJ rEK and Mike Manteca, each man commanding a bank of various electronic devices, each man grinding out a thick blanket of ruddy noise and jarring machine sounds. While dälek isn't exactly metal, any festival worth its salt goes that extra mile to maintain some variety, and the dark, foreboding atmospheres the trio crunched out bore the right kind of aesthetic for an event based around heavy, overwhelming soundscapes. Everyone then present at Rams Head, which was a respectable number for a relatively early point in the day, seemed to dig dälek's Godflesh-gone-hip-hop approach, and MC dälek's imposing delivery wound up grooves that had a few people full-on headbanging. By the time the set was over, I had basically confirmed that dälek's style doesn't interest me enough to return to them outside a live setting, but in that live setting, their enveloping atmosphere made for an auspicious start to the first day [of Darkness].

PART II: Mango sorbet

After that, we left.

We did come back eventually, but the advent of Dance With The Dead afforded us an opportunity to set off in search of food (rather early, to beat the rush), and we treated ourselves quite well with a relaxed repast at one of the steakhouses down the street. I had mango sorbet for dessert and it was almost as tasty as the next set we saw. That would not turn out to be Cavity, whom we also perfectly missed after Dance With The Dead, but Elder.

PART III: "There was infinitely more moshing than I expected"

Elder was one of the few bands on the bill I had actually listened to in preparation for the festival; I checked out the American stoner trio's latest album, Reflections Of A Floating World, and had no more elaborate a reaction than, "Yeah, that'll do." They were not high on my list, but when we walked back into Rams Head halfway into their first song, I was immediately glad that we hadn't taken our sweet time with the appetizers. Elder's brand of stoner metal incorporates the vivid musicality of psychedelic rock, throwing out gnarly riffs and distinguishable melodies to flesh out all their songs beyond the "plod-fuzz-groove" formula that swallows up all too many stoner metal bands. By the end of that first song, I was impressed, but the band somehow became continuously more inventive and enveloping as their set progressed. I'll be visiting their Bandcamp again in the future, I suspect. I guess the sheer unexpected variety played well with the rest of the audience, too, because more and more mosh pits cropped up as Elder played on, despite the music never quite reaching the appropriate tempo for that sort of thing. That must have kept everyone occupied for a while, because Elder was slated to start at 7:20, and I didn't smell weed until 7:47. Good job, Baltimore.

PART IV: "That was very Blade Runner"

After Elder came another one of the more unusual additions to the festival line-up: Perturbator, a one-man synthwave project hailing from Paris. Amounting to a single hooded figure with a couple of gizmos and a Mac, Perturbator gave us little indication of what to expect beforehand other than a late start, due to some apparent technical difficulties. Like Elder, however, Perturbator proved to be a sleeper hit. I know nothing about the various forms of electronic-based music and I'd rather not sound like an idiot by attempting to speak as if I do, so I'll limit my assessment of his style to something along the lines of "it was pretty good and a lot of fun." I'd never been to a rave before, and I guess I still haven't, but with the percussive, high-energy effects and the most dazzling light show of the whole weekend, I have a source other than trashy European slasher films for what they might be like. Someone in the crowd seemed to have brought an endless supply of glowsticks with them, because suddenly the air above the audience was rife with the things, and a circle pit erupted out of the blackness at the behest of none other than Chicken Man. Chicken Man is something of a legend in the Maryland metal scene, a big dude with a big chicken costume who just tears it up Big Bird-style, and he showed himself this weekend to start pits wherever they were needed, or just wherever they were not already happening. Perturbator, much more so than dälek, would elsewhere have little business being mentioned in the same breath as any metal artist, but his theatricality and ominous wall of noise went over very well with the audience and myself.

Reading up on the man, I learned that he takes influence from, among other cyberpunk classics, Ghost in the Shell, a film famously indebted to Blade Runner, so, yes, I suppose the above quotation is very apt indeed. That remark was supplied on Sunday by a fellow concertgoer standing next to us, one who will prove more relevant to the Sunday article in a less flattering context, but for now, we move back outside.

PART V: "We left at the perfect time"

Having satisfied our curiosity over the nature of Perturbator and in need of a short breather, we picked our way out to the cul-de-sac compound housing Rams Head Live, among other venues, bars, and restaurants, and found ourselves in the middle of some kind of enormous costume party that everyone in Baltimore had apparently been invited to. Suddenly the only people not even nominally costumed in a sea of Halloween celebrants, we claimed a bench and sat down for some of the best people-watching I've ever enjoyed. A few lazy folks were barely distinguishable from the concertgoers who occasionally cut through the throng, bewildered, but most seemed to have put considerable effort into their getups, and the DJ booth, photo stage, and general atmosphere of Halloween spirit made the entire place feel like a fabulous spectacle. It had nothing to do with Days of Darkness whatsoever, and I'm sure the occasional Neurosis back patch and Darkthrone t-shirt only confused the Pennywises, Tracers, and Frankenstein's monsters attending the happeningest Halloween party in the city, but it was certainly the most carefree and enthusiastic I've ever felt while outdoors in Baltimore.

PART VI: "They didn't understand what we were about"

One good, hearty people-watch later, we walked back inside expecting to see Captain Beyond well underway. Instead, we found that the ancient prog band was well behind schedule, even accounting for Perturbator's late start, and the stage was almost entirely barren of members setting up for the performance. Combining the gradual pomposity of aging rock stars with a calculated obliviousness to the mood of the crowd, Captain Beyond took an agonizingly long time to get started. Obviously, you've got to expect some of this at any festival; with 22 bands spread across 2 days (27 and 3, counting Friday), something is going to go wrong, and all told, I don't think the delay was really all that bad. Why, the first time I saw Megadeth, they didn't actually play until about 20 hours later, so I've seen much worse. Intoxicated crowds tend to get antsy after about two minutes, however, and when the interminable set-up comes down to extremely minuscule monitor adjustments for all eight musicians that clearly won't matter to anyone else in the least, the atmosphere becomes tense.

At long last, Captain Beyond took the stage, already most of the way through their allotted set time. Almost to my chagrin, they turned out to be highly enjoyable. In fact, had there been only a handful of bands to pay attention to, had I not already thrown far too much cash at Season of Mist's pop-up store in the side of the venue, I would have seriously considered buying one or two of their albums. They took a spin on classic prog that escaped the fetters of the era in which they began, matching the younger bands for volume and intensity. Sometimes veering into Rush, sometimes into much older psychedelia, sometimes settling back into bluesier tones, Captain Beyond carried off their set with a professional cleanness and subtlety lost on a lot of metal bands. I confess I was impressed. Even so, if I were rapidly chewing up another band's set time with every second, I probably wouldn't waste my time introducing every single member of the band and telling stories about how nobody understood music back in the early '70s. This was a very talented band and even a fun one to listen to, but one that seemed to have a different understanding of the environment from the rest of the folks populating the festival, and I wondered why Captain Beyond, more so than dälek or Perturbator, had made it to this point in a primarily metal event.

The half-dozen prog golf dads in front of us (that's the only way I can describe them) enjoyed the set thoroughly, and I'm very happy for them, although the fact that they showed up for this band and left well before Manilla Road suggests that a whole contingent of almost-elderly lawyers, stockbrokers, and accountants shelled out $50 to see one band and had no idea what the rest of the weekend was even remotely about.

PART VII: "That's the difference between an old rock band and an old metal band"

Manilla Road are officially the MVPs of Days of Darkness. Apparently dedicated to getting the night back on track, they boasted the fastest turnaround of any act during the whole event, and when they fired up, they rocketed through songs with energy like no other band on the bill. Leaving aside the stuffy exegesis of their history, mindless banter, and irrelevant questions of how we are all doing tonight, Manilla Road kicked straight into "Masque Of The Red Death" and breathed new life into the ailing crowd, giving "Flaming Metal Systems" a new meaning (and they had already given it the old meaning). When the band finally stopped for breath three or four songs in, it was only so that guitarist/vocalist Mark "The Shark" Shelton could thank the crew for their tireless efforts and offer a round of applause to everyone behind the scenes. I wasn't expecting Shelton to look quite so wizened, as he was still a couple months shy of 60, but with his flowing grey locks, leather-and-skull headband, and generally veteran demeanor, he seemed more like a proper Dungeon Master than anyone I've seen on a metal stage since Dio, and he could command the neck of a guitar as well as anyone we'd see that weekend. This was my first time hearing lead vocalist Bryan Patrick, who stepped in a number of years ago to complement Shelton, and he proved not only to possess a very Shelton-like voice, but also to have some very unexpected high notes hidden on his person.

Manilla Road was one of my three priorities going into this festival (the other two following on Sunday), and they did not disappoint. Five of the nine songs came from Crystal Logic, thereby encompassing all of the songs I had most hoped to see them play, and with that in mind, it would be too difficult to choose a single highlight. The sheer speed, energy, rawness, and good nature of Manilla Road was such a change of pace that, while I hate to continue wheedling Captain Beyond, I found myself thinking that the difference between the two bands really seemed to exemplify the divide between the mentalities of aging metal bands and of aging rock stars.

Also, the set list went "Masque Of The Read Death" -> "Death By The Hammer" -> "Hammer Of The Witches" -> "Witches Brew," which is very fun because it's a word chain and that seems like exactly the sort of amusing little trick that Mark the Shark would pull. That's Manilla Road: literate even while shredding. Of further (very mild) interest is the fact that Baltimore, along with several other major cities in the US, lays claim to the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe, source of "Masque Of The Red Death" and to whom the Mystification album is dedicated. Poe died after being found wandering the streets of Baltimore in a mad delirium, which is more or less what happens when you visit Baltimore.

END

In the end, we wound up skipping out on Neurosis. I had hoped to catch maybe half an hour, but with an ostensible midnight start that was ultimately pushed back to some undefined time, I decided that my appreciation for the band was not quite strong enough to merit the sleep expenditure. After all, I had to wake up for church the next morning; I'd seen enough "sexy nuns" at the Halloween bash that it officially qualified as a Heretical Incident, and someone had to notify the inquisition.

The first Day of Darkness seemed an overall success, and I was glad to find myself still physically intact by the time I got home - but the more important day was the one to follow.



 



Written on 04.11.2017 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 8   Visited by: 24 users
06.11.2017 - 16:54
VIG
Eraserhead
Nice

I wish I would have gone, and I, same as you, would've gone for Warning. I don't go to many shows, I will when I'm older
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07.11.2017 - 13:57
Darkside Momo
Retired
While I never felt moved by Warning's Watching From A Distance, I certainly understand why it was a treat.
But for me, Dälek and Neurosis would have been reasons enough to go - and Perturbator would have been a nice ear candy I guess
Also
Quote:
Ghost in the Shell, a film famously indebted to Blade Runner

That's quite a bit over-simplistic a statement While Ooshi certainly did take visual clues from Blade Runner, Shirow's manga always had its own identity very well defined. Both are cyberpunks monuments in their own way
----

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" - Ray Bradbury

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I'm awake now"
Abney Park (Letter Between A Little Boy & Himself As An Adult)
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07.11.2017 - 14:32
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Darkside Momo on 07.11.2017 at 13:57

While I never felt moved by Warning's Watching From A Distance, I certainly understand why it was a treat.
But for me, Dälek and Neurosis would have been reasons enough to go - and Perturbator would have been a nice ear candy I guess
Also
Quote:
Ghost in the Shell, a film famously indebted to Blade Runner

That's quite a bit over-simplistic a statement While Ooshi certainly did take visual clues from Blade Runner, Shirow's manga always had its own identity very well defined. Both are cyberpunks monuments in their own way

I agree; even though the whole visual aesthetic of Ghost in the Shell the film is heavily informed by Blade Runner (to say nothing of the philosophical and other elements they also happen to share as fellow spawn of Philip K. Dick), it is also its own animal entirely. In fact, I'm a bit of a Ghost in the Shell fanboy, so I know it's not so cut-and-dry, but I saw a minor connection to be made.

Blade Runner never comes anywhere near the mullets in that manga, so that alone puts Shirow ahead for me.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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07.11.2017 - 15:17
Darkside Momo
Retired
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 07.11.2017 at 14:32

Blade Runner never comes anywhere near the mullets in that manga, so that alone puts Shirow ahead for me.

----

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" - Ray Bradbury

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I'm awake now"
Abney Park (Letter Between A Little Boy & Himself As An Adult)
Loading...
07.11.2017 - 15:22
Marcel Hubregtse
Grumpy Old Fuck
Copying Roadburn's set-up when it comes to the sort of bands playing much Days Of Darkness?
----
Member of the true crusade against European Flower Metal

Yesterday is dead and gone, tomorrow is out of sight
Dawn Crosby (r.i.p.)
05.04.1963 - 15.12.1996

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07.11.2017 - 16:42
Darkside Momo
Retired
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 07.11.2017 at 15:22

Copying Roadburn's set-up when it comes to the sort of bands playing much Days Of Darkness?

they wouldn't be the first... plus they're on the other side of the pond, so...
----

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" - Ray Bradbury

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I'm awake now"
Abney Park (Letter Between A Little Boy & Himself As An Adult)
Loading...
07.11.2017 - 21:52
VIG
Eraserhead
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 07.11.2017 at 15:22

Copying Roadburn's set-up when it comes to the sort of bands playing much Days Of Darkness?

I thought the same thing when the line-up was first announced. Although as Darkside Momo said, this is the other side of the pond, so it doesn't matter. It's good for people near here who don't want to travel to Europe for this stuff.
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08.11.2017 - 00:40
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Darkside Momo on 07.11.2017 at 16:42

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 07.11.2017 at 15:22

Copying Roadburn's set-up when it comes to the sort of bands playing much Days Of Darkness?

they wouldn't be the first... plus they're on the other side of the pond, so...

I did notice the similarity, but hey, Baltimore is considerably closer to my house than Tilburg, even if it isn't half as nice.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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