The blasting of beats vibrated through the air as we approached the line outside of downtown Baltimore’s Edison Lot on Friday. It was the first official day of the twelfth annual Maryland Deathfest and, for someone who was staying on a houseboat in the Chesapeake Bay, a sensitive, revolving gravity prevailed even on the relatively unwavering ground of the lot, making every environment gently rock to varying densities of the music. Sound was a variable, of course; metal that was blackened to any degree often became swallowed by the high wind, suffering from a similarity in anatomy and rhythm.
Over the course of three days, the festival’s most endearing artists growled at the audience in their interstitial stage banter, creating an almost comical blur of collaborative metal songs from their interactions with their audiences. Fans projected whole attitudes and devotions with their t-shirts; including several gorgeous homemade Mercyful Fate shirts and one that blurred the landscape of Burzum’s Filosofem with the shape of a cat. (The latter came with a caption that read “Purrzum.”) The air of the festival was one of camaraderie; isolated encounters between festival-goers inevitably erupted into enthusiastic, layered conversation. When one tuckered-out reveler fell asleep on the ground on Saturday, many passers-by expressed concern, eventually forming a gentle circle pit around his slumbering body as the stage-show raged on. “When I was growing up, I lived in a place where for so long I was told that I didn’t belong,” said Dark Angel vocalist Ron Rinehart on Saturday. “But I look out at all of you and I know where I belong.” Maryland Deathfest ended with the prevailing notion that one’s private metal allegiances didn’t matter; everyone there was invested in something together.