The famed DEATHFESTS have been around for years ever since the inaugural Maryland Deathfest in 2003. Blossoming into North America’s biggest extreme metal festival, the organizers have brought the DEATHFEST brand to Nederlands, Canada and for the first time in 2019, Sweden.
It’s highly suitable that the fest was situated in Stockholm as Sweden is widely regarded as the second birthplace of the extreme sub genre; that which was just being birthed in Florida would be nurtured in the cold, dark north to later emerge as the fastest, most violent, and most offensive music the world had seen yet.
I was excited to head to SDF on the weekend of October 12, 2019 because it would be my first Deathfest, as MDF was always out of the question with the currency conversion and flight prices. Plus, getting to experience the music where it developed made it extra special.
An early afternoon start on Friday combined with little sleep the night before put me in a position where the concussive sine waves would catch me off guard and completely rattle my brain during the first band. I thoroughly enjoyed the anti religious stance of WOMBBATH (SE) and I did warm up to the sound, although other attendees mentioned a lack of sound quality throughout the festival. To be fair, there is only so much you can do in a concrete box packed with people. The early Friday start didn’t dissuade the masses, by the time SORCERY (SE) hit the stage the venue was full.
Not full enough though because a few hundred more would pack into the herring tin over the course of the night to ferment in beer, sweat and blast beats. Headbanging fury ensued with DEMONICAL (SE) and UNDERGANG (DE). Things slowed down briefly when PURTENANCE (FI) hit the stage. Weaving between doomy slow and breakneck fast, the extreme emphasis on the low end and thunderous gutturals was my highlight for the night.
The doomy vibes persisted with RIPPIKOULU (FI) which I could dig for the most part, but there were some vocal elements that I could live without. They played to mixed reception from the crowd, and considering they haven’t released any material yet, it’s interesting that they were so late in the running order.
DEMILICH (FI) was an unstoppable force of tech death. Sonically different from the North American tech death they traded in the proggy 8 string riffs for ones that were heavier and dirtier, sticking closer to the death end of the spectrum. UNANIMATED (SE) and BENEDICTION (UK) played crushing sets to end the night.
A late start to Saturday saw me miss IRON LAMB (SE), SOILS OF FATE (SE) and PUTRID VISION (SE); but I did make it in time for SARCASM (SE). MASSGRAV (SE), playing punk/hardcore was a nice interlude among the death bands, with most of the remaining bands at Slaktkyrkan following suit. Grindcore was up next in with DEATH TOLL 80K (SE) and their political lyrics delivered with high pitched squeals and inhumane drumming. BIRDFLESH (SE) was the other kind of grindcore, equally fast, but humorous complete with a singing drummer. Of course I missed 5 songs by going to the bathroom, but I’m glad I caught ‘Anal Misery’, an ode to the festival diet of beer and fried food. The song was over before I finished writing this sentence. Crust act MARTYRDÖD (SE) broke up the grind before ROTTEN SOUND (FI) and GENERAL SURGERY (SE) ground the audience to dust.
Over at Kraken, wave after wave of death metal demolished the stage. CENTINEX (SE) was followed by ENTRAILS (SE) who was one of my fest highlights. Speedy, aggressive with great solos is exactly what I want in death metal. They just released a new album, I’d highly recommend giving it a listen. INTERMENT (SE) and TOXAEMIA (SE) dealt their blows and by this time the sweat hung thick in the air. At least with the second stage running there was a bit more breathing room, but with the staggered set times, it wasn’t a lot.
The genres took a wild turn with the entrance of thrash icons NUCLEAR ASSAULT (UK). Returning to Stockholm after 30 years, they were bestowed with the original banner from their 1989 gig and the size of it shows how far the band has come over the last few decades. After the trash pummeling, enters DISMEMBER (SE), in the form of the original lineup. I talked to people from all over the world who had come to Sweden specifically to see them and I’m sure no one was disappointed. Playing a throttling 90 minute set, they fed the audience their genre defining music while the crowd responded with fury.
The Sunday event was announced after the weekend passes had sold out and wasn’t included in the festival pass so I wasn’t present for that night, but I’ve been told the attendance was high, and the bands IMPURE (SE), VANHELGD (SE), LIK (SE), and GRAVE (SE), all put on a great show and DISMEMBER (SE) slayed again with a different set. Hopefully in future editions the organizers plan it as three days from the start.
Overall, I had a great time at the fest and as far as first editions go, it ran smoothly for the most part and the crowd was pleased. It was a neat experience to see these bands play in the place they started so long ago, in one of the primary places death metal was cultivated.
Thanks to Timmy and Mats for commentary, band history and stage banter translation.
You can check out Timmy’s experience here.
Written for Blessed Altar Zine