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"Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III" (DVD)

Absu - "Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III" DVD cover image

Reviewed by on May 31, 2013

"The closing chapter of a film trilogy that began in 2009, 'Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III' is a fitting conclusion to an ambitious project."

Ever since its inception in 2003, the Maryland Deathfest has been praised as being a premier U.S. metal festival. Residing in Baltimore, Maryland on the last weekend of May, the festival has become a special attraction for bands from all genres. Last year was the festival’s 10th installment, and filmmaker David Hall was there to capture it for “Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III.” The closing chapter of a film trilogy that began in 2009, “Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III” is a fitting conclusion to an ambitious project.

The third part comes after a tumultuous period for Hall. The last one was released in 2010, and he had filmed the 2011 edition before professional issues got in the way of it being released. That footage, save for some interviews on the 2nd disc, hasn’t seen the light of day, and may never will. So Hall came back for last year’s edition, with intent to give the series a proper send-off. With improved audio and visual quality, plus a bevy of great performances, “Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III” does just that.

For the uninitiated, the festival goes on for four days, and usually attracts over 50 bands. Condensing that into three hours is a tall task for any filmmaker, and Hall does it by including one-to-two songs per group. Last year had some legendary acts take the stage, though the film doesn’t include some of the metal household names (Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Suffocation). However, Anvil, Saint Vitus, and Electric Wizard get some space, so it all balances out. It’s hard to completely satisfy every viewer, but Hall does what he can to have a fair representation of the acts involved.

The film doesn’t skimp on the diversity, as genres ranging from black metal to stoner metal to classic heavy metal are represented. Only one of the days (Sunday) is heavily skewed towards a particular style (sludge/doom metal). Even when multiple bands go on that employ similar techniques, Hall’s ecliptic style of editing and using filters and split-screen make for a compelling presentation. This isn’t some high-budget, glossy project, but its DIY, hand-held approach fits the festival.

Those cameras are able to capture rousing performances from many bands. Anvil is a particular highlight, with vocalist/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow smiling and kicking up guitar solos with the glee of a teenager. Electric Wizard mesmerizes with their stomping doom, Rwake vocalist C.T. vomits on-stage in the midst of an intense set, and The Devil’s Blood gets jam-centric in one of their last performances in the states before their break-up in early 2013.

Included with the concert film is a second DVD with interviews from Deathfests VIII, IX, and X conducted by Richard Johnson of Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Drugs of Faith fame. At almost 75 minutes, it features the likes of Voivod, Cathedral, Infernal Stronghold, Tombs, and Eyehategod. A feature that isn’t explored much on the concert film is the incorporation of interviews into it. Kudlow gets a few minutes to talk before Anvil’s set, and it’s one of the best moments in the film. It’s a shame the interviews couldn’t have been incorporated more into the film.

“Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III” is a stirring conclusion to what started out as a filmmaker going all in with little experience filming in a festival surrounding. Each film has shown improvement from the last. It’s like we’re alongside Hall the whole way through, and as he develops as a filmmaker, we as an audience reap the benefits. Whether somebody else will come in and continue where Hall left off is unknown, but if so, it’s likely that whomever it is won’t be able to match Hall’s vision for “Maryland Deathfest: The Movie III.”

Highs: Successfully packs four days worth of material into three hours, a ton of variety in the bands used, David Hall's directing style keeps the film interesting

Lows: More interviews should have been included in the film itself, songs aren't labeled in the film (just the bands that are performing)

Bottom line: The final chapter of the Maryland Deathfest film trilogy started by filmmaker David Hall is the best of the bunch.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)