Baltimore Music Fest Celebrates the Old School

Being the senior member (in age, that is) of the Decibel contribs, any time anything “old school” comes around, it frequently gets kicked our way. And we’re totally OK with that. Especially when we get to shine a little light on a burgeoning metal fest in Baltimore that’s all about celebrating old-school metal.
Defenders of the Old, now in its second year, is set for Saturday, Nov. 5 at Sonar (407 East Saratoga St) in Baltimore. The lineup for this year’s fest is an intriguing mix of bands of various levels of notoriety, including: Tension, October 31, Destructor, Midnight, Zuul and Acid Queen. All the details can be found here.

We also squeezed a few more details from the man behind the fest, He Wang. Here’s what, uh, He had to say.

Why the old-school theme for the festival? What was your inspiration?
HE WANG: I started this festival because I am a big fan of old-school heavy metal and I felt there was not that many old metal concerts around Maryland. I have been working for the local radio station in College Park, MD, WMUC 88.1, and I had the opportunity to book a couple of shows there, including one with Deceased, Sacred Oath, Pale Divine, Mortifier, Acid Queen. (Deceased even put out a live LP of the show!) Since then, I have been dreaming about booking a heavy metal festival featuring less-known metal bands, similar to Keep It True and Headbanger’s Open Air in Germany. I told a bunch of people about this and they all supported the idea. King Fowley from Deceased/October 31 is one of the biggest and most passionate old metal fans I’ve ever met, so I shared my idea with him. He was on board right away. He helped me a lot with booking bands because without him putting in good words for me, most of the bands probably wouldn’t play the festival at the first place. He is also the sound guy for the festival, and his band October 31 will play every year!

This is the second one you’ve done. The first one must have gone pretty well. Tell me about it and what did you learn from the experience?
HW: The first one was great. We got Metal Massacre legends such as Tyrant and Sentinel Beast to do their first East Coast show. Sentinel Beast even did a mini reunion show with the original singer, Debbie Gunn and the original guitarist Barry Fischel. We also got other great bands including Ares Kingdom, Blood Feast, October 31, and Revelation to play. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to, but it didn’t do well financially. I had to sell my car to finance it. But the important thing is it happened, and everyone there had a great time! Now I know you really need to put 120% effort into promoting the show, otherwise people just forget about it since there are so many concerts going on nowadays.

Why do you think metal fans seem to have a growing interest in old-school styles (like the NWOBHM and thrash resurgence)?
HW: I think real old school metal bands and fans have never disappeared. Even in the ’90s and early 2000s there were great heavy metal bands playing old-school metal—such as the mighty Metalucifer, Skullview, and October 31—and diehard metalheads supporting them. But I’m glad there are more metalheads who are into old-school metal now. There are many great bands surging from all over the world. Some of the my personal favorites include High Spirits from Chicago, Midnight from Ohio, Borrowed Time from Detroit, Volture from Virginia, Satan’s Satyrs from Virginia, Cauldron from Canada, Enforcer from Sweden. More obscure bands are also reforming because of this growing interest. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to book more of them in the future!

Does this kind of metal seem to do well in Baltimore?
HW: It’s very hard to say. Sometimes a show can attract hundreds of people, for example when Paul Di’Anno performed the entire first Maiden album here. Other times only a few show up, such as when Helstar played Baltimore couple months ago and only 20 people came.

Are there bands that you have your sites set on for future Defenders of the Old fests?
HW: We don’t have anything set in stone yet, but some of the bands I have in mind include Bitch from California, Oz from Sweden and Tankard from Germany. And October 31 will play again for sure!