Festivals nowadays don't have it that easy, because they cannibalize each other and make each other exchangeable. That’s why it is fantastic when a format like Vienna Metal Meeting mixes up the Austrian metal scene and adds its very own note. Already for the third time the 1-Day-Festival will take place in the arena of the capital city. This year the focus will be more on Black Metal incl. all marginal genres, which complement the theme conclusively. Accordingly, a well-known line-up with bands like Rotting Christ, Urfaust, Sólstafir or Opeth is not surprising.
The start of the day was made by the Slovaks of Doomas, who may not be familiar to everyone. To be the first band is always hard, because on the one hand there are mostly few people and on the other hand you have to deliver a really cool performance to activate the festival mode with the audience. Fortunately they managed both perfectly: With their heavy, double-bass sound Doomas beat all worries out of the heads of the audience and created a pleasant melancholy in the next moment with the help of doomed influences, which lay like a soft veil over all of them. Irritating was partly only the light show, which surely would have been able to trigger epileptic seizures. The outdoor stage was completely different: The regional Enclave had the task of creating a good atmosphere outside. Stylistically, the Viennese brought some variety into the thrashy area of the strongly black metal influenced line-up and illuminated the outdoor stage with their fast and groovy sound.
After several announcements about band cancellations and changes in the running order Chapel of Disease from Cologne had announced to take over an afternoon slot in the hall. This should only be to the advantage of the present Metalheads, because the Death Metalers delivered a performance of ist best. Their sound was characterized by brute truncheons that came out of the sky like cannonballs. The next moment, however, they stopped and created a kind of meditative atmosphere full of pain and compassion that completely captivated the audience. An incredibly captivating and impressive show that was unexpected and therefore all the more enjoyable. At the same time, fans of classical heavy metal could enjoy a true musical greatness on the outside stage. The ex-guitarist of W.A.S.P., Chris Holmes, has been on the road for some time with his very own project Chris Holmes Mean Man and offers his audience a balanced mixture of own songs, some W.A.S.P. covers like "Wild Child" and covers of other great artists like Black Sabbath. This very special combination gives him on the one hand a certain sing along factor, since almost every metalhead is able to sing at least one W.A.S.P. song, and on the other hand an ear for his own songs, which are rock solid. In Vienna the audience still reacted ambivalently to the performance, because Heavy Metal wasn't in the foreground on this day. Nevertheless, Chris Holmes and his comrades-in-arms were able to get applause from the crowd, which was mainly due to the cover songs.
The program continued on the outdoor stage with no one less than Rotting Christ, who set the mood for a quieter sound. But this shouldn't deceive the cunning metalhead, because the Greeks quickly switched to the usual program and really hit the shit. Brute and unbending, the Black Metallers hammered out one song after another, creating a warlike atmosphere with slightly exotic influences. It was completely different in the hall with Amenra. Those who already knew the band before knew about their more extreme performances, which are mainly due to frontman Colin H. van Eeckhout and always cause surprises. Well-considered and without any comment the musicians appeared on stage, the spotlights mainly directed at the singer and accompanied by black and white film clips in the background. And so the musicians started to sweep the audience along emotionally with their characteristic sound. The fact that singer Colin did the first part of the performance with his back to the crowd took getting used to at first, but the audience could more easily concentrate on the core of their performance, the music. Truly special and fascinating were the Belgian artists, who are a real insider tip for fans of post-black metal.
After the previous artists had created a very emotional atmosphere on this day, it was only logical that Sólstafir should continue to contribute to the overall feeling on the outdoor stage. Seeing the Icelanders live feels like a gift every time, because they know like no other band how to put pure emotions into their music and transport them unfiltered - even though you don't understand a single word! When Aðalbjörn Tryggvason stands on stage and sings, it's a pure blessing for the soul, because within seconds you're transferred to another world where you forget everything around you. Their music is beauty in perfection, which gives permanent goose bumps and tears in the eyes, which songs like Ótta and Fjara prove again and again. The fact that it started raining at the same time was only secondary and only contributed positively to the mood, if at all. As a contrast, the next event on the programme in the hall was Urfaust. Many of those present were excited about the two-man show, as the band stood out in the scene due to their very individual style. Maybe frontman IX was inspired by Sólstafir or he just didn't feel like brute sounds, he and VRDRBR didn't perform their brute, raw songs as expected, but limited themselves to simple and calm songs, which almost had a soporific effect.
As the weather had not improved on the outdoor stage, the crowd waited bravely in storms, rain and thunderstorms for Opeth, the headliner of the festival, and didn't care to stand completely soaked and freezing in the cold. They were rewarded with an atmospheric show that took advantage of the weather. Accompanied by a perfectly tuned light show, the grandiose atmosphere intensified and confirmed the headliner choice of the organizer. It would only be desirable that the Swedes would bring a little more creativity into their set list to provide more surprising moments. Immediately afterwards, the audience took refuge in the dry hall to warm up at Necrophobic. But nobody expected to find a black metal remake of Mötley Crüe meets Manowar on stage with the true barometer at the touch of a button. With their exaggerated posing, which felt more like fake than true, they made only a few friends and were probably responsible for the fact that up to Secrets of the Moon the hall was half-empty afterwards. This fact was very unfortunate, as the Germans tore down a solid, great show at this late hour, which was actually supposed to lift the mood again after the previous debacle.
Overall, Vienna Metal Meeting 2019 proved to be a strong, competitive festival of dark sounds that is definitely worth visiting again. Musically, the organizers were able to get a first-class line-up, which was able to fill up with good bands despite some cancellations and could get one or the other delicacy. So it remains exciting to see how the Viennese ears will be fed next year.
Text: Conny Pläsken