Artmania - Live report 2008

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Articles

One more festival organized by Artmania, the third, and they’ve proven that they know to be professionals (with inherent a-synchronizations). I remember that after they’ve announced that the location has been changed from Big Square to a tent place in the Town Centre (a whole media trouble about the inhabitants that cannot rest because of the noise), I’ve read lots of quarrels about this big drawback, that there’s a great shame for the bands to perform into a tent! As if at the festivals abroad they play in luxurious theatres! Well, this tent was the best choice that could be done, and I would prefer to see festivals alike in such tents, rather than open air ones, where rain or heat could turn into guaranteed impediments to a minimum of comfort. Air conditioning was great on that tent, the toilets were sufficient and clean, the stage perfect, with quality sound and professional lights. Well, I still hope that there will come a moment when festivals alike or concerts that can be watched from a decent sit, on a chair, with a fine visibility and a quality of the sound that wouldn’t mind the ears but nor puts them to sleep. To stand seven hours it’s an effort for sure, at least it certainly is to me! Obviously, there should be some place for head banging, somewhere in front, for the ones that find a good way of externalizing so… it is good for the atmosphere… skipping over the chairs obsession, I have nothing else to comment over the location. Lucky for the spectators – not the organizers though – there were only about 3000 participants comparing with a capacity of over 4500.  Yet, I’ve forgot something. The tent’s extension, where smoke and eating were allowed, proved to be cramped on first evening, when outside rained for good hours and so the majority of the ones present were crowding for a shelter inside. Pretty unpleasant place to eat, not to mention the passive smoking…on the second evening the ones staying outside had limited space, and the few benches were insufficient, probably that no relative of Videanu was around.

I've also seen some stands with accessories there, I’ve bought some stuff, including the new issue of Titus’s fanzine, Balamuc (I’ve got a good mood from seeing his picture near the monument of National Heroes on the inside cover, along some funny comments … especially, that I’ve bought the limited version, the pink one, issued only in 69 copies… this boy is obsessed by positions that are already accepted by some priests!... or, since the subject of homosexuals wrights, everyone approaches this subject with delicacy… including Titus which offered a 20% discount... he, he), I’ve seen some buyers of T-shirts, so I tend to believe some money have been cash flow for these activities. Alongside beer, water and plenty of juices… pretty expensive though … 4 RON for a water. Ahhh.. I forgot the massive Coro (Axa Valaha) which was on duty with lots of prehistorically releases, insane albums, in limited edition, just for the angriest Death fans and Grind Core destroyers.  As the organizers stated, in each of the two evenings, there were more than 3000 participants. If you ask me, on the first evening there were about 2800, and on the second one more that half from the first’s evening number.

Even if I'm not a festival fan, I always come to Artmania with pleasure, because I know for sure it will not be a spine. This year, the only ones that could claim a spine, are those eager to see NEXUS live, because they didn’t finally perform due to some logistic nonsyncronizations. On the other hand, I won’t feel a spine, yet I assume the risk of not experiencing what I expect to, as very few bands beside the ones I want to see make an impression over me… for example, last year, I came just for MY DYING BRIDE and they proved to be the sole live band that fascinated me, even if WITHIN TEMPTATION’s interpretation was better, despite the fact that I’m not an admirer of their music. This year I came with my soul for LACRIMOSA, as I missed their first concert in Romania held back some years. I wanted to be sure that the madness that started 15 years ago in my mind regarding Tilo’s music is still alive.

The first day started with an hour and a half delay, due to some problems with the town’s electric networking. I didn’t find it highly problematic, especially as I don’t know how many would have been in the mood for Metal at 3.30 pm. Anyway, these delays aren’t welcome and they certainly don’t bring extra points in rating the organizers, trust me cause I know for myself how is it to deeply want to be punctual and not to succeed into doing it all the time, especially when you depend on others. No matter how it finally was, I knew that the mayoralty imposed that everything should end until 11 pm, and so the organizers have been obliged to condensate others’ performances. The good aspect was that I knew the time when all should end, because at other festivals I had to stay until morning in order to see a band announced to play six hours earlier. I haven’t been to FROZEN DUSK, yet I’ve seen them also at Artmania, and HAGGARD meant no loss for me. I’ve listened to SINCARNATE for the first time, they sounded ok, even though the band’s style is slightly oriented to early MY DYING BRIDE sound. Marius entertained in a way full of inspiration the 200 spectators, and the sound was Doom Death Metal, fully Atmospheric, with a keyboard that was fully present, and the guitars that tried to hold out a very aggressive voice, one of pure Death Metal. This band, formed for about a year doesn’t sound bad at all, despite the frequent components’ changes, and the last news about the departure of the vocalist Marius after this very concert. Yet, this band has been a nice surprise!

As for BUCIUM, I don’t know what to say, they are a more Metal PHOENIX, and they’ve promoted “Voievozii” debut, that is partly too Folk, and on the other hand too confusing for a Metal admirer. They didn’t sound bad, but their performance seemed a bit forceless, with little energy, plus the fact that those violins were barely heard… some problems with the synchronization I guess.  

AGUA DE ANNIQUE seems to have started slightly emotional yet quite glad for returning on Sibiu stage after one year; she had good words about the bands present there and entertained the audience with some beautiful tracks, sounding exactly like on the album. Maybe, only the masculine voice of the guitarist appeared as brutally connected to the sound. Anneke’s voice reminded me about the legendary “Mandylion” from THE GATHERING. Anyway, she much more relaxed on stage comparing with last year, and the band members (wearing pilot uniforms) tried to decently accompany a superb voice, one of the best within the scene! She had a different look, completely blond haired and with a mini skirt. Well, the Dutch’s music didn’t mind me at all, no wearisome induced (the slow tracks were quite remarkable), even if it is hardly connected with Metal, and it definitely tends towards Melancholic Rock Pop.

TIAMAT, or the big expectation! Lots of fans in front, all of them keen about Edlund bonnet, probably his music too. It’s obvious that TIAMAT is a studio band … live performances do not excel. At least, the voice is forceless. True, neither instruments’ mixing wasn’t perfect (at least in the first part it sounded quite bad), as the drums and the bass have bored my ears and his voice was more than pale. Even the long awaited “Gaia” was terribly slaughtered! On “The Sleeping Beauty” everyone was moving their heads because they’ve finally recognized the accords! Along the fact that I’ve seen a mediocre concert, Edlund got angry in the end as he was remembered that he has to shorten the concert, that he cannot perform no more, as he already was ”Connecting People”, both by the fans that were acclaiming him and by the vodka vapours from the bottle he got on stage with and which was evaporating from the air conditioner that was obstructing the part near the scene and transformed it in a communal sauna. Moreover, in the end he threw off a microphone stand, as in his anger he failed to understand that respect towards the fans (including the ones that have paid the ticket for enjoying a Metal evening, not necessarily with TIAMAT) doesn’t imply only to play the tracks! With this occasion I’ve assured myself that TIAMAT means solely “Wildhoney” for me, nothing else. For sure!

Now, I’ve got to the triumphant moment of the festival, to the band that, after this show, convinced many of the ones present that LACRIMOSA is an extraordinary band, both in studio and live! No more rhetoric questions about who’s a better headliner between TIAMAT and LACRIMOSA! In the evening of 18th of July, LACRIMOSA held an explosive show, professional, serious and sensitive at the same time, I could say perfect! There were incredible lightning effects, an excellent sound for a location from which you couldn’t solicit perfect acoustic (last year, at MY DYING BRIDE, in the Big Square, the resonance was much more paler and barren than now), Tilo was in great shape while Anne seemed to be in his shade (even if, after the concert that Tilo had in Germany and Slovakia in 1993, LACRIMOSA became a band and was no more a solo project, as he has eloped with her from TWO WITCHES and after that solely came inspiration and band’s success), three very Heavy guitarists (although a connoisseur would have easily distinguish the absence of the master Jan Yrlund) and a drummer full of energy. Some strength points:

  1. the first track (after the eternal “Intro”) was “Ich Bin der Brennende Komet”, the one that I’ve chosen for years to be the generic for my radio show “Antofagasta”
  2. the band performed lots of tracks from the first albums, as about all of them have gravitated around “Satura”
  3. “Copycat” was a sample of band’s determination to respect both the music and the fans!

Despite some ridiculous/theatrical gestures, that were meant to magnify every rhythm, every accord, Tilo madden the audience, and trust me, that’s what I’ve seen when I’ve got out of the tent for some minutes … very few Rockers seemed uninterested of the sound.  On my return, at the entrance, I was pleasantly surprised to see a child standing beside his mother and wearing a small LACRIMOSA T-shirt. I said to myself: what fanatic parents, they dress their son with T-shirts from their times of glory, but I’ve never hided my admiration through a smile addressed to him…  But, I’ve seen that the boy was uttering the entire track, lyric after lyric. I stood near him for about 20 minutes, and he knew every single track, and deeply enjoyed them all! And he was solely 8 years old!!!! Incredible feeling that got into me!! I’ve filmed him secretly, not to intimidate him and asked his parents for permission to do a picture with him! And I place this photo along with all my admiration and pride in Artmania photos folder! I understood that he has got backstage and made photo with the band members! To know by heart LACRIMOSA at solely 8 years? And behind there were some old-fashion rockers that were asking themselves “how old is the band performing, as I’ve never heard of it. As if Falco face to face with an obedient Manson”… but the veterans had thorns, arranged hair, tattoos, were dressed in leather, wear extra high boots, attentively arranged and contoured bears”…. He, he… Rock and its implicit image …

Returning to the concert, I don’t know if anyone can reproach Tilo&Co with anything…. I have no idea how much of it was simulation, how much true feeling, and how much routine for LACRIMOSA, yet I know that this concert was an incendiary one. Maybe solely the fact that communication was in German only? This could be a reason for commenting… Tilo took at a certain moment a reflector from the stage and imitating the movement of a coast beacon, started to light the entire hall, and afterwards directed it into his eyes when he was screaming… theatrical but full of effect!  I am glad that a band like LACRIMOSA became headliner at concerts and festivals, because fifteen years ago, when they had their first interview for a Romanian magazine, they weren’t at all so appreciated and admired. You can read the interview here.  Now they are famous, released lots of albums, but for me the discography of LACRIMOSA ends with “Stille”. And I had lots of joy to see/listen live, tracks that I love:”Satura”, “Schakal”, “Alles Luge”, “Stolzes Herz” or “Alleine zu Zweit”. Despite the fact that the poetical dimension of LACRIMOSA’s first albums slowly transformed in a more symphonic oasis, as long as LACRIMOSA will know to make the right mixture between old and new, I see no great threats for the admirers’ loss! For me it was a fantastic concert, and even if it’s not obvious from what I’ve written, I was, I am still and I will eternally be an incurable fan of LACRIMOSA in the ‘90’s! That’s why I made the “compromise” of wearing in that particular evening a LACRIMOSA T-shirt! Especially as at a certain moment there were two T-shirts, one besides the other, with the same band, on two true fans….solely the difference of a few tens of years could get ostensible. Therefore, at 11.15 pm, after the familiar bis, the first evening ended.

On the second evening, I’ve seen the ones from LACRIMOSA walking in the town’s centre, and Tilo was having a theatrical walking stick attracting the eyes of every single passenger, while the other band members along technical stuff were decently answering to all the smiles from the rockers on terraces. A normal behaviour for an abnormal music I would say…  I guess that’s what would cross the minds of few of us… or most of the others!

Saturday was a very hot day, lucky there was that tent! NEXUS didn’t perform as I’ve already told you. AVATAR went on stage and I’ve decided to dodge for the next 40 minutes, because the Metal Core the band’s approaching lately doesn’t impress me at all. But surprise! Explosive Death Metal, with an excellent voice, a very dynamic vocalist, killing riffs and a technical battery! Therefore, AVATAR returned to the roots, to true Death Metal! Excellent show, excellent sound! And I’ve seen a considerable number of fans in front, supporting the band the entire show! CONGRATULATIONS AVATAR! Welcome in our club again!

NEGURA BUNGET… the most imposing name within Romanian Metal scene! They came, charmed us for about 40 minutes and departed afterwards! I still cannot understand: why doesn’t such a band get at least one whole hour in ROMANIAN festival? Or at least the right to make a bis? I haven’t seen the live for about two years, and I can state that they’ve progressed a lot, both as virtuosity, technique and scenic presence, moreover the folk torture (flute, drum, toaca) enhanced the desired atmospheric dimension. It seemed that the keyboard has been mightier, while the guitars scented of GODS BLACK! YOU EMPEROR and they were more visible! Therefore, a masterly executed Black Metal, in front of an audience eager for more tracks, yet the set-list was already done and basta. Anyway, the NEGURA BUNGET banner was placed and stayed over the scene for the entire evening, no matter what band was performing, or to put it other way, for knowing which was the best band live that evening!

During the pause I’ve rushed into my room and I’ve intersected in the elevator with Liv Kristine, as she was descending in a train dress, an impressive one for the show.  Yet, let’s take a look to how LEAVES EYES looks live: a Gothic Metal based on her voice, a quite commercial and simplistic sound, not impressing in any way. After the first two tracks I’ve remembered about the beginning times (glory ones you may read) when THEATRE OF TRAGEDY was debuting exceptionally without any doubt, and where Liv’s voice was tremendously contrasting Rohonyi’s! It was rather a show for promoting the band, where the interventions of her husband, Alex Krull, finally dynamited the audience. There were two bis, pretty exaggerated and quite implored by the band, as they’ve prepared the ones in the front for what was about to happen…

ATROCITY, a great name in the past, probably a more famous name after “Werk 80 II”, yet the effect over me wasn’t this one for sure. I’ve waited, hoped that they’ll sing something from “Blut”, or “Hallucinations”, but my dreams were in vain. It was a show that showed me how some angry ones from NEGURA BUNGET were enjoying some disco/pop rhythms, in the Metal/Rock version. ATROCITY became a cover band, and the chosen tracks, quite familiar in the 80’s, still enjoy success, especially in front of Metal fans! Embarrassing, awkward! This way, I have to see DEPECHE MODE or AHA playing CARCASS or DIMMU tracks! Alex has an excellent aggressive voice, yet when he approaches low tonalities it is barely heard. It happened now: at LEAVES EYES the sound was helpful, but for ATROCITY it barely mattered. I’ve seen great disappointment in the fans’ eyes, because they’ve felt back from the first accords, hoping that they’ll get a reason for returning in the tent. And they didn’t get any. I appreciate Alex’s openness and enthusiasm, when he insisted into mentioning that both his mother and grandmother were born in Sibiu, he made a show by himself, only that on ATROCITY he failed it by good! The most thrilled ones for ATROCITY music seemed to be the guardians and security men, which were keeping the rhythms with coolness, on a Metal DEPECHE MODE pretty explosive! I am convinced that at least 1-2 of them took the wrong decision into buying older ATROCITY albums, hoping that they’ll find other Pop covers! I hope that they’ve found “Blut”, he, he! But that’s how CDs are sold, by mistakes, due to the lack of knowledge, thanks to several compromises, with music, fans, with you yourself … Not to forget: Alex took two little girls on stage and learn them how to dance on one track, while finally an inland “Mitica” appeared, slightly tipsy and with his beer in the hand, trying to dance with one of the girls. Men of good intentions came in and threw him off the scene.

There was also GAMMA RAY, and it came into my understanding that the fans were satisfied by the German’s performance. As for me, GAMMA RAY ends after two tracks … the rest is solely repetition.

ARTMANIA SIBIU 2008 was a successful festival, with a professional organization (the ugly unpleasant exceptions were the first day’s delay, the modest quality of the sound at some of the bands and NEXUS absence), the location was excellent, yet poorer in feeling and choice of bands comparing with 2007 edition, with less audience and more critics from the fans. For me, along the confirmation of an elegant LACRIMOSA (first evening), second evening brought the surprise of NEGURA BUNGET’s performance!

We must consider the fact that in 2008 the concerts’ offer was much richer than before, and the Rock lover’s pocket isn’t unbounded! Moreover, organizing two concerts in a week only, in the same city, with the same public, induced the dissipation of unity spirit, and it can only be harmful for the future! Even so, the important fact is that ARTMANIA continues to exist! I am convinced that next year will bring other interesting bands, along many uninteresting ones… that’s natural for festivals, the quantity counts… the more genres covered, the better! Not everybody is a METALLICA fan and able to stay online whenever it’s possible a ticket supplement in order to buy one, no matter the price of it. Because music can be downloaded for free, the aspiration of the XXI century man is to be able to see the bands that animated adolescence, with his own eyes, as close to the stage as possible!  What will future bring to us in 20 years? The possibility to sing along the favourite bands live perhaps?

July, 2008