Amidst the wild green fields and forest covered mountains a herd of deer roamed. In the middle of the scenery, an Austrian farmhouse stands with a covered porch and bar. The loud grinding of tuning electric guitars resound from the house’s open air courtyard. This was the setting of Sick Midsummer 2017, a European heavy metal festival held in the Austrian countryside.
European Open air festivals are an absolute must for trve metalheads. Sick midsummer lasts for one day and hosts a wide variety of European bands, most of them underground or lesser known. This year’s lineup consisted of a number of bands I hadn’t even heard of and one major headlining band I had wanted to see for years.
I had to take two trains to get to Sharnstein, Austria. Scharnstein is a small county/village about two and a half to three hours west of where I was staying in Vienna. I finally arrived on the Ba̎ckerberg property in the green hills of Sharnstein, where the festival was taking place. I have to thank a Bosnian man I met on the second train and his brother for helping me to get there. The locals are incredibly hospitable and seem willing to go out of their way to help foreigners.
It was nearly 5 pm (17:00) by the time I arrived and I had missed some of the opening acts, Among Rats and Soul Demise. The first band I was able to catch was Lebensucht, an female-fronted Austrian Black Metal band with an astounding stage presence. The band members were dressed in torn and bloodied clothes (hopefully fake blood) and sounded just as good as any well known black metal acts.
While they played their set, I strolled around the property to see what all this festival offered. On tables was plenty of food and handfuls of desserts, including a cake decorated in icing made up to look like the festival logo. Fences stood around the area, separating the metalheads from the farm’s animals: a pony, a donkey, and two goats that did not look entirely out of place at a metal fest.
Next up to bat was Monument of Misanthropy, a competent yet forgettable death/grind band that made up for its lack of originality with its raw energy. They were not a band that appealed to me in the same way that the others did, but their energetic performance and raw sound helped them to stand out from the others a bit.
Outre, a Polish Black Metal band followed, playing some solid black metal worthy of Scandinavia’s best. Once again, the band performed well, but eventually the songs tended to run together. I was convinced to pick up their cd though, and it is worth quite a few spins.
One of the main acts took over after Outre’s set. This was Sweden’s Diabolical playing some grand Swedish Death Metal. Their style really stood out, especially since they sounded just a bit too melodic to be straight up death metal, yet they were not quite melodic enough to fit in the realm of melodeath. They fit somewhere inbetween these two genres, with dashes of other genres included. I even heard somewhat of an Opeth influence in some of their songs.
Helming this great beast of a festival was the enigmatic and foreboding Ahab, a German Funeral Doom band known for writing concept albums based off of nautically themed literature. Their first album, “The Call of the Wretched Sea” is a classic of modern funeral doom and is based off of Herman Mieville’s Moby Dick. the band’s name is taken from the lead protagonist of the same novel, Captain Ahab.
Ahab’s style of doom is heavily dependent on slow, crushing rhythms and some of the deepest growls ever performed in a metal band. The instrumentals match the grandiosity of the lyrical themes, and one can even feel the creeping isolation and delirium that would be felt being stranded in the middle of the unforgiving seas when listening to certain songs.
I met several of the band members after they got off stage and was pleasantly surprised to find out how down to earth they are. Daniel Droste, the vocalist and lead guitarist, was an especially cool guy, and we spent some time talking about Europe and the United States once I told him where I came from.
The closing act was Make a Change… Kill Yourself, a one man black metal band with a rather stupid name. The main member, Angantyr, sold his own merch at the band’s merch booth and that was where I was able to talk to him a bit. He and his supporting band members closed out the event on a high note, as there is nothing better to end a night with Depressive Suicidal Black Metal with crazy long songs.
European Open Air Festivals have to be experienced. While I missed most of the bigger ones (Wacken comes to mind, as well as Rockmaraton in Hungary), I’m pretty glad to have made it to Sick Midsummer and been a part of their 7th metal fest.
Check out crushing funeral doom from Ahab at their website.
For more of a classic death metal preference, check out Diabolical here.
For more of a Norwegian black metal sound, check out Outre here.
Interested in the Sick Midsummer festivals? Find out more at the Sick Midsummer 2017 website.