ARTmania Festival 2022
|Event:||ARTmania Festival 2022|
ArtMania Festival 2022 by RaduP (137)
After a long pause, 2022 marked itself as the year where festivals could finally take place again in Romania. Some gigs have happened in 2020 and 2021 too, long running festivals could finally only take place in their complete form this year. Though I may not be attending all of them, the one I was certain I would be attending was ArtMania.
I first attended ArtMania in 2013, and since then it has been the one festival that I would attend each year, even if there were some years where I only got day tickets. Back in 2019 marked the first year where I went as a Metal Storm representative, writing an article and taking pics. That was the first time I ever got media creds, and I thought it was gonna be the start of many more to come. ArtMania 2020 was announced, but then we all know what happened.
Well, it was finally happening again, even though it did go through its fair share of last-week replacements that seem to plague festivals lately, and three years later, I’m back representing Metal Storm at ArtMania.
ARTMANIA DAY 1: FRIDAY, 22nd JULY
I got accommodation with a (best) friend of mine, but he would be arriving a day late since his band was playing somewhere in Czechia on the first day. I did consider making the trip by train, and that maybe would’ve been the financially optimal option, but I’ve had enough negative experiences with that to instead opt for the car. On the way there I did realize that maybe I should’ve inquired about anyone needing a ride, not necessarily just for the altruism of it, but because I would be splitting the fuel bill with only myself for this one. The accommodation was awfully small, had no AC, but was ten minutes away from the festival and one minute away from a shopping mall, so it was extremely versatile location-wise. To the point where I joked that I could go to the festival, take five minutes of pictures for each band, go back to the accommodation, transfer the pics, edit and post them, and then go back to the festival for the next band.
Me and Bucovina go way back. It is definitely the kind of metal band that one gets into as a teenager, with their folk metal sound being pretty emblematic. The first review I ever published on MS was for their 2013 album, Sub Stele, so they were pretty big for me back then. However starting then, each consecutive time I’ve seen them live (and there were a bunch) was worse than the previous, and I wasn’t that into their latest album either. Seems like I’m not the only one, since even though it was their latest, they only played one song from it. Comparatively, they played three songs from the Duh EP (so basically all the songs that aren’t instrumental). It was pretty fun seeing those songs live again and getting reminded of why I liked them so much in the first place, and even though it took six years, that’s finally a Bucovina concert that I liked more than the previous. The harsh vocals haven’t aged as well as the rest of their sound, but that was something I was already aware of from the last time I’d seen them, and I expected it to be worse than it was, so I was pretty pleasantly surprised. Still, they were not among the bands I was too excited about seeing, being pretty omnipresent at most festivals and touring a bunch.
I was pretty pleasantly surprised to see an Ukrainian band being able to perform outside of Ukraine, or even perform at all. I later learned that this was their first show since the invasion period. Naturally, this came along with a lot of awareness-raising messages and the crowd shouting against the invasion. We pretty much all unanimously agreed that the invasion is to be frowned upon. What is not to be frowned upon was Stoned Jesus’ performance, and even though this wasn’t the first time I’d seen them, it was the first time I saw them in open air, and something about their stoner sound did lend itself better to this kind of context. They premiered a new song as well, “Porcelain”, which was pretty cool. But I think we all know what song the crows were anticipating most, and yeah, they did play it. And I’m glad they did.
In a pretty bewildering move, ArtMania dealt with My Dying Bride’s cancellation by replacing them with Moldovian alt rock band, Alternosfera. The band were clearly not playing to their target audience, even if their sound tinges on alt metal and they certainly had plenty of fans singing along anyway. I was probably in the very minority of people who were actually pleased with the outcome of this replacement, but for oddly specific reasons. For one, I had already seen My Dying Bride and it was one of the best concerts in my life, and seeing them promoting an album I was very lukeward towards would just taint the experience. Meanwhile, despite them touring Romania endlessly, I never really got the chance to see Alternosfera live. I got to hear pretty much all the songs of theirs that I know live, so that was pretty satisfying.
The first headliner is the one I was least excited about. I like prog rock and I appreciate this retro dad prog type as well, but I still can’t help but be pretty unmoved by it. These were all veterans in their fields, considering Transatlantic’s supergroup status, and it’s hard to get much better than this as far as retro-prog goes. Though having multiple members sing was pretty common at this fest, Transatlantic were the best in terms of sharing vocal duties. The band did comment about how they’re not usually a festival kind of band, but were stoked to finally be Transatlantic in Transylvania.
ARTMANIA DAY 2: SATURDAY, 23rd JULY
Since my friend would only arrive in the evening, with me nudging him to hurry up so that he’d catch Cult Of Luna), I had the entire room for myself until the festival would begin. I might’ve used the day for some festival activities other than the concerts themselves, like workshops, film screenings, etc., but I couldn’t mobilize myself so I just went out to eat at the mall that was one minute away, took care of the pics from the previous night, read, took more showers than should ideally be necessary, and finally went back to the festival.
THE VINTAGE CARAVAN
The only day not to be opened by a Romanian band, this time we had the hard rocking icelanders from The Vintage Caravan to do the honors. Since they were the only ones I hadn’t seen live, I was looking forward to them the most out of the openers, and with how much love Monuments got in last year’s awards, I knew I was in for a ride. They were retro in more ways than one, with the music being pretty spot on the energetic and enthusiastic guitar rock I was hoping for, but you could also tell by their vintage apparel that they take their band name very seriously. As a photographer, they were a very frustrating band to shoot because of how much stage motion they had, making them awfully difficult to capture without altering the shutter speed.
Leprous were the first case of a band I’ve seen twice at the same festival, made even worse by the fact that those weren’t the only times I’ve seen them. It wasn’t as easy to get excited for a new performance when I’ve been pretty ambivalent to their last two releases. Some of my friends who were unfamiliar with them were even more taken aback by Einar’s soprano vocals, not necessarily in a good way. The setlist mainly focused on the last three albums, but also had a couple of songs from Coal and The Congregation, so I got what I wanted out of it. Plus, you can always bet on Leprous looking extremely dandy on stage, but their bassist really needs to take better care of keeping his back straight.
CULT OF LUNA
Here it is! The one band I was most excited about. The most consistent still active post-metal band and one that has created a pretty solid blueprint for the genre. I somehow never got the chance to see them until now. Considering how long their songs are, even with this nearly headliner position they were still only able to perform five songs, some from Vertikal, some from The Long Road North, the latter actually having been live premieres. The smoke and lights obscuring and highlighting the band made the visual experience match how transcendental and crushing their live sound was. It was the kind of sound that I was worried wouldn’t translate as well to the live setting, but it did and it was all-enveloping. I somehow don’t really remember much about it simply because of how hypnotic it all felt.
Turns out there was actually a second stage being set up, but only one band would perform there each day, and none performed on the first day. The stage was a lot smaller so it was hard enough to get in to take pics, and the sound itself let less of the festival hear from afar compared to the main stage. I didn’t stick much around for the Death-inspired tunes from Taine, since I had already written about seeing them on a bigger stage. But at least there was a Romanian band this day, even if they got the short end of the stick.
Me and a friend were joking about how unfair it is for the rest of the festival that the two best bands were placed right one after the other. Well, with a small Taine sandwiched in between on some other smaller stage. But the sheer force of the main stage increased exponentially. Both bands sounded completely massive and had amazing visual presentations to match, but the energy felt fundamentally different. While Cult Of Luna’s sound invited introspection and felt more transcendental, Meshuggah were hypnotic in a very distracting way, one that would allow nothing but their music to be the entire focal point of your mind. The rhythmically challenging chugs coupled with Jens’ towering vocals held a monopoly over my thoughts for well after the actual performance ended.
ARTMANIA DAY 3: SUNDAY, 24th JULY
Not sleeping alone in that small hot room was… quite the experience. And especially since we arrived in the room at 5AM, drunk, each blaming the other for staying too late (hint: turns out it was my fault actually). Woken up extra early by how little audio isolation the room had, we spent the last day more tired than the last. But I did manage to get the photos ready, and to go out in town earlier to test the saying “nail removes nail” in terms of treating hangovers.
Not the most exciting thing to see a band again after seeing them that same month (though without actually writing an article about them. The difference is that they were actually the headliners back then, and somehow they also sounded better. Here, as openers, playing only songs from the newest album, Har, they also sounded somehow too “walled”, losing some of the strength that the songs had. Still a pretty great performance, just not the best way to experience Dordeduh.
THE PINEAPPLE THIEF
The Pineapple Thief is the kind of band that I should like more given how similar they are to other bands I like. Specifically Porcupine Tree, whose similarity in sound also extends as similarity in names, like me and a friend joking that they’re both PTs with the same number of syllables. Their performance did convince me to give their catalog a bit more attention, and their softer alt/prog rock sound was a nice contrast to the heavier tunes of the other bands, even when compared to the retro prog of day one.
Despite being among the oldest bands of the bunch, Testament, and especially Chuck Billy, were the most enthusiastic performers too. It was a bit weird seeing a thrash metal band performing at ArtMania, something I’m not sure has happened before, but the festival has always been keen on going out of its comfort zone. Testament went on a career spanning setlist, and they managed to maintain the primal thrashing energy all throughout, something that the crowd echoed with the pits. I was mostly surprised to see Dave Lombardo behind the kit, since I had no idea that he rejoined Testament, so seeing him, and also Steve DiGiorgio on bass, was the best Testament lineup I could’ve hoped for.
Here was the only band I wasn’t familiar with prior. They were also playing at the small second stage, and this time I had an even harder time reaching the front to take pics due to the very enthusiastic young fanbase that got there. Turns out that Revolver (not to be mistaken for the British shoegaze, French chamber pop, Spanish pop rock, German stoner metal, Uruguayan desert rock, Mexican black metal or Slovenian thrash metal bands of the same name) is a local band from Sibiu made up of teens playing what would generally be called “modern metal”, basically a mix of groove thrash, metalcore, alt metal. The crowd response was pretty good, mainly in the group right in the front row, one that even managed to get a mosh pit started despite the space limitations, so I wish them all the best going forward.
Considering the unenthusiastic response that Leprous’ soprano vocals got from my uninitiated friends, I could only expect what King Diamond’s falsettos would elicit in my friend that had never heard him before. I was expecting more of a “I appreciate it for its influence and I’m glad I got to see it” response both from me and him, but surprisingly he was so won over by King Diamond’s performance that he actually crowned Mercyful Fate as the best of the festival and bought a T-shirt despite being a cheapskate. I wouldn’t go as far, but I too was won over not only by how great King Diamond’s vocals still sound at his age, but also how fantastic the stage presence was. Theatrical and occult with the decorations and attire, especially on the singer, Mercyful Fate really committed to making a great show. Playing only 80s material, except for that one new song they’re still working on, they were supposed to close with “Satan’s Fall”, but due to time limitations (this was past midnight in a public city square after all), they instead finished with “Black Funeral”.
CONCLUSIONS AND SUCH
I was wise enough to take some people with me on the way home, meaning that it was finally worthwhile to actually choose the car instead of the train. Because of how relatively close the large square, where the festival takes place, is to the train station, ArtMania is a pretty travel friendly festival. Sibiu is a relatively big city at over 100,000 residents, so it is quite a contrast to the open air festivals where the nearest city has under 10,000.
A lot of the things I said in the conclusions of the previous article about Sibiu remains true. Beautiful spot for a festival. Plenty to do outside of the festivals themselves. I haven’t eaten at any place but the shopping mall, but I remember from experience always having a great time dining out.
The token system was finally swapped for a cashless system, though it was still the intermediary kind where you’d get a festival-specific card that you would fill up at certain points, and that you could later get refunds on for the remaining money. The drink catalog was pretty reduced, with two types of beer and one type of shot (Jaggermeister), so I had to spend 12 lei (2.4 Euro) for every drink.
The festival also had plenty of merch stands, and enough bar people that I never had to wait too long in the queue for a drink. I didn’t eat anything at the festival itself, so I can’t comment on that. What I did do a lot was go to the pseudo-slots machine that would give free prizes from the sponsors like T-shirts, temporary tattoos, and bar vouchers. The fact that each hit would always win something did lose some of the appeal of playing the slots machine, but it was more beneficial in the long run for me. You don’t get the full festival experience unless you’re banned from the festival slot machine. But I did it all in the name of journalism.
Overall, it was an amazing time. I'm glad that it was three days compared to the usual two, and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.
||Written on 30.07.2022 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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