The Viper Room in Vienna is a small downtown venue, with a little bar in the basement and the concert hall further downstairs. Now the bar is closed, having to host the backstage of a concert of a certain level with Gaahls Wyrd, supported by Tribulation and Uada..
I manage to order a beer just a few meters from the stage. A hundred people, no more. The sold-out was predictable.
I arrive just in the middle of Idle Hand‘s set. They come from Portland, Oregon, 80s sound, but honestly they bore me. The curious Austrians are always willing to take a look, but the band definitely do not convince.
On the contrary, for Uada the public begins to push forward. A couple of extreme fans cling to the stage to not give up the position. Right from the very beginning, they mimic the guitar lashes of “Natus Eclipsim” and – damn! – they are extremely precise.
Same geographical origin as the previous group, but on a different level. I had the pleasure to see them for the first time at the 22nd Brutal Assault, in 2017. On one side their crudity of execution, on the other side the fascinating location with an incredible reverb – the inside stage of the Josefov Fortress – well, I can only have good memories of the guys.
Memories that are restored during the execution of “Devoid of Light”. Following the tradition of long, scratched and penetrating passages, the audience shows a great deal of passion. People are so excited that, during the attack of “Cult of a Dying Sun”, the singer pounces on the microphone, the stand fluctuates frighteningly, he tries to get it back, but he kicks a socket.
The lights go down. Total darkness. Some sympathetic comments. The technicians are not able to fix everything before the planned stage change. And yet I notice that the place is full of flying electric cables…
A little bit of disappointment overall, but after the mandatory cigarette break – the Viper is one of the few venues in Austria in which you cannot smoke inside, at least in the stage area – it is already time to jump back in the pit. I prepare the camera quickly, on the notes of Edith Piaf (!) and – lo and behold – of Sopor Aeternus.
It’s the turn of a band that surprises me, literally. The members of the Tribulation come on stage, one after the other. I have never seen them live, I admit it. Almost ridiculous make-up, come on… the drummer looks like a little boy.
But then, the real character: Jonathan Hultén. In the role of a nodded nun, the guitarist whirls and wiggles, performing unforgettable pieces like “The Lament” on the tip of the most uncomfortable shoes that have ever trod a stage. The singer almost follows the steps of Nifelheim’s one, with an aggressive and at the same time disciplined style; Adam Zaars (second guitarist), smiles malignantly to the lens of the photographers as he varies the rhythms of “Suspiria de Profundis”.
Last rounds for Jonathan, so quick to wonder how he does not get caught in the frayed mesh of laces that surround him. He jumped on the stage grids, actually doing “field invasions”, almost banging his instrument against cameras and phones pointed at him.
Long story short, they are the true “revelation” of the evening. The audience is into raptures. “Lacrimosa” ends their performance, dispelling the mass to the final sound of a melancholic piano.
And then there is him. The king. Among the most beautiful comments on the web, someone has defined him as “the Freddie Mercury of Black Metal”, since the Oscar’s evening just took place: Gaahl. With Gaahls Wyrd, of course.
This man does not need any introduction. We all remember him holding a glass of wine and his flat voice saying the same word over and over again: “Satan”. Who has not laughed at it?
And yes, the Austrians remember him well and welcome him with shouts of… joy!
The band starts like (almost) always with “Steg”, a trademark – actually, a cover of his own Trelldom. Originally by Trelldom is also “Til minne”, which precedes the actual explosion: the long-awaited “Ghosts Invited”, fresh and out just for a few weeks now.
Gaahl seems almost shocked at hearing half of the audience singing the first lines of the lyrics. The piece is even more successful than the more traditional “Aldrande Tre” and “Carving a Giant”.
Shortly thereafter, a second technical problem affects the night. The guitar player runs back to ask for a second instrument and… there isn’t one. Gaahl stops for about seven/eight minutes, looking into the void, vaguely angry.
But it is all overcome by the vigor of “Prosperity and Beauty”, which satisfies everyone.
Such a classy performer!