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Amid all the festivals clamouring for attention, announcing this-that-and-the-other band in order to coax more ticket sales, there’s a newly-emerging festival that has a very different agenda. Dragon’s Cry, a Viennese festival organized by vocalist/journalist Siegfried Samer of Dragony, seeks to display with pride the width and depth of the Austrian underground metal scene, a diversity clearly visible from one glance at the line-up. Over the course of two evenings, the audience were treated to hard rock, heavy metal, power, progressive, thrash, blackened death metal, melodic death metal, and metalcore. All of the bands involved in this event were (bar one of them) from Austria. For €18, that’s not a bad deal at all. Let’s take a little more detailed look at who took to the stage.

As far as opening bands go, I’d be hard-pressed to find a more eclectic one than Gradient Of Disorder. Those who recall my festival preview will remember my issue with classifying the band’s sound; somehow their live performance confused me even further (if that were even possible) – not least because of the eyebrow-raising attire and mannerisms brandished extravagantly by the frontman. Atop his head was a fisherman’s-style hat with a bandana and antler horns tied on it, which jiggled as he pulled out some hilarious moves more befitting a 60′s flower power dance-off. His vocals, a blend of slightly nasal singing and harsh screams supported by the guitarist’s grunting, strangely suited the folky-heavy-metal-cum-melodeath brand that the musicians were creating. Regrettably mixing issues skewed some parts of their set, and rendered the flautist nearly inaudible, but these seemed resolved by the time their well-adapted version of Sabaton‘s “Swedish Pagans” rolled around. The crowd seemed enthused by the end of their half-hour, and suitably warmed up for the heavier bands to follow.

Heavy definitely happened with this next band. Esseker - sporting a ferocious harsh vocalist and a bassist in a jumpsuit, started out in a bouncing form as they tore through tracks that sounded akin to Hatebreed playing thrash metal with impressive guitar solos. However, this sound shifted rapidly at the introduction of recent addition of a female singer who, according to the band, only joined a week ago. Well, that certainly did not seem the case when noting the interplay between members; the band chemistry was strong onstage, with the songs taking on the Trivium feel I mentioned in the preview. While the male singing was not personally to my taste, the rest more than made up for it, particularly the solos as mentioned, and they left a positive imprint as they wrapped up in time for the next surprise.

Finally, the mysterious identity of Sors Immanis was revealed; one impressive youthful blackened-death metal band with energy to burn. Blasting through track after track of their as-yet-unreleased début album, they remained consistently solid, shifting from blackish tremolo and blast beats through death metal riffing to melodeath-inspired guitar lines. What struck me in particular were the vocals: the guy performing them effortlessly transitioned between styles and had no issue being heard over the musical cacophony occurring around him. Glistening with sweat as they crashed through the final track “Bathory“, it was clear they had given their absolute all, and they wrapped up their set to very loud applause.

No videos have emerged of Sors Immanis, but you can check out some of their old material on their MySpace, go here for that.

Despite me not fitting in with the denim-n’-patches look of many watching, I was curious to check out heavy/thrash metallers Enclave. After a lacklustre start, the band soon caught the audience’s attention with a plethora of guitar melodies and solos wrapped around the vocalist’s shouts and singing, with even a couple of unexpected air-raid siren wails emerging. However, the standout moment was the belatedly-dedicated cover of “Black Magic” to the recently-passed Jeff Hanneman, where they did the classic Slayer track full justice. If their live show is anything to go by, the United Desperation EP is definitely worth investigating.

It was incredibly saddening for me to only catch the first three songs of headliners Siren’s Cry, but what I heard sounded magnificent. Having had previous experience with Katie Bilak‘s vocal capabilities last year when she filled in for Dragony’s Siegfried at Metalfest Austria, it was a pleasure watching her perform with her own music. Their brand of operatic progressive-metal filled the stage, with cool melodies from both guitar and keyboard, and their constant engaging with the crowd kept the fist-pumping going steadily. Seeing Siren’s Cry in a live setting provided the perfect taster for enjoying the copy of Scattered Horizons that I finally picked up, and my appetite for their sophomore is similarly whetted. Highly recommended onstage and in your CD player.

Click through to the next page for day 2 of the festivities, with more bands to discover!