Thursday, 15 August 2013

Live: M'era Luna 2013 : Day 1

Hildesheim Flugplatz
Day 1 : Saturday 10th August 2013

Well, last year M’era Luna had a slight dip in attendance as they “only” got 20,000 people through the gates. 2013 and this has been made up for, as the event has sold out! 25,000 people purchased tickets.

Of course, when your headliners include the first appearance of HIM at the festival since the very first event thirteen years ago – and the last performance of Floor Jansen as Nightwish vocalist (or is it…?) then these are factors that can help. However, it’s not as if every other band were playing to three Goths and a whippet… this is a strong line-up and got a deserved strong turnout.

Here are our picks of the bands for Saturday.

Molllust : too early for these ears!
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
As usual, the event is opened by the Newcomer Winners. This year’s winners are Molllust – a slightly over-the-top Opera Metal band from Leipzig. Fronted by Janika Groß they are really just a touch too overblown for this time of the morning! Just a hint too hysterical in places, they’re not the best of recent winners unfortunately.

Lord of the Lost : taking all of our hearts
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
Lord of the Lost seem to be on surprisingly early for their recent achievements in Germany. However, it was only last December that Chris had a throat operation so it’s not impossible that this early slot was by request.  Complete with plenty of charisma, Mr Harms and his merry men plough through their blend of Gothic-Metal, from the stomping ‘Sex on Legs’ to their anthemic ‘Credo’ – which basically ends the set with several thousand people waving their hands and singing “We give our hearts to the Lord of the Lost” like some initiation into some scary religious cult or other. Have no fear kids, LotL are atheists.

Ost+Front : tonight Matthew we wish we were Rammstein
Photo by Bernd Zahn

If LotL had ten minutes too short, Ost+Front had about ten minutes too long. Or 20 minutes too long. Whatever. They’ve gone from being a promising newcomer act when they played in 2011 to, well, an embarrassment really. They don’t really have the songs to complete a 40 minute set and Hermann is a much weaker frontman than Chris was, attempting to make up for the lack of songs with comedy uniforms, throwing dwarves round stage and pelting the audience with chicken is, well… poor. Come on guys, sort this out – you were excellent not two years ago and now you’re just a piss-poor Rammstein tribute act.

Mesh had mentioned on Facebook their schedule for the day. Wake up at 3am. Fly to Hannover. Travel to M’era Luna. Play. Sign stuff. Go back to Hannover. Fly home. Bed by Midnight. It’s almost like a routine.  That was kind of the weakness in their set today, all very, come along to play some songs and leave and it lacked a final edge. The set was made up virtually entirely from tracks from the ‘Automation Baby’ (with the exception of old track ‘You Didn’t Want Me’) and the album was number one in Germany, so hey (or should that be HEY!?) why not? Certainly the bulk of the crowd seems to enjoy this although the set is possibly missing a big hit from it. Although, ‘Born to Lie’ does have the makings of a long-term classic for them.

Saltatio Mortis : more than a pipe dream!
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
If you’ve ever been to a music festival that didn’t have Saltatio Mortis playing then unfortunately you’ve never been to a good music festival. Maybe you thought that Download was 10/10 but it didn’t have SM so therefore can’t be any better than an 8 or 9 out of 10. They are the ultimate feel-good festival band (even if their name does mean "Dance of death") and guess what? No pyro’s, no OTT light shows, no gimmicks, no bullshit. Just A* tunes and A* audience interaction. For three songs in a row the entire audience has their arms in the air, waving or clapping. Add into this Alea’s general energy – leaping around the stage with the band (and going for his trade mark sing-a-song-whilst-crowd-surfing routine) and it’s not just a live show it’s a workout! They’re moving on slightly from their Mittelalter background, still plenty of bagpipes, but rock guitars seem to be creeping in a bit. There is a new album coming so perhaps this signals a slight change in direction for them. Of course, they’re always a band for their sing-a-longs – and the “na, na, na-na-na’s” and “woah-oh-oh-oh’s” can be heard echoing for hours later. You want one of the greatest live bands on the planet right now? Look to Saltatio Mortis!

Cruxshadows : now you see us....
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
Poor Cruxshadows have a tough spot.  Sandwiched between Saltatio Mortis and Mono Inc on the bill.  But, CXS are a natural live act it doesn’t matter if they’re on a tiny stage in a shitty club or on a mainstage of a festival, they can cut it. It’s a slightly busy stage, with there now being eight live members (with Jessica moving to live percussion) and sometimes it can be tricky to know where to look next, the choreographed dancers, the violinists running around having fun, Rogue and his mountaineering exploits. Though, the set begins with Rogue winning boss level of stealth attack, he starts the show from the audience and NOBODY noticed him getting there – he just disappeared from the stage and appeared in the crowd. Rumours have it that Edward Snowden is writing to Rogue for tips on this. Not afraid to drop in tracks from their fantastic recent album ‘As the Dark Against My Halo’, the likes of ‘Halo’ and ‘Angelus Everlasting’ stand up nicely alongside longer serving hits like ‘Winterborn’ and ‘Birthday’. Alongside SM, it’s another uplifting band for a sunny afternoon, uplifting? Pah! It’s a Goth festival! ;-)

Mono Inc : would a change do good?
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
Some interesting developments from Mono Inc – their new album, ‘Nimmermehr’, marks a slight change in direction and ideas. Also, for the first time – they’re writing songs in German. At a time when they’d finally being make in-roads to the UK market! Though ‘Heile, Heile, Segen’ has the distinct Goth rawk of previous releases and it’s a pleasant surprise they wheel out Joachim Witt to duet on ‘Kein Weg Zu Weit’. Incidentally, they’ll be touring with the legendary new-wave singer in their tour later this year. Although the new material seems well received, it is of course the older material like ‘Voices of Doom’ and ‘Get Some Sleep’ that have the crowd in full voice – you can’t help but feel though that they’re on the beginnings of an important transfusion in their career, they wouldn’t be the first German band to hit a ceiling with their current direction and then change to reach a wider audience.

For some completely boggling reason Gothminster clash with Mono Inc. Boggling because when you go through the programme there’s a constant pattern throughout that the Hangar stage band starts as the main stage band finishes – for all bar GM who are already most way through their set when the masses come over from Mono Inc to see their theatrical horror Goth. If you saw our review of their set at Preston, it’s more of the same. Blood, zombies, chainsaws – and a few songs in there about darkness. It’s good, honest.

ASP : Not Sing-Childing any more
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
Deine Lakaien and ASP are both back to back on the main stage after this. Both draw large crowds eating out their hands. See above point under Mono Inc re: changing direction to reach a wider audience. Plenty of ballads and the likes.  ASP have even dropped ‘Sing Child’.

Saturday’s headliners are HIM – even Valo makes joke of how long it’s been since they last played. Hopefully this won’t signal them as being headliners every-other-year because that’s a trap ML had previously fallen into. The big surprise tonight, however, is how good HIM have become. Sure long-term fangirls/fanboys will argue they’ve always been the greatest band ever: but the past few years they’ve been painful to watch and even the early days, when they had only two albums (albeit, two strong albums) their sets were sometimes a little sloppy. 
Opening with ‘All Lips Go Blue’, the sound starts terrible and there’s a big question on if it’ll be another off-day for them, but this all seems to be down to sound problems on the stage which are swiftly resolved.
When, for the second song, Valo announces “The next one is a golden oldie” and then drops in ‘Buried Alive By Love’, a song from their 4th album (though – that is over ten years old!) you could be worried it’s mostly going to be the horrible rock shit they’ve been churning out in recent years – but, no...  it’s a large mix through the era’s – though three album tracks from ‘Love Metal’ seems a bit odd.    
‘Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly’ could easily be renamed ‘Rip Off The Songs Of The Mission’ but there are plenty of older tracks in there also, which understandably get huge responses – ‘Right Here in these Arms’, ‘It’s All Tears’ and ‘When Love And Death Embrace’ amongst the really old-school HIM tracks.
Since cleaning himself up, Valo’s voice is on top form and there’s a glow about them that right now they’re the slickest and best they’ve EVER been. It’s all luscious and bittersweet – and whilst purists might hate them, there are constant nods to bands like The Sisters and The Mission in their set.
Whilst putting them on could have been seen as a gamble – it’s certainly one that has returned dividends.

Part 2 to follow

Kevin Morris

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