M'era Luna 2013:
Nightwish/HIM/ASP/Front 242/Deine Lakaien/Blutengel/Front Line Assembly/Apoptygma Berzerk/Mesh/The 69 Eyes/The Klinik/End of Green/Nachtmahr/Kirlian Camera/Haujobb/Diorama/Clan of Xymox/In The Nursery/Coppelius

Hildesheim, Germany - 10-11 August 2013

"The sound was phenomenally good, I could feel the shape of every beat"

[Gis poster]
My second visit to M'era Luna and as in 2006 the weather is almost perfect. Only just starting to rain as the festival drew to a close on Sunday. So, for the most part gorgeous sunshine, a friendly capacity (25,000) crowd, great sound and some decent beer. The festival is orientated to a goth/industrial crowd, but does book some metal/rock acts too. Like the similar German and Belgian festivals I've been to, a lot of the crowd make a real effort to look the part. Trad goth with Victorian elements being the predominent look, but with a little bit of cyber and steampunk and a scattering of military uniforms. The crowd had a noticeably higher ratio of younger people than what similar events in the UK attract.

I arrived at the site around 1pm on Saturday so unfortunately only caught End Of Green's set onwards.
They are at the rockier/metal end of the spectrum. Competent but knocking out a set of pretty conventional mid tempo rock tracks. Mainly bass guitar driven with some very well worn riffs, not unpleasant, but nothing to set them apart from 1000s of similar acts.  

It is a long time since I last saw Mesh (M'era Luna 2006!) and they haven't changed a great deal since, bar the addition of some dubstep elements into a few of their new tracks. They still sound a little like Depeche Mode, and all of their tracks seem to have the same mid-tempo rythmn and earnest, worried vocals. The newer material is a little more upbeat, but I wasn't left inspired to seek it out.

I had planned my weekend using the rather excellent M'era Luna phone app with which you can create your own timetable with alerts for the bands you flag. It's impossible to see everything, there being a large main outdoor stage and a smaller indoor one. The festival site is at Hildesheim Airport and the main stage is built on a runway which works well as a large part of the audience are standing on the runway too, so little chance of getting muddy even if it does rain. The second slightly smaller stage is in an aircraft hangar, and the two are very close but still with bands playing concurrently you can't see everything. Fortunately for me there were very few clashes with the bands I wanted to see.

Diorama I didn't know at all but passing the hangar I was drawn in by their vaguely Haujobb-like EBM. It wasn't just the music, the vocals also reminded me a little of Myer's softer deliveries. The songs are a lot poppier than Haujobb, but had enough going on to keep my attention. I will be checking out their albums on the strength of this performance.

Haujobb themselves were a very welcome pleasure, again quite a while since I last saw them, but I have been highly impressed with the recent material. the set was made up largely of recent tracks, the stage set-up was sparse and Myer was full of energy, surprisingly sprightly around the stage and firing up the audience. It is criminal that Haujobb are playing this far down a festival bill, but there was a good sized crowd none-the-less. The sound was phenomenally good and I could feel the shape of every beat. Someone should really be booking him for some UK shows.

Diene Lakaien's acoustic set consisted of Alexander Veljanov singing accompanied by grand piano only. This might work for indoor performance, but here was hampered by a distinct lack of volume and the delicate sound being completely lost amongst the background noise of the festival. The footage I've seen of their performances with an orchestra worked well, albeit I still prefer their stark electronic versions, this however was a huge disappointment and they need to seriously rethink the set up before their headline slot next year.

Nachtmahr were the kind of default stompy, teutonic electro industrial that caused me to stop following what the industrial scene became. About as generic as it is possible to be. The backdrop with "War Is Not The Answer" gave no clue to what was and conflicted somewhat with the military uniforms and toy guns on stage. Lots of people were dancing and concentrating sternly on enjoying themselves, but it just sounded dated and jaded to me.

Back out in the light ASP are clearly a big deal over here. German vocals, driving riffs and atmospheric interludes complimented with a string section. Very dramatic and very much rock. Not particularly my thing, aside from the few tracks where they stray into Rammstein territory. Entertaining though and I can understand the mass appeal.

The Klinik somehow passed me by before now but I was seriously impressed by their M'era Luna performance. Back in the dark claustrophobic hangar, which suited their intense barrage of grainy sample based hypnotic rhythms. Lots of found sounds meaning that the otherwise simplistic song structures still held the attention. Both members wore vaguely Lecterish masks and the vocals were barked and spat out monosyllabic chants. It worked. I have some catching up to do.

HIM were the headliners for Saturday and it was a very late set, finishing at midnight. The lightshow was spectacular and all the better for the late show. There are enough strong melodies in HIM's material to set them apart from the other rock acts on the bill. Even for unfamiliar tracks it's hard not to find yourself humming or singing by half way through each track. Both band and audience seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly and as with Asp there were lots of hands in the air for pretty much the full set. I wasn't aware until Valo mentioned that this was the second time HIM have played M'era Luna, the other being the very first one. I think I had a big smile on my face by the end too, and hardly noticed the 40 minute walk back to my hotel. (I don't really do camping...)


Photos [L-R]: Haujobb, Mesh, Clan of Xymox, Front Line Assembly (x2)

Day two and my arrival on site is greeted by Coppelius. Immediate impression was Eastern tinged classical jazz and honky-tonk. Which wasn't what I was expecting to hear, but was all the more interesting for it. They seem to throw pretty much anything into the melting pot, as their set swings from prog-rock to, well, swing. Some of it sounds like Sopor Aeturnus without the death gurgle, some of it sounds like the Mighty Boosh. That's not a criticism. I can even hear Stump. I will be investigating further. The 69 Eyes were up next. I can't say I was expecting much, and that was pretty much all I got from a very well worn Sisters clone.

Having had my fill of the sweatmeats [sic] on the main stage it was off to the hangar for In The Nursery. I saw them for the first time in London in 2011 and was eager to repeat the experience. Once again the sound in the hangar was crystal clear and the appreciative audience were rewarded for their silence with a short but dramatic set. Powerful without being bombastic. Measured bursts of kettle drum and snake rattle or military snare, with synth swathes and scattered vocal. A mature sound in the dark of the hangar whilst the children play outside in the sun.

I hung around for Clan of Xymox and was really pleased I did. 2006 at this very festival was when I last saw them and they didn't make a great impression on me then. This time I was hooked by the second track. The set was bass driven, a simple but effective groove to most of the tracks. No crescendos but no lulls either, creating a constant atmosphere. A little loss, a little hope. The main stage would have killed this, but disappointing that they were this low on the bill.

Back to the main stage for Apoptygma Berzerk and again I don't think I've seen them since I saw them here in 2006. Oddly their set was a mirror image of what they played back then. Having released two more albums and an EP since, this was more than a little bizarre. They did however get the audience psyched up with all the euphoric tracks from Welcome To Earth, 7 and Harmonizer. Pretty much everyone I could see around me was smiling, dancing and singing along. Yes, me too.

Kirlian Camera were next up in the hangar with some mid-tempo power chords and breathy female vocals. The synths underpinning and string weren't sufficient to hold my attention. Accomplished but I didn't hear anything to set them apart from tens if not hundreds of bands ploughing the same furrow.

Back in the light and Blutengel were pumping out You Walk Away and the entire audience were arms in the air clapping, looking exactly like the promo clip used on the run up to the festival. I find Blutengel a little too generic, but they are still fairly life affirming to see live and it's hard not to get caught up in the positivity of the moment. Step back from it and the sweeping choruses and pumping rave all fall to pieces. No substance, no sustenance.

Front 242 should have been amazing. Front 242 did their level best to engage the crowd. M'era Luna was however determined to stay rooted to the spot. They can clap, but it seems that they cannot dance. Not for Front 242 anyway. Well, OK, about 5 of us were dancing. Perhaps the audience demand circuses with their brot. Front 242 did not offer much in the way of backdrops/lights/fireworks. They offered EBM. Quality EBM, but old EBM. It was not enough. Not for this crowd anyway. I came away after half an hour, but only to secure a good spot for the band I came to see.

Once more into the darkness of the hangar. Once more for Front Line Assembly. A new album to promote, a re-engineered sound. Like everyone and their mutter, dubstep has wormed its way into the FLA flesh. It isn't too prominent so shouldn't date the material too much, but then FLA have always borrowed from whatever genre happens to be passing. Absorb and assimilate. Some of their stage gear was mistakenly borrowed by Lufthansa en route, so the band had to assimilate gear from others. There was a noticeable tension on stage, the band clearly anxious about their sound given the mend and make do at short notice.

They needn't have worried. The sound was huge from the off. A good mix of old and new tracks accompanied by the best lights I've seen at any of their shows. I couldn't see much of the audience from the front, but it was clear from fairly early on that the band were pleased with the reception. Once Leeb relaxed he was bouncing around the stage as normal. There was a massive amount of bass in the new material. Pulsing through my ribcage and throbbing through the floor. If anything I was more impressed by the new tracks live than the older material. Killing Grounds, Blood and Exhale, all possessed of a claustrophobic, dark energy. I cannot wait to see a longer set in London.

Out of the darkness and into the Nightwish. I watched from afar, taking in their lightshow. The music, as with some of the other bands this weekend, if removed from the goth context is basically chart pop/rock. Pleasant enough verse/chorus/verse tunes, heartfelt but rather mundane vocals about love or ...whatever. It worked, but only as background music for the start of my walk back to the hotel. A great weekend all told, and a much higher percentage of acts I'm interested in than at most other festivals I go to. I can't knock the atmosphere at all. You should go. 8/10