Keeping busy is always a good thing, but it can be exhausting, especially when it concerns live music events. First there was Amphi Festival in Cologne at the end of July, then the Manchester Beat:Cancer show the following weekend, and my most recent trip last weekend was to M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim. No rest for the wicked, eh?
Last year was a real downer, as the weather put a dampener on everyone’s spirits… quite literally! The heavens opened, and it was a downpour for the majority of the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good fun, but it would have been so much better if there had been less rain. Luckily, this year was the complete polar opposite, with glorious sunshine throughout. Rain only made an appearance briefly on the Saturday morning when I was still snug in my tent. By the time I finally emerged, the blistering heat had already done it’s duty, and dried everything off. So, already a massive improvement on last year! Anyway, this blog isn’t supposed to be a weather forecast, so let’s actually get to some band reviews, shall we?
After a long journey to the festival, and some partying on the Friday night, things got to a late start for us on the Saturday. The first band we checked out were Eisfabrik at the Hangar stage early in the afternoon. This was the third time I’d seen them this year, and they still managed to be very impressive. Early sound issues had me dreading the rest of the set, but they were resolved pretty quickly. It was extremely atmospheric, with the hangar proving to be the perfect setting for more electro-based music. The venue was packed-out and, as with Amphi, they set the tone for the rest of the festival.
Rabia Sorda were next up in the hangar, and they were fantastic. Their combination of gritty punk guitars, harsh electro and Erk Aicrag’s ferocious vocals melded together for a visceral performance. It was violently energetic throughout, and a great mix of tracks from their latest album, The World Ends Today, as well as sections from their discography, such as “Turbulence” and “Walking on Nails.” Heading outside for some rest, we had Lord of The Lost as a bit of background noise. Whilst they had a powerful presence, there were some sound issues that made the listening experience a bit of a let down. With some spare time on our hands, we decided to stay outside, and checked out The 69 Eyes, who turned out to be really enjoyable! Their moody Gothic Rock generated a superb atmosphere, which worked surprisingly well in an outdoor setting, especially considering how bright and sunny it was. It was a bit of a nostalgic ride for me, taking me back to the days where you’d constantly see their videos on Kerrang (when it was still good.) This was especially fortified when they closed with “Never Say Die” and “Lost Boys.” Going back to more familiar territory, with a band I’m more familiar with, Apoptygma Berzerk put on a great show, as always. There’s just something about their sound that makes them extremely easy to listen to, and is very uplifting. I don’t think I could ever get tired of hearing hits like “Non-Stop Violence” or “Until The End of The World.” I only checked out a fraction of Ministry as I had to head back to the campsite to sort a few things, but from what I could tell, I wasn’t missing much. Sure, they were aggressive as ever, but I wasn’t particularly in the mood for their political message. It felt a tad out of place at a festival such as M’era Luna, they were basically preaching to the wrong crowd. In Extremo is a name I’d heard a lot before, but I had never listened to them. However, I decided to check them out on a whim. I’m glad I did too, because they were quite spectacular, and not only the biggest surprise for me, but a highlight of my weekend! Their mixture of Metal and traditional Folk music resonated together in a way that made it pure energetic fun. I admit, I’ve been getting into Folk music recently, and this weekend has only solidified this interest. They had a presence that was exhilarating, as the crowd went wild. The moment they performed “Sternhagelvoll” was the peak moment of the set, as the audience linked arms, swaying to the music. It was a beautiful experience. Honestly, if these guys had been headliners, I would have been satisfied, but that was a slot reserved for The Prodigy. It may sound odd for a mainstream band to headline an alternative festival, but the Essex trio are no strangers to this venue, having played the festival previously. Plus, let’s not forget that they’re a band that transcend music and social scenes. Needless to say, this experience shone through, as their set was absolutely electrifying. It did feel a lot more focused on their newer material, but it didn’t make it any less epic. Even so, they still squeezed in hits such as “Breathe”, “Thier Law” and “Smack My Bitch Up”, to name a few. You could argue that the pacing was off, as it wasn’t a non-stop torrent of tracks. The band separated sections with ambience and slower beats, but I feel this made it more interesting, as it added to the atmosphere. It could also be a sign of them showing their age. They aren’t as young as they used to be, after all! Either way, it was still a superb show, and they still have some aggression left in them, proven by “Need Some1” and “Resonate” off their upcoming record, No Tourists. Their show definitely has me pumped to hear more, November can’t come soon enough!
With the combination of heat, lack of sleep and late nights, Sunday got off to an even later start. I really can’t party like I used to. This meant that we missed FabrikC, which I’m quite sad about, as I hear they were amazing. However, the day got off to a storming start for me with Frozen Plasma. I’ll be honest, I have nothing but love for this band, and the quality of their music, especially in a live setting, is more than enough of a reason to. From start to finish, it was pure joy, their Electro beats resonating throughout the entirety of the packed-out hangar. The setlist was a fantastic one too, with hits such as “Murderous Trap”, “Irony” and “Tanz Die Revolution”, as well as their mighty latest single “Safe. Dead. Harm.” Frontman Felix Marc was lively as ever, having the full attention of the crowd. In my opinion, they absolutely dominated. Without a doubt, they have to be the highlight of my entire weekend. Not wanting to get separated amongst the horde of Goths, our group made the majority vote to see Aesthetic Perfection next, and this is the only reason I watched them. I feel they’re somewhat over-rated, plus I still have reservations on Daniel Graves’ attitude. However, to say the set was bad would be ignorant, as they still put on a pretty good show. If I have one genuine complaint, it’s that the drums were sometimes too loud in the mix, and drowned out the rest of the music. Although this is something that can easily happen in the Hangar stage. With the heat reaching unbearable levels, we retreated outside afterwards to find the solace of some shade. This meant we ended up seeing Saltatio Mortis. Once again, this was another band I’d not heard of, and yet another fusion of Folk and Metal. I do admit, they were quite fun, but were somewhat underwhelming compared to the brilliant performance of In Extremo from the previous evening. It was still great entertainment nonetheless. Atari Teenage Riot proved to be very enjoyable. The unpredictable and spontaneous nature of their music gave the set an interesting sense of pacing, and at times the electro beats came across as brutal. Honestly, it was difficult to not dance to, but it was difficult to leave early, as the second half of their show clashed with Front 242 on the main stage. This is a band that need no introduction, as they’re pioneers of the EBM/Industrial scene, having formed in 1981. Sadly, when I saw them at Amphi in 2015, I was underwhelmed, as it was a slow, dull experience. Being a man of second chances, I decided to give them another go. This time round, they were superb! In contrast to the last time I saw them, there was a definite lively energy, and the sound quality was spot-on. I even finally got to see “Headhunter” live, which was an extremely joyful moment for me. A common theme I find at M’era Luna is that more electronic based bands tend to not work so well on the main stage. The atmosphere seems to get lost in such an open environment, so they’re usually more suited to the Hangar stage. However, Front 242 absolutely nailed it, and proved that electronic music can work outdoors. Initially, the final headliners were the worst clash for me. On the main stage were Industrial Metal titans Eisbrecher, whilst Electro-Industrial kings Hocico took to the Hangar. However, as Hocico regularly do shows in the UK, and Eisbrecher will probably (sadly) never visit our shores, the decision became much easier. The decision turned out to be a wise one, as Eisbrecher put on a stunning show. I knew to expect greatness after seeing them at Amphi last year, but they really took things to the next level. In just a year, the production was improved upon massively, and it was truly a spectacle to witness. Meanwhile, their bulky heavy sounds and amazing melodies were pitch-perfect. It was great to hear tracks such as “Augen unter Null”, “Himmel, Arsch und Zwirn”, “Eizeit” and “This is Deutsch” live. Frontman Alex Wesselsky had a charm and presence that had the crowd under his command. I admit, even though I don’t speak much German, I still found his banter enticing. A funny highlight was the audience members that dressed in Pikachu outfits from Pokémon, which resulted in Wesselsky constantly referencing it, and even breaking into the Pokérap at one point. A bit of trivia for you; he actually sang the Pokérap for the official German dub of the Pokémon anime. You seriously can’t make this stuff up! The entire set was a blast from start to finish, and there were nothing but good vibes throughout. The only major complaint I have, is that the set was criminally short. They deserved much more time on stage. However as short as it was, it was still sweet, and the perfect way to close the festival.
Overall, 2018 was a massive improvement over last year, but it felt like it came and went way too quickly. As they say, time flies by when you’re having fun. M’era Luna once again proved itself to be one of the greatest festivals in the world, and runs circles around UK festivals. It truly is one of the best places to be. Before closing, I’d like to give a shout out to my awesome friends who were there with me, and to the lovely new faces I met. It was an honour to party with you all. I’d also like to give huge thanks to Adrian Atkins and his crew for organising yet another successful trip with Goths on a Bus. Honestly, if it wasn’t for you, we’d have never even got to this festival in the first place, so thank you so much. Here’s to another excellent M’era Luna in 2019!