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Live: M'era Luna Festival

Nightwish, Einsturzende Neubauten and Coppelius bring a progressive flavour to this German 'dark music' festival.

Locating sites large enough for a music festival is always a challenge so perhaps it’s not too surprising to find one in an airfield. Every year, thousands of music lovers come here to enjoy the darker corners of folk, rock, metal and electronic music. Although it’s often referred to as a goth festival, M’era Luna’s line-ups are far more eclectic and there are always a few oddities thrown in to mix things up.

It’s not even lunchtime when the theatrical Coppelius come marching out in their steampunk finery. Dressed in top hats and wielding a cello, double bass, clarinets and percussion, their energetic, progressive dark cabaret is a lively appetiser. Theirs is an attention-grabbing display of irregular time signatures with elements of folk, metal, classical and jazz. They even throw in OTT covers of Iron Maiden’s Charlotte The Harlot and Killers just for fun.

Pioneering sound designers Einstürzende Neubauten might not be ‘lively’ or ‘fun’ but they’re certainly experts when it comes to captivating performances. Their complex sounds are complemented not by pyrotechnics and flashy lights but by sparse lighting and a little dry ice. Given the chaotic festival surroundings and the unnerving quality of intense songs such as The Garden, Halber Mensch and Sabrina, it’s a remarkably immersive experience, and one that punters are still talking about the following day.

(Image credit: Malte Schmidt/ Christoph Meyer)

But the biggest crowd of the weekend is for headliners Nightwish, who could be one of the reasons this year’s event has sold out – it’s just one of their festival appearances ahead of their European tour for Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Taking elements from the album, including Richard Dawkins’ spoken-word pieces, the Finns provide a taster of their autumn shows and it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Since Ayreon and Star One collaborator Floor Jansen joined the band two years ago, they’ve been reborn and reinvigorated. Her dynamic vocal range – beautifully demonstrated in her former symphonic metal band After Forever – means they’ve been able to roll out older tracks that were out of Anette Olzon’s reach. In addition to material from Endless Forms… and Imaginaerum, Jansen turns her attention towards the baroque Stargazers from 1998’s Oceanborn and She Is My Sin from 2000’s power-fuelled Wishmaster. She’s flawless and the crowd go wild as she slips effortlessly between soprano and metal vocals.

Troy Donockley joins them mid-set as piper and troubadour, adding vibrancy and further augmenting their sound. Nightwish look like they’re having a ball right up to Last Ride Of The Day. The flight path is illuminated by fireworks and the crowd scream for more but there’s no encore and, surprisingly, no Nemo either. Consider our appetites whetted for their autumn shows.

(Image credit: Malte Schmidt/ Christoph Meyer)
Natasha Scharf

Dark prog (and chocolate) fan Natasha has been a Prog regular since 2009. News Editor between 2014 and 2019, now Deputy Editor, she is the only member of the team to have appeared on Prog's cover.