No Mercy Festival in Lyon, France 12 April 2007
|Event:||No Mercy Festival|
Full line up:
Here I am, by myself, right off from work, waiting before the Transbordeur in Lyon, trying to convince myself that going to a metal concert alone is not so bad - in fact it is, I can't stand it and yet I'm doing it all the time because I don't have metal friends in Lyon and I'm not really of the social type, but anyway - above all when you get to see such big bands as Behemoth, Napalm Death and Moonspell. Alright, I wish I could see Obituary again like the lucky Dutchmen up north, but the line up for that night was not bad. Besides, I'd never attended any of these bands before except Behemoth. Moreover, I needed something strong to help me forget the utter disappointment that was the last concert I saw in this venue (i.e. Within Temptation on March 28th).
Let's leave this whingeing me outside for a moment. The Transbordeur is kind of the biggest venue in the city for metal shows (I saw Opeth and Within Temptation there in the last few months, to give you an idea of the type of bands it welcomes) and since it was quite early in the evening it was really empty when the proceedings kick off. First surprise: I knew there was going to be a "local band" warming up, but I didn't know which it was going to be. I expected, you know, a young unsigned funny-but-crap band coming from one of the universities and playing for their friends. Instead I got Destinity. If I got things right, the local band was voted for and the competition was mainly between Destinity and Benighted. Talk about unprofessional bands lol.
Anyway, Destinity got to play around 20 minutes of crazy death metal. The sound was very fine, as it would prove to be all along the night. The little crowd seemed to enjoy the show, well helped by the singer who spent most of the time between the songs encouraging people to mosh and headbang, splitting the crowd in two for both sides to run against each other like in the old days, crowd-surfing and stuff. An excellent show overall, even if I can regret that Destinity sounded like a pure death metal band. All the atmospheric/symphonic/melodic arrangements that make them so special left space to groove and sheer brutality. Fine by me but they are so much more than that.
Ten minutes, one pint, and Root is already onstage (as a side note, this is the show with the shortest waiting times I've ever seen - ten to fifteen minutes only between each band). I admit that I, like most of the audience obviously, didn't know this band before, even though they released their first album in 1990. I am glad I discovered them tonight. Even though the satanic bald dwarf they use as a vocalist had sound problems at the beginning and then belched more than he screamed, Root rocked everyone by piling massive riff upon massive riff. They sounded a bit like a black/thrash version of Entombed. This is music designed to force you to headbang. Not jaw-dropping or innovative, but interesting nonetheless. I had some good thirty minutes with these guys.
Ten minutes, another pint, time for some serious thrash don't you think? The really interesting part of the night begins here for me. To put it simply, Dew-Scented just blew everyone away during thirty-five minutes. The moshpit extended to about one third of the venue. The sound was loud and powerful, just perfect for their brutal thrash crossover. Dew-Scented mainly played songs taken from their last album and added one or two (I can't remember) tracks off the upcoming release. The crowd was wild all along and the band seemed to appreciate that a lot. If I wanted to spoil the fun, I would say that Dew-Scented sometimes sounded a bit too much like The Haunted and that their performance got a trifle repetitive towards the end, but I won't. That was a good and highly enjoyable show.
Just when my happy frame of mind was beginning to falter at the thought of me roaming around for another fifteen minutes, Behemoth got up on the scene. I remembered from my first Behemoth experience that it is a really captivating band to see live, so I knew what to expect in terms of charisma and commanding presence. I was not disappointed and even a bit surprised to see the band joking and interacting with the fans. The sound was clear and brilliant. It conveyed perfectly all the complexity and the minutest details of the arrangements without losing in brutality. The lightshow was in accordance with the music, all in tones of deep blue and red, with frantic flashes on the fastest moments. That added up to the mesmerizing.
The setlist was nice, though I wish they played more songs of Zos Kia Cultus. In about 40/45 minutes, they played classic stuff like "Christians To The Lions", "Antichristian Phenomenon", "Demigod", "Conquer All", "Slaves Shall Serve", "Chant For Eschaton" and what I think was "As Above So Below" but I may be wrong on this one. I almost expected "Let There Be Might" to wrap things up but instead we were treated with a new song that sounded A LOT - songwriting- and sound-wise - like Zos Kia Cultus, i.e. rawer, less sophisticated, in a way more straightforward than Demigod. In other words, a brutal setlist very well mastered all along. The vocal performance was especially amazing, above all when all three front musicians screamed together. This show confirmed what I already suspected: Behemoth is an excellent live band and I'd love to see them headlining.
Now to a band I really wanted to see, just for the experience: the oldschool boys of Napalm Death. Before you read this paragraph, please take into account the fact that I am not a fan of Napalm Death. I actually happen to find most of their stuff boring and repetitive. But I wanted to see them even if only for their longevity and out of respect for what they represent. To be honest from the start, this is the show I enjoyed less. Keep in mind that this was a brilliant night, so the show I enjoyed less was still pretty good. The atmosphere was crazy as Napalm Death clearly was the headliner in the minds of a lot of people. It simply suffered from a few annoying details. First off, it didn't restore my faith in the band. I reckon true ND fans absolutely loved it but as far as I am concerned over one hour of them is a bit too much. I tend (don't kill me) to think most of their songs sound alike. Second, I still don't like Barney's vocals but that's just a matter of taste. Last, I don't know whether their drummer was wasted or very tired or simply extremely bad, but he almost ruined the whole show for me. He was most of the time off-tempo, too fast or too slow, missed rhythm changes and was not consistent regarding his beating force. Unfortunately (for him) the sound was perfect again so he couldn't hide his failure.
Ok, breathe for a moment, hold your insults, the show was not as bad as I'm making it above. I'm definitely amazed at the vitality of these guys after so many years. Barney, despite his usual ugly shorts and his real estate agent haircut, is crazy. This guy looks an epileptic Parkinsonian on LSD. He runs around the stage, throws his arms, legs, head and stomach in the air for no apparent reason and screams like hell. He became my actual hero-of-the-night when he started chatting with the crowd with his strong Birmingham accent. Since most French people don't understand a word in English, you could see the confused looks of a huge part of the crowd at the sound of an "Oï we ore Ney-pom Death from Burm'n'm. Orright then". And he just kept talking although the embarrassed silence made it obvious that no one understood anything. I just loved that.
I also loved recognizing the few songs I actually know and enjoy ("Suffer The Children", "Silence Is Deafening", "Breed To Breathe", "The Code Is Red…") and the part when they announced that this year marked their 27th year as a band and started playing "Scar" followed by half a dozen 20 to 30 second-long songs from their first albums to celebrate that. So ok, I didn't like Napalm Death as much as the rest, but it was a very nice show and I'm happy I could see it. It was just more interesting for the visual performance than for the music itself as far as I am concerned.
To close off the festival we got Moonspell. I hesitated to be ecstatic since it seemed to me that they were a bit "mellow" compared with the rest of the line up. I mean, when I think of Moonspell it's gothic tunes and nice melodies that come to my mind. So I wondered how it would turn out after Napalm Death. Besides, although I love Wolfheart and Irreligious, I find the rest of their discography boring (except for a few songs as we shall see further on). Only Memorial reconciled me big time with the Portuguese band. So, as you imagine, I had not set my hopes very high. Well, let's kill the suspense, Moonspell was the best band of the night. I had not been slapped in the face like this for way too long my friends. First and most important, the setlist was perfect. Seriously. I didn't think I would say that one day as I'm usually a whiney bastard when a band doesn't play this or that song, but I could have drawn up the setlist.
They started out with the melodeath "Finisterra", added "Memento Mori", then right back to Irreligious times with a sequence offering "Opium", "Awake" and "Ruin And Misery". When I thought they would start playing crap from their middle years, they only did one song of Antidote and one of my favourites ever from Sin/Pecado, "Abysmo" and its catchy chorus. Actually the setlist alternated between the last album and very old songs. I thought I was going to faint when they started playing "Vampiria" which allowed Fernando Ribeiro to demonstrate that he definitely is one of the most charismatic guys around. The show ended on the majestically brilliant "Full Moon Madness". The encore brought "Tenebrarum Oratorium" and "Mephisto" (that adds up to 5 songs from Irreligious - I would never have dreamt of that).
What else can I add? That Moonspell show was one of the best I've ever seen - and I've seen my share. Everything from the first to the last minute was amazing. The sound was loud, clear and powerful. The lightshow was discreet but enhanced the gothic atmosphere very well. The show was both violent (on the new songs) and melodic (on the rest) so it fitted the mood of about everyone. The crowd moshed all along. And Moonspell eventually proved to be no less brutal than the rest of the bands. They even brought something more in terms of refinement and catchiness.
So in the end, every band was at least good. I reckon that makes this No Mercy fest a great concert. Looking forward to next year's edition.
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