Friday, July 28, 2006

In Extremo with naio ssaion; Alter Schlachthof, Dresden, 1 October 2005

This is a repost of a review of a show I went to in Dresden last December.


Overall, kickass show with a fairly good crowd.

Best to start at the beginning. I timed the travel just right, leaving just in time to get to the venue right at 7:30 for doors. There was, of course, a lineup already, but security (extremely loose, they only checked my jacket) moved people up into the hall fairly fast. After that, figuring out the venue was pretty quick, and then in to the bar and merch stands.

I was in the difficult position of being without a backpack or anything, and already wearing two layers, so a shirt would have been a little troublesome. Those who think otherwise have not been to many indoor shows. So I picked up two In Extremo pins, as they lacked patches. One of these is already mounted on my jacket, with the other planned but not yet placed; I'm waiting till I get my other gear in to affix it. There will be progress photos as I build my patch jacket, but later. naio ssaion did have patches, but they were more of the sort that would go on a messenger bag rather than a jacket -- or at least a Hypocrisy jacket. Beers were 2,50 plus 1 euro deposit, which is about as good as you're going to get. 5e for a little less than a liter of Krusovice (a demigod among German/Czech dark beers) and 1e to take the cup home is a pretty good deal.

Of course, when you get to the venue at 7:30 and have your merch by 8, for a 9:00 show, you do have to stand around for an hour while you wait for the opening act to go on. Since the hall turned out to be absofuckinglutely packed, this was the only way to pick where you were going to stand, but it's still a lot of just standing around and drinking. It did, though, allow me the time to make some observations about the hall and the crowd.

The hall:
The Alter Schlachthof concert area is a concrete and brick box, about 20 or 30 meters wide, about 100 long of standing space, and about a 10 or 15-meter-high ceiling, slightly arched in the center. Air circulation is pretty bad, and the raw acoustics probably aren't that great either. Of course, when the place is four-walls packed, the audience becomes its own sound-absorbent material.

As for the crowd, it was half Renaissance faire, half goth club, and half metal gig; probably the largest concentration of men in kilts or skirts that I had yet encountered, and definitely the largest 'civilian' incidence of people in furry leather jerkins. The crowd was gender-split about 50-50, and fairly young, at least where I was, about 10 meters off the stage. Among guys in this bunch, I had moderately long hair, which is something that has not been true at metal shows in about two and a half years. The only problem was that, like most metal scenes, nearly everyone smokes -- and since this is Germany, they get to smoke in the hall. Air quality rapidly deteriorated even before everyone started jumping around and depleting the oxygen for real.

Finally, naio ssaion went on and got the crowd going. Their fly describes them as "modern, hard-hitting New Rock with a fascinating female vocalist and sensational violin melodies, for fans of Evanescense and Die Happy*" (a band that I am unable to refer to in public because I don't know and can't tell whether it's supposed to be in German or in English). They're a metal version of Silbermond with violins -- though the Die Happy comparison isn't too far off the mark. Not that there's anything wrong with that; despite a few nu-metal turns, they put up a decent amount of thrash, especially for an opening act, and in the one break where they let the vioinist riff on classical themes with pure instrumental backing, they proved that they've got chops to spare. Putting electric guitars into orchestral structures hasn't gotten old or any less awesome since Savatage did it on Hall of the Mountain King twenty years ago.

naio ssaion only got about 30 minutes, as the crew had to clear all their gear off and partially re-dress the stage for In Extremo. Following the cover of their current album (Mein Rasend Herz), there was a ship built around the drum riser, with higher platforms on both sides. This was the reason that In Extremo was a don't-miss show: even inside, where they can't really do fire-eating or fire-twirling due to the nearness of the audience, they present a visual spectacle without parallel.

They certainly didn't disappoint, coming out in a blast of pyro and getting the crowd completely crazy. Of course, this was European crazy -- the pits are smaller and more self-contained, and people don't send themselves flying around without regard to others. It's a good system, very considerate to those at the very front who just want to headbang, and to those with bad knees who are willing to be the edge of a pit, but not go flying in themselves. Two people up front stage left were ejected for fighting, or just being dicks while moshing, but other than that no incidents.

In Extremo played for two hours, including a 3-song encore, in the course of which they basically set the whole stage on fire. (well, just two cymbals and the drummer's sticks, and the propane jets were constantly blasting fireballs, but it sure seemed that way.) It was a well-paced set, not wearing out the crowd, so everyone still had enough energy left to go completely nuts at the closer. All in all an excellent show, despite the stress in my calves and back, and that I was probably coughing second-hand smoke back out all the way to the S-bahn. Pure kickass, almost enough to make up for the fact that Running Wild cancelled the gig they were supposed to play there the following night. Insufficient preorders/technical issues with the hall my ass; Running Wild had sold more tickets in Dresden than In Extremo did when I got mine (simultaneous), and it surely wouldn't take all day to vacuum up all the metal confetti that they blasted onto the crowd and floor. Cap'n Rolf just wanted to get his ass back to home port a day early.

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