Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Epica/Eluveitie - London Review

Epica are probably the most forward-thinking and exciting symphonic metal band out there at the moment. While they might not quite have the same class and sheen as Nightwish, they are certainly more technical and are producing excellent album after excellent album. Their sixth album, The Quantum Enigma, released last year was milestone from the band in terms of production and songwriting. They played a sole UK show in London last year to promote it, but this year a string of UK shows were announced to properly promote the album as they come towards the end of it's touring cycle. Joining Epica on this European trek were Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie and Swedish melodic metal band Scar Symmetry, which made for an excellent bill. While Epica were certainly the main attraction for many, the promotional material for the show gave the impression this was a co-headline tour with Eluveitie. Whether this was intentional or not, it certainly felt like that, with Eluveitie playing a length set to many in the crowd who were already their fans. For this review, I have counted this gig as a co-headline show, hence the title of this blog entry. The Forum in London's Kentish Town (now owned by O2) has never been my favourite venue. I had a bad experience there at the Blind Guardian show earlier in the year, so I decided to stand on the raised platform near the sound desk, which proved to be a good move. The views from here were excellent, and the sound throughout was really good. I shall always try and stand here in future when visiting this venue.

Scar Symmetry's half an hour set was excellent way to start the evening off. Their progressive, but extremely melodic brand of metal fit perfectly on this bill and they did a great job warming up the crowd. I am fairly new to the band, getting The Singularity (Phase I - Neohumanity) when it came out last year, and I have bought a couple more of their albums since. I am no expert though, but this set persuaded me to invest more time into their albums. All of their songs had huge choruses, and the vocal interplay between frontmen Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist made for a dynamic and varied vocal display. Per Nilsson (guitar/vocals) is the true star of the show though, with plenty of shredding solos performed throughout the set. Despite the fact it was only a short set, Scar Symmetry really made a good impact on the gathering crowd and probably made a few new fans. I will definitely be getting the rest of their discography soon, and investing much more time and effort into them.

While Eluveitie are not a favourite band of mine by any stretch, I really admire them. I saw the band in 2012 supporting Sabaton in Wolverhampton, and since then have become somewhat a fan of theirs and own a couple of their albums. I am not sure I will ever totally get what they do, but after this triumphant set of theirs I will also be spending more time with their music. They played for well over an hour, and their set was packed full of folky goodness, with violins, whistles, and hurdy gurdies thrown into the mix. What I really like about Eluveitie is that their music is not at all cheesy. It is not ridiculous like Korpiklaani, made purely for drunk idiots acting half their age to dance to, this is proper folk-influenced metal that pays homage to their Swiss culture and sounds classy and heavy at the same time. Their music is extremely melodic though, and the mix between frontman Chrigel Glanzmann's harsh vocals and Anna Murphy's (vocals/hurdy gurdy) cleans works well and provides a good contrast. The band clearly have a lot of fun on stage, and their heavy melodic death metal guitar riffs fit seamlessly together with the folk instrumentation. An excellent set from a band that are pretty unique, and one that has made me respect them more than previously.

For me anyway, although I suspect there were plenty there solely for Eluveitie, Epica were the main event. I last saw the band in Nottingham in 2012 supporting Requiem for the Indifferent which was a good evening. The Rescue Rooms there is a small venue, so I was looking forward to seeing the band on a bigger stage, and my did they deliver! Their music is made for bigger venues, and their performance merited their recent step-up. Plenty of the band's current album was featured in the set, which was good as the material there is extremely strong. It was the album's opening two songs that also opened their set, with both The Second Stone and The Essense of Silence going down really well as Simone Simons (vocals) and Mark Jansen (vocals/guitar) led the rest of the band through their paces with commanding vocal performances. Epica's onstage chemistry these days is fantastic, and they clearly just love being up on stage. Coen Janssen (keyboards) in particular seems to have the most fun, and his enthusiasm is infectious. A moment of silence was held for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris a couple of days before the gig, which was a nice touch, before the rest of the set got underway with the energy the band have become known for. Another new number Chemical Insomnia went down really well, and another highlight was the Eastern-tinged Martyr of the Free Word which has an amazing chorus. The anthemic Cry for the Moon had the added bonus of Shir-Ran Yinon (violin) from Eluveitie adding live violin to the song, which made it seem even more powerful and special than usual. After a big crowd sing-a-long, Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums) brought the song to an end with an extended drum intro backed up by Janssen's wall of strings, although it was not quite the 'proper' drum solo he has played on previous tours. The Obsessive Devotion was a great guitar workout, with Jansen and Isaac Delahaye (guitar/vocals) mixing well to play the song's complex and numerous riffs. The main set came to an end with The Phantom Agony, with the song's orchestral outro playing long after the band left the stage, which only heightened the expectation for more. A three-song encore was performed, the highlight of which was the huge closing number Consign to Oblivion which rounded the evening out in fine fashion. The setlist was:

The Second Stone
The Essence of Silence
The Fifth Guardian
Chemical Insomnia
Martyr of the Free Word
Cry for the Moon (The Embrace that Smothers - Part IV) [w/ Shir-Ran Yinon]
The Obsessive Devotion
Victims of Contingency
The Phantom Agony
Sancta Terra
Unchain Utopia
Consign to Oblivion (A New Age Dawns - Part III)

Overall, this was another great evening of live music. With the excellent Megadeth show at Wembley the previous day, this was almost like a mini metal festival in London that saw seven great sets! Epica really stole the show here though, and I look forward to seeing them again, and their new album next year. I also got the autographs of the two singers from Scar Symmetry throughout the evening, which was an added bonus!

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