Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Delain - London Review

Delain are one of the most popular bands in the symphonic metal world, and their star is still rising! Unlike the majority of their peers who often perform just a token one-off show in London whenever they tour, Delain have always made the effort in the UK. This has paid dividends, and the band have a large legion of fans here, and that legion continues to grow. This European tour, supporting their fifth album Moonbathers, sees them playing some of their biggest UK headline shows to date. Their venue of choice in London has historically been the O2 Academy in Islington, a favourite of melodic metal acts, but this time they came to the beautiful old Koko venue just south of Camden. This is a venue I had only been to once before, to see Kamelot in 2010, and have been wanting to return ever since. The old theatre decor inside gives the venue a classy vibe, the sound is always very good there. It was probably a bit of a risk for them to play the Koko on this tour, but the risk paid off and the place was pretty full. I was on the floor, which was pretty much full right to the back, and there seemed to be a good amount of people on the balconies above too. Delain are seeing the fruits of their labour, with their 1970s-esque touring work ethic reaping the rewards. This was my fourth time seeing the band live, having caught them in Birmingham in 2012, and twice last year at Bloodstock Festival and in Bristol. All three of these shows were excellent, and this one in London was no different - in fact it could be the best of the lot!

Before Delain's set however, the crowd were treated to two strong support acts. Kobra and the Lotus opened the show, and played for just over half an hour. They are a band I had heard the name of before, but had never bothered to check out. This shall be rectified immediately however, as their set of melodic heavy metal impressed. Frontwoman Kobra Paige has a dynamic and captivating stage presence, and her voice reminded me a bit of Doro. She has serious power in her voice, but always sings with a melodic edge. The band were much heavier than I expected, with lots of excellent riffs and guitar solos throughout. Many of these solos were provided by session guitarist 'Shred' Sean Maier, formerly of the fantastic American 1980s-style metal band Blessed by a Broken Heart (who need to reunite!). I saw him live with BBABH back in 2010, so to see him peel off a few excellent guitar solos again was a real treat. The band's material was generally pretty strong too, with lots of big choruses throughout. They impressed me during their set, and I shall look to pick up one of their albums soon.

Up next was gloomy Swedish progressive metal legends Evergrey, a band I have been wanting to see live for a while. While I would not class myself as anything other than a casual fan of their music, their unique sound has always interested me and I had a feeling they would put on a great show. Despite this only being a support slot, they pulled out all the stops and delivered a headline-worthy performance of songs from throughout their catalogue. Unsurprisingly, five of the eight songs played were taken from the band's excellent two most recent works, with Passing Through and The Fire kicking things off. Tom S. Englund (vocals/guitar) sounds as great live as he does on record, and his passionate vocal performance was the best part about the band's set. The whole band work together so well as a unit, with the performance being more than the sum of the parts, but special mention must go to lead guitarist Henrik Danhage for some excellent soloing throughout. His solo in the closing number Kings of Errors was a display of restrained shredding, and his atmospheric solo spot before A Touch of Blessing showcased his slower, more emotional playing. This set was a taster of a full Evergrey show, and I hope they return to the UK soon so I can catch them at one of their own concerts. The setlist was:

Passing Through
The Fire
Leave it Behind Us
Black Undertow
In Orbit
Broken Wings
Guitar solo
A Touch of Blessing
King of Errors

Delain are a band that really know how to put on a good show, and the 90 minutes they were on stage whizzed by as they churned out anthem after anthem for the large crowd. Being the Moonbathers tour, new material dominated the set with seven (eight if you count the intro) songs from that album being featured throughout the evening, with songs from the all of the rest of their albums making up the rest of the show. The show started with the orchestral The Monarch, the new album's closing track, but it worked well as an intro as the band members slowly took to the stage to play along with it. Ruben Israel (drums) was the first on stage, followed by the rest and the band then exploded into the heavy Hands of Gold. Frontwoman Charlotte Wessels sounded fantastic throughout the set, and has matured into a commanding focal point for the band too. She knows how to work a crowd and her confidence and energy is infectious. This current six-piece version of the band has gelled together really well know, and are a tight live unit. The Glory and the Scum was an early highlight, with Otto Schimmelpennick van der Oije (bass guitar/vocals) adding some harsh vocals to the chorus. Old favourites, such as Get the Devil Out of Me and Army of Dolls, were thrown in to mix things up, but the new material was so well received by the crowd that everything felt like an old favourite. The band's new album is one that took a bit of time to grow on me, and hearing many of these songs live now has only improved my opinions of them. Pendulum is definitely one that sounds better live than on the album, with more energy and a thicker sound thanks to the two guitars. The delicate rock of April Rain was a great mid-set rest from the heaviness, and shows just how much heavier the band have become since their second album. Merel Bechtold (guitar) also handled the guitar solo here, something which is usually dealt with by Timo Somers (guitar/vocals) on most of the other songs. The is one thing I would like to see Delain incorporate more of now they have both Somer and Bechtold, two fantastic guitarists, in tow. More dual lead guitar riffs and solos would be a fantastic addition to the band's sound! It was two more of the new songs, Fire with Fire and Danse Macabre, that proved to own the second part of the show, and from them on it was all older classics. The Gathering is always a great live song. The chorus is one of the catchiest in the band's catalogue, and it always gets the crowd going. The main set came to and end with the oldie Pristine, with more crushing harsh vocals, and the band left to huge cheers. Despite 11pm fast approaching by this time, they managed to squeeze in a further three songs as an encore. Mother Machine and the dancey Don't Let Go were popular choices, but it was the anthemic closing number We are the Others that elicited the biggest response of the evening with plenty of singing. The setlist was:

The Monarch
Hands of Gold
The Glory and the Scum
Get the Devil Out of Me
Army of Dolls
The Hurricane
April Rain
Here Come the Vultures
Fire with Fire
Danse Macabre
Sleepwalkers Dream
Stay Forever
The Gathering
Mother Machine
Don't Let Go
We are the Others

Overall, this was another fantastic evening of live music. Delain continue to get better and better live, and I predict that they will be playing bigger venues than the Koko before long. It was great to finally catch Evergrey live too, and the discovery of Kobra and the Lotus was a pleasant one. I am sure it will not be long before Delain return to the UK, and I shall endeavour to go again if it is possible.

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