November 2016 I shall remember for a long time! I have not had a single weekend at home at all, as I pursued my hobby of catching as many excellent bands live as I could. I have been rather tired all month as a result, and my bank account has inevitably taken a hit, but it has all been worth it. Closing out this November marathon was Eden's Curse, a multinational melodic rock/metal band based in the UK who I have really taken to over the past couple of years. I saw the band in 2014, at the Underworld in Camden, and since then have listened to them regularly. Their fifth album Cardinal was released last month, and a short UK tour was announced to promote it which wound up in London, again at the Underworld. I got tickets for this as soon as it was announced, as they are not a band that plays live that regularly so opportunities are there to be taken! The added bonus of Sheffield-based hard rockers COP UK as one of the support bands made the decision to travel up to London for this gig an easy one. Camden's Underworld is one of my least favourite venues, and always venture there under duress. That being said, the whole venue seemed much cleaner this time around, and the toilets seem to have been totally renovated. They were truly disgusting before, and that change has really helped this place seem much better. When I return to the venue in February to catch Firewind I will not be filled with quite as much dread! Size-wise however, it is perfect for a band like Eden's Curse. The turnout for the show was not great, with probably no more than 100 people in the venue at any one time. This was a shame, but Sirenia playing in Islington probably had an affect on the crowd size, but the atmosphere was still great throughout as everyone in attendance were die-hard Eden's Curse fans.
Before Eden's Curse and COP UK's sets, the crowd was treated to a good set from progressive metal act Evolve. When the Swiss rockers hit the stage, there was barely anyone in the venue, but they gave it their all and made the most of their 30 minute stage time. Sound-wise, I found them to be similar to Jørn Lande's solo work, but with more keyboards and more progressive arrangements. The heavy mid-paced riffing and the low-register powerful vocals were present though, and the band impressed somewhat with their solid material. While lots of individual parts of their songs stood out, I did feel that the overall melodies and impact were not as strong as the band's suggests. Their is certainly a lot of potential in this band, with their vocalist and keyboard player especially standing out a great musicians, but some tighter arrangements and a greater focus on melody will certainly help them to reach the next level.
COP UK are a band I have paid for to see them as a headline act. Their excellent show in Sheffield in January got my gigging year off to a great start, and the album they launched that night, No Place for Heaven, will probably end up in my Albums of the Year list come next month. This was my fifth time seeing the band in total, and despite the short set they managed to whip up a real storm with their melodic hard rock sound that just gets better and better. Opening with The Core from the new album really sets the tone for their set, as it contains one of their best choruses yet and frontman Dale Radcliffe really gets into live. He managed to whip up quite a lot of excitement with the now-larger crowd and I am sure the band made a few new fans with this performance. Now seemingly back to a five-piece, without rhythm guitarist Andrew Mewse, this allowed Henning Wanner's (keyboards/vocals) to become more prominent in the mix. I think I actually prefer this configuration of the band, and the material benefits from a smoother overall feel as a result. Charles Staton (guitar/vocals) is more than capable of handling all of the guitar duties too, with plenty of excellent riffs and solos coming from his fingers throughout their set. My Blood, also from the new album, was the highlight of the set; before the ballad-like Love is to Die For from the band's previous album provided some light in a set dominated with hard rocking shade. When the Edguy-like Stranger than Fiction was played I assumed that was to be the end of the set, but they had time for one more. Journey's Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) might not have been the most obvious choice of songs for a band like COP UK to cover, but they owned it and turned it into a heavier rocker than the original, although Wanner's keyboards still dominated with that iconic intro riff! This was a triumphant set from a band that have had probably their best year to date, and I look forward to what they come up with next. The setlist was:
Body and Soul
Love is to Die For
Catch Me if You Can
Stranger than Fiction
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) [Journey cover]
A few bands would have had trouble following COP UK, but Eden's Curse are no slouches and came roaring out of the blocks and played for well over 90 minutes delivering a classy and powerful performance. Cardinal is a hard-hitting album, and Prophets of Doom proved to be an excellent opening number with Thorsten Koehne's (guitar) slightly thrashy riff and John Clelland's propelling drum pattern. Frontman Nikola Mijić has really grown into his role since the show over two years ago, and he now commands the stage. His English is much improved too, and his interactions with the crowd are on another level to the previous time. With five albums now under their belt, this show felt like a best of set, with the five songs played from the new album being given as much of a warm welcome as the old favourites. Masquerade Ball, which has one of the band's best choruses, was the highlight of the early part of the set with the heavy new number The Great Pretender coming a close second. Christian 'Chrism' Pulkkinen (keyboards/vocals) drives the song with a playful keyboard riff, and the whole song just has a great Dio vibe throughout. Being the last night of the tour, the whole evening had a great party atmosphere, with the members of the support bands often joining the crowd to sing along and enjoy the show. COP UK's Radcliffe seemed to be particularly into the set, but I am not sure where the 'I want to do a poo at Paul's house' joke came from? I assume this must be a tour in-joke, and Radcliffe seemed intent on shouting this loudly and often at the amusement of the band and crowd. 'Paul' of course is Eden's Curse founder Paul Logue (bass guitar/vocals) who led his band through a great set on what has seemed to be a very successful UK tour. There was not a bad song played all evening, with Unconditional from the new album seeing Mijić duetting with a lady called Helen Hurd who had a powerful voice to match the material given to her. Jericho, which is one of my favourites from the new album, came across really well live, with the powerful chorus really hitting home live. The main set came to an end with Unbreakable and Evil & Divine, both from the last album, and the crowd were baying for more as the band left the stage. It was not long before the band were back however, with the progressive metal of Symphony of Sin getting things back underway, before the party really stepped up a gear. A cover of AC/DC's Highway to Hell was played, with members of COP UK and Evolve joining the band on stage for a great ensemble performance. COP UK's Kev Tonge took over from Clelland on the drums towards the end, which allowed Clelland to come to the front of the stage and throw his drumsticks into the crowd. I caught one, something which I have not done for ages! With the madness of this stage invasion over, there was time for the band's classic track Angels & Demons to get an airing which ensured the show ended on a really strong note. Hurd again duetted with Mijić, and the whole band rocked to the very end. The setlist was:
Prophets of Doom
The Great Pretender
Find my Way
Break the Silence
Unconditional [w/ Helen Hurd]
No Holy Man
Sell Your Soul
Evil & Divine
Symphony of Sin
Highway to Hell [AC/DC cover w/ members of COP UK and Evolve]
Angels & Demons [w/ Helen Hurd]
Overall, this was a stunning gig from a band that more people really need to hear. Nothing beats a great show in a small venue where you can get right to the front with ease and where the atmosphere is as good as it was at this show. The band came out to the merchandise desk as soon as they left the stage too, so I got my copy of Cardinal signed which was a great bonus to the evening. This was one of the best small gigs I have been to in a good while, and it is shows like this that remind me why I often travel many miles to see bands play live.