This Thursday led me to the glitzy ballroom of the O2 Ritz for an evening of symphonic metal, courtesy of the Dutch band Epica currently on their UK tour.
As I got to the ticket office to pick up my photo pass, I found out progressive Oceans Of Slumber and Myrkur were the support acts for the evening. I am one of those who do my research post-gig, it allows me to take new bands at face value with no misconception, whatever they may be. Considering that Epica musical genre is far from being mainstream, unbeknown to me, they have acquired a decent following in the UK as the venue is nicely packed early.
In support of their recently released album, the progressive ‘The Banished Heart’, the sextet fronted by Cammie Gilbert open their set with the rather slow and gloomy 'Fleeting Vigilance'.
Cammie gets to truly shine on the intro of 'Howl of the Rougarou', if it wasn't for her fantastic clean vocals you could hear a pin drop.
The act is very limited in stage space and lighting, but this only enhances the band who have focused the whole set on their latest release. With 'The Decay of Disregard' and 'No Color, No Light', their mix of prog, gloom with the occasional hint of black metal results in a short but very atmospheric experience.
When I thought things couldn't get more atmospheric, the black metal project of Danish singer Amalie Bruun, Myrkur come into view. . As the lights dim, her tiny frame in a long white dress hovers like a ghost to reach the microphone in front of a Danish flag set as a cross.
We enter a set of epic black metal with some slight celtic vibes. I am usually not a big fan of this genre, but with Amalie's performance on the night, I am sure warming to it. Her vocals are simply unreal and with her, singing in her native tongue, you are definitely transported to another world, where ever that may be.
Next, the Symphonic Metal Titans EPICA in support of their last year EP "The Solace System" are on. With such a name, I safely assumed that we were bound to get something of an epic proportion, but nothing prepared me for this.
From the start with the catchy 'Edge Of The Blade' everything is at full pelt. Suddenly someone seemed to have switch the stage lights on, you could land a jumbo jet on the stage it's that bright. The musicians occupy the whole of the stage with such high energy, constantly alternating their positions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of who is where.
Simone Simons vocals are superb, her photogenic looks make the whole photographic process a pleasant experience. Her charisma allows her to naturally charm the crowd and although the background vocals are pre-recorded it is more complementing than distracting.
Powerful black speed metal guitar riffs from duo Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye are bountiful, They effortlessly alternate solos duties with a smile. The majestically pompous keyboards from Coen Janssen who incessantly uses the elevated platform as a propped up skate rink take the whole performance to another level.
A brief drum solo slot gives Ariën van Weesenbeek the opportunity to demonstrate his proficiency on the skins although slightly unnecessary, as his play is very noticeable and his double bass drums an integral part of the Epica sound.
The oriental 'Dancing in The Hurricane' gives Coen the opportunity of demonstrating his dexterity on a floppy keyboards to the delight of the front row.
In the encore, the infectious classic 'Beyond The Matrix', possess me to hum melodies I had never heard before. What is happening? Have I been Epica'ted?
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