Date: February 14, 2018
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Romance is in the air, but for those of us without better things to do this Valentine’s Day, the Symphonic Metal Nights tour provided some comforting entertainment. The cozy downstairs to Camden’s largest pub, the iconic World’s End is the place, and The Underworld’s intimate setting proved itself fitting for the four performing bands of the night.
SECRET RULE, a female fronted melodic metal band from Italy are first up. The four piece released their sophomore album The Key to the World last year, and their style features a blend of symphonic and melodic metal elements in the same vein as Delain, Epica and Kobra and the Lotus. A few dedicated fans are spotted in the small crowd, as the early slot of the night saw them perform for a only about one quarter full venue.
Frontwoman Angela Di Vincenzo sings with passion and great reach, and becomes the embodiment of the band’s blend of the sensual and aggressive. Their sound has surprising depth and volume to it, despite the band only having one guitarist. Drummer Nicola Corrente is absolutely meticulous in his relentless pounding of the drumset. Axemen Michele Raspanti and Andy Menario seem to thoroughly enjoy their time on stage.
Their 30-minute set is straightforward and enjoyable. Unfortunately at times overshadowed by the obnoxiously dreadful light show that seems to be a given at The Underworld, the band manages to connect with the audience and deliver what they came for.
The Key (tape)
1. The Song of the Universe
2. Empty World
3. Secret Place
4. The Saviour
5. Imaginery World
6. Lost Child
7. Trip of Destiny
Merely ten minutes pass before the second group of Italians for the night, SLEEPING ROMANCE, are seen entering their small allocated corner of the venue to bombastic orchestrations over the PA. They also released a sophomore album last year, and much of their set is dedicated to new material off Alba. Frontwoman Federica Lanna enters last to heartfelt cheers from the now slightly bigger crowd.
“We are Sleeping Romance and we are very happy to be here!” Lanna exclaims upon finishing their first song. Their sound is massive, and the Italians pack a whole lot of energy on the small stage. The fusion of melancholic, opera-like vocals with grandiose symphonies and hard hitting melodic death metal riffs hits home for many.
We are introduced to the simple ‘Italian game’ of throwing horns in the air while shouting “Ill metallo!”, which was actually more entertaining than it might sound. Sleeping Romance carried on the night in a very similar vein to Secret Rule, but I’m not one complaining. It is the Symphonic Metal Nights after all.
Overture – Twilight (tape)
1. Where the Light is Bleeding
2. Lost In My Eyes
3. The Promise Inside
4. My Temptation
5. Touch The Sun
VISIONS OF ATLANTIS seem to have a decent following in the UK, at least judging by the enthusiasm of the fans who now occupy an even bigger space of The Underworld’s ground floor. The band returns for their second performance in London following their last show at the Boston Music Room five years ago, also then supporting Serenity.
Vocalists Clémentine Delauney and Siegfried Samer bounce off each other easily, delivering soothing vocal harmonies. “Are there any couples in the crowd?” Delauney asks, revealing a few dedicated lovers in the crowd. Guitarist Christian Douscha’s birthday is also briefly celebrated with a singalong to “Happy Birthday”, before Douscha gets his wish of having the crowd jump along to his solos in “Ritual Night” fulfilled.
Delauney remarks and excuses her sore throat at a few times throughout the set (“apologies for my Frankenstein voice”), and she apparently had to sit out a gig in the Netherlands two days later. Much of the band’s set is dedicated to their (then) upcoming album The Deep & The Dark, which was released on the 16th of February. The lucky fans in London could get their hands on the album early in the merch stand.
We are taken back to 2004 and the band’s first music video for the song “Lost” from their second album. “The Grand Illusion”, one of the new songs, sounds great with the symbiotic intertwining of orchestral elements and melodic metal. As the band wraps up their set, the night’s second group of Austrians prepare their entry.
1. The Deep & The Dark
2. New Dawn
3. Book of Nature
4. Ritual Night
5. Silent Mutiny
7. The Grand Illusion
8. Passing Dead End
Much anticipation rests in the air as the time is nigh for the night’s headliner, Austrian SERENITY. With the new album Lionheart under their belts, and a successful European tour supporting Delain (including a sold out show at the Koko in London), the band returns to headline tonight’s bill.
Lionheart, centered around 12th-century King of England Richard the Lionheart, gives the band a good connection to the country they find themselves performing in, and as “Deus Lo Volt” sounds over the PA, fans quickly make their way from the bar to the stage area. The band, with vocalist Georg Neuhauser enters and immediately tears into their Lionheart-single “United”, which is sure to be a fan-favourite by now.
“Spirit In The Flesh” from 2016s Codex Atlanticus follows, and the crowd is already going wild. The setting is quite different from when the band performed at the considerably larger stage at Koko last November, only a few hundred meters away. The sound is well balanced, and the showmanship shines through every member on stage. Bassist Fabio D’Amore proves his impressive vocal abilities during “Spirit In The Flesh”.
Neuhauser is the definite star of the night. He steals the show time after time with both his high reaching vocals and near fluent connection with the crowd. Cracking jokes, smiling and singing his lungs out, his dedication to the show elevates the experience immensely. Guest singer Melissa Bonny provide female vocals at different points during the set, adding another layer of skilled musicianship.
A pleasant surprise is the short acoustic session in the middle of the set, where acoustic renditions of “Fairytales”, “Engraved Within” and “When Canvas Starts to Burn” are performed with the band sitting down in an intimate setting.
The Lionheart album is not surprisingly well-represented in the setlist, and the new songs seem to work well with the crowd. The title track is a highlight of their set, along with “The Last Crusade”, a somewhat out of the ordinary Serenity-song featuring harsh vocals, serving as the first encore of the night.
“We return to your country, for a song about Henry VIII – who was not very polite to his wife,” Neuhauser humorously remarks, before the band performs their 2013 hit, and second-to-last song of the night, “Legacy of Tudors”. Federica Lanna from Sleeping Romance makes a guest appearance, before the band ends the night with “Velatum” from 2008s Fallen Sanctum. Few power metal bands sound as upliftingly grandiose and catchy as Serenity, and the band’s promise of a return to UK shores with a full headliner tour this autumn is nothing but good news.
Deus Lo Volt (tape)
2. Spirit In The Flesh
3. Coldness Kills
5. The Matricide
7. Fairytales (acoustic)
8. Engraved Within (acoustic)
9. When Canvas Starts to Burn (acoustic)
10. The Fortress (of Blood and Sand)
11. Rust of Coming Ages
12. Serenade of Flames
14. Follow Me
15. The Final Crusade
16. Legacy of Tudors
Visions of Atlantis