Date: 13th April 2018
Review by Thomas James Henry Saunders
Photography by Inty Malcolm
Epica, the operatic spectacle that they are, arrive here tonight in London as part of their monstrous world tour. Tonight is their 999th live performance, with the 1000th taking place in Tilburg tomorrow night as a dramatic end to their world tour.
Within the grand, former theatre settings of the Forum, just north of Camden in Kentish Town, we enter the large theatre space and await the opening act as the space is bathed in a chilling blue light.
As first band Oceans of Slumber take to the stage tonight, only half of the Audience have made it past security so far, leaving the floor a little sparse but still, those that have made either through, line the stage in curiosity.
Opening with little interest in fanfare, they go straight into opening track “Fleeting vigilance” from their full album release of 2018 The Banished Heart feeling a little restrained at first but have a slow, heavy, slightly doom metal burn to their sound.
The main vocalist Cammie Gilbert is on great form, posing in a serious & severe manner whilst releasing an impressive set of heartfelt vocal tones.With her of classical & jazz-influenced vocal training, Gilbert’s voice soars above the rest of the sound and filling the auditorium admirably.
The musical elements on display here are a mix of synthonic and doom metal, with a pace that approaches a death metal likeness, but combined with a power metal-esque guitar soundscape leaves them sounding a little muddled.
The crowd sadly remain motionless throughout and the band themselves do little to entice excitement from the crowd, preferring instead to stick to the setlist in near silence.
Although their reception wasn’t the warmest of the evening, Ocean’s Of Slumber make good work for setting the tone for the night ahead.
Oceans Of Slumber setlist:
A Path to Broken Stars
Howl of the Rougarou
The Decay of Disregard
No Color, No Light
After the crowd doubles in size and the front rows begin to feel uncomfortable, the lights are dimmed for Myrkur to gracefully take to the stage. To much applause by the now eager crowd, Amalie Bruun and her musicians begin their set with the powerful “The Serpent”.
Amalie’s voice soars brilliantly in this space, as she clearly gives her all in a performance that sits between professional theatre, a black metal musician and on-stage diva. The atmosphere is very strong, with the crowd being totally transfixed during “Ulvinde” from the album “Mareridt”, with this song allowing Bruun to explore her, harsher, blackened tones that make this band so special to behold.
Amalie’s presence here is a mix a supremely accomplished songwriter & musician, with plenty of humbled thanks to the crowd through the set.
Next, Bruun takes hold of her guitar for song “Onde Børn”, giving their sound an extra depth, layering in her guitaring with the broader sound with practised ease.
The live musicians make great work of bringing Amalie’s powerful atmospheric black metal to live tonight, although never taking centre stage themselves.
As if to prove any who don’t believe the Black metal credentials of Amalie’s songwriting, out comes “Måneblôt”, with its blast beats & haunting, disquieted vocal tones. This song, more so than any tonight, appears to split some of the packed in crowd, with many tonight not anticipating a black metal sound at all.
Although for fans of her work, myself included, this is a highlight of the night and an intense moment for the set. As the last track of her set “Villemann Og Magnhild” Bruun announces it as a Traditional folk take, being of warriors heading to battle.
For this finale to her set, Amalie stands alone with skin drum in hand.
This intimate, heartfelt last track sends a roar of applause throughout the crowd. With Amalie Bruun thanking the audience and showing their support once more.
Villemann Og Magnhild
As the lights dim once more tonight, the now totally full venue roars in excitement, with all fists raised as Epica slowly emerge, one member at a time, before Going straight into “Edge Of The Blade”, from their most recent album, The Holographic Principle, with Simone Simmons making an appearance in time to lend her vocal prowess for the evening.
Their energy is infectious, leading the crowd going wild and visibly enjoying the atmosphere here tonight, with the band themselves headbanging as leaders of the fray. Guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen brings a great element of heaviness with his rough style of vocals, which to my senses, is very much a bonus point for this decidedly heavy symphonic metal act.
Simmons excels as a frontwoman, commanding her adoring fans with ease, as they chant choruses, sway or clap their hands with glee. Simmons’s vocals are powerful & strong here tonight as she allows her operatic style to flow perfectly with the bands tight, upbeat tempo & precise energies.
The more orchestral element of their sound, normally made with a real orchestra in the studio, is well produced here, by means of keyboardist Coen Janssen on his spinning, wheeled keyboard.
As “Fight Your Demons” sets off, with is aquatic coloured strobe lighting, the strong, heavy opening riffs leading to a gently haunted chorus is a firm favourite among tonight’s crowd as they chant along and cheer wildly as the song comes to a close. Lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye picks this moment to allow a short yet effective solo, which the crowd all cheer along for.
Musically it is noticeable that Epica wishes to not be pegged as just a ‘symphonic’metal band, as the soundscapes and instrumentation on display here are surprisingly heavy, even with the sound leaning toward a deathened gallop at times. Jansen calls out between songs to bring in a pit and ” run around, headbang, do whatever you want” for “Victims Of Contingency”, which starts a small yet energetic pit during the song’s heavy riffs and precise death metal-esque drumming enthused operatic heaviness, which certainly adds a more sinister side to their style.
To me, it’s a little disappointing that no matter how heavy and strong the musicianship is with some truly compelling openers tonight, it invariably always gives way to a more softened chorus to allow for the symphonic side to come through, which personally I feel as a hindrance rather than a feature. But the crowd are certainly enthralled by the format so it certainly has it’s (tens & thousands of) fans.
The crowd, by this point, are a complete mess to behold, pumping fists and head in unison, dancing, moshing and jumping into to the powerful sounds and catchy riffs on display here. After finishing the main set to “Design Your Universe” the band leave the stage for a loud and rapturous summons back by the adoring crowd.
As the band come out on stage by themselves keyboardist Coen Janssen takes a moment, now kitted out with his curved keyboard, jokes that “it’s our 999th show, here Friday the 13th, which in reverse, is 666th, because we’re so fucking EVIL” as he laughs out across the stage. Lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye appears and explains “every gig on this tour we have a ‘word of the night’ to chant along, and tonight that word is *spooky Halloween sound* as it’s Friday the 13th and it’s scary and evil sounding.” The whole audience roar back at him, transforming the venue into a rather campy B-Movie horror experience. Not a highlight I felt, but it certainly provoked a strong, positive reception from the crowd.
For the final track of tonight “Consign To Olivion”, Simone Simons takes a final moment to give heartfelt thanks for being such a wonderful audience for tonight, before going into final track name, during which Simone’s summons the whole crowd to jump along which they do with great Enthusiasm as the band play out triumphantly. As the Song comes to a final close the crowd erupt into a final cheer as the band take their bows and are all smiling warmly and truly. They certainly put their all into tonight’s performance and have easily proven themselves to be relevant.
Edge of the Blade
Fight Your Demons
Reverence (Living In The Heart)
The Holographic Principle – A Profound Understanding of Reality
Victims of Contigency
Cry for the Moon
Design Your Universe
Beyond the Matrix
Consign to Oblivion