It’s Saturday night in Glasgow and well ahead of the opening time for the show, people are forming a long orderly queue in the rain outside the venue. Tonight’s headliner are Dutch symphonic metal giants Epica, a band we had not seen in Glasgow since 2012. This time around though they are taking their European Enigma tour to a sold out show at the Garage and we are all eager to attend the event. Epica have been touring extensively to support their 6th studio album The Quantum Enigma, a well accomplished number in a genre led by the band’s creativity and musical prowess.
Last time I saw Epica it was in Italy (back in 2010 while touring for Design Your Universe) but unfortunately missed their UK Tour in 2012 for Requiem for the Indifferent so I was really excited to participate this time around and hear for myself how far they’ve come.
Coincidentally it’s also been two years since Swedish melodic death metallers Scar Symmetry played Glasgow – headlining on that previous occasion, so their return was welcome too. Since they were opening tonight’s proceedings their set was sadly limited to 30 minutes, although managing to squeeze in seven songs much to the delight of tonight’s audience. Judging by the general feeling garnered on social media prior to the gig, a solid proportion of the audience attending the Garage was there specifically to witness Scar Symmetry do their thing.
They rocketed off with “The Iconoclast”, a perfect opener to set the crowd nodding heads and throwing horns, Per Nilsson shredding his way through the solo. Without much of a break they launched into “The Anomaly”, the band looking as if they were genuinely having a blast, vocalists (and long-time friends) Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist taking turns with growls – Lars also handling the lead clean parts.
The band took us back to their 2005 debut album with “Chaosweaver”, delivering a performance arguably better than the original recording, with Henrik Ohlsson powering the double bass drums of his black Drumcraft drum kit. This was followed by “Mind Machine” and “Morphogenesis”, the first of two singles to be played tonight.
It wasn’t until “Neuromancers” before we got a taste of Scar Symmetry’s latest album, The Singularity, Phase 1: Neohumanity. Per was on excellent form firing through this song’s solo, in fact, the whole band were in excellent form, dispatching the songs with an apparent ease despite the inherent, complex instrumentation. Session musicians Andreas Silén, currently standing in for the recently departed Kenneth Seil, and Benjamin Ellis on second guitar carried out their roles flawlessly, solidifying the band’s reputation for tight performances.
Speaking with Henrik after the show, I was happy to hear that the band plan to start recording Phase 2 of their currently planned trilogy upon their return home, a hotly anticipated follow-up to their previous 2014 release.
No Scar Symmetry set would be complete without their most well known track, “The Illusionist” and this was to be their last song of the night. Delivered with the added backing vocals of the Garage crowd, this was a great end to a powerful and spectacularly executed Scar Symmetry show, and a superb way to kick off the night. The only way this could get better is if Scar Symmetry were to return in the near future for a headlining run of shows where more of their tremendous music could be played to what is already an extremely enthusiastic fan-base. (Reviewed by Tony Hodge. Rated 10/10).
Up next on the stage are Swiss folk metallers Eluveitie. Having seen Eluveitie last year with Skalmold and Arkona (reviewed here), I was looking forward to watching them again. Like Scar Symmetry, the band had an excellent sound on stage with every instrument being heard and everything being clear and audible. Playing a set compromised of songs from their new album, Origins, along with fan favorites such as “Omnos” and “Inis Mona”, the band delivered a stunning set. It’s worth noting that the song “The Call of the Mountains” was sung in French, given that it was the day after the tragic event in Paris. Kudos to the band for doing that, it was a nice touch. (Reviewed by James Costin. Rated 10/10)
After Scar Symmetry and Eluveitie energetic performances we were now in great anticipation of Epica’s offering. As the lights dimmed, some purple beams were casting their shadows on stage and from the pit I could see the amazing artwork, designed by Stephan Heilemann, adorning Van Weesenbeek’s double bass drum kit. With “Originem” resounding in the air, each band member took his rightful place on stage with the crowd bursting into cheering as each of them separately came on.
They started the set with “The Second Stone”, a track from their latest effort The Quantum Enigma. Accompanied now by a wall of flashing strobe lights and furious headbanging we were soon introduced to their music in full force.
Simone Simons voice sounds great, it soars and fills the venue with emotional beauty. She hangs on her trademark curved shaped microphone stand and mosh like there’s no tomorrow, encouraging the crowd often to join in. Fists in the air metal style galore.
I believe they had their own lighting and technician as you don’t normally see that set up at The Garage. I am a photographer (foremost) and I cursed every minute during the three songs window I had available to take some images for this report. The strobe effect makes it difficult to take pictures. Cool shadows and shapes were created by the light beams from all that wattage but I was honestly worried someone might collapse with a seizure at a moments notice. Luckily for me I am also a fan so I had much to look forward to. Enough of my rambling on the special effects and onto the live review again.
When Simone announced “The Essence of Silence” a roar of approval could be heard from the audience. Coen Janssen had his keyboard on a pivoting stand, allowing 360 degree movement which he used to full effect.
After an energetic and fast paced start to the night we are asked to gather for a minutes silence to show solidarity with the people involved in the dramatic events of the previous night in Paris. On an embarrassing note I must say someone in the crowd couldn’t wait any longer for Epica and made his voice heard through the minute silence; Simone sighed a bit for what I could see from the pit, but the band did not break rank during that moment of remembrance and kept their eyes closed until the end of the minute.
The show then moved on with the incredible “Chemical Insomnia” with all its choruses and growling parts.
Mark Jansen addressing the fans ‘So good to be back in Scotland…are you ready to be unleashed?’ On this one Janssen and Jansen make funny faces to each other, clearly enjoying what they’re doing. Simone practically sweeps the floor with her hair when moshing.
Epica’s music is made up of a complex layering of metal instrumentation and different vocal lines which every band member has mastered perfectly live as they do in studio so we had a top performance from this talented band. I love the new album, there’s not such a thing as too much orchestra in symphonic metal…would you agree?
Simone decided then on a bit of karaoke. The words being ‘for ever and ever’. ‘Sing for me Glasgow’ as the band launch into the sublime “Sensorium” from The Phantom Agony. On this one Coen Janssen joins the rest of the band at the front with a portable curved NuMotion keyboard and takes part in synchronized head banging with the guitar players.
Time for Simone to leave the stage for a bit. Mark Jansen comments on how Ariën van Weesenbeek is looking extremely fresh after his drum solo and address’s the crowd ‘you guys wanna bang your heads, this one is The Obsessive Devotion’. Rob van der Loo windmills his hair around killing it on his very unusual Fanned fret guitar (I captured this song on video for your viewing pleasure, see below).
The show had no down time and many instrumental moments were present, I would say that each band member really had the opportunity to shine and Simone often sang from further back on the stage. While singers are often a sole focal point in some bands Epica has six onstage personalities all capable of keeping you entertained. I felt the performance was well balanced and the participation and interaction of the band with the public was a pleasure to see. All members had prime time on stage and it’s nice to see there’s chemistry there.
Jansen introduced “Victims of Contingency” as the wild one. Its certainly pretty epic and Simone vocals seemed louder in the chorus for this one while the drums were almost blast beats in sections. One of our favorites from the night and a very heavy sounding one live.
‘the next song is about working your ass off….and achieving your goals’ we heard from Simone with Isaac starting to play the acoustic intro to “Design Your Universe”. Simone sings standing at the back mostly for this, letting the guys steal the limelight. The crowd participates in some side to side arm waving during the instrumental sections. It’s a nice ending to this song with just Simone and the piano. It goes down well with the crowd who then chanted for Epica while the stage laid empty for a while.
Coen’s is the first back up on the stage “How are you guys tonight?….thanks all for coming…give it up for Scar Symmetry….give it up for Eluveitie”. Simone joins in to tell us about the upcoming album and introduces “Chain Utopia” from their latest album.
Although most of the show obviously is about the new material we were also treated to some of Epica’s classic songs including “Cry for the Moon” (from The Phantom Agony), “Sancta Terra” (from The Divine Conspiracy) and “Martyr of The Free World” (from Design Your Universe), the one chosen to close the show was “Consign to Oblivion”.
This all made up for what can be regarded as a strong and mature performance from Epica. The band certainly created something magical and unique tonight and they are a band who definitely stand out musically from their peers.
The only downside for me was the lack of a proper encore to close the show, it ended a bit abruptly, but I believe the curfew of the venue is responsible for both the early start and end time of our musical evening. I cannot complain too much though as the sound was great on this fine night as it usually is at this venue.
Epica’s UK tour was short but sweet, you can now catch them in the Netherlands for their own, and first, Epic Metal Fest, then they are onto Turkey before heading back to the North American length of their tour. For more information about their dates see here.
On this great night Martin also had the pleasure to discuss music, gear, the tour and more with Isaac Delahaye, the interview will be up soon on Moshville Times.
(Reviewed by Lara & Martin. Rated 10/10)