The first time I saw Epica was 11 years ago in the dingy little club known as The Camden Underworld. My how this band have grown. It’s not hard to explain why, Epica continue to test their own limits with each and every album, and resonate that full album experience on the live stage. When they bring friends with them such as Powerwolf and Beyond The Black, it’s just hard to say no to the viewing opportunities.
3rd February 2017
o2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Support Bands: Powerwolf, Beyond The Black
If the latest album ‘The Holographic Principle‘ told us anything is that Epica are beginning to dominate a larger musical spectrum than just metal. Even into a 15 year career the Dutch sextet are finding ways to broaden their musical horizons while still maintaining that integral symphonic metal sound. The wide range of instruments and the increased use of theatrics on each album really resonate this band have no level of personal satisfaction, much to the pleasure of fans both new and old. That philosophy seems to also translate to the live stage, as every time I have seen Epica over the past 11 years, their live performance has been in parallel with the exponential quality of their music.
Personally it’s always an exciting time to see Epica, and the anticipation is even further strengthened by the presence of the pious Powerwolf and rising starlets Beyond The Black.
Beyond The Black
The only other time I have caught a glimpse of this band was last years Wacken Open Air, only with the reasoning that labels and PR seem to be pushing this band really hard. There’s actually a reason for that – as debutantes to the symphonic metal scene, this band supply music that dictates they have a wealth of knowledge of the genre. Beyond The Black are living up to the hype, and now giving this band a proper go on the live stage it’s easy to see why.
It’s only a short time slot they are given, but they are here to make a strong impression. Blasting in to their opener ‘Lost in Forever‘, Beyond The Black are keen to introduce their brand of symphonic metal that seamlessly touches on a wide variety of influences. It’s all performed through a very energetic stage show encouraging the audience that the music isn’t only justified through a pretty face. After a riveting ‘Running to the Edge‘, the band have definitely confirmed their place as one to watch, they could be big.
It didn’t occur to me until I saw the size of the audience, but it appears now Powerwolf actually have a significant fanbase in the UK. I don’t know why it shocks me – it really shouldn’t considering this band, despite their gimmicky musical execution, are great fun live. It’s an atmosphere that makes you feel you are attending a mass rather than a metal show, and the 5 energetic members of the band fully embrace that concept.
As the German quintet stormed on stage to the sound of their most recent album opener ‘Blessed & Possessed‘, one thing became a focal point about this certain show, and that was the people who had clearly never seen or heard of this band before. Powerwolf seem to have this ability, whether skilled or divine, to warp people into loving the band. A certain person standing next to me went from being curiously cross-armed to the band’s biggest fan in their hour set.
The band took the opportunity to deliver on an uncommon UK appearance by burning through their classics and getting the entire venue wrapped in the Powerwolf manifesto. Comical tracks like ‘Resurrection by Erection‘ certainly had the person next to me grinning, while hardcore fans pummel fists in the air to ‘Sanctified With Dynamite‘. It’s impossible not to love these religious-bred vampire werewolves, and fans and the curious alike certainly show it every time.
And now of course for the main attraction of the evening. Epica to me always emit a certain radiance when performing live – a sort of positive energy that makes watching them all the more enjoyable. It’s something that appears to be mutual shared as emotions often ranged from stunned silence to raging passion throughout the show. That’s just the effect of what is arguably some of the best symphonic metal in the world.
The stage is lit in that majestic purple lighting on the colour scheme of the current album cover, and enter the band on the speedy epic of ‘Edge of the Blade‘, an appropriate opening that will present Epica’s diverse range of tracks for the evening spanning across their entire discography. A band that truly wants to present their worth in the live arena each and every night of their tour.
What my argument is with Epica is that the band have struck out of the confines of one subgenre to become a more ‘complete’ band – a term that is used that any person of any tastes can find something to like about the Dutch sextet, and their live performance justifies it to quite a considerable extent. From dramatic red lights cover the hard and heavy ‘Sensorium‘ and the theatrical flurry of lighting on the ethnic ‘Dancing in a Hurricane‘, every track is in sync with each other in both musical and visual aspects. It’s something hard to achieve with such a complex set of tracks, but it’s what makes Epica quite the spectacle.
It’s hard to deny that musically Epica don’t have a track to offer to someone even with the most niche of tastes. Churning out progressive epics such as ‘The Obsessive Devotion‘ and ‘Consign to Oblivion‘ that touch on a range of vocal and instrumental styles while providing some visual flair with the perpetual energy of the the band members. Bottom line is you could simply purchase a ticket to see this band, and nobody would leave disappointed.