Orden Ogan + Rhapsody of Fire + Unleash the Archers
@ O2 Academy Islington, London
7th November 2017
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Oliver M.
Tuesday 8th November saw the return of German power metallers ORDEN OGAN in London, as their first tour as headliners descended upon the O2 Academy Islington. With Italian symphonic metal masters RHAPSODY OF FIRE and up-and-coming Canadian power-infused melodeath band UNLEASH THE ARCHERS as support, the package was hardly one to complain about. As the time neared 19:00, an impressive queue of power metal fans defying the drizzling rain and cold November winds had formed outside the venue, almost stretching out onto Upper Street.
Unleash The Archers released their fourth studio effort Apex earlier this summer. The album, deemed a defining moment in the band’s so far ten years long career marked a slight change in style, and it is a band oozing of fresh energy and eagerness to showcase this taking the stage at 19:30 that Tuesday night. The Canadians visited London and the same venue for the first time almost exactly a year ago, and it’s great to see that the band is in the process of gaining a footing in Europe and the UK.
The title track off their latest album starts the evening, with slow and soothing clean guitars eventually erupting as their massively heavy yet melodic sound engulfs the venue. Frontwoman Brittney Slayes enters to cheers from the crowd, and from here on out, synchronized headbanging, high pitched vocals and jump kicks are plentiful.
Unfortunately, backing vocals are inaudible for most of the band’s set, and the same also goes for Slayes’ whispering in the first song. Her vocals otherwise are clearly audible though, and she executes her high pitched screams flawlessly.
“You all know this one,” she boldly claims, before introducing “Cleanse the Bloodlines”, another new song off Apex. This was the band’s last show on the Gunmen tour with Orden Ogan and Rhapsody of Fire, and unlike the two other bands, the Canadians decided to embark on a full UK tour following this one. “The Matriarch”, also from Apex is well received by the audience.
“General of the Dark Army” is followed by the over-the-top shredfest “Tonight We Ride”, and I will say like I did in my review of the band’s last performance in London… Hopefully it won’t be too long until next time.
2. Test Your Metal
3. Cleanse The Bloodlines
4. The Matriarch
5. General of the Dark Army
6. Tonight We Ride
Judging by the upbeat tone and thrilling keyboard melodies of the intro track “In Principio”, there’s no doubt what band is up next. Italian Rhapsody of Fire (former Rhapsody), a pioneer of symphonic power metal return at last to London with the brand new Legendary Years album, featuring re-recordings of songs from 1997-2002.
The opening track “Distant Sky” from last year’s Into The Legend kicks off their set. The sound is massive, and from the very beginning the band’s characteristically enchanting melodies and jubilant tones accompanied by neoclassical guitar shredding nicely engulfs the venue.
“This next song celebrates the 20th anniversary of Legendary Tales… How many real fans are here tonight?” vocalist Giacomo Voli asks before introducing “Flames of Revenge”.
“Dawn of Victory”, arguably the band’s most well-known song, becomes a personal highlight of their set. The glorious, over-the-top sing-along of the chorus (“gloria, gloria perpetua!”) evokes goose bumps, and keyboardist Alex Staropoli dramatically raising his hand in the air every time adds exactly the kind of cheesy effect you would expect from the band.
“The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream” is touchingly dedicated to the late Christopher Lee, the British actor with a voice like thunder known to most as the white wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation.
“Holy Thunderforce” follows in what is arguably the night’s strongest line of consecutive songs. The focus of their set is largely on the older, Rhapsody classics, as “The March of the Swordmaster” and “When Demons Awake” from The Power of the Dragonflame are played back to back. Despite this, the whole Rain of a Thousand Flames album is ignored, as is Triumph or Agony, the band’s first album after the name-change.
“Emerald Sword” unsurprisingly ends their 50-minute long set, with vocalist Voli playing around with a toy sword before the Italians leave the stage in the hands of the night’s headliner.
In Principio (tape)
1. Distant Sky
2. Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain
3. Flames of Revenge
4. Dawn of Victory
5. The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream
6. Holy Thunderforce
7. The March of the Swordmaster
8. When Demons Awake
9. Emerald Sword
Custode di Pace (tape)
As their self-titled instrumental intro track sounds over the PA, Orden Ogan takes the stage. Bassist Niels Löffler and guitarist Tobias Kersting take their position on each side of the stage, with drummer Dirk Meyer-Berhorn guarding the back. Frontman Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann runs out onto stage at last, and the band kicks into “To New Shores of Sadness” from 2008s Vale. The stage is decorated with western-style fortifications, and two menacing, mechanical skeletons guard each side of the wall armed with rifles.
The band rushes straight into “F.E.V.E.R” followed by “Here At The End of The World” from Ravenhead, much to the joy of the active mosh-pitters in the audience. Finally stopping for a breather, Leverman smilingly beholds the near full venue. “Let me welcome you to the Gunmen tour with Unleash The Archers, Rhapsody of Fire and Orden Ogan,” he tells the cheering crowd.
The title track from the new album seems a great success judging by the crowd’s response, but also highlights the biggest issue of the night – Levermann’s vocals. Playing guitar and singing at the same time is obviously a demanding task, and he deserves praise for not simply standing mounted behind the microphone the whole time.
However, when pretty much all high notes of the entire set are left to the crowd to sing, and other vocal harmonies are sung in a much lower pitch, it takes away from the whole experience. Especially for Orden Ogan, a band relying heavily upon layered vocals and choiring on record. Now, this was the last show of the tour, so one can only hope it was the result of a straining tour that left the vocals so bland that night.
Levermann asks for a moment of total silence following “Sorrow is Your Tale”. The crowd is silently kept on the edge before he continues, surprisingly exclaiming “we are now going bury our wife!” In any other scenario a totally unacceptable statement of course, but in this setting it was merely the cue for the second single off Gunmen, “Fields of Sorrow”. “That’s the best funeral I’ve ever been to!” he laughs after finishing the song.
“Forlorn and Forsaken” starts off with the intro to “Vampire in Ghost Town”, both strong songs off the Gunmen album, and personally I would have liked to hear the latter played in full rather than “Come With Me To The Other Side”.
We are given “one last chance” to be as loud and enthusiastic as possible, before the band plays the song of the same name (exactly, “One Last Chance”). They quickly say goodnight and leave the stage, although avid concert goers would know that no band would possibly end a show with a new song, leaving out some of their biggest hits.
As the band returns for the inevitable encores, we are introduced to ‘the fist of fade’ – a tool used by Levermann to signal to the crowd the shout “fade!” where needed in the song “To The End”. An amusing and original way of engaging with the crowd rather than with the usual singalong.
The jolly power metal anthem “We Are Pirates” comes next, and gets the crowd passionately singing along to the chorus. Sadly enough it is the night’s only song from the Easton Hope album, and why the band does not play the song’s full intro live, is beyond me.
“The Things We Believe In” becomes the last song of the night, and the band manages to cram in one final sing-along game as we are directed to shout “Cold, dead and gone!” after each chorus. All in all, a fun night of power metal antics, and hopefully similar packages will be seen in the future, as more power metal bands gain a footing around here.
Orden Ogan (tape)
1. To New Shores of Sadness
3. Here at the End of the World
5. Deaf Among the Blind
6. Sorrow Is Your Tale
7. Fields of Sorrow
8. The Lords of the Flies
9. Come With Me To The Other Side
10. Vampire in Ghost Town (intro)/Forlorn and Forsaken
11. One Last Chance