EPICA with ALESTORM
Words and pictures by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Irving Plaza – New York, NY
October 26th, 2012
EPICA’s live show has twice-wowed me, even if their CD’s have not. Their most recent album “Requiem for the Indifferent” left me feeling, well, a bit indifferent towards the newest tunes. Something that had really gelled during “Design your Universe” got lost in the new effort, and the result wasn’t compelling. Maybe experiencing them again live would change that?
I had seen them previously at the smallish Gramercy theater, which always provides an excellent concertgoing experience and a solid sound system. Irving Plaza is a bit larger (holding 1000+ people) but is much less comfortable to be in for a metal show. Despite having greater capacity, the stage is much smaller. This really limits performers because they have barely any room to move around, greatly detracting from the visual experience one expects from a big-ticket band like Epica.
Then there’s the sound system. For inexplicable reasons, Irving’s sound system was just awful. I’ve heard they’re PA before and found it to be satisfactory, but something clearly went wrong on a systemwide level about halfway through Alestorm’s set; since that point, all that was audibly apparent was a grotesquely muddy midrange, lack of bottom end, and piercingly shrill treble. This alone made the evening altogether unpalatable. An equally terrible, mostly backlit lightshow didn’t help, making it difficult to see anything besides performers’ silhouettes.
This Scottish “pirate metal” (yes, pirate metal!) band was entirely new to me, but since seeing them I’ve caught up on my homework. They’ve become very popular in a short period of time, and fans love their yes!-nonsense approach to five guys singing songs about rum, krakens, and keelhauling landlubbers. It’s a profoundly silly shtick that works so well because NOBODY takes anything seriously. Any band that has more than two songs about giant squid attacks gets an a-ok in my book. Also, I loved the not-quite-small number of fans who came to see the show in full pirate regalia! That’s some dedication.
As musicians, they’re no slouches. Oftentimes, kitschey bands don’t have a musical note to stand on because they rely too much on gimmicks to keep crowds entertained. Not so with ALESTORM. Their music is hardly technical, but it’s got bite and purpose behind it when played competently (which they did!) Frontman/key-tarist Christopher Bowes did a fantastic job of moving the party along with flavorful accordion riffs while throwing back lots of plastic cups filled with mysterious liquids. Guitarist Dani Evans was the real mugger of the bunch, putting on a constant slideshow of silly growls and scowls while pounding out plentiful riffs. Overall, ALESTORM won my vote for best band of the night, and I’d be happy to see them in a venue like the Gramercy of Manhattan’s Best Buy Theater which would give them the space (and sound quality!) to show their stuff.
Not gonna lie. I was disappointed. I had high expectations, and they were dashed to pieces on the dismal sound system of Irving Plaza. I imagine that with a better PA, Epica would have done their usual business of entrancing the hell out of me, but tonight it was not to be. Groups like Epica need pristine sound quality, or their highly complex material will not function at a live concert.
But to most eyes, the band appeared to be in fine form. Gorgeous frontwoman Simone Simons crooned away as ever before, and bandleader/guitarist Mark Jansen seemed to be having a great time. The band’s energy far outpaced the small space and terrible sound afforded by Irving Plaza, where I will be very reluctant to see another concert.
Monopoly on Truth
Martyr of the Free Word
Serenade of Self Destruction
Cry for the Moon
Storm the Sorrow
Consign to Oblivion