With Engel & Santa Cruz
@ Islington Academy, London
17 March 2015
Review by Rowena
Photography by Michelle Murphy
One of the good things about reviewing is that you will often be asked to review bands you have not seen before and actually I think that can be a benefit as you see them fresh, with no expectations or previous experiences to judge them against. The slate is clean and it’s down to that performance to form your opinion.
Having never seen any of the bands on tonight’s list this was one to those nights that, lets face it, could either prove entertaining or rather bland.
The first band up was Santa Cruz and with their second self-titled album having been released in the UK just two days prior tonight was a prime opportunity for the UK crowd to hear those songs live and like me for the first time.
One thing I noticed straight away was that they looked a little squashed onto the front of the stage, with everything behind them. Though it did give a good indication of how well they wold suit the smaller London venues they had played previously such as The Underworld.
Moving straight into the second song ‘Velvet Rope’ you can already hear the easily likability of their songs, and like this song I did because it makes it easy for the crowd to get into.
‘My Remedy’ is another example and one more known by the crowd around me. There’s a nice guitar riff at the start and an easy to sing along to chorus. There’s more depth to this song but it still have that simplicity of attachment.
‘Let Them Burn’ brings a harder edge to their sound with a sharper prominence of the drums and cymbals and was a favourite of the crowd – this slightly more brutal style suits them well, which is followed up at the end of their set by ‘Wasted & Wounded’.
I realise I have mentioned easy likability a few times already but that’s a core element to their songs and live performance; it’s not difficult to like them and within a song or two I was in agreement hat this was good and by the end of the set I had decided I would be more than happy to go watch them again.
As far as building a fan base goes, that type of easy likability is a definite asset.
- We are the ones to fall
- Velvet Rope
- My Remedy
- Let Them Burn
- 6(66) Feet Under
- Wasted & Wounded
- Aiming High
Given the pop/metal style of Amaranthe and the more rock sound of Santa Cruz, I was genuinely not prepared for Engel.
With their musical style completely at odds with the other bands on the line up, immediately the stark difference sealed my attention.
The contrast could not really have been much different as their first song ‘Salvation’ smacks you around the face with force and volume; blowing away any lingering thoughts of the previous set by the marked difference in styles.
The atmosphere of the gig changed which initially created confusion in me (how did this band fit with the other two?) but after a short while that went away because well, I didn’t care. This was aggressive, unapologetic energy.
‘Question Your Place’ off their third album ‘Threnody’ was possibly my favourite of their set with its tech sound backdrop. It was a more challenging song than the ones before it and really suited their style. The second part of the song was just brutal and brought all of their elements together. The crowd agreed and if you’re looking for a song to start with, I would suggest this one.
‘Burn’ was another favourite and it’s easy to see why as the chorus effortlessly draws you along with the rhythm. This is one that would work well live, or played back at home or wherever. Press play and just go.
Thinking back though there is one similarity between all of the bands and that’s how easy their songs are to connect with and settle into. Different styles across the board but they all have that easy likability about them and their songs.
- Your Shadow Haunts You
- Question Your Place
- Fading Light
- Six Feet Under
- When The Earth Burns
- Casket Closing
- Sense The Fire
- Until Eternity Ends
I had only listened to ‘Drop Dead Cynical’ before this evening and so I had a good glimpse of what to expect of Amaranthe but live was definitely better.
One common thing throughout their set was their energy; both from their songs but also themselves. They do in fact make it look effortless and despite the length of their set list and though tired later, they maintain that first impression, that first bout of energy and performance throughout their set.
Take ‘Invincible’ as an example. Moving seamlessly from it’s predecessor to start this track with high energy and tempo. Leaving the crowd with nothing much else to do but move along with it. A quick time check shows we’re already past three songs in under ten minutes, so yes, high energy and fast pace indeed.
One thing I had been previously keen to watch is the balance between the three vocalists. You could easily listen to each one, with each balancing the other.
Especially Henrik’s harsher metal vocals which gave the songs a more rounded element and really complimented the songs, for example in ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Call Out My Name’. I would have liked to hear more from him though to be honest.
Five members of the band lining up on stage it is a strong line up and so there is generally a lot going on visually. With three singers there is also the opportunity to have short breaks which given the hour and a half set list is well earned.
Another option that Elize Ryd took was to get the crowd to sing to her for the start of Amaranthe, which lets face it they were more than happy to do.
Now you may not be a fan of the strong pop element and prefer a stronger metal sound, or you may prefer a different style altogether but one thing you cannot deny is that each song is very catchy.
It stealthily weaves its way into your brain and is easy to pick up so before you know it you can sing parts back. Or you can wake up the next morning with a chorus on repeat in you head with no idea where it came from – Drop Dead Cynical if you’re interested.
Each song is distinctly Amaranthe with a similar catchyness and energy and so you are carried along throughout the set with on an equal high, which is helped by the speed with which some of the songs are linked together.
As if they are not risking any breaks so as not to loose any of the crowd’s focus.
As I mentioned this was my first show and as a reviewer I’m always interested in watching the crowd’s reactions and it was very pleasing to see that they had a strong, dedicated fan based that were very much enjoying the show with rapt attention, especially in the centre in front of the stage.
Having just this night to go on I can say that if you are a fan I don’t think you would have been disappointed with their performance that evening. It was solid, high energy, and clear that they really enjoying playing live and appreciate the audience.
- Digital World/Intro
- Over And Done
- Massive Addictive
- Leave Everything Behind
- Call Out My Name
- Drop Dead Cynical
- The Nexus