HammerFall + Skarlett Riot + NeonFly
@ O2 Academy Islington, London
9th May 2015
Review & videos by Oliver M.
Photography by Graham Hilling
Almost three months after a very successful European tour (including many sold out gigs), HammerFall had the great idea to offer an exclusive headlining show in London on the 9th of May. As the 2014/2015 World Wide (r)Evolution tour didn’t have any UK date, it was expected that the Swedish templars would come to the British lands soon or later.
Due to the fact that the UK was the cradle of the NWOBHM scene, it is both surprising and disgraceful that power metal music has never been popular there! That’s a paradox, and it’s difficult to explain this fact. Contrary to the UK, France has always praised and welcomed warmly melodic speed metal acts whereas this country is famous for having one of the poorest heavy metal scenes in the Old Continent.
For instance, HammerFall’s last shows in France (Lyon and Paris) were sold out and confirm it is one of the most important European markets for power metal music along with Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Spain. They were the third Nuclear Blast band to perform in London in the space of one month. In April, Blind Guardian did a great gig at The Forum and it was nearly sold out.
Then, Sonata Arctica offered a memorable anniversary show at the O2 Academy Islington along with Freedom Call as support act, on the 1st of May. All tickets quickly sold out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case for the Swedish.
The venue wasn’t crowded at all, which was a shame. Due to the tickets’ high price for those concerts, some metalheads may have run out of money. That could be the cause of the average attendance for their show.
Believe me, they deserve more than that as their performance was simply incredible. The UK power metal fans who were not present definitely missed something magic that night! NeonFly and Skarlett Riot had the chance to open their epic ceremony.
These London-based melodic power metallers are both very promising and lucky. Formed in 2007, they did a self-produced EP one year later, which helped them to sign with the now defunct English label Rising Records.
Thanks to them, they released their debut album “Outshine the Sun” in 2011 and three years later, they delivered their second offering “Strangers in Paradise” through Inner Wound Recordings from Sweden. It is important to highlight that they had the privilege to work with the excellent keyboardist Günter Werno who took care of all synths and orchestrations on their last album.
For those who may not know him, he’s the keyboardist of Vanden Plas (cult German progressive metal band) and D.C. Cooper (well-known for being Royal Hunt and Silent Force’s vocalist). He also played as a guest musician for Angra and Kamelot in the past. Unfortunately, he wasn’t here tonight, but his absence didn’t have a negative impact on NeonFly’s great performance.
It was the second time I’ve seen them live, seven months after their nice show at the Arts Centre church in Colchester. They were supporting the mighty Dragonforce during their UK tour. Compared to their previous set, they have clearly improved here, which is very promising for their career.
As well as being charismatic, Willy Norton has a wide vocal range and alternates efficiently high-pitched and aggressive vocals. The guitar solos are well done and the inspired chorus of “Morning Star” (their best song in my opinion) conquered the audience.
By touring with big names, they are getting experience and I’m sure they will surpass themselves for the next album.
Skarlett Riot (3.5/5):
In the beginning, I was a little bit dubious about Skarlett Riot’s presence on the bill. Indeed, their music has nothing to do with the headliners as they play a kind of modern melodic hard rock, even if we can feel some very slight speed metal influences on some songs.
Formed in 2010, this young British female-fronted act has released one album “Tear Me Down” and two EPs so far and made several video clips as well.
They have already built a solid fan base and received very positive reviews from the critics. Last year, they supported Edguy for their UK tour and also Kamelot two months ago in the same venue.
So, it wasn’t surprising to see them supporting another power metal legion again. I’m not a big fan of this recent wave of pop/hard rock bands, they’re not my cup of tea (I prefer old-school hard rock from the 70s and 80s by far) but I have to say Skarlett Riot did really well.
The crowd was pleased with their good live performance thanks to their catchy choruses and straightforward riffs. Of course, the compositions look very simple at first glance, but they know how to create good melodies.
That’s the reason why they’re conquering more and more fans. They have found the right formula to produce some nice songs and will headline a UK tour in October. Well done, guys!
As I have mentioned previously, HammerFall’s performance was amazing and proved that they’re definitely stronger than ever!
Personally, I didn’t expect that they would come back to their old melodic speed metal roots with their last opus “(r)Evolution” that was released last year. It is already their ninth album, and it has been acclaimed by the whole international press.
This great critical reception was fully deserved since they carved a masterpiece that reminds us of their glorious past, at the time when they brought a new touch of freshness to the power metal scene. Their first crusades (“Glory to the Brave”, “Legacy of Kings”, “Renegade”) are classics of the genre and “(r)Evolution” is undoubtedly one of their finest jewels.
Their early fans have been waiting for such a victorious return for ages. The London templars present that night, were absolutely conquered by an epic set gathering classic songs and more recent tracks.
They masterfully performed the speedy (“Hector’s Hymn”, “HammerFall”, “Heeding the Call”), the mid-tempo (“Renegade”, “Let the Hammer Fall”, “Templars of Steel”, “Hearts on Fire”) and their famous ballad “Glory to the Brave”, obviously.
Their typical battle choirs were majestic as always and despite being 45, Joacim Cans is still an impressive vocalist thanks to its unique high-pitched voice.
I would have loved to hear other hymns like “The Dragon Lies Bleeding”, “The Metal Age” or “Steel Meets Steel” but they have written so many brilliant songs throughout their career that it becomes hard for them to make a choice in the end.
Anyway, the Swedish crusaders triumphed again for our great satisfaction and it would be nice if they could do an exclusive UK tour in the future. Congratulations!