Epica, Eluveitie & Scar Symmetry
@ The Forum, London
15th November 2015
Review and photography by Graham Hilling
Arriving at the Forum in time to catch all three bands this evening, I’m greeted by a pretty big queue waiting to get inside the venue. It’s not sold out but looking at this, it’s a fair guess it’s going to be a pretty busy night.
The last time Epica played here was almost exactly a year ago and much as that was a cool gig, I’m expecting this evenings to top it, with a blinding line up, as ecelctic a mix as you could wish for. The first of which tonight is Scar Symmetry.
I have to admit, I’ve never been keen on the recorded material from Scar Symmetry that I’ve heard. for me, there were always too many conflicting styles and genres for me to really get into what they were trying to achieve.
Live, however, it’s a different story. The rawness of the liver performance enhances the songs and creates an urgency that seems to missing from the CDs.
With dual vocalists, Roberth Karlsson on growls and Lars Palmqvist on clean vocals they made a formidable “front man” attack! The vocals complimenting one another well. The whole band look like they are pretty pleased to be playing this evening and there is generally a pretty upbeat feel.
It’s interesting that they play just one song from the current album this evening (The Singularity (Phase I – Neohumanity)). This album is part one of a trilogy so maybe they are waiting to play all three parts together for completeness. Still quite strange though. Instead, the set comprises of songs lifted from all of their albums, managing to take us right through from 2005 to 2014.
Closing the set with “The Illusionist” from the 2006 album “Pitch Black Progress” is a good move. A familiar song which leaves the crowd wanting more than this short set has allowed them to deliver tonight.
Next up are Eluveitie. Epica are clearly a confident band indeed to have Eluveitie as support. Live, they are a force to take on any band on the planet. I’ve seen them a lot of times and they have never been mediocre, rarely less than blindingly good. Occasionally awesome.
Tonight, I’m pleased to report, they fall into the blindingly good, almost awesome category! Playing a long set that could be worthy of a co-headlining act they start the set with “King” from the current opus “Origins”.
This sets the tone for the set, immediately groovy but hard as nails. Seemingly walking a fine balance between these two extremes.
“The Call of the Mountains” in Swiss German (I think!) sounds great and we get an opportunity to join in. The crowd dutifully follow and everything sounds spot on. For once, the sound in the Forum is actually pretty good.
Replacement violinist, Shir-Ran Yinon, has fitted in perfectly, replacing the equally impressive Nicole Ansperger who left the band a while back, unable to juggle family life with an incredibly tough touring schedule.
Talking of the touring schedule, Eluveitie seem to have been on this Origins tour for over a year now so it is no surprise that they are so together as a band, although the fact that the songs still sound fresh and they don’t for one second look like they are just “going through the motions” is impressive in itself.
It’s also great to see Anna Murphy doing more of the live vocals, she has a great voice which carries tons of emotion and really does bring an extra dimension to the set.
The only slight complaint here is that to go from something like “Scortched Earth”, with it’s almost spiritual feel, straight into “Kingdom Come Undone” was a little bit jarring on the senses!
As you can see, I enjoyed Eluveitie, as always. They strike a perfect balance of instruments, old and new and have the songs, musicianship and passion to back it up. Very impressive.
So it is left to Epica to close bring the evening to a close. There’s a 30 minute gap between Eluveitie and Epics which is required primarily because of the impressive light show and stage setup that Epica use. By the time the setup is complete the venue is pretty full (although, to be honest, it was also pretty full for Eluveitie).
Opening the set with “The Second Stone”, right from the start the thundering drums of Ariën van Weesenbeek carry the song at an unyielding pace, with the breakdown chorus ringing through the punters, smiles abound.
As per the previous visit last year, the light show is impressive to say the least and compliments the music very well.
Simone Simons voice is simply perfection, so perfectly matched to this track particularly. “The Essence of Silence” follows closely on its’ heels, as per the album “The Quantum Enigma”. This song has just enough nastiness and twists and turns all the way.
Mark Jansen asks for a moments silence for the families of those killed in the Paris terrorist killings a couple of days previously, noting that Epica had played at the Bataclan before. For these few moments, you could actually hear a pin drop in the venue. Seriously, complete silence.
Following this moment of contemplation, we get “Chemical Insomnia”. Another impressive song that makes great use of orchestral stabs and big choral hooks. All great stuff.
As the set continues, we get taken on a tour of various albums, “Martyr of the Free World” resonating around the hall. “The Obsessive Devotion” and “The Obsessive Devotion” and then “Victims of Contingency” brings us bang up to date.
The band all look really happy to be playing and Coen Janssen even manages to get down from his keyboard setup to the front of the stage for some audience interaction, wearing a strange curved keyboard that is reminiscent of something from the Dali museum!
Shir-Ran Yinon even joins them for some live violin accompaniment at one point, sounds pretty good to me, maybe they should consider this as a permanent addition to the live band. After a brief pause, they return for an encore of “Sancta Terror”, “Unchain Utopia” and finally “Consign to Oblivion”.
Another superb performance from a band at the top of their game. There is very little to fault here and much to be impressed with. Same time next year? I hope so……