Stratovarius + Gloryhammer + Divine Ascension
@ O2 Academy Islington, London
3rd November 2015
Review & videos by Oliver M.
Photography by David McKnight & Oliver M.
Just after the release of the critically acclaimed “Eternal”, power metal legends Stratovarius started a world tour to promote their brand new masterpiece. Indeed, “Eternal” is a melodic heavy/speed metal jewel that confirms their status of masters within this art. As expected, their British fans got one show in London only, which is a pity.
I’ve already explained the reasons several times in my previous concert reviews. That’s sad but fans of the genre have to take what they can get there in terms of gigs. Unfortunately, this UK show wasn’t sold out but the crowd reacted very positively towards every band who played that night.
Divine Ascension (3.5/5)
Formed in Melbourne in 2007, Divine Ascension opened the ceremony with a very good set of Progressive power metal. This female fronted band reminds automatically the early years of Edenbridge, Skylark and Dark Moor. I’m sure those aforementioned acts have been a big influence for them. The Australian know very well their subject. The good musicianship is there and proven by some fast, technical keyboard solos.
Jennifer Borg’s vocals are interesting since they give another perspective of this genre but I still think the band would have created a better impact with some high pitched male vocals (in the classic, old-school way). Divine Ascension have released two albums so far “As the Truth Appears” and “Liberator”. This tour was a great opportunity for them to spread their name throughout Europe and I hope to see them back on our continent soon.
Hailing from the majestic lands of Scotland, Gloryhammer offered one of the most grotesque live performances I’ve ever seen. Behind that stereotypical name, lurks the other horde of Christopher Bowes from well-known Pirate metallers Alestorm. They look so ridiculous on stage and their promo photos, especially vocalist Thomas Winkler (even though I believe it’s intended).
However, I have to say those young lads did two high quality albums so far (“Tales from the Kingdom of Fife”, “Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards”) through Napalm Records and that’s what counts in my opinion. Except one average track “Universe On Fire”, the compositions are full of epic symphonies and catchy melodies with the happy touch of Freedom Call.
The famous Italian power metal scene had also a strong impact on their music. The Rhapsody and Elvenking influences are easily recognizable in their songs’ structure. It’s obvious that both Alestorm and Gloryhammer have used many elements from Elvenking’s masterpiece “The Winter Wake” for instance.
The Scottish received huge acclaim from the audience, even warmer than for Stratovarius to my great surprise. I don’t know their current reputation out of the UK but they’re completely overrated in their home country, let’s be honest.
At least, that proves British metalheads support their local bands to death (which isn’t the case in France for example). Anyway, if Gloryhammer could contribute to increase the genre’s popularity in the UK, it would be greatly appreciated!
To conclude, it was time for Stratovarius to close this London gig in apotheosis. Despite the absence of virtuoso Timo Tolkki, it’s such a great pleasure to see they’re still alive and incredible nowadays. About 10 years ago, this cult band went through very hard times due to Tolkki’s unstable behaviour.
He was indeed too much authoritative towards his musicians and had serious alcohol problems. That led to a clash within the band. Moreover, albums like “Elements Pt. 2” and “Stratovarius” were panned rightly by the international press at that time.
I thought that Stratovarius were dead and buried after Tolkki’s departure in 2008 but it didn’t happen fortunately. One year later, “Polaris” turned out to be a kind of resurrection for the Finnish. Their last four albums have all been highly praised by the critics.
In 2012, Jörg Michael (one of the most talented heavy/speed metal drummers) left the band to take care of his family but this unexpected departure didn’t affect their stability at all. As always, they delivered an amazing show, performing songs from “Eternal” mostly.
We also got some legendary classics such as “Black Diamond” & “Paradise” (from the monument “Visions”), “Hunting High and Low”, “Phoenix”, “Against the Wind”, “S.O.S.”, “Forever”, “Eagleheart”. Then, I wanted more old jewels but we couldn’t get everything of course.
Despite being 46, Timo Kotipelto is still impressive thanks to its unique high pitched voice. From his side, Jens Johansson is 58 and has proven he’s still one of the best keyboardists in metal music. By the way, their previous gig in Paris at the Trabendo was sold out (as usual in France). What a stratospheric night!