LIVE REVIEW: Epica at The Garage

Epica Tour Poster

Date: November 14th, 2015
Venue: The Garage, Glasgow
Line-up: Epica + Eluveitie + Scar Symmetry

Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to see many of my favourite bands performing here in Dublin, with many thanks to our multitude of small and large promoters. However, there are times when bands, for one reason or another, don’t make the trip over here and you can be forced to go abroad to catch them. One such trip was this short hop over to Glasgow to see symphonic metal act Epica, a band that have yet to visit our shores, with support from Eluveitie and Scar Symmetry.

Scar Symmetry served as the opening act all throughout the European tour, using it as an opportunity to play a greatest hits set to make the most of their limited amount of time. Each of their six albums were represented by their most well-known and identifiable tracks, leaving fans pleased with their favourite tracks while also serving as a good introduction to potential newer fans. Since the departure of guitarist Jonas Kjellgren back in 2013 the second guitar slot has been left vacant but for this tour the band have employed a second touring guitarist, Ben Ellis formerly of Bloodshot Dawn. This new addition really helped to open up their live sound, leaving guitarist Per Nilsson free to bust out some amazing guitar solos. Even clean vocalist Lars Palmqvist was in awe of Per’s playing, encouraging everyone to pay attention particularly for “Chaosweaver”. Speaking of Lar’s, him and harsh vocalist Roberth Karlsson have really come into their own, tightening up their live performance and trading off good energy between them.

I’ve seen Eluveitie a couple of times before but tonight was the best I’ve ever seen them. The sound was spot on, especially the folk instruments which sounded clear and fresh. Still touring off the back of their latest album, last year’s Origins, the band were on top form and seemed to be really enjoying the performance, with smiles all round each member’s faces. There have been a couple of line-up changes for the band, with the most recent being the departure of violinist Nicole Ansperger who has been swiftly replaced by touring member Shir-Ran Yinon. Shir was an excellent choice of replacement; she played the songs with grace and even helped out female vocalist/hurdy gurdy player Anna Murphy with backing vocals. Anna was given a lot of spotlight time most notably for amazing renditions of the more folk –style tracks like “Scorching Earth” and “Omnos”. “The Call of the Mountains” was played in its French variation with Anna dedicating the track to the victims of the recent terror attacks in France. The band picked up the pace towards the end of their set with “Tegernakô” thrusting the crowd into what I could only describe as a moshpit mixed together with a sort of jig, it was the friendliest pit I’ve ever seen. Finishing up with “Inis Mona”, the crowd were still screaming for more ever after they’d finished.

Headliners Epica had their work cut out for them after two great sets from Scar Symmetry and Eluveitie. Opening with back-to-back tracks “The Second Stone” and “The Essence of Silence” from their latest album The Quantum Enigma, the crowd were blown away by the bombastic symphonic metal. The excellent mix of the band and some backing tracks, for orchestrations and choirs, made sure they sounded as big as they did on record. One small complaint I would make however, is that while Simone Simon’s vocals were sung beautifully it was often hard to hear her as she was being drowned out by the other instruments. Even the sheer amount of lights they had set up, which seemed incredibly tacky and distracting in live videos, worked well with the music and were more impressive in person.

The band were digging back to the vaults with “Sensorium” and “Cry for the Moon”, for the latter they had the crowd eating out of their hands with a form of karaoke for which the crowd had to sing “forever and ever”. Ariën van Weesenbeek’s drumming shone through the set, particularly on the Design Your Universe tracks, even sneaking in a short drum solo at the end of “Cry for the Moon”. The whole band was in good spirits, laughing, smiling and in general making sure everyone had a good time.

Guitarist Mark Jansen noted that he was glad to see people singing and waving their arms but what he wanted to see next was some mosh pits. The crowd gave him what he wanted with the pits starting for “Unchain Utopia” and continuing into “Consign to Oblivion”, for this one the crowd needed some guidance from the band as the gave a false start and had to re-form their walls to do it right.

Epica’s set was a great way to end what had already been an amazing night. The highlight of the night by far was the top-notch performance of the Design Your Universe title track, a tall demand in the live setting but the band pulled it off spectacularly.

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