Epica – O2 Academy, Bristol, 11/11/15

The guys behind the sound desk at Bristol Academy deserve medals. Every venue is prone to issues with mixes at one point or another, but tonight it’s spot-on for every single band that plays which means there’s a buzz in the air not felt for a long time. We even have Vikings wandering around in fur and leather. It’s going to be one of those nights…

In other news, the Swedes are a lovely bunch, aren’t they? It’s pretty hard to find a band from that fair country that don’t perform as if it’s their last gig on Earth. Scar Symmetry (8/10) might as well be playing as Hell opens up, given their opening to proceedings. They might not come on to the biggest audience in the world, but by the time Chaosweaver kicks in everybody is sold and responding to their every request. Plus, there isn’t a more infectious pair of smiles in the room than the ones on the faces of vocalists Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist. By the time The Illusionist has died away they have a healthy crowd in front of them and plenty of new converts.

It’s also a joy to finally see Eluveitie (8/10) on a stage where all eight members can comfortably stand and perform without the fear of knocking each other over. Judging by the number of shirts bearing their name there are plenty of fans around tonight and we get a near full-headline set to boot. They open with King and immediately heads are banging and hair is going in every direction. Rarely disappointing live, the Bristol faithful is treated to a set tonight that includes ThousandfoldHavoc and The Call of the Mountains sung in Swiss-German (because apparently we’re bored of hearing songs in English). They’re not afraid to slow things down either, with a mid-set double salvo of acoustic song Brictom and a stunning Scorched Earth, the latter essentially a solo slot by hurdy-gurdy player Anna Murphy. Plus, it’s amazing at how similar the ‘celtic dancing’ Eluveitie asked for during Tegernakô is to a hoedown…just to top it all off, we get an encore of Inis Mona and the response is deafening. Come back soon, guys!

The UK has seen an explosion in appreciation for symphonic metal in recent years, with the bigger names in Nightwish and Within Temptation making the step up to arenas and smaller outfits like Delain and Leaves’ Eyes getting the chance to headline their own tours in venues of 500-1000 people. Epica (9/10) are nicely in the middle of the four. They’ve not sold out tonight by any stretch but they have a strong, devoted fanbase and are pushing for even bigger things. That intention is clear from the moment they bound on and crash headlong into The Second Stone, the opening track to latest record ‘The Quantum Enigma’. Again benefitting from the aforementioned sound quality, there’s even more of a grandiose nature in the air tonight and it’s clear that the sextet are just having the greatest fun on stage, especially keyboardist Coen Jannssen who takes sheer delight in everything he does (mind you, having a keyboard that spins in a full circle is pretty damn cool…). The highlights are aplenty, with both Unleashed and Martyr of the Free Word simply crushing and cause bedlam in the pits, whilst Design Your Universe, described by the band as their ‘disco’ song is, well, accompanied with disco lighting and Epica leading us in a merry jig on stage. It’s utterly bizarre but works so beautifully. In fact, the lighting in general is incredible tonight, easily one of the best the Academy has ever seen. A three-song encore of Sancta TerraUnchain Utopia and Consign to Oblivion brings an end to the night in suitably bombastic fashion and Epica leave to raptures. They requested an epic party at the beginning of the show; they certainly got one.

Epica setlist
Originem
The Second Stone
The Essence of Silence
Sensorium
The Fifth Guardian (interlude)
Chemical Insomnia
Unleashed
Martyr of the Free Word
Cry for the Moon
The Obsessive Devotion
Victims of Contingency
Design Your Universe
—–ENCORE—–
Sancta Terra
Unchain Utopia
Consign to Oblivion

Links
http://epica.nl
http://www.facebook.com/epica
http://www.twitter.com/epica

Photos by Becky O’Grady

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About Elliot Leaver

PlanetMosh's resident Iron Maiden fanboy and Mr. Babymetal. Also appreciates the music of Pink Floyd, Rammstein, Nightwish, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot and many others. Writing to continue to enjoy life away from the stresses of full-time employment.
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