Diabulus In Musica/Amberian Dawn ~ Boston Music Room, Tuffnell Park 10/02/2017: Gig Review

Lucky Beth and I got to go to yet another metal gig for the second Friday in a row! This time we went to see another set of dual headliners: Spanish symphonic act Diabulus In Musica and Finnish symphonic power metal act Amberian Dawn. Both bands were celebrating 10 years of making music together, hence the name “The 10th Anniversary Tour”. They were supported by another Finnish metal band called Crimson Sun, whose performance in London marked their first time ever performing abroad. No pressure…

All in all it was a completely different gig from Epica the previous week. The venue — the Boston Music Room in residential Tuffnell Park — was absolutely minuscule, the crowd threadbare-thin, and the overall attitude amongst the audience and band members was much more laid-back. There were no long drawn-out waits here, no build-up of mystique. Band members set up their own equipment and did all their own soundchecks, and every single one of them came out to say hi afterwards and pose for pictures. It also meant that Beth and I couldn’t go quite so crazy as we did at the Epica gig without feeling a little self-conscious, but those are the pros and cons of big venues vs. small venues I suppose (and I would call a lack of headbanger’s neck in the morning a definite pro).

crimson-sunFirst up was Crimson Sun, an entirely inoffensive melodic metal act that sounded halfway between power and prog-metal, hailing from the city of Kotka in the very south of Finland. Fronted by singer Sini Seppälä (comparisons to ex-Nightwish singer Anette Olzon would not be too much of a stretch), the band have been going since roughly 2001, sporadically releasing EPs until the release of their debut album Towards The Light in Summer, 2015. As I have already said, their music was entirely inoffensive and very pleasant to listen to with a decidedly rocky vibe. They succeeded in warming up the crowd, which was quite an achievement because we Brits aren’t the most animated lot in such small groups; I hope they were not offended by our stiff-upper-lipped Britishness and polite applause. Also worth noting: one of the dominating impressions Beth and I were left with from this band was how magnificent bassist Jukka Jauhiainen’s hair is. I mean seriously, how on earth does this man keep his hair looking so beautifully sleek, clean and well-conditioned? I have such hair envy to the point that it actually hurts, for mine shall never look so illustrious.

Next up were the first headliners of the evening — and in truth the band I was most looking forward to see — Diabulus In Musica! I had seen Diabulus In Musica perform live once before when they supported Leaves’ Eyes back in November 2015 and it was so, so good to see them perform here in their own right as a headliner.

diabulus-in-musica

Diabulus In Musica are operatic-soprano Zuberoa Aznàrez and her partner Gorka Elso, who plays keyboards and grunts. They are usually accompanied by guitarist Alexy Kolygin, bassist Odei Ochoa  and drummer, David Carrica, however unfortunately on Friday Odei was missing due to work commitments back in his home country of Spain. Say one thing for Diabulus In Musica, it’s that they do not give up! This is the second time I’ve seen them with a band member missing (last time Alexy apparently had some Visa issues), and you’d never notice the difference.

Diabulus In Musica’s setlist was short but sweet, comprised of five songs from their latest album Dirge For The Archons, including a live debut of the beautiful ballad ‘A Speck In The Universe’. The remainder of the setlist consisted of three songs from third album, Argia, two from The Wanderer, and just one from their debut album Secrets:

gorkaIntro: Battle Of Atlantis

  1. Earthly Illusions
  2. Lies In Your Eyes
  3. Invisible
  4. Mechanical Ethos
  5. Inner Force
  6. A Speck In The Universe
  7. Ex Nihilo
  8. Ring Around Dark Fairies’ Carousel
  9. Crimson Gale
  10. Sceneries Of Hope
  11. Spoilt Vampire
Outro: Zauria

So… another case of an unbalanced setlist that I mentioned in my review of Epica last week, but I didn’t mind so much this time, because Dirge For The Archons is simply wonderful — my favourite album released last year — and I could listen to it all day long if I had to.

For a band whose music is so serious and beautifully constructed, the band members of Diabulus In Musica themselves are just so unbelievably cute. Both Gorka and David sported their own band T-shirts throughout the performance (adorable!), whilst Zuberoa seemed deeply embarrassed after accidentally messing up her lyrics during ‘A Speck In The Universe’; one of the night’s highlights. Everyone just looked so happy to be on stage, gushing about how the UK leg of the Leaves’ Eyes European tour had been their favourite (there were no empty platitudes about this, they clearly genuinely meant it), then they revelled in the glorious, carnival-like weirdness that is ‘Ring Around Dark Fairies’ Carousel’. Zuberoa’s voice was on top-notch form — the best of the night in fact — and the sound configuration didn’t drown her out this time like it did at the Leaves’ Eyes gig; I was able to hear every single exquisite note. The band finished up with an excellent rendition of the heavy ‘Spoilt Vampire’ from Argia, topping off what was all in all, an absolutely stunning performance. Hopefully Diabulus In Musica will come back to the UK soon; we would dearly love to have them!

The final act of the night was of course Amberian Dawn, fronted by the exuberant powerhouse-vocalist Capri. Band founder Tuomas Seppälä was on the keyboards, Emil Pohjalainen on guitar, Jukka Hoffren on bass and Joonas Pykälä-Aho was on the drums. On they came to hearty applause launching straight into their most famous track ‘Valkyries’ from their debut album, River of Tuoni. The setlist that followed borrowed from every single album they’ve ever released, but still remained largely dominated by their most recent release, Innuendo:

  1. capriValkyries
  2. Fame & Gloria
  3. Chamber Of Dreadful Dreams
  4. Circus Black
  5. Magic Forest
  6. Cherish My Memory
  7. The Court Of Mirror Hall
  8. Shallow Waters
  9. Knock Knock Who’s There?
  10. Rise Of The Evil
  11. Warning
  12. Kokko — Eagle Of Fire

Encore:

  1. Arctica
  2. Ladyhawk
  3. River Of Tuoni

First thing to note is that poor Capri seemed to be really struggling on the stage during the first half of the set. She had to leave the stage several times mid-song to get a drink, saying that she was overheated. In fact during ‘Shallow Waters’ — a song that spends an awful lot of time in the higher register — Beth and I exchanged a really worried look because she literally looked as though she were about to pass out. I say this with no exaggeration; it was extremely uncomfortable to watch and I really wanted them to stop the show to allow her to recover. ‘Shallow Waters’ sung by Amberian Dawn’s original singer Heidi Parviainen is really quite soft and head-voicey, but Capri’s style of singing is all from the chest and requires an awful lot of breath and shouting to reach those higher notes. Capri sang only half of the lyrics during the chorus (those she did manage to get out, she screeched), could barely keep her eyes open and seemed to be clinging to the microphone to stay upright. During the instrumental break she vanished from the set and didn’t come back, later emerging to apologise profusely and tell us that she had had to go and loosen her corset because, in her own words, “Everything went black!” It was very, very scary to see. Fortunately, loosening the corset seemed to do the trick because after this incident, Capri was fine. Corset-wearers, let this be a lesson!

Aside from this, Amberian Dawn were utterly fantastic in every sense. Despite her difficulties, Capri still proved herself to be a marvellous front-woman who positively feeds off the limelight and crowd interaction. The setlist was vibrant and full of old favourites, and the delivery was excellent. Amberian Dawn are such a technically talented bunch with every single band member oozing charisma and stage presence; each and every one of them were given a time to shine. Highlights included the super creepy, slightly sinister ‘Circus Black’, the wonderfully retro and Abba-esque ‘Cherish My Memory’ and lastly ‘Ladyhawk’, my favourite song from the new album. I must confess, at times the sound was super, super loud — much more so than the other sets — to the point that it jarred and set my teeth on edge, but I just had the best time and have been listening to Amberian Dawn’s back catalogue almost exclusively ever since the show. As I said in my review of Delain in November last year:

The absolute best time to see a band live… is when you are at [a] middling stage of appreciation, as you can sing along with all your current favourites and at the same time discover some new ones.

And so it proved with Amberian Dawn. Absolutely fantastic and, despite not being who I came to see, my favourite band of the night.

Verdict: 5/5

amberian-dawn

Thanks once again to Beth for accompanying me! I had a great two weeks of gigging with you, as always.

My next gig? EVANESCENCE. My inner teenager is so, so, so excited for this inevitable nostalgia fest. Hope to see some of you there!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out the bands mentioned above’s official websites:

http://crimsonsun.net/
http://diabulusinmusica.com/
http://amberiandawn.com/

All photos taken by me; please do not use without my permission. Thank you!

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Epica ~ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire 03.02.2017: Gig Review

The Friday before last, I embarked on a pilgrimage to the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire with my good friend Beth to witness a Heavy Metal Mass led by dual-headliners Powerwolf and Epica. There were plenty of euphemisms, lots of laughter, some headbanging-induced whiplash, a huge circle pit and even a Mark Jansen-organised Wall of Death*. I truly believe that there ain’t no crowd like a metal crowd, and this deliriously mad gig proved it.

*A particularly dangerous form of mosh pit that involves splitting a crowd down the middle and encouraging them to go to war by charging headlong into the other with the hope of survival i.e. utter madness.

For the first time in forever, Beth and I actually managed to turn up to a gig on time (praise be!), meaning that we were early enough to see the support. Admittedly when I say ‘see the support’, I mean amidst a scramble to put away bags and coats in the cloakroom, grab a beer and find somewhere decent to stand. Beyond The Black were not on for very long — just five songs in fact — but they were very warmly received. By the time they had left the stage, Beth and I had managed to park ourselves quite close to the front on the right-hand side of the stage next to a traffic route for the band photographers and security. This was a really pleasant place to be standing because we had a great view but weren’t squished. It also meant that we were randomly approached by Jenny Dorn — Powerwolf’s photographer and the wife of lead-singer Atilla Dorn — for a chin-wag between Beyond The Black and Powerwolf’s set. She was unbelievably nice, told us all about the tour and what everybody had been up to, her favourite places, a funny story about Mark Jansen’s ability to eat curry endlessly, talked to us about the different kinds of metal we were into and also gave us her card so that we could stalk her photos on Facebook later. Thanks, Jenny!

As previously mentioned, the first headliner of the evening was Powerwolf; a (surprise surprise) power metal band hailing from Germany who are hot on (you guessed it) wolves, blasphemy and euphemisms sung in Latin. Bursting onto the deserted graveyard set dressed from head to toe in priest’s robes and corpse paint, wielding censers, crosiers and harping on about the ‘Heavy Metal Mass’, it was quite clear from the off that this band don’t take themselves too seriously. This is the complete polar opposite of Epica — a band that takes itself very seriously indeed — which in some ways makes them the perfect dual headliner.

powerwolf-flag

Having never heard Powerwolf before, I had been pre-warned by Beth as to how bonkers they are, and I was not disappointed; they were supremely entertaining. Atilla Dorn actually has a really lovely baritone voice that occasionally slips into the operatic (I’m an absolute sucker for a male operatic voice, they’re so rarely heard in metal) and their songs are damned catchy if nothing else. Essentially, if you know the words “Mater Maria” and can pick up a tune relatively quickly, you already know how to sing along to 50% of Powerwolf’s songs. And what a collection of songs they are!

powerwolfIntro: Lupus Daemonis

  1. Blessed & Possessed
  2. Army Of The Night
  3. Amen & Attack
  4. Coleus Sanctus
  5. In The Name Of God (Deus Vult)
  6. Sacred & Wild
  7. Armata Strigoi
  8. Dead Boys Don’t Cry
  9. Let There Be Night
  10. Resurrection By Erection
  11. Werewolves Of Armenia
  12. Sanctified With Dynamite
  13. We Drink Your Blood

Outro: Wolves Against the World

Something to note here: throughout Powerwolf’s setlist, it gradually became apparent to me that Beth was not just a ‘secret Powerwolf fan’ as she had so reluctantly claimed, but a secret die-hard; she sang along to every single word. Sorry to out you, Beth, deny it all you want but it’s true. I personally am not sure what made me blush more; ‘Coleus Sanctus’ (which translates from Latin into “Holy Balls”), or ‘Resurrection by Erection’. Also, bit of a left-field comparison here, but keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel strongly reminded me of Bez from the Happy Mondays, in that he seemed to spend more time down at the front of the stage thrashing around and holding up his stole like a football scarf than he did ever did actually playing the keyboard.

At the time I didn’t actually realise that Powerwolf were a dual-headliner so I personally felt that they dragged on a little too long (I was worried they were eating into Epica’s set), however there is just no denying how much fun they were, and the crowd absolutely loved them. I’d say roughly a third at least were there specifically to see Powerwolf (Beth among them, obviously) but by the time they had exited the stage, everyone was screaming for more!

“I think we need to open a few windows to let out some of the testosterone in here.” ~ Me to Beth after Powerwolf had left.

So. That was Powerwolf. Definitely… An Experience, shall we say? I will not be checking them out any further as their music was not my cup of tea at all, but they were a hell of a lot of fun and got me all pumped for Epica!

As seems to be traditional with Epica shows, the band members emerged onto the stage amidst the introductory track from their latest album (‘Eidola’) followed by the opener (‘Edge of the Blade’). There followed a setlist comprised of exactly 50% songs from their latest album, The Holographic Principle, with an uneven smattering of one or two songs from the previous six.

isaacIntro: Eidola

  1. Edge Of The Blade
  2. The Phantasmic Parade
  3. Sensorium
  4. Universal Death Squad
  5. Storm The Sorrow
  6. The Essence Of Silence
  7. The Obsessive Devotion
  8. Ascension ~ Dream State Armageddon
  9. Dancing In A Hurricane
  10. Unchain Utopia
  11. Once Upon A Nightmare

Encore:

  1. Sancta Terra
  2. Beyond The Matrix
  3. Consign To Oblivion ~ A New Age Dawns – Part III

I’m afraid at this point that I must have a gripe about the setlist. Disappointingly, nothing was played from their fifth album Design Your Universe at all; not even former setlist staple ‘Unleashed’ (which features in my top five favourite songs of all time). This, I think, is a downside of bands with increasingly large back catalogues: old favourites and classics are mercilessly dropped in favour of playing as many songs as possible from the new album, to the point that lesser-known gems become increasingly unlikely to ever see the light of day. Whilst I’m sure bands relish the opportunity to play new songs, it can be quite tedious for fans. It probably doesn’t help that I found The Holographic Principle album a bit of a disappointment on the whole (oh how I yearn for the stripped-back gothic sound of Epica’s earlier works), but I still personally prefer it when the setlists are a bit more balanced.

Rant about the setlist over, next up I have to have a small moan about the sound. I’m no sound technician, but something was definitely ‘off’ at the beginning of Epica’s set. Simone sounds completely drowned out by over-production on the newer tracks as it is, but she was barely audible throughout the live performances of ‘Edge Of The Blade’ and ‘The Phantasmic Parade’. Whilst I do not think this was entirely Simone’s fault — the sound did improve so someone must have fiddled with some knobs at some point — her voice was definitely much, much tinnier than when I saw her perform last. A combination of the two just exacerbated the situation and made for frustrating listening. Maybe it was where we were standing? Maybe she was tired on the tail-end of a long tour? The aforementioned Jenny Dorn did say that everyone had only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before… Whatever the problem was, it was a real shame not to catch Simone at her absolute best because when she is on form, her soaring angelic soprano really is exquisite.

These points aside however, the gig was fantastic. Few bands have as much energy performing live as Epica and though objectively I am not so keen on them, the new songs from The Holographic Principle did translate well to a live audience, particularly the instrumental segments of ‘Universal Death Squad’ and the soaring choir-driven chorus of ‘Beyond The Matrix’. During the latter, audience members were encouraged to jump around as much as possible and I tell you what, singing notes that high and jumping that much is a great workout if you’re looking to increase your lung capacity!

simone-and-coen

Other personal highlights for me were: ‘The Obsessive Devotion’, during which I may have experienced some kind of spiritual epiphany and most definitely destroyed my neck with all my headbanging; and the finale, ‘Consign To Oblivion’, a truly old-school track from Epica’s second album of the same name. There were just so many moments in ‘Consign To Oblivion’ where the rest of the band could truly shine, especially during the instrumental segment that started just shy of the 5 minute mark. Punctuated by Coen’s screams and organ-like synths that interwove beautifully with Isaac’s wonderfully melodic guitarwork, Mark’s uncharacteristically subterranean growls of “LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW”, evoked apocalyptic visions of earthquakes, fire and brimstone alongside the marching 7-note refrain. The whole segment culminated with a stirring male choir, death blasts from Ariën and Mark’s more typical rapid-fire spitting verse that sent shivers down my spine, before Simone brought us back to the standard song structure and to both the song and the gig’s triumphant end. Superb.

Verdict: 4/5

epica-shepherds-bush

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out all the bands mentioned above’s official websites:

http://www.beyond-the-black.com/
http://www.powerwolf.net/
http://www.epica.nl/

Jenny Dorn’s photography can be found on her Facebook page here.

All photos included in this blog taken by me, except for the picture of Epica from the stage which was taken from their Facebook page (photo credit unknown). I’m down in the bottom left somewhere behind a load of arms!

Delain ~ KOKO, Camden 13.11.2016: Gig Review

As part of my two-year anniversary present, my boyfriend bought me a ticket to go and see Dutch symphonic metal act Delain play at the Camden KOKO on Sunday 13th November. The KOKO is one of my favourite venues in London, not least because it’s so beautiful. It is also extremely easy to get to, located just outside the Mornington Crescent tube station.

Though I would class myself as a pretty casual Delain fan (I own their two latest albums and a couple of tracks from April Rain, that’s about it), I have heard so many good stories from my friends about how fantastic they are live. The absolute best time to see a band live, in my opinion, is when you are at this middling stage of appreciation, as you can sing along with all your current favourites and at the same time discover some new ones. Some of my greatest musical loves – The White Stripes, Voltaire, Leaves’ Eyes and Kamelot – all won me over to the point of obsession in this way. I am pleased to report that Delain will be joining their ranks; this was without a doubt my favourite gig of 2016!

delain-mine

Before we get stuck into Delain’s performance however, I do wish to mention the two truly excellent support acts that they had with them. The first of these was a heavy metal band hailing from Canada called Kobra And The Lotus (KATL), founded and fronted by vocalist Kobra Paige. A not-unfamiliar face on the symphonic metal scene, Kobra has been touring with Kamelot for the last two years both as a support act during the European Silverthorn tour, and as a guest vocalist on their Haven tour. Due to a lack of functioning cash-machines near the KOKO, I missed the very beginning of KATL’s set, but as soon as I walked into the venue, I was bowled over by the Valkyrie-esque Kobra and her stunning set of pipes. She was an extremely charismatic front-woman and the crowd loved her, even going so far as to boo when she bid them goodbye. I am definitely going to be checking KATL out in my own time, I thought they were great.

The second support act consisted of Swedish progressive metal band, Evergrey. I’m just going to put it out there now that I am not the biggest fan of progressive metal, rock or indeed any genre that favours 10-minute-long, rambling guitar solos. That being said, Evergrey won me over within just a couple of songs despite my initially low expecations. Their eerie, melancholic music combined with soft blue lighting, grey backdrop and Tom S. Eugland’s mournful vocals transported me to a misty churchyard atop a gravestone-riddled hill, bathed in the light of the super moon. The one solo that guitarist Henrik Danhage did indulge in for an extended period of time was wonderfully melodic, beautifully atmospheric and downright gorgeous. I don’t think I will be investigating Evergrey any further, as I found their songs and Eugland’s voice a bit too generic for my tastes, but I did think they were very good nonetheless and by the time they had wrapped up their set, I  found myself wondering if Delain were even capable of topping their two excellent supports. Fortunately, this was turned out to be the case!

First things first, here’s Delain’s setlist which, as you can see, leans prettily heavily on their latest album, Moonbathers, with an about-equal spread of crowd-pleasers from the other four:

Intro: The Monarch

  1. charlotteHands Of Gold
  2. Suckerpunch
  3. The Glory And The Scum
  4. Get The Devil Out Of Me
  5. Pendulum
  6. Army Of Dolls
  7. The Hurricane
  8. April Rain
  9. Here Come The Vultures
  10. Fire With Fire
  11. Danse Macabre
  12. Sleepwalkers Dream
  13. Stay Forever
  14. The Gathering
  15. Pristine

Encore:

  1. Mother Machine
  2. Don’t Let Go
  3. We Are The Others

Outro: The Monarch

Show highlights for me included: ‘Suckerpunch’, which I am 100% convinced was written with a live audience in mind as there is just so much opportunity for call and response with the crowd; ‘The Hurricane’, because it was sung so beautifully despite being one of my least favourites on the new album; ‘April Rain’, which is my favourite Delain song for the bridge’s passionate refrain of “It keeps raining, keeps raining” alone; and lastly ‘Don’t Let Go’, in which the audience was encouraged to jump and thrash around as much as possible so that we would become “as hot and as sweaty” as the band on stage.Whilst we did this, singer Charlotte Wessels, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, and guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold all bounced around in a circle in unison. Their hair was flying everywhere, the wires from their guitars and microphones got all crossed… It was just so funny and such a joy to behold, and fortunately no one tripped!

On this latter point, there was just so much chemistry fizzing between the band members, with playful interactions left right and centre and smiley happy faces all round. During a rousing rendition of ‘Fire With Fire’ for example, Charlotte appeared to be poking affectionate fun at pocket-rocket Merel Bechtold whenever she sang the lyric, “You will always be much too tall for someone else,” holding a flattened palm above her head whilst Merel pulled a mock-sulky face in response.

In terms of songs I hadn’t heard before, I absolutely loved the druid-esque ‘The Gathering’ and also ‘Pristine’, featuring rare heavy vocals from bassist Otto. Both of these songs were taken from their debut album Lucidity, which turned 10-years old earlier this year and has since been re-released as a special edition. Methinks I might just have to treat myself after Christmas!

All in all, a fantastic evening. The set was delivered with such energy, passion and joy from Delain, which is a perfect reflection of their music. In the crowded world of symphonic metal, Delain stand out for their simplicity, light-heartedness and the fact that they just do not take themselves or their music too seriously.

Verdict: 5/5

delain

That’s it for me this year now in terms of gigs. I am unable to make it to Týr on Sunday 23 November after all, as I am off gallivanting in Ireland. My next gig will be Epica at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 3 February 2017. I hope to see some of you there. On the subject of Epica, don’t worry! I haven’t forgotten about Part 2 of my review of The Holographic Principle, which I promise is coming soon. I have in fact, I have written it already, it just needs a few finishing touches.

Ta-ta for now and take care,

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out all the bands mentioned above’s official websites:

http://kobraandthelotus.com/
http://www.evergrey.net/
http://www.delain.nl/

All photos included in this blog taken by me, except the photo from the stage which was taken by photographer Mark Lloyd, Amplified Gig Photography. I would point out where I am located, but my face is partly obscured by arms!

The Holographic Principle by Epica: Album Review (Part 1: Unboxing)

After a two-week delay due to a manufacturing error that led to the incorrect logo being printed on my T-shirt, my Limited Edition The Holographic Principle Deluxe Boxset Bundle that I ordered back in July (click herefinally arrived today!

The verdict? It is B-E-A-UTIFUL.

img_9973

Look at it. Isn’t it wonderful? Just look at it. LOOK AT IT I TELL YOU.

Rather than doing a bog-standard album review, I have decided to do this in two parts. Part 1 is an unboxing and covers the physical contents, whilst Part 2 will cover the rather mammoth task of reviewing the album itself. So, here we go…


In addition to the beautifully designed cardboard box, which features the famous Epica ‘E’ in the middle of an Ouroboros (aka. “the snake devouring its tail” mentioned in ‘Universal Death Squad’), I also received a girlie-T. As previously mentioned, this T-shirt was originally printed with the men’s  T-shirt logo. Whilst I did have the option to receive the bundle as-is with the wrong T-shirt, I opted to wait for the originally intended design. I’m so pleased that I did because I think this one is much more feminine and pretty.

img_9970
The offending girlie-T in all its unique and exclusive glory. I know what I’ll be wearing this coming dress-down Friday!

There are a few cool knick-knacks inside the box. We have a lovely little Epica-logo pin (that I’m pretty sure is made from pewter, not silver like the website claims), an absolutely bloody enormous poster flag that probably needs an iron (I have no idea where to put this, it really is huge), and a neat little gadget called a holographic projector. I’ve given the latter a try by sticking it to my smartphone’s screen and navigating to www.epica.nl/hologram to watch the videos through it there. It’s impossible to film exactly what happens but it’s pretty much the coolest record gimmick I’ve seen since the spinning angel hologram on Jack White’s Lazaretto.

vwzs9680

Finally, the record itself comes in two formats: CD and vinyl. The CDs are packaged in a beautiful earbook, which is essentially the album sleeve in hardback form:

img_9986
The earbook includes the album itself, a bonus acoustic CD, and lastly, the entire album in instrumental form.
img_9988
An example of the amazing album artwork by Stefan Heilemann peppered throughout the book. This photo also features Edgar, who was not helping.

One of my favourite pages of the earbook is the very last one which shows artwork from both The Quantum Enigma and The Holographic Principle combined into one monster piece of art. If The Quantum Enigma was about creating your own reality and understanding your place within the universe, The Holographic Principle is about questioning that reality and taking your thoughts higher than the universe we exist in. I feel like this artwork really highlights that conceptual link between album nos. 6 and 7 even though the music may be drastically different. That however is for me to deal with in Part 2 of this review, not now!

As for the vinyl part of this bundle, well, I shall let the gorgeousness that is this picture disc speak for itself:

img_9976

All in all, this is undoubtedly the best special-edition record I have ever purchased and I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth, and that is before I’ve even popped the album on to listen to. Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

S.E. Berrow


img_9994For more information about Epica and The Holographic Principle, please visit their website:

http://www.epica.nl/

Side-Note: Edgar was a huge pain in the bum the whole time I was preparing for and writing this blog post. In addition to scratching and biting the earbook, he also ran off with the pin so that I thought I’d lost it.

This is why I can’t have nice things and, as a consequence, he has now been put in the bin.

Amaranthe/Tarja at Rock On Green Festival ~ O2 Forum, Camden 05.06.2016: Gig Review

Rock On GreenThe release of Tarja’s latest (fantastic) solo album – The Shadow Self – last Friday reminded me that I never got around to reviewing a gig of hers that I attended back in June. Please allow me to rectify that!

So, I guess it was just over two months ago now that I went to the debut of the new Rock On Green Festival at the O2 Forum in Camden. Joint headliners were the genre-defying melodic death metal band Amaranthe followed by the aforementioned ex-Nightwish operatic extraordinaire Tarja.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while now will know that my good friend Beth often accompanies me to these sorts of gigs, and today was no exception! Having stayed over the previous night to maximise time spent with a then-ten-week-old Edgar, we took our time travelling up to London as we didn’t really fancy forcing enthusiasm for those lower down on the bill. Consequently we rather happily missed the local metalcore three-piece, Immension, and showed up mid-way through a rather baffling set by Republic of Rock ‘N’ Roll; an alternative rock band from Paris. At this point the crowd was absolutely threadbare thin, the merchandise stall poorly stocked, and the atmosphere completely dead. I have to say, I did feel a little bit sorry for Republic of Rock ‘N’ Roll, who had an uphill struggle in playing to what was obviously not the right audience for them. That being said, they were pretty dire, and not even a cover of my favourite Aerosmith song ‘Dream On’ could endear me to them.

OctanicNext up were Octanic; a six-piece melodic death metal act that had travelled all the way from Australia just to play this one gig… impressive! Equally as impressive was their set, which proved to be a nice surprise after the incongruous dirge that was Republic of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Surprisingly melodic, full of synths, organs and classical licks, Octanic’s particular blend of clean and heavy vocals caught my ear immediately. Their charismatic lead singer Jay Shepherdson seemed so excited to be playing in the UK at last that his enthusiasm was infectious. Within no time at all he had the audience stamping their feet, clapping their hands and singing lines back to him despite the fact that I’m pretty sure hardly any of the crowd had heard of them before. Though they were only on stage for a short time, I thoroughly enjoyed Octanic’s set, and I fully intend to give their debut album, The Mask of Hypocrisy, a listen at some point.

At last, the first headliner of the evening exploded onto the stage amidst a blast of strobe lighting and distorted bass; six-piece Swedish elodeath metallers Amaranthe. Launching straight into single ‘Digital World’, they then began their very own metal dance party, drawing on all three of their studio albums in equal measure for an absolutely stellar setlist on the tail-end of a highly successful Massive Addictive world tour. All three of Amaranthe’s vocalists were on top form, led by an impeccably dressed Elize Ryd whose ability to bound around so effortlessly in high heels, short skirts and boots with no front never ceases to amaze me.

1. Digital WorldAmaranthe
2. Trinity
3. Hunger
4. Invincible
5. 1.000.000 Lightyears
6. Massive Addictive
7. True
8. Afterlife
9. Electroheart
10. Amaranthine
11. Call Out My Name

Encore:
12. The Nexus
13. Dynamite
14. Drop Dead Cynical

One of the biggest highlights of the Amaranthe show for me was actually the crowd itself. It seemed that the vast majority of the people in attendance were there specifically to see Amaranthe, and Beth and I made friends with those around us, including an older man with a conversation-starting MFVF (Metal Female Voices Fest) hoodie, and a younger man who told us that his future-wife had no choice in the first song at their wedding being ‘Amaranthine’, and promptly burst into tears when the band began to play it. Everyone knew all the words and sang along when Elize pointed the microphone at us, and the atmosphere was so warm and full of really positive energy! In terms of the setlist, my personal favourites included debut single ‘Hunger’, and all three of the songs in the encore; in particular ‘Drop Dead Cynical’ because that song always makes me want to get up and dance! This time, surrounded by what I like to call ‘my people’, I could bounce, bop, sing and growl along as loud and as hard as I wanted without a care in the world. Not even the really bizarre moment when the band’s bassist, Johan Andreassen, came out and started insulting the audience during the unusually long wait for the encore (presumably to give Elize Ryd time to change outfits) could possibly spoil my fun!

Although it was really weird… Johan, what on Earth? Go home, you’re drunk.

This whole gig from start to finish was hugely cathartic, massive addictive fun. One of the most innovative and unique acts on the metal scene, Amaranthe more than proved themselves at the height of their powers and, with the announcement of upcoming album Maximalism due out later this year, they don’t look as though they’re about to slow down any time soon.

So, after that rather full-on, full-length performance by the night’s headliner, it was time for… another headliner! Clammy and hot from the press of the crowd, our pent-up energy exerted, throats hoarse and legs stiff from standing for so long, I was beginning to wonder how on earth an exhausted Beth and I were going to manage to do it all over again.

However, much like the stomach always makes room for dessert, we managed to syphon the energy from somewhere as Tarja Turunen – arguably the most iconic singer in the symphonic metal genre – took to the stage in her trademark swirl of long raven hair, elbow-length gloves and black lace. With a radiant smile to her adoring audience, the ex-Nightwish soprano launched straight into a rousing rendition of her then-latest single and the opening track of The Brightest Void EP, ‘No Bitter End’.

Note: I seem to be having a streak of bad luck when it comes to gigs. Once again I accidentally parked myself next to the nutters and was forced to relocate during Tarja’s set to somewhere with an inferior view just to get away with them. I’m all for a bit of gig enthusiasm, but when someone is elbowing you in the ribs, jumping all over your feet and screaming – actually screaming – in your ear rather than singing along to the words, just to get Tarja’s attention? No, I cannot deal. After the awesomeness that was the Amaranthe crowd, this was really disappointing, and impacted heavily on my enjoyment. Gig etiquette is a so important, and it’s such a shame when people behave so inconsideratly and spoil the experiences of others.

1. No Bitter EndScreen Shot 2016-08-09 at 22.28.43
2. Never Enough
3. Demons In You*
4. Shameless*
5. Supremacy (Muse cover)*
6. Calling From The Wild*
7. Goldfinger (John Barry & Shirley Bassey cover)
8. Victim Of Ritual
9. Die Alive

Encore 1:
10. Until My Last Breath

Encore 2:
11. Over The Hills And Far Away (Gary Moore cover)

* Live Premiere

Here’s the thing about Tarja: generally speaking, her songs are not very good. She is by no means a natural-born songwriter and her albums tend to contain a lot of filler with the very occasional gem (watch me eat my words when I eventually get around to writing a review for The Shadow Self). Her voice on the other hand… My God, her voice is exquisite; a truly stunning thing to behold live. She is the absolute mistress of musical interpretation, and if I was in any doubt about her performance after a couple of unexceptional opening tracks, my fears were sufficiently allayed when she delivered a truly spectacular cover of Muse’s ‘Supremacy’. Her vocal range was off the scale, her control faultless. As goose-pimples rippled over the flesh of my arms and her voice climbed to the final, almost impossibly high note, I turned to Beth and said simply one word: “Wow.”

“Now that is a difficult song to sing,” Tarja confessed afterwards with a laugh as much to herself as to her audiece. Yeah, I thought to myself. No shit…!

Other set highlights included ‘Victim Of Ritual’ – one of my favourite ever Tarja songs  – and the live premiere of ‘Demons In You’; I got very excited when I caught the instantly recognisable screams of Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz on the backing track!

So, despite her setlist being peppered with covers and underwhelming song choices- and’Over The Hills And Far Away’ once again being dragged up from the Nightwish back catalogue – it simply doesn’t matter. Tarja is Tarja; our queen, our metal goddess, our diva… and I will follow her to the ends of the earth.

As always, thank you very much to Beth for accompanying me, I had such a fantastic time!

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 23.22.49

Verdict: 4/5

I haven’t got another gig booked for a while now; not until next year in fact when Epica perform at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 3 February. However, both Delain and Týr have announced London dates for November, so perhaps I will see some of you there?

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out all the bands mentioned above’s official websites:

http://www.octanic.com/
http://amaranthe.se/
http://tarjaturunen.com/

Rock On Green does not have an official website, however you can click the flyer to be taken through to the official Facebook page.

All photos included in this blog taken by me.

Nightwish ~ SSE Wembley Arena 19.12.2015: Gig Review

One of the last things I did before Christmas descended and all my free time went out the window was to go and see Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish – arguably the biggest in their genre – play the legendary SSE Wembley Arena with my good friends Beth and Mandy. To make things even more exciting, they were supported by Amorphis – whom Beth and Mandy particularly love – and the legendary Arch Enemy, recently joined by powerhouse vocalist Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist fame. I am a huge Alissa White-Gluz fan, so I was just as excited to see her perform live as I was Nightwish, if not maybe secretly more so! After an absolute mission making our way up to the venue (the SSE Wembley Arena is located on the complete opposite side of London to where I live), what followed was an absolute master class in spectacle and musicianship. Although certain members of the audience threatened to spoil my good time and impact negatively on my review, it was an undeniably magical evening filled with surprises and flashes of brilliance; I am so grateful to have been there to witness one of my favourite ever bands play the gig of their lives along with a couple of very special friends.

Nightwish

First up was Amorphis: a prog/death metal band also hailing from Finland, consisting of six members, whose twelfth album, Under The Red Cloud, was released last year to critical acclaim. As previously mentioned, it was a bit of a mission making our way up to the venue and we arrived much later than we would have liked, meaning that we were still in the queue by the time Amorphis came onto the stage. Consequently, we only managed to catch the tail-end of their set (apparently they played just eight songs) so I am not able to expound much upon my thoughts beyond that I thought they sounded quite good, certainly got the crowd going, and I look forward to seeing them play the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham later this year when I go up to visit Beth!

Next was Arch Enemy, who stormed onto the stage with a single from Khaos Legions – their final album with Angela Gossow – ‘Yesterday Is Dead And Gone’. Alissa White-Gluz – a veritable streak of brilliant blue hair and spiky black armour – jumped, snarled, charged and whipped her way around the massive stage without so much as breaking a sweat, all whilst delivering the kind of vocal fry that other heavy vocalists can only dream of. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t actually think Arch Enemy is the best vehicle for showcasing Alissa’s talents and vocal gymnastics, but by God she is a much needed breath of fresh air for them.

Their setlist leaned heavily upon their latest album, War Eternal (which is understandable given that this is the album where Alissa stepped in) however there were also a few tracks taken from the aforementioned Khaos Legions along with a couple of classics from Doomsday Machine and Wages of Sin thrown in for good measure. Personal highlights for me were the wonderfully melodic ‘Avalanche’, the rallying aggression of ‘No Gods, No Masters’ and their most well-known hit, ‘Nemesis’.

Intro: Khaos OvertureAlissa

  1. Yesterday Is Dead and Gone
  2. War Eternal
  3. Ravenous
  4. Stolen Life
  5. You Will Know My Name
  6. As The Pages Burn
  7. Under Black Flags We March
  8. Avalanche
  9. No Gods, No Masters
  10. Nemesis

Outro: Enter The Machine

Alas, Arch Enemy’s time on stage was over far too soon. With their mission to whip the crowd up into a furious frenzy and get them ready for the main event accomplished, I have no doubt that they left that stage with 12,500 fans of ‘pure fucking metal’ in their wake.

Under Black Flags We March

After this, a massive safety curtain descended as Nightwish’s road crew got to work on finishing installing the massive screens and pyrotechnics; this was the first time Nightwish were headlining a stage big enough in the UK to support their full show. The mystery only enhanced the build up and our excitement bubbled to breaking point! Unfortunately a few less-than-thoughtful crowd members decided to choose this moment to shove directly in front of us and one of the girls, who wanted her boyfriend to join her, started waving her hands directly in my face. This was the first person I told to get lost before the night was over.

Breaking with tradition, Nightwish did not come on to a soundtrack taken from Tuomas Holopainen (keyboardist and songwriter)’s latest favourite film. Instead they took everyone by surprise and literally burst onto the stage with an explosion of fireworks and the sudden dropping of the safety curtain to the storming orchestral opener ‘Shudder Before The Beautiful’. It was a truly exhilarating moment and set the tone of the show immediately, with everyone singing along, cheering, throwing their arms up in the air and head-banging from the word go. The noise was simply unbelievable, and sent shivers down my spine; one of the best opening songs for a concert I have ever, ever seen.

Whilst not the strongest set list I could have hoped for (my work-colleague Agnese attended their show two weeks earlier in Prague and was privy to the magnificent ‘Wishmaster’), there was a good mix of old and new with a smattering of greatest hits and no less than three monster songs that exceed the ten-minute mark:

  1. Shudder Before The Beautiful
  2. Yours Is An Empty Hope
  3. Ever Dream
  4. Storytime
  5. The CrowdMy Walden
  6. While Your Lips Are Still Red
  7. Élan
  8. Weak Fantasy
  9. 7 Days To The Wolves
  10. Alpenglow
  11. The Poet And The Pendulum
  12. Nemo
  13. I Want My Tears Back
  14. Stargazers
  15. Ghost Love Score
  16. Last Ride Of The Day
  17. The Greatest Show On Earth

Let’s get the low points of the night out of the way first. During a fantastic rendition of ‘Yours Is An Empty Hope’ – featuring rare heavy vocals from Floor Jansen and one of the highlights of the set list despite what I am about to write – a very drunk and inconsiderate oaf came right up behind me and draped his arms all over my head and shoulders throughout the entirety of the song. It was not just me who he did this too either, but several others around me. Collectively, we told him where to go, but he was so blind drunk that I don’t think he was even aware of where he was. Eventually I got so angry that I ended up moving to a spot where I couldn’t see as well, just to get away from this one individual. I was still raging several songs later, and this idiot in addition to the girl I mentioned earlier, completely ruined the first part of the night for me. I began to feel a bit better when Troy Donockley (uilleann pipe-player and fellow Englishman) arrived on the scene to gush about playing a sold out Wembley show and introduce a deliriously soaring and joyful rendition of ‘My Walden’. However, tracks 6 through 10 were pretty weak; I was actually bored during ‘Alpenglow’ and I began to feel incredibly dehydrated and ill due to the heat. During the opening bars of epic song no.1 – ‘The Poet And The Pendulum’ – I began to wonder if I was even going to be able to remain conscious.

Which brings us to the show highlights…

‘The Poet and the Pendulum’ is one of my favourite Nightwish songs ever, and I was so, so excited to see it performed live. Consequently, despite feeling like I was about to keel over and die, I forced myself to hold on in order to sing, shout, scream and thrash my way through all 13 minutes and 54 seconds of Tuomas’ magnificent ode to depression and writer’s block. Images of the enormous, ominous bladed pendulum swinging right to left dominated the backdrop to great effect, whilst vocalist Floor Jansen – whom I personally think struggles to sing Anette Olzon’s songs as well as she does Tarja’s – excelled during this performance, stepping in with her classical voice during the choir boy moments. It was truly fantastic and looked set to be my favourite performance of the night.

After ‘The Poet and the Pendulum’ had finished and the opening piano notes of the band’s most well-known song ‘Nemo’ started up, I took the opportunity to dash outside for a little bit and down a glass of water. Once I felt much cooler and less thirsty, I bought myself a Sprite then took some water back for Mandy and Beth just in time for a thundering rendition of ‘I Want My Tears Back’ from my favourite Nightwish album, Imaginaerum. From there it was pretty much relentless in terms of excellent set list choices, from the vintage ‘Stargazers’ to fan-favourite and epic song no. 2, ‘Ghost Love Score’.

However, not a single song performed that night – not even ‘The Poet and the Pendulum’ – was quite so spectacularly stunning as the show’s closer: epic song no. 3, ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’.

Where to begin? What I experienced throughout this formidable finale – clocking in at a staggering 24 minutes long – can only be described as euphoric; a near-religious experience. What I initially thought was a very bloated and self-indulgent track on the record was nothing short of a masterpiece when performed live. From its ethereal beginning to its introspective end, ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ catalogues the conception of life on earth through numerous eras of evolution and the dawn of civilisation, paying ode to the spectacular achievements and failings of humankind, including poetry, architecture, musical history (to which an entire bonkers section is dedicated), religious extremism and the ‘giant mushroom clouds’ of the atomic bomb. Floor showcased every aspect of her vocal range including a gorgeous operatic style during ‘Part I: Four Point Six’, futuristic growling during ‘Part II: Life’, and her trademark melodic shouting for ‘Part III: The Toolmaker’, accompanied by bassist and fellow-vocalist Marco Hietala. As the repeated refrain towards the ‘The Toolmaker’s end, ‘WE WERE HERE’ blazed across the screens, the sudden realisation that I was not only witness to this incredible band at the height of their powers in such a special, legendary venue, but also one of the ‘privileged few’ to ‘[win] the lottery of birth’ against ‘stupefying odds’ hit me like a ton of bricks.

And to top off the night, renowned scientist Richard Dawkins – the inspiration behind Tuomas’ latest work and the song’s title – came out after the band had taken their bows during ‘Part IV: The Understanding’ to read a final quote from Charles Darwin:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one. And that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Richard Dawkins

Cue ‘Part V: Sea-Worn Driftwood’, and the crowd erupts.

In conclusion, if I were to let inconsiderate members of the audience and what I believed to be a less-than-stellar setlist affect my rating of this gig, I would honestly give it a verdict of 3/5. However, because Nightwish have no control over their audience, and because of the nothing short of spectacular finale alone, I have no choice but to award the following:

Verdict 5/5

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Gig selfieBe sure to check out all the bands mentioned above’s official websites:

http://nightwish.com/en
http://www.archenemy.net/
http://www.amorphis.net/

Richard Dawkins Foundation:

https://richarddawkins.net/

Special shout-out to Uber for providing us with an affordable lift home after the show finished too late for us to catch a train.

All photos taken by me, Beth or Mandy (photos used with their permission), except for the picture of the SSE Wembley Arena audience which was taken from Nightwish’s Facebook page. If you look very very hard, you can see us in the bottom left-hand corner. Thanks for a fantastic evening, girlies!

 

Innuendo by Amberian Dawn: Album Review

InnuendoInnuendo is the sixth studio album from Finnish symphonic power metal band, Amberian Dawn, and the second to feature their new vocalist; former pop singer, Capri. The band was formed in 2003 by guitarist and keyboardist Tuomas Sepälä and ex-bassist Tommi Kuri, the latter of whom very sadly passed away at the beginning of last year. Whilst classically trained and capable of singing operatically, Capri’s strong, powerful voice is incredibly retro-sounding that gives the group a distinctive edge in the symphonic metal genre. Comparisons to ABBA and the general sound of Eurovision are easy to make; Capri has portrayed Anni-Frid Lyngstad on stage and auditioned for the infamous song contest twice in the late 2000s.

The current Amberian Dawn line-up is as follows:

Païvi “Capri” Virkkunen: vocals
Tuomas Sepälä: guitar, keyboards
Emil “Empuu” Pohjalainen: guitars
Jukka Hoffren: bass
Joonas Pykälä-aho: drums

Whilst their previous album, Magic Forest, favoured a heavier symphonic metal sound with a decidedly gothic, fairytale theme, Innuendo is much rockier and more melodic. Lyrically it is less cohesive than Magic Forest, with a greater emphasis on storytelling and individual characters that vary wildly from pirates to witches to ball-hosting counts. Likewise the music jumps around from sea shanty to synth-heavy 80s and musical-theatre throwbacks. Truthfully, the heavy emphasis on melody over power and speed make this one of the more accessible metal albums I’ve listened to, but the flip side of that is that there are less layers to sort through, and thus Innuendo becomes very boring to listen to very quickly.

Amberian DawnTracklisting:

  1. Fame And Gloria
  2. Ladyhawk
  3. Innuendo
  4. The Court of Mirror Hall
  5. Angelique
  6. Rise Of The Evil
  7. Chamber Of Dreadful Dreams
  8. Knock Knock Who’s There?
  9. Symphony Nr 1, Part 1 – The Witchcraft
  10. Your Time – My Time

The album’s pirate-themed opener, ‘Fame & Gloria’, is a significant departure from anything the group have tried before. The song tells the story of a group of pirate women called the Black Doves who take over a warship and rally to arms. With cries of ‘Hey ho!’ and ‘We’re drinking!’ there are some definite sea shanty lilts to the guitar work. It’s a fun, energetic opener that doesn’t exactly set the tone of the album, but gets you into the right lighthearted frame of mind.

Next up is ‘Ladyhawk’, a song with an ambiguously avian protagonist who wishes to ‘relearn how to fly’. This is probably the most 80s-sounding song on the record with its synth-keyboards, bubblegum backing vocals and major key chorus (my opinion could be ever-so slightly skewed by the fact the title resembles the 1985 film, Ladyhawke, which also features a woman who can turn into a bird). The breakdown is really fantastic with some technical guitar work hidden throughout, and the lyrics have a really positive, uplifting message. Definitely an album highlight.

The album’s title track, ‘Innuendo’ is another standout track. With its dramatic Arabic-sounding opening, super speedy drums, talk of ‘seven cycles’, ‘sand in the hourglass’, and the sun and moon design of the album cover, I find myself thinking of the original Babylonian Zodiac and the majestic desert sands of the Middle East. The title does not refer to the more well-known definition of ‘innuendo’ i.e. a sexual reference, but instead talks of life as being a nasty trick or a deliberate insult. This is one of my personal favourite songs on the record.

Things begin to fall down a bit with the next track, ‘The Court Of Mirror Hall’. This was the first song the band revealed from Innuendo in the form of a lyric video, and said lyrics conjure images of the Count of Monte Cristo showing off how rich and fabulous his house is whilst goading a woman to marry him (I couldn’t help but think of the Masquerade scene from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) as well). Beyond that, it’s a pretty forgettable track, and a prime example of what I said earlier about the music becoming very boring to listen to very quickly.

The follow-up, ‘Angelique’, is significantly more interesting. For a start, it’s a piano-led ballad with hints of the symphonic, fae-like sound of Magic Forest. Like ‘Ladyhawk’, the identity of the protagonist is ambiguous. Is she a shipwrecked Black Dove? A siren? Maybe even a mermaid? The softness of the piano really gives Capri’s vocals room to shine, and hints of her classical training are permitted come through to great effect. At times it does border a little on musical theatre, particularly when the piano changes to forte along with a general swell of symphonic sound, but this doesn’t detract from the overall strength of the song.

Like ‘The Court of Mirror Hall’, the next two tracks, ‘Rise Of The Evil’ and ‘Chamber of Dreadful Dreams’ are completely forgettable, despite  being among the two heaviest and most power metal tracks on the record. Meanwhile,’Knock Knock Who’s There?’ is not so much forgettable as just plain horrible. Whilst arguably playful, the synth, twinkling sounds, melodic major key and child-like wonder in Capri’s vocal inflections – that made its closest musical counterpart ‘Ladyhawk’ so good – are just way, way too much here.

Things pick back up a bit with ‘Symphony Nr 1, Part 1 – The Witchcraft’. With a strong symphonic opening and a bouncy, sing-a-long melody, it tells the story of a witch hunt, only for the the point of view to switch from the mob to the witch. Despite being of a more upbeat tempo, ‘Symphony Nr 1’ has a lot in common with ‘Angelique’; the general sound of the song is very musical theatre-esque with a strong focus on the characterisation of the protagonist. The song’s closing bars also echo ‘Angelique’ very subtly, however whilst ‘Symphony Nr 1’ grabs your attention on first listen, its repetitive melody and simplistic lyrics don’t have any staying power.

Fortunately, given how erratic and bizarre the rest of the album sounds, things end on a high note with ‘Your Time – My Time’. With some fantastically fast guitar-work despite the generally mid-tempo speed, the song is tightly written with some wonderful, equivocal lyrics that echo the album’s title track ‘Innuendo’. The song is beautifully sung by Capri, the breakdown is ominous and sinister, and the fade-to-black gorgeous guitar solo is simply wonderful. This is easily the best track on the record, and my personal favourite.

Overall, Innuendo is a decidedly mediocre album that drifts a bit too much stylistically and lacks the cohesiveness that makes a truly great symphonic metal record. Though there are a couple of tracks here that I do like, I doubt very much I will still be listening to them in a year’s time.

Verdict: 2/5
S.E. Berrow


Amberian Dawn’s official website:

http://amberiandawn.com/

Fancy a listen? Check out these officially released videos of some of the tracks reviewed above:

‘The Court of Mirror Hall’: https://youtu.be/dYxw1bI6rnY
‘Fame & Gloria’: https://youtu.be/vjqKk8JRzQo
‘Ladyhawk’: https://youtu.be/7H52v7RuANg