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!

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

 

Sunday Night Piratey-Metal Goodness

I just found out that power metal band Amberian Dawn have a new album out this Friday called Innuendo… this is very exciting news! Clearly I have been living in some kind of goth-cave to have only discovered this at the eleventh hour.

Amberian Dawn | Innuendo

I still haven’t got my mitts on a copy of Leaves’ Eyes King of Kings yet either, which quite frankly is a travesty. God, payday can’t come soon enough…

Leaves' Eyes | King of Kings

Anyways, Amberian Dawn’s latest track, ‘Fame And Gloria’, is pirate-themed and pretty catchy, and seeing as my book The Mayor has pirates in it, it seemed pretty on point and I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out Amberian Dawn and Leaves’ Eyes’ official websites:

http://amberiandawn.com/
http://www.leaveseyes.de/