Epica - October 27, 2012 - Worcester Palladium, Worcester, MA
By: Matt Coe
Two separate lines for two concerts at the Worcester Palladium - a hardcore show with Integrity headlining upstairs, while this five-band metal bill would take up the larger downstairs venue. Women are much more fortunate though, to go through their own pat-down lines which seem to move much quicker than the male ones (you would think by now taking everything out of your pockets is no brainer for us… but others needed to hear it 10 times before complying). An early start time of 7:30 p.m. as we knew with five bands on the bill, we would be getting quick set times and changeovers.
Here’s a quick thumbs down observation for Epica based on the merchandise stand. With this being the fourth show on a headlining jaunt, how can you possibly be sold out of four shirt options this quickly? Did you not order enough shirts and sizes to handle all the dates? Or is it more a case of having to ship material up to Canada early (as your upcoming dates were there) and leave yourself less shirts for the MA date? Frustration entered the hearts of many consumers on that front, but at least most of the bands on the bill offered as many CD’s of their material as possible if you needed to stock up on discography.
Opening the first six dates of this tour are Canada’s Blackguard, who has an affinity for Worcester ever since their first time playing here in 2009. With 30 minutes, the band ripped through five songs, including a new one that appeared very pit approved by the ardent audience who filed in to see them. They possess immeasurable stage presence, emphasizing all the right grooves and hooks with hair windmills and aggressive faces/postures. It’s not my favorite style of symphonic epic metal with black/power tendencies, but they do get the job done and I can understand why people are sitting up and taking notice based on their feverish live touring pace.
International melodic death metalcore act System Divide however, didn't fare as well to these ears. With members from Israel and Belgium to Cleveland, Ohio and New York City, the unit employs a brutal death growler/screamer in Sven de Caluwe [Aborted] and a serene female melodic vocalist with Miri Milman. The band didn’t impress from the start, gaining a lot of blank stares – and I feel that their sound is prototypical of thousands of other ‘heavy’ bands who try to do too much variation while keeping things caustic. Not the right band for this kind of tour in my opinion- and their half hour seemed to drag on for about 25 minutes too long.
Insomnium from Finland hit the stage next to enthusiastic applause. This would be their first appearance in Worcester ever, but you wouldn’t believe it based on the rapturous response. Growler/bassist Niilo Sevanen and clean vocalist/guitarist Ville Friman complement each other seamlessly, as the songs just lift you into another dimension. Another 30 minute set that went by far too quickly- to the point that the audience screamed for one more song at the conclusion of “One For Sorrow," the title track from their fifth album released last year. We clapped and cheered in all the right places - often unprompted by the band - which is a sign that their melodic, doom filled death metal is going places. Let’s hope for more touring from this deep, thoughtful quartet. as I think they have the songwriting and style to capture a bigger audience.
Shortly before 10 p.m., Alestorm sauntered onstage. A five-piece with two keyboard players (one key-guitarist), they subscribe to their own brand of ‘pirate metal.' It’s a form of folk power metal with all the expected large riff hooks and sing-a-long choruses you would expect. The band don’t take themselves too seriously, and the crowd dance, jig, crowd surf and sway back and forth through well-known material like “Keelhauled," “Shipwrecked," “Leviathan," and closer “Captain Morgan’s Revenge." They had the best t-shirt merchandise of the tour in my opinion (a green shirt with a cassette tape and the slogan ‘Support Music Piracy’) and they really know how to charge up an audience. Another act that received an encore request from the fans, but that would only be rewarded by the headliner Epica, being my first experience with Alestorm, their 45 minutes was very entertaining and engaging.
Epica put on an impressive vari-lights show to accompany their brand of symphonic power/ gothic metal on this headlining tour. Knowing how to inject a personable element in their stage banter (vocalist Simone Simons remarking that “guys are louder because they have balls, but watch out for women that can scratch your eyes out"), the band took a look at all five studio albums in their 80-minute plus stage time. After the intro “Karma” set the mood, a flood of strobe lights assaulted the eyes as the sextet started with “Monopoly on Truth," as the group continually alternated between shorter songs such as “Storm the Sorrow” and “Quietus” with notable epics like “Serenade of Self-Destruction” and set closer “Consign to Oblivion” during their 13 song set.
The band has a wide across the board appeal, as I saw young teenage girls up to people in their 40’s and 50’s there, the heavier parts inducing the horns and head banging movements, while the quieter, more atmospheric and serene segments inducing cheers. Keyboardist Coen Janssen took a few moments before the encore to express his sincere appreciation for the Worcester fans to turn out in droves so they could play the larger, downstairs portion of the venue, humorously adding “because the bathroom is right here- instead of running down from upstairs."
It’s understandable why Epica have reached headline status in all parts of the world. Tonight they were firing on all musical cylinders, and as they close in on their tenth anniversary as a band, we can expect many more albums to blow us away.