Saturday, 7 November 2015

Stratovarius - Live at the Islington Academy

I've seen Stratovarius a couple of times down the years but when an album as good as Eternal is released you've really got to give them the time of day and make an effort to see them again. The fact GloryHammer was the main support also made the decision a certainty and the Aussie troop Divine Ascension didn't discourage me either. The Islington Academy was probably 3/4 full by the end of the night so probably around 500, so not a band attendance but I've seen that place rammed beyond comfort already this year so I was actually happy to see it not so full to allow us some breathing room.

First up were Melbourne's Divine Ascension whose music is pretty good on record as I recall. I had actually forgotten that they had a female singer until she burst out last on to the stage as the other guys were playing the intro to the opening song. Her voice was pretty decent but not totally amazing either. They played well and got a reasonable response but I'm guessing the far majority of the crowd probably didn't know who they were. The music was decent and the band was afforded a nice sound mix. The melodies were flowing nicely from song to song but with the music being slightly progressive it was probably harder for the crowd to connect with the band and show more enthusiasm. Not a bad performance at all and I've seen loads worse as an opening band. I'm sure they won over a few of the early comers though most would've probably been waiting anxiously for the main two bands.

Then it was GloryHammer's turn and boy did the crowd really get into it. We love a good bit of humour in our metal and when Thomas the Front man starts telling us to make swish swish noises as he swings his astral hammer about the place there isn't a punter who isn't doing it! The new album is totally fantastic from start to finish and they played a lot of songs from it. Legend of the Astral Hammer got the biggest sing a long of the night and my personal fave tune Universe on Fire was sung brilliantly by Thomas aka Angus McFife. Of course we should refer to the characters in the band by their stage names, you have to pretend you're actually watching a sci-fi movie to power metal music. To say that GloryHammer went down well would be the understatement of the night. These guy were an absolute riot. They leave everyone grinning like cheshire cats from ear to ear and with our fists held high! Next time I'm going to bring an Astral Hammer of my own! (a plastic one!)

Finally at 9.30 the intro music for Finnish giants of power metal played before they took their positions and Jens played the awesome parping intro to My Eternal Dream before the rest of the band joins in and finally Timo bursts on singing the opening lines to the song. An awesome entrance indeed as the band sounded crisp and clean although a touch loud here and there with distortion of the guitars. Unfortunately the young chap's guitar failed as he was attempting to start his solo in the middle of the song and he walked off to get it fixed but Jens covered his mishap with a keyboard solo instead. Not a good start to have equipment failure on the very first song but shit happens sometime. It didn't actually dampen my enjoyment of the song too much as the melody in the song is really spectacular. The band continued with both recent and older material. The stand outs to me were SOS and new epic The Lost Saga. Black Diamond is a song I am a little tired of hearing but it did sound pretty good I must admit. Unbreakable from the last album Nemesis was another huge highlight. A word about Timo's voice. I think he slightly struggles with the higher registers and feels more comfortable with the lower register notes and he sounds far better anyway. His voice was good but their in the middle of a very long tour so he's probably had better nights who knows. The encore featured three cuts, the ballad Forever which was sung brilliantly by Timo I must admit, the awesome new song Shine in the Dark and the classic Hunting High and Low with the extended crowd sing a long section towards the end before they finished o rapturous applause and the crowd left to an unseasonable warm early November night. As I was leaving the GloryHammer guys were at the exit talking with fans and I shook hands with singer Thomas and congratulated him on a great performance. I actually mentioned that this was the third time I am seeing them and he was surprised and said wow and I said I am a long time fan, but tonight was by far the best I have seen them and hopefully I will see them again shortly. A good end to a very nice night of power metal with the honours totally stolen by the mighty GloryHammer!

GloryHammer Set list:
Rise of the Chaos Wizards
Legend of the Astral Hammer
Hail to Crail
Universe on Fire
Angus McFife
The Hollywood Hootsman
Magic Dragon
Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy
The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee

Stratovarius Set list:
My Eternal Dream
Lost Without a Trace
Bass Solo
Against the Wind
The Lost Saga
Keyboard Solo
Black Diamond
Shine in the Dark
Hunting High and Low

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