Monday, 20 February 2017

Firewind/Manimal Live Report

Well it's been 5 yeas since we last saw Firewind on these shores as Gus G was telling us from the stage last night. To be honest I thought he'd sort of given up on Firewind what with being Ozzy's guitarist and doing two solo albums and actually losing Apollo. It looked grim for Firewind fans to say the least but Gus and co are back and then some.

This Euro tour featured Swedes Manimal and fellow Greeks Scar of the Sun. I hadn't really heard of the opening band but they were quite good. A little different than the other two bands in style but that's ok as it serves as a good contrast. They had big heavy brooding sections with groove and melody and then regular thrashing parts. Not bad at all.

Manimal were up next and I was looking forward to their set immensely and they didn't disappoint. Their latest album is a killer slab of melodic heavy metal with piercing true metal vocals ala Halford. The singer even adopts the same look as in the lead video with the cats eye blue contacts in his eyes giving him a deranged psycho look. Rather cool and funny whilst prowling the stage and acting very metal! Their songs are very cool too with mid paced head banging parts and then blistering sections where the guitarist blazes the riffs out like a maniac. 

The band was having a lot of fun on stage and was going down very well with the reasonably healthy Sunday night crowd of 250. They played songs from both their albums but the latest is where most of the action is based around. The band was very tight and the sound was great too. Pounding fun heavy metal from Manimal! Huge "Manimal! Manimal!" chants by the crowd at the end as well. I think the band was surprised how well they went down considering this is their debut in the UK.

At 9.20 sharp the Firewind boys took their spots as the intro to Ode To Leonidas was played and soon Gus launches into that mammoth opening riff and we're under way for a night of shredding power metal at it's best. I'd been looking forward to see how Henning Basse would fit in with the band as a live performer and he fitted like a glove. His voice is a little rougher than Apollo's live but he sings with a lot of power and is great at getting the crowd pumped up. 

Gus spoke a fair bit in between the songs and thanked the crowd for not forgetting about his band and how glad they were that Henning accepted the call to be the new singer and what a fantastic job he's been doing. I think he was better suited to the newer material than the older classics but the fans were lapping it up anyway as if he's always been the singer. They played a lot of songs from the new album including the very catchy Back on the Throne with it's tasty riffs and solos.

A totally shredding World On Fire segued into the instrumental The Fire and The Fury with Gus showing off his shredding skills to the max. The sound mix was a little loud on the guitars which sometimes drowned out Henning's vocals and he strained to be heard above it all but he manfully soldiered on. Special mention for Bob Katsionis, the guys plays a mean guitar and handles keyboards too and does a great job playing second fiddle to Gussy's shredding overload.

It's good to have Firewind back. Immortals is a great album and they still have what it takes to be one of Europe's premier power metal outfits though they've probably lost a little of the ground that they made pre Gus joining Ozzy and losing Apollo. But with Basse proving his worth the band is still a force to be reckoned with in power metal circles. 

Ode to Leonidas
We Defy
Head Up High
Few Against Many
Between Heaven and Hell
Back on the Throne
Hands of Time
Wars of Ages
Lady of 1000 Sorrows
(With extended keyboard and guitar intro solos)
World on Fire
The Fire and the Fury
Mercenary Man

Live and Die by the Sword
Falling to Pieces

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Amberian Dawn Live Review

A bit late writing this live review but better late than never! Finnish band celebrated their 10th anniversary as a band with a gig at the Boston Music Room. Unfortunately the attendance was not really good at all with barely a 100 people there. Two other bands played support with both having females on lead vocals. Crimson Sun were up first and I must admit I don't recall hearing them. They weren't terrible and her voice wasn't awful but they were no great shakes really.

Next up were Diabulus in Musica, who I believe are Spanish judging by the accents. It turns out they too were celebrating their 10th anniversary. They were a bit more dramatic and better sounding than the first band. The girl singer was very beautiful herself and very slim indeed. But she had a big operatic voice as well a cool normal singing voice. Better than the first but still not really my cup of tea. Too dramatic and not song based for me to enjoy.

Finally it was time for headliners, Amberian Dawn and boy did things spark and turn around. Immediately you could tell who was the classiest band of the night. First of all there was a dramatic improvement in the sound mix. The band's up front keys especially booming through loud and clear. Most importantly of all front gal Capri's vocals were nigh on perfect. I know they pipe in some of the operatic harmony stuff as she can't do it all but she was an absolute Goddess on the mic. She's got very beautiful round eyes and her dancing skills are very good too and she really gets into the songs.

The songs themselves were oh so memorable and very catchy indeed. The melodies flow so well and you're left with quite a happy and joyous grin on your face as you nod along. They came on quite late at quarter to 10 but played until 11 including a nice three song encore. It's a shame they didn't have more people come and see them 'cause AD are a top class female fronted euro power metal band and they proved it with a fantastic performance with Capri being the star of the show.

Hope to see them again one day!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Epica/Powerwolf Live Report

Obviously the main draw in this gig for me was the chance to see the mighty Powerwolf for the third time. This gig was billed as a dual headline set with both top bands getting roughly 90 minutes each. This is actually a great way of doing things which allows both bands an equally long time on stage and not short change their fans.

We also had an initial support band for a 30 minute slot just to warm things up nicely. That band were Germans Beyond the Black and their female fronted progressive metal. I actually quite like this band on record although it's always a bit hit or miss with these Euro female fronted bands for me. I tend to like some songs where they get the catchiness and melody right and then other stuff gets all convoluted and boring. Musically the band is pretty tight whilst the front gal is easy on the eyes and has a decent but not amazing set of pipes. personally I would've preferred a regular German power metal band as initial support but BTB proved to be a fair build up to the two main acts and were received politely by the crowd.

Let me just quickly mention that the show was almost completely sold out. The Shepherd's Bush Empire was rammed from back to front with not a lot of space to move at all even from very early on as BTB where playing and it only got more packed as the night wore on. I must admit the crowd was kind of mixed with a lot of people obviously there for Powerwolf mostly and lot of the Epica, Delain,Within Temtation wearing shirts waiting at the back before venturing to the front for their particular favourites.

As the two bands are completely nothing alike this made for a very diverse show and attendance which can be seen as a good thing really and probably was a reason why the show was sold out more or less.

After BTB was over I got ready and excited to see the German Wolf crew for the third time. I'd been looking forward to this as I guess many 'wolf fans were too. The band plays and sounds so cool and get right into it from the word go. However Atilla is really the star of the show with his booming great voice louder than almost everything else. By the way this is how I like my live music mixed with vocals way louder than everything else especially drums and bass. Thankfully Powerwolf don't even have a live bass player and he isn't even missed not by me on any case. It makes the vocals guitar and keys sound much clearer.

Special mention to insane keysman Falk Maria Schalgel. That guy is something else as the band's cheerleader supreme. It's basically him and Atilla conducting the crowd into a frenzy with their showmanship from the stage. The Greywolf brothers meanwhile flesh out the memorable tunes with their riffs, solos and gurning at the fans, whilst the drummer nails it all with thunderous drum beats on his huge drum riser. 

Every song they play is blessed with anthemic chorus after anthemic chorus until you're left with a hoarse voice trying to make yourself heard above the music! Great joyous stuff! I don't think a time will ever come when I'll think to myself I'll give a Powerwolf gig a miss! I even like them more than Sabaton now and I never ever thought such a band would ever come in to existence. The band played a good 90 minute set or just below and departed to huge cheers by the fans. They really inspire a slight hysteria in their fans that's for sure. 

The deafening "Powerwolf! Powerwolf!" chants start up after literally every song and were so loud that the band is stunned and milks it to the last drop. Fave songs were the hilarious Resurection by Erection, We Drink Your Blood, the mass singlong Armata Strigoi, the wonderfully melodic Sacred & Wild and the rabble rousing warrior anthem Army of the Night and the darker slower paced epic, Let There Be Night, but there wasn't really a wasted second if you love Powerwolf as much as I do. Come back soon please!

Blessed & Possessed
Army of The Night
Amen & Attack
Coleus Sanctus
In The Name Of God
Sacred & Wild
Armata Strigoi
Dead Boys Don't Cry
Let There Be Night
Resurrection By Erection
Werewolves of Armenia
Sactified With Dynamite
We Drink Your Blood
Wolves Against The World Outro

Finally at 9.30 the stage was ready for Epica and the band took to the stage one by one as the intro played followed finally by the star of the show, Simone Simons. It's easy to see why Epica fans worship the ground she walks on. She's blessed with an amazing voice, amazing looks and the highest possible confidence as the front woman of one of Europe's biggest progressive, symphonic Goth bands. I have seen Epica once before as I recall at the old Astoria and I remember them being very tight and very good live. Nothing much has changed I can report.

If anything the band sounds more confident in their extravagant material and plays with that much more gusto than before. Their recent album The Holographic Universe was very solid but the progressive nature of the songs meant that it didn't end up being one of my favourites of 2016. Not to say that it wasn't a classy slab of epic female fronted prog though. The band has many supporters here in the UK and they were all out in force.

Because of the lack of a sing along nature to the Epica material, I didn't connect as well to the songs and just enjoyed the atmosphere and power they created as a whole. With Powerwolf I connect more to the memorability of the songwriting. With Epica you marvel more at the epic soundscapes and the grandeur that they create whilst Simone goes through her whole repertoire of voices to add flesh to the tunes. I found that their sound was perhaps a bit too complex at times for the PA and some of the subtleties got lost in the mix. Plus they also piped in the choir vocals as Simone can't do it all obviously. Not saying that as a criticism, just that it's hard to recreate everything you do in the studio in a live setting.

The band played until almost 11pm, their allotted curfew time and were received extremely well by their fans but perhaps slightly less enthusiastically than all the Powerwolf nutters in the house. A real solid dual headline and a very diverse evening's metal for the sold out crowd to enjoy and boy was it fun especially of course the mighty wolfy ones!