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
In The Name Of God
Sacred & Wild
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!