Even the cold rain lashing the London streets canât dampen the spirits as the crowd piles in for tonightâs showcase of the more OTT end of the metal spectrum.
Beyond the Black (3.5/5)
A healthy start time means the old theatre (a suitably opulent setting) is rammed well before the house lights go down and a substantial cheer goes up as Beyond the Black hit the stage amidst a blood-red glow.
The current line-up of the German symphonic metallers has only been together for a few months, after singer Jennifer Haben parted ways with the former incarnation in the summer of 2016, but you wouldnât know it on this evidence. Opening with âLost in Foreverâ, the chemistry is evident and the band seems thrilled to be here, massive grins plastered across their faces.
They may be have been tipped as the next big thing in the genre, but confined to a small section at the front of the stage and with little volume at their disposal, theyâre having to work at it the hard way tonight. Fortunately with Jenniferâs assured stage presence, a band in sync and a strong rapport with an appreciative and vocal audience, they are more than capable. The likes of âDrowning in Darknessâ and âHalleluljahâ go down well, while âRunning to the Edgeâ inspires the first sing along of the night.
When Powerwolf swept through town last year they headlined the much smaller Islington Academy, and while their show has barely changed since (even down to the crowd-pleasing âfight for heavy metalâ shtick), they play with an exuberance and zeal thatâs hard to fault.
Launching out of the gates with a bombastic âBlessed & Possessedâ, the pace never lets up and the joy keeps coming. Attila Dorn is in fine voice, leading the whole audience in a chaotic singing lesson before âArmata Strigoiâ, keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel stalks the stage like a demented Max Schreck and the Greywolf brothers are in their element throughout.
If tonight the band has to settle for playing second fiddle at a bigger venue, they throw down the gauntlet in style and leave as headliners apparent. Indeed, the crowd appears to be in agreement, thinning ever so slightly but perceptibly at the end of their set.
For a while at least Epica are happily up to the challenge. As the menacing strains of âEidolaâ shake the room through the PA (Hollywood âbwahâ sound and all) the heaviest of tonightâs acts seems right at home as the members file onto the stage. Ripping into âEdge of the Bladeâ, the Dutch symphonic sextet sets a strong pace and energy levels are high, positivity oozing from the stage.
While much of the set leans on material from latest album The Holographic Principle, the band also mine their back catalogue, delving back to their first album for âSensoriumâ and pulling out a jarringly heavy âThe Obsessive Devotionâ from 2007âs The Divine Conspiracy. All the while a superb light and smoke show provides the best possible setting, delighting the eye without pulling focus.
A horrible drum solo marks the point at which things go off the boil a little for both crowd and band. Despite the âsymphonicâ tag, there is little momentum or flow between songs, which becomes more apparent as the evening wears on. Simone Simons has a voice to die for but an oddly underwhelming presence, and she finds herself frequently upstaged by Coen Janssen and his ridiculous motorised keyboard rig that zooms all over the shop. All things are relative however, and while the crowd continues to ebb proceedings still end on a definite high.