EPICA / LACUNA COIL / INSOMNIUM
At first, I had some second thoughts whether EPICA could attract a decent crowd after having visited Chicago less than a year ago, and with a show set on a Wednesday. Don’t get me wrong, since this has nothing to do with the band’s value which has skyrocketed via the last three LPs, but with the way the US market is behaving nowadays, especially in Metal. Anyway, upon arriving at The Forge, I was more than happy to swallow my words, because the venue was packed.
Despite there was an early start (and this is why we missed the first band), there was not enough room to move during the INSOMNIUM set. On top of this, the Finnish band has quite of a strong support with many fans singing along, and this is another benefit of having complete touring packages and not relying on local supports to fill the gaps. Sure, local acts need the opportunity to expose themselves in bigger crowds, but I think in order for a show to be successful, you need to have bands that have at least some connection music-wise. INSOMNIUM with their melodic Death Metal have common music-grounds with EPICA, and to some extent with LACUNA COIL, so the package looked extremely tempting. Unfortunately, we got the chance to hear three songs from the INSOMNIUM set but it was enough to see how the Finns have managed to build a fanbase. Yeah, the clapping along during “Winter’s Get, Part 4”, the excitement during “Change Of Heart” and the setlist closer “The Promethean Song” were more than what I needed to understand that we will be hearing more of INSOMNIUM on this side of the Atlantic.
I've always like to watched, but don’t get this the wrong way; I’m talking about observing movements, sudden reactions, face expressions, and the stage being a band’s natural habitat is the perfect occasion to do so. This is the place for the band to unfold and implement its creative side into something tangible and this is why it's the perfect setting to satisfy my need to study people. And for such a wonderful creature like LACUNA COIL, I’m always on the front row to catch upon Cristina’s theatrical constant-changing face expressions or Andrea’s vein popping-outbursts as he screams the lyrics with all of his heart. Yes, to me (again), LACUNA COIL, throughout their 20-year career (wow, time really flies...) have proven to be a beautiful Beast onstage, constantly taking love and giving back the strongest emotions, feeding by crowds’ devotion and admiration every time they throw a show, and that’s the most beautiful thing to watch; how this Beast can grow bigger and bigger, ultimately giving back the same kind of love IT receives...
It’s a one of a kind experience feeling the blood pumping inside your veins as the band members take their onstage positions one by one under a taped intro, making all excitement for a hell of a ride explode inside each fan’s heart. And bam, the music starts, everyone is in place (both the band and the fans), and then magic happens. “Joliet, let me hear you”, Cristina screamed just before “Spellbound”, while the entire band looked in its best mood, pumped-up and ready for the next hour to take us back and forth in time, trying to include as many tracks as possible from their rich discography. “It feels so good to be back here, so many memories”, Cristina honestly expressed her appreciation to the magic already happening inside The Forge, adding, “once you’ve touched bottom, there is only one way, and that’s up”, as the perfect introduction to “Die & Rise” that saw more singing-along, more fists in the air, more taking-and-giving-back between LACUNA COIL and the crowd. The all-time-classic “Heaven’s A Lie” filled up the room, giving one of the best singing-along moments of the evening, the crazy “Blood Tears Dust” sneaked in to lower a bit the audience’s energy levels, and then my personal favorite “Ghost In The Mist” came with no pause, touching every human soul by Cristina’s powerful performance.
“How difficult is to put out our best, smiling face every day while we are dealing with demons”, Cristina added passing the baton to “My Demons”, with Andrea offering the best performance of the night, spitting the lyrics in a total passionate way. And of course, many more heart-felting moments followed, with “Downfall” being the highlight, as the crowd raised every cell phone to “create some light for everyone who is not with us anymore”, following Cristina’s instructions. Again, witnessing more giving and taking, with no restrictions or hidden agendas - just pure, unconditional love-exchange between the band and the audience.
“We fear nothing, we fear nothing”... The chanting coming from the crowd, seconds before the hair-rising “Nothing Stands In Our Way” buzzed inside my ears for hours after the end of the show, and was carved inside me as the most powerful gift I got from the band that night, while Cristina’s final words “you’ll always be welcomed into our house of shame”, just before “The House Of Shame”, remained truthful and dear inside every LACUNA COIL fan that was inside The Forge that night, sweating with the band in the front rows, screaming the lyrics, showing the horns and raising hell with any possible way. Yeah, I’ve always liked to watch, and I’m happy I experienced one more LACUNA COIL set to the maximum... Thank you, guys!
LACUNA COIL setlist:
01. Intro / “Ultima Ratio”
03. “Die & Rise”
04. “Heaven’s A Lie”
05. “Blood Tears Dust”
06. “Ghost In The Mist”
07. “My Demons”
08. “Trip The Darkness”
10. “Our Truth”
12. “Nothing Stands In Our Way”
13. “The House Of Shame”
(click to enlarge)
LACUNA COIL left everyone happy and many were already sweating their arse off as The Forge had been turned into a sauna in contrast of the outside chill. The venue was packed and sweaty, but this was expected since this turned out to be a sold-out show despite the fact that EPICA had been in Chicago less than a year ago. To be honest, I could not be happier seeing this band slowly building its fanbase to get closer to what is happening in Europe where EPICA is a well-established name. Considering the last three releases, this should be expected as the music these Dutch are putting out is absolutely killer with the proper amount of complexity and depth, without sacrificing the catchiness of Symphonic Heavy Metal.
The change-over looked to be happening quite fast in an attempt to make up for the lost time when the stage crew had troubles setting up the LACUNA COIL mics for the two singers. But this was a minor issue, since the level of excitement hit the first limit-up the moment the lights went out the taped intro “Eidola” marked the time for EPICA. There was some sort of a light show during the intro with some led-spot lights strategically placed in front of the raised deck hosting the drum-kit and the keyboards that boosted even more the anticipation. Ariën van Weesenbeek was the first one onstage and was greeted with a loud cheer, and after a while he joined the taped intro with some drumming. The rest of EPICA entered the stage wearing the hugest smiles on their faces, proving once more the excellent form of this band being on what I like to call a winning streak. Yeah, if the band is having fun onstage and in the studio, then great things happen, and listening to “Edge Of The Blade” from the freshly released “The Holographic Principle” was a most effective proof of my thinking. “Thank you guys, are you ready for the storm?”, Simone rhetorically asked just before “Storm The Sorrow”. Ok, the rather narrow photo-pit gave me a hard time navigating between the other fellow photo-shooters and the security guys, but this did not last more than three songs. After the riff-driven “Wheel Of Destiny”, it was time for me to join the rest the of metalheads among the packed front rows. By the way, this one sounded absolutely heavy with the groovy rhythm section being the perfect occasion for some moshing and headbanging action. It is extremely fun to watch EPICA live and I really enjoy the constantly-moving way of filling every stage no matter its size. Coen Janssen’s poses and grimaces as he is tormenting his moveable keyboard stand combined with the constant teasing between the other band members are one of the things to keep the audience occupied. However, nothing seems rehearsed or staged, but instead everything feels spontaneous and honest, that 100% agree with what I was talking about EPICA being on a top performing mode. My reward for fighting my way inside the photo-pit was the killer “The Essence Of Silence” which I consider to be one of the best EPICA songs - at least, for their latest decade. Simone’s vocal lines are perfectly combined with Mark’s growling while the riff-driven break (just after Mark’s grunt) somewhere in the middle gives me goosebumps each and every time.
Despite the gig was right on the middle of the working week, no one inside The Forge looked tired and, in fact, the deeper we went into the set, the higher was the crowd’s energy. Mark tried in vain to shush everyone for the keyboard-intro of “Universal Death Squad” but I think he miserably failed the moment the cutting edge riff kicked in, although I am sure this did not bother him at all... I guess we needed a break from the constant pounding, so the slow part of “Dancing In A Hurricane” was mostly welcomed...
Following the unofficial EPICA tradition, Coen stepped forward with his curved keyboard and, with a huge smile on his face, supported Simone’s excellent singing. “Do you want some more?” Mark asked before introducing “Reverence (Living In The Heart)” from the amazing “The Quantum Enigma”. Like I said, the band was in constant motion with Isaac Delahaye occasionally changing sides with bassist Rob van der Loo framing Simone who did her part with her trademark moves. It looks awesome seeing a band moving around without hitting each other but not in a predefined manner; I think the best way to describe this is that EPICA have literally found to not step onto each others feet... and exactly the same thing must happen in the studio (although not literally), because the music is totally balanced.
There are plenty of singing-along instances during an EPICA show, with “Unchain Utopia” (there is no way to resist the chorus) and especially “Cry For The Moon” with the frickin’ amazing vocal melodies being the highlight. So, the audience definitely deserves lots of credit for making the experience even better, and in moments like this, I am so grateful for its young(er) on average age. Unfortunately, this marked the end of regular setlist which honestly felt extremely short... (not time-wise, of course). It did not take much time for the crowd to start the one more song chanting and after hearing QUEEN's “We Will Rock You” melody from the keyboards, Coen showed up and joked a bit: “A guitar solo should follow, but I am not a guitar player” referring to how this song goes. “Sancta Terra” restored the music-playing and got everyone back into the sweating mode, although some may have left because it was already getting late for a Wednesday night. “It is time to work out a bit, so jump when I say jump” Simone said with the chorus of “Beyond The Matrix” being the perfect aerobic moment with everyone following her lead. Ok, not everyone because there were some 40+age guys... But believe me, most of us tried at least...
It was time to drop the curtain for another great EPICA show and this had to happen with a bang; “Our evening has unfortunately come to an end” Simone said and then asked with the help of Coen to form a nice gap right in the center of the venue for a wall of death. Yeah, the double bass drum sounded the charge for this to happen and I think this was the best way to end this show. Following nowadays’ tradition, a band-selfie was taken with everyone trying to squeeze in, before saying the final "goodnight and see you soon" to EPICA who I hope to re-re-visit the US sooner than we expect.
01. “Eidola” (taped intro)
02. “Edge Of The Blade”
03. “Storm The Sorrow”
04. “Wheel Of Destiny”
05. “The Essence Of Silence”
06. “Universal Death Squad”
07. “Ascension - Dream State Armageddon”
08. “Dancing In A Hurricane”
09. “Reverence (Living In The Heart)”
10. “Unchain Utopia”
11. “Cry For The Moon”
12. “Sancta Terra”
13. “Beyond The Matrix”
14. “Consign To Oblivion”
(click to enlarge)