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The Forum, London
6th December 2014

Ian Sutherland: Pictures by Sharik Derksen

ian sutherland


This is a hometown gig for opening act Neonfly but they still suffer from the eternal problem of being first on stage in a three band bill-no audience. They are well into their allotted time before the auditorium is even half full so the atmosphere is sterile to say the least.

They try their hardest and many of those watching warm to their melodic hard rock tinged take on power Metal but I didn't find that they made a great impression on me. Not an easy setting to do that though so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt until next time.

Dragonforce have been touring Europe as support to Epica but here on home soil they are elevated to co-headliner status and get to play a longer set. It is obvious that there are a large number of people here to see them and they go down well. I have to admit though that I have never been a fan and the whole set sounds to me like they only have two songs, a fast one and a slow one which they repeat over and over. They are simply not a band for me but obviously have an audience and many in tonight's crowd will totally disagree with me.

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Epica last appeared on UK soil in 2012 when they did a seven date tour so I was disappointed that this was the only UK date this time around. However with two thousand plus inside The Forum it was the biggest headline show yet for the Dutch symphonic Metallers on British shores so still a good sign for their UK fan base.

It has been more than six months since the release of latest album 'The Quantum Enigma' and Epica are a hard working touring band so the band sound like the mean. practised metal machine they are when launching into opening track 'The Second Stone'. There is the obligatory cheer at the entrance of lead singer and female fronted Metal icon Simone Simons and the band race through what is a complex yet very memorable song full of their trademark mixture of heavy riffing, choirs and soaring mezzo soprano vocals counterpointed with Mark Jansen's growls.


Another new track follows in the shape of 'The Essence Of Silence' but as their audience have mostly embraced and enjoyed what was a quality release there is no sense of unfamiliarity in the hall. The first dip into the back catalogue with the frantic and heavy intro of 'Unleashed' is still welcomed with open arms or rather raised fists though and Ms Simons superb vocals on the chorus are both impressive and bring chills down the spine.

'Storm The Sorrow' has the crowd singing and clapping along before the first surprise of the night with the restoration of the eastern tinged 'Fools Of Damnation' from their 'The Divine Conspiracy' album to the set. By this point they are in full flow and easily dominate the big stage making it feel like a real show despite lacking the pyro they use in similar size shows on the continent. The sound is huge with brutal sounding guitars mixing with swathes of sampled choir sounds and all driven along by the furious and relentless drumming of Arien 'The Beast' van Weesenbeek.


After returning to the new album with 'Victims Of Contingency' they revert to playing classic Epica with a rousing rendition of 'The Obsessive Devotion'. There have been a few line up changes since the original recording and it sounds supercharged and heavier than ever now and all the better for it.

I could have done without the taped instrumental interlude before 'Chemical Insomnia' but soon the power and vibe is back in the room and then a change of pace with the somehow jaunty yet Metal 'Sancta Terra'. Keyboard player Coen Janssen gets to show some subtle skills on this rather than the usual huge symphonic sounds he comes out with and enjoys the freedom of wandering the stage with the strangest keyboard you will ever see.


There is another unexpected old song in 'The Last Crusade' which felt a little anti-climactic after what had gone before but a more pleasant surprise is the closing song of the main set being the epic title track of the 'Design Your Universe' album. Not a traditional set ending song so far as I know but it really worked despite the complexities and understated sections. Fantastic stuff.

The encore was inevitable as was them playing 'Cry For The Moon' from their debut album released eleven long years ago. It's a great, memorable song with great hooks and ideal for a crowd sing along. I love The Beast's drumming but could have done without the solo at the end of this song though. His playing is more impressive when the rest of the band have to keep up with it!


Newie 'Unchain Utopia' wasn't out of place as an encore song at all showing how well the new material has gone down with their fans but tradition was restored with the triumphant ending flourish of 'Design Your Universe'. Nine minutes plus of a band in their prime straddling musical genres as diverse as classical, Metal and even progressive rock and the crowd rose as one to join in with the climactic roars from Mark Jansen at the song's conclusion.

This was a totally commanding performance from a band riding on a high. In demand to play all around the world now it is a shame we won't be seeing more of them in the UK as in a live environment they are an extremely impressive outfit.



Line up:
Mark Jansen - guitar, grunts, screams
Coen Janssen - synthesizer, piano
Simone Simons - vocals
Arien van Weesenbeek - drums
Isaac Delahaye - guitars, vocals
Rob van der Loo - bass


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