Epica, North American Principle Tour, Baltimore Soundstage, USA, December 1, 2016
Epica has been spoiling their North American fans this year. They not only played the 70000 Tons of Metal festival earlier this year, but they also finished their two year touring schedule for 2014’s “The Quantum Enigma” album in early 2016. Epica normally only tours North America once every album cycle… but because they elected to begin 2016’s “The Holographic Principle” tour here in North America, their fans on this continent had the opportunity to see them again in less than a year! Since it is likely that, based on prior history, that the band will not return to our shores until the next album cycle, this was definitely a tour not to be missed.
In regard to their opening bands, Epica was having a reunion of sorts, as the first band on the roster was The Agonist, which had also opened for Epica on the first part of The Quantum Enigma North American tour. The next two bands on the roster were Arkona and Fleshgod Apocalypse, both of which had been on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise last February. The tour was scheduled to run for 22 dates across the USA and Canada, beginning in early November and running through early December. I was able to catch one of the final dates of the tour at the Soundstage in Baltimore Maryland.
The Canadian quintet The Agonist opened the show with a blistering seven song set of their unique brand of extreme metal. I was fortunate enough to catch them twice on their last tour and fell in love with their live delivery of their music. This year they delivered again with a fantastic set including three songs from their stunning new album “Five” which was just released in September. The venue was already getting full by the time The Agonist took the stage and the band did a great job of energizing the audience for the remaining bands.
Next up was Arkona, a five piece, metal band from Russia. Arkona is self-described as a pagan metal band that, in addition to the traditional rock and metal instruments, also makes extensive use of bagpipes and other wind type folk instruments. The band’s vocalist Masha delivers and extremely high energy performance and attacks the stage and the audience with Russian lyrics performed in a death metal scream style. Like the band before them, Arkona played a seven song set, the majority of which came from their most recent three albums. I first saw Arkona on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise last February and I was impressed with their high energy show. They did not disappoint on this night either and their energy was reflected by the audience as well.
Direct support for Epica was provided by the Italian death metalers, Fleshgod Apocalypse. FA are a relatively unique band in regard to their stage presence, wearing Victorian style clothing and ghoulish makeup to deliver an ancient “undead’ type of appearance to their style. The band consists of six members utilizing traditional metal instruments including two guitars, a bass, keyboards and drums. The main vocals are typical death metal screams provided by guitarist Tommaso Riccardi with occasional clean backing vocals provided by the other members. There are also live operatic vocals provided the talented Veronica Bordacchini. The band played a ghoulish eight (?) song set that went on significantly longer than the two previous bands… I presume due to the increased length of their songs? The band had a lot of fans in the audience as evidenced by the cheering, moshing, and singing along.
After Fleshgod Apocalypse departed the stage, it was finally time for Epica. As many times as I have seen this band live, their show never gets old. The band was musically and vocally in top form as they delivered about a 90-minute set of songs that proved why they are considered one of the top symphonic metal bands in the world. The stage was frequently bathed in purple light during the performance, bringing an eerie, otherworldly appearance that seemed to reflect the theme of the cover art of their new album, “The Holographic Principle”. This fantastic new album of twelve original songs is the band’s seventh studio album to date and was just released this fall. The stage was in two tiers with keyboardist Coen Janssen and drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek occupying the upper tier for most of the performance. The band’s vocalist Simone Simons spent the majority of her time with guitarists Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye on the lower portion of the stage while the bassist Rob van der Loo split his time between the two tiers. As usual, Coen came down to the lower tier later in the set to create havoc and rile the already energetic audience up while playing his portable curved keyboard.
Epica began their set with the instrumental “Eidola” from the new album. The entire concert was very heavily weighted toward the new album, which is nice to see (and hear). Too many bands these days rely on their early hits to play during their live shows despite actively producing new music. In addition to the instrumental opening, six songs from the new album were played in the main set, including: “Edge of the Blade”, “A Phantasmic Parade”, “Universal Death Squad”, “Divide and Conquer”, “Ascension”, and “Dancing in a Hurricane”. All of the new songs sounded great live! 2014’s “The Quantum Enigma” was represented by two songs: “The Essence of Silence” and one of my all-time favorites, the stunning “Unchain Utopia”. Only four older songs were played in the main set which included, “Sensorium”, “Storm the Sorrow”, “The Obsessive Devotion”, and “Design Your Universe”. Following the main set, the band returned for three encores including “Sancta Terra”, “Consign to Oblivion” and yet one more song from the new album: “Beyond the Matrix”.
Every band put on an awesome set! Another great night of great music. For those of you in North America, this tour is now concluded and you may not see Epica on your shores for another 2 years… until the release of their next album. For those of you in the rest of the world, Epica has plans to continue this phenomenal tour for the next two years…. So get out and see the show!!!