Sonata Arctica and Dark Tranquility, The Fillmore, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, November 7, 2016
Both Sonata Arctica and Dark Tranquility are currently on tour in North America with their own complements of support bands. Leaves’ Eyes and Omnium Gatherum are touring in support of Sonata Arctica, while Starkill, Enforcer, and Swallow the Sun are touring in support of Dark Tranquility. On a select few nights… for reasons I wasn’t clear about… both of the tours were merged, so that all seven bands all played on the same stage on the same night. I was of mixed feelings about this tour merger. On one hand, I was excited, because it was an opportunity to see seven bands all perform on one stage on one evening…. kind of like a mini festival. On the other hand, I foresaw potential issues including shorter sets and rushed stage turnarounds. The Silver Spring show was one of the nights the tours were merged, and I set out for the show hoping for the best.
The show started early, at 5:15 pm, and was scheduled to run until just before midnight… less than seven hours to get through seven bands. An ambitious undertaking at best. The first band to take the stage was Starkill, a four-piece heavy metal band from Chicago that plays a heavy melodic style of metal with a mixture of death metal growls and clean vocals. They were the only North American band on the tour. I’ve seen Starkill several times in the past and I like them more and more every time I see them perform. They are a very fun and animated band onstage and deliver their music flawlessly. Despite the fact that it was early in the evening, there was already a decent crowd in attendance for Starkill’s set. They put on a great but short (25 minute) show that seemed to go off without any opening night glitches. The set included songs off of their recently released third album: “Shadow Sleep”. It was perfect start to the night.
Next up was Enforcer, a four-piece classic heavy metal band with a traditional 80’s style of performance including lots or leather, spikes, and awesome guitar riffs. The band hails from Sweden, which the band’s vocalist made sure to remind us of multiple times during their 25 minute set. This is where the first glitch of the night came as the vocalist’s microphone was not working during the first song. The problem seemed to be fixed by song number two, and the remainder of the set seemed to go as planned. Some people refer to Enforcer’s style as “old school” metal, but the band itself likes to refer to their style as “timeless”. Well, whatever you want to call it…. I’ve always liked the “timeless” style of metal, and I thought Enforcer gave us a great, albeit short set.
Omnium Gatherum took the stage next, and were also the victims of a microphone glitch. As with the previous band, the lead vocalist’s microphone wasn’t working, and despite several attempts to correct the problem, the issue refused to be fixed. The first two songs of Omnium’s 25 minute set were delivered without audible vocals. The problem was finally rectified when the main microphone was switched with one of the backups… and the set seemed pretty flawless after that. Omnium Gathering is a six-piece melodic death metal band from Finland that is currently touring their 8th studio album: “Grey Heavens”. Despite that fact that they have been around for 20 years, this was the first time I’ve seen the band live. I was very entertained with what I saw. The musical production was great once the mic issues were resolved, and the band was very lively onstage. Definitely a band I would check out again!
Leaves’ Eyes was the band I was most looking forward to seeing on this evening. I have been a huge fan of the band for many years, and I was finally going to get my first chance to see them live. But things did not bode well when their set did not start on time. The band sound checked for a very long time. It was obvious that there was some issue, but just what that issue was wasn’t clear. When they finally started their set, we were already 18 minutes into the time allotted for their 30 minute set. Therefore, we only got to hear three of the 7-8 songs on their set list. This was especially heartbreaking for me, but the three songs that we did get were awesome. The band’s new vocalist, Elina Siirala, was absolutely stunning, both in the quality of her vocals and in her overall stage presence. The band itself was musically great as well. Although it was abysmally short… I loved what I heard and saw from Leaves’ Eyes on this night…. And I cannot wait until I see them again…. Hopefully with a much longer set!
When Swallow the Sun took their turn on stage, it seemed that the technical glitches of the night had finally come to an end. Swallow the Sun is a 6 piece melodic death/doom metal band from Finland. I’d never seen them live before but I’d heard a lot of positive reviews so I was looking forward to the show. I definitely liked what I heard and saw. The songs were great and the majority of the band were active and animated during their 45 minute set. I thought the vocals were good but I felt that the singer could have been more energetic. He spent the majority of time behind his mic and didn’t move around the stage much. But what he lacked in energy, the rest of the band more than made up for. The keyboardist (who played from the front of the stage) was the most animated and… for me… he really stole the show. By the time Swallow the Sun began, the venue was getting pretty packed. This was also when the crowd spawned the first circle pit of the night… and it was huge!
The first headliner was Dark Tranquility, a six piece melodic death metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden. They were scheduled to play an hour, but their set went a little longer than scheduled. Like the bands before them, Dark Tranquility played a really solid set with high energy and good musical production. They had a lot of material to draw from as they have been a force in the music world for over 25 years. The set did include songs from their newly released album, “Atoma”. I hadn’t really followed this band before, so I was unfamiliar with their songs. This can sometimes be difficult with death metal bands as the lyrics can be exhausting to follow if you aren’t familiar with them prior to the show. But Dark Tranquility made extensive use of the screen behind the stage that projected a lot of the lyrics, which, for me, made the show much more enjoyable. The crowd seemed to enjoy the show as well, which was evidenced by all the moshing and cheering.
Sonata Arctica was the final band to take the stage. Like most of the bands that played that night, Sonata was touring a new album: “The Ninth Hour”, the was just released last month. The crowd had dwindled a little bit before their set as the pure death metal fans filtered out after Dark Tranquility’s set. This was not necessarily a surprise as Sonata Arctica was the least heavy band on the roster…. but the venue still had a respectable sized crowd for the entirety of Sonata’s 75 minute set. For those of you that left…. You missed a great show! Sonata is always a fun band to see live as there is a lot of energy, humor, and frequent audience interaction. Tonight was no exception and the band gave us a great show! I’ve seen Sonata several times in the past and they have usually had a well-lit stage. Tonight was strikingly different, as the band went with a much darker and more eerie appearing light show. It was a very cool affect and it was refreshing to see them try something new.
Overall, I had a great time and really enjoyed the music that I got to hear. I did find myself wishing that I had seen these tours separately with longer set times, less opening night glitches, and less rushing to clear the stage between bands. But for those North American fans out there that have yet to see these tours… you can still catch both of them (on separate nights) though early December! Enjoy!!