Photo by Jacob Zinn
Words by Daryl van der Meulen
The lights dimmed at Fivesixty in Vancouver last Saturday night, the crowd buzzing with anticipation. A larger-than-life symphonic prelude began to play as blue lights blasted through the fog, giving the crowd a taste of the bold nature of Epica and the show to come. Gentle vocals faded in as the first band members took to the stage. The crowd roared with excitement.
After seeing Finnish melodic death metal four-piece Insomnium and yo-hoing Scottish pirate metal outfit Alestorm, the fans were ready for the symphonic sextet from Holland.
Immediately following the prelude, the band took the stage and broke into “Monopoly of Truth”, the second track off their new album, 2012’s Requiem for the Indifferent. The performance was flawless and frontwoman Simone Simons stood out (and not just because of her natural beauty). The classically trained vocalist sang with angelic power, sounding at least as good as the studio recording – and made it look easy.
The band performed hits from all their albums, musically highlighting the contrast between good and evil and lyrically touching on complex philosophical and moral issues. Their setlist included such Epica favourites as “Cry for the Moon”, “The Obsessive Devotion”, “Sancta Terra”, and even “Blank Infinity” in the encore.
Lights flashed as rhythm shredder Mark Jansen delivered heavy melodic guitar riffs and harsh vocals, supported by lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye. Drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek kept up the pace with the fretburning duo and one could even see a security guard headbang a bit.
After some time, there was a break in the chaos and you could hear Simons’ heavenly voice of reason backed by Coen Janssen’s melodic keyboard. Sanity is returned temporarily as the lyrics focused on philosophy.
All the band members seemed to be in high spirits that night, addressing the crowd casually and personally rather than reciting those popular phrases that are all too common with touring musicians. Their new bassist, Rob van der Loo, blended seamlessly with the rest of the musicians, actively interacting with the rest of the band and the crowd. If you didn’t know better, you would think that he had been with the band since its formation in 2002.
Their performance of “The Phantom Agony” from their first studio album of the same name had some audio balancing issues. The vocals (which are vital to the song) were drowned out by what is normally background music, but the audience was rocking too hard to notice.
Throughout the performance, keyboardist Janssen made an effort to be noticed by walking around the stage, interacting with bandmates and gesturing to the audience. The crowd took to his shenanigans and eventually made an effort to look for them. Later in the show, drummer van Weesenbeek was introduced as “The Beast” and performed a solid drum solo for the audience. He hadn’t brought much attention to himself earlier, but managed to perform without error.
There is no doubt that everyone left the concert a fan of Epica. They have taken the time to perfect their live sound, and given their jaw-dropping 90-minute show, they have absolutely earned their name.