This concert began for me with my first ever VIP experience. I’d actually bought VIP tickets for Epica before, a few years ago, but we got delayed by hordes of Santas in the middle of London (don’t ask) and missed the meet and greet. This time the price was much higher, as it included a stack of merch including a t-shirt, tote bag and exclusive single. It was a hard choice to decide whether to get the VIP tickets, because let’s face it, I don’t need any more tote bags. But I felt so bad about us missing out last time, that I decided to give it a go.
In the end, I’m glad I did. I’ve never met Epica before, and we were able to line up and get things signed before getting a photo with the band. They were all happy and friendly, and overall it was a great experience. The staff at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire were also great, and accommodating of our needs with regards to seating, bringing special foods and so on.
On to the main event, and Beyond The Black were up first. This German symphonic metal band have been getting a lot of attention lately – both for their albums and for the fact that every member except the singer left the band last year. They seemed to have recovered from this well, and put on a cohesive front. They open with their hit Lost In Forever which quickly gets the audience’s attention. They don’t have the time or the stage space to do much with their set, especially when compared to the two musical giants they’re up against, but they do the best they can. Definitely one to watch on the symphonic metal scene. (7/10)
The joint headliners for the tour are another act from Germany, the mighty Powerwolf. Having not experienced much of this band before, I was in for a surprise. The band use a heavy amount of gothic and religious imagery, not dissimilar to Ghost, combined with some completely over the top power metal. We were unsure at first how serious they were, but with song titles like Dead Boys Don’t Cry and Resurrection by Erection it soon became clear. The stage show was energetic and fun, with the band encouraging tons of crowd participation. And the crowd clearly loved it, with many of them having appropriately painted faces and constantly chanting of the band and lead singers’ names. Despite there not being much crossover with Epica fans, their 13 songs still went down a storm. (9/10)
Epica are always a pleasure to see live, and they have been going from strength to strength. Compared to when I first saw them, they are tighter as a band, Simone’s live vocals have improved drastically, and their stage show is on another level. It’s a less personal experience now that the venues are that much bigger, but it’s very impressive, with great lighting and staging (witnessing keyboard player Coen zoom around with his stand on wheels is a particular highlight).
As you might expect, the setlist is heavy on the latest album The Holographic Principle, with 7 songs from that record. The other songs played are a selection from the bands earlier albums, though there is surprisingly little from The Quantum Enigma. Given the quality of their material, you almost feel the band could do with a much longer show. It feels all too soon when we hear the familiar opening to Consign to Oblivion, which always signals the end of an Epica show (it would be nice to see them to mix this up occasionally) and they lead the crowd in a “wall of death” which they jokingly refer to as a “wall of Epica”. By the time they take a bow on the stage of the grand venue, it’s clear that Epica are a band at the top of their game. (9/10)
Author and photos: Sophie Cleverly