Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and all through the town, the rockers were were ready, poised to throw down.
The Granada Theater in Lawrence was treated to a taste of heavy metal from around the world. There was something for everyone on Wednesday night, and with people wearing everything from chains to overalls, that’s exactly what was needed.
Kicking things off were The Agonist, hailing from the Great White North. Fronted by Greek-American vocalist, Vicky Psarakis, she carried the band well, handling the growls one expects from metal, and soaring high notes. During these peaks, Vicky sounded a lot like Charlotte Wessels, from Delain.
Vicky did her best to get the crowd riled up, “I want to see you rock the FUCK out on this next one!” while encouraging head banging from the crowd. While most of the headbanging came from the band, there were enough horns being thrown from the crowd to make Ronnie James Dio proud.
I wish that The Agonist had more than 30 minutes in their set, but you can be sure that I’ll be picking up their latest album, Five, VERY soon.
Continuing the global metal trek were Russia’s Arkona. Fronted by Masha, Arkona plowed through a 30 minute set of pagan/folk metal, complete with electronic bagpipes, courtesy of Vladimir, playing a light folk melody, bridging Masha’s grunts and screams, with Sergei’s roaring guitar, and heavy bass provided by Rusian, and Andrey on drums.
Arkona continued to build the wave started by The Agonist, with the crowd getting more, and more warmed up by the minute. Arkona also only played for 30 minutes, which was probably about the right amount of time for the crowd. While they were enthusiastic, there really wasn’t enough moshing going on to feed energy back to the band.
Up next were Italian Death Metal group, Fleshgod Apocalypse. Many people in the crowd were wearing Fleshgod Apocalypse shirts, so they already have a strong following in the Midwest, and it’s easy to see why.
Fleshgod Apocalypse sets the mood before they even take the stage. A weather-beaten piano sat on the side of the stage, which was later played expertly by Francesco Ferrini. His solos alone would be the perfect soundtrack for any haunted house.
Veronica Bordacchini, wearing a mask and wielding a processional cross, provides backing operatic vocals, while the rest of the claw hammer coat wearing band growls metal. Touring in support of their latest album, King, Fleshgod Apocalypse dedicated half of their set to material from the new album, which was very well received.
Fleshgod clearly knows what they are doing. They had full command of the stage at the Granada, which was clearly too small for them, with more space, I have no doubt a much larger spectacle would be done in their show. And the music…things start ethereal, and become heavy, quickly. Very quickly. I think it was the first time that night that most people in house were headbanging. Fleshgod makes it easy. I would like to have heard a little more singing, and less growling; Fleshgod’s lyrics deserve to be understood by more.
God bless my soul, guide my fury through this cold war
Hunting Judas down
Now free my hands from the spires of the serpent
Death to the traitors of the crown
But if you just want to bang your head to heavy beats, you really can’t do better than Fleshgod Apocalypse.
Last up were the headliners for the evening, Epica. It was Epica’s first show in Kansas, so there was a lot of excitement to see them. Many in attendance had never seen them live (I made the drive to St. Louis earlier this year to see them).
Hailing from the Netherlands, Epica was on tour promoting their latest album, The Holographic Principle. They were quick to show off the new stuff, opening with ‘Edge of the Blade,’ followed by ‘A Phantasmic Parade,’ both from the new album.
The song is loud, and fast, with Simone’s clear soprano carrying through; everything we’ve come to expect from Epica.
When Epica comes to town, they bring their own lighting rig, putting them and their crew in full control of the crowd’s experience. Everything is perfectly synchronized; rapid light changes from light to dark, reds, to blues, to purples, all in keeping time with the music; in a word, epic.
While the audience was clearly enjoying the show, the band was having a difficult time feeding off the energy, causing Simone to comment, “You’re such a well-behaved audience…I want to hear you scream on the count of three!” After which, she directed the crowd to split and open an area in the middle for everyone to mosh, which lasted half a song. What can I say, in the Midwest, even metal heads are polite.
The band carried on, plowing through a 15 song set (including a triple encore), clearly having fun all the way. Guitarist Isaac Delahaye helped out Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums, hitting the cymbals on multiple occasions.
After finishing ‘Design Your Universe’, and leaving the theater in complete darkness, the crowd erupted with chanting ‘Sancta Terra!’ After leaving us in the dark for a good minute, the unmistakable chords started playing, and Oliver Palotai was seen center stage with his NUmotion, curved keyboard. “We don’t have Thanksgiving in Europe, so we are thankful for you all coming out tonight. Are you ready to make America Epica-gain?!” Oliver disappeared from the stage, to move through the crowd while the rest of the band carried on playing.
Simone joked, “Ever since he got that keyboard, he goes everywhere!” It was then that Simone first mentioned the new album, The Holographic Principle, and introduced the next song from the album ‘Beyond the Matrix’. The show closed with the song that has closed so many of their shows, ‘Consign to Oblivion’.
While the energy from the crowd might not have been where the band wanted it to be, it was evident that both the audience, and Epica, were enjoying themselves. The new material blended perfectly with the old, and any fan of Epica will certainly enjoy The Holographic Principle. I wasted no time in picking up a copy from their merch table.