LIVE REVIEW: Epica @ The Ritz, Manchester – 12th April 2018

To say that Epica are (pardon the pun) epic would be an understatement. The lengthy queue outside the venue way before doors, full of people of all ages and interests, shows how widely their music appeals, and with over a decade under their belts and their thousandth show set for just a couple of days’ time, the Dutch symphonic metal band are by no doubts one of the greats in this genre.

 Oceans of Slumber (6) are the first supporting act, and while their latest album The Banished Heart is an excellent work, unfortunately their talents are not conveyed during this performance due to sound mixing issues. Cammie Gilbert’s vocals are lost through half of the performance, and the bass levels are way too high – having the ground vibrate to the extent that it did was evidently the work of poor sound set up, with Cammie herself appearing disappointed. The crowd however, are sympathetic towards them and it appears they have a number of fans present.

 The second supporting act, Myrkur (8), is the black metal project of Danish musician and singer Amalie Bruun. The warrior face paint, stage outfits and dramatic tracks fill the venue with a fantastic atmosphere that had the crowd in awe. Amalie’s vocal range is astonishing, her dream-like voice occasionally turning to shrieking screams which are perfectly executed. Her stage presence is captivating, with her white lace dress suggesting folklore influences contrasted with the mysterious, dark, hooded musicians. Myrkur display their experimental techniques, with a bass guitar being played with a bow, fascinating guitar melodies and war-like drum rhythms.

 Epica (10)’s performance, however, takes the crowd by storm. Their dark, heavy rhythms, complex melodies and Simone Simons’ iconic vocals are absolutely breathtaking, and they are such talented musicians that their live performance brings the quality of their studio recordings to a new level. Performing a combination of older and newer tracks, Epica’s setlist widely appealed; so many audience members sing along in between headbanging. Epica are best known for their philosophical and deeply questioning lyrics, though that does not mean they are all serious during their performances. Keyboard player Coen Janssen has an absolute whale of a time whizzing around the stage with his keyboard attached to a plinth with wheels. This created high amusement for the crowd and a significant amount of annoyance for bassist Rob van der Loo, whom he pesters throughout the show. Drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek certainly makes his presence known with an extended drum solo following their performance of Cry For The Moon. Fortunately, his thrashing on the two bass drums doesn’t leave him too tired for the rest of the performance; Epica are high energy throughout their show and test the energy levels of the crowd by calling for a mosh pit in the encore.

 Epica amaze the audience with their performance, with each band member giving it their all and proving their worth. Simone’s soaring vocals never falter, even on the highly demanding tracks, and the band members appear truly grateful for all the love and support shown to them by the audience as their tour draws to a close.

Words by Holly Royle

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