Epica Astound Webster Hall, NYC 12-2-16 w/ Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arkona, & The Agonist

Toward the beginning of 2016, Dutch Symphonic Metal outfit Epica finally managed to schedule a North American tour after a frustrating four-year absence. Now, coming over in support of their seventh studio album, The Holographic Principle, the announcement was made earlier in the summer for a month-long tour which kicked off on November 4th and conclude on December 3rd in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dubbed the North American Principle Tour, supporting Epica on the journey were Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arkona, and The Agonist. A bill that had many Metal fans salivating, a healthy crowd showed up at the illustrious Grand Ballroom of Webster Hall in New York City on Friday, December 2, 2016.

Up first was the Canadian Metal outfit The Agonist. Coming a long way since their formation in 2004, including the acquisition of new Vocalist Vicky Psarakis, who replaced Alissa White-Gluz during the spring of 2014, the band is moving forward in a big way. Two albums in with Psarakis, their latest, fifth studio album, Five, has fans embracing the new powerhouse vocalist even more. A good fit on tour with Epica, the moment arrived when Psarakis, Danny Marino (guitar), Chris Kells (bass), Simon McKay (drums), and Pascal “Paco” Jobin (guitar) took the stage, ready to dispense their new tunes to the New York crowd.

Awakening the audience with Psarakis’ brutal grunts, her hair flying around her, let nothing get in her way as the performance began with “My Witness, Your Victim.” Filling the stage with riffing aggression, bodies were flying across the pit during new songs “The Villain,” “The Hunt,” and “The Moment.” Psarakis comfortably engaged with the fans, demanding more action as they went into older tunes including 2012’s “Panophobia” and 2009’s “Thank You, Pain.” Despite the short set, the crowd begged for more as they concluded with “Gates of Horn and Ivory.” With the tour now over, just announced their forthcoming tour with Devildriver in February, in the meantime, check out their new album Five.

The evening took a darkened shift as the lights dimmed to a bluish tint, just in time for Russian Pagan Metal troupe Arkona to enchant the audience. Forming in 2002, Arkona dealt with a few lineup changes, but through it all, founding Vocalist Masha ‘Scream’ Arhipova stuck with her Pagan beliefs and did not give up on her creation. Since then, Arkona has spread their wings to become a well-respected act in Pagan Folk Metal, far surpassing the borders of their home in Russia. With the lineup of Arhipova, Sergei “Lazar” (guitar), Ruslan “Kniaz” (bass), Andrey Ischenko (drums), and Vladimir “Volk” (ethnic instruments), they were ready to dazzle the audience in their native Russian tongue. 

Despite not knowing the language, fans managed to sing during their tunes as the band ran across the platform, opening with “Kolo Navi.” The movement and atmosphere was mesmerizing as the passion streamed out of them, continuing on with “Na Strazhe Novyh Let” and “Zakliatie.” Vladimir continued to bring out quite a few ethnic instruments, as the chanting to the gods of the earth turned into heads swaying and hair flowing during “Goi, Rode, Goi!” which was followed by the older song “Vozrozhdeniye.” As the crowd appeared lost in a blissful haze, it was time for the set to come to a close with “Stenka na Stenku” before “Yarilo.” Arkona’s performance was unforgettable, making many in attendance hope for a follow-up to 2014’s Yav sooner than later. 

As the night continued, it was time for the Italian Extreme Metal act known as Fleshgod Apocalypse. United in 2007, the band is currently out supporting their fourth studio album, 2016’s King. Musically and visually, Fleshgod Apocalypse brings a Dario Argento type of Italian Horror to the stage, while mixing in a bombastic, Neo-Classical flavor into their metallic riffing. Those who have seen them live often claim that they are a one-of-a-kind act, and they would not be wrong in saying so. Anxious for the nightmarish set to lift off, Tommaso Riccardi (vocals/guitar), Paolo Rossi (vocals/bass), Cristiano Trionfera (vocals/guitar), Francesco Paoli (drums), Francesco Ferrini (piano), and Veronica Bordacchini (operatic vocals) were ready to begin. 

With a banner of King dressing the backdrop, it all began with “Marche Royale,” the intro track from the record, blasting its way through the expectant murmur. Bordacchini graced the stage first, holding a bold, fearless look while walking to her spot next to the grand piano, where Ferrini soon followed. As the opening track reached its climactic end, the rest of the band appeared and blistered into “In Aeternum.” No one could take their eyes off of the stage as Fleshgod Apocalypse continued with “Pathfinder” followed by the newer song “Cold as Perfection” before speeding up with “The Violation.”

After three more ruthless tunes, the pace slowed down as the recording of 2013’s “Prologue” played out. Despite the twist and turns, the peaceful moment did not last and the crowd knew what was coming next as the operatic vocals came in, accompanied by ferocious instrumentals during “Epilogue.” Transitioning into “The Fool,” many continued to crowd-surf like mad, but it was time for Fleshgod Apocalypse to say their farewell, finishing off with “The Forsaking.” A dramatic conclusion, they brought horror, tenacity, and in some aspects, an ancient Italian Opera to the hall, making it simply a delightful experience. 

After experiencing three distinct acts, it was time for the headliners, the one and only Epica. With lights that were barely lit, a recording of the bold introductory track “Eidola” blasted through the air. As a few lights flickered, fans screamed with excitement as Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums) was the first to reveal himself to the audience. Welcoming the ecstatic crowd, he stood near the keyboard before inching toward his kit. Coen Janssen was next as he moved towards his rotating keyboard followed by Rob van der Loo (bass), Isaac Delahaye (lead guitar), and Mark Jansen (rhythm guitar/growls). Although, one member was yet to be seen as they began with “Edge of the Blade.” After the instrumentals kicked in, Lead Vocalist Simone Simons made her presence known as she walked out, clearly elated to share The Holographic Principle to Epica’s beloved fans. Embracing the record, the new song “A Phantasmic Parade” came before 2003 Epica classic “Sensorium.” 

Continuing to offer their new material with boundless energy, despite it being close to the end of the tour, they aired out “Universal Death Squad,” followed by “Divide and Conquer.” Taking a break from the newer songs, along with dropping the tempo, Epica went into the emotive “Storm the Sorrow” as Simons rested her pristine vocals as Jansen spoke up, gazing into the audience as he described the next song. Stating it was about embracing silence, they went into 2014’s “The Essence of Silence” before Simons and Jansen introduced 2007’s “The Obsessive Devotion,” resulting in a crazed reaction from the audience. 

Keeping up with the new material, “Ascension-Dream State Armageddon” was followed by “Dancing in a Hurricane,” both of which were a delight to hear. Taking a moment to indulge in the moment, Simons admitted that she could not envision a world without music, segueing into “Unchain Utopia.” A fitting track to perform aside those from The Holographic Principle, the orchestral blend did not last long, as Weesenbeek went into a brief, but effective drum solo. Interacting with the fans and loving every minute of it, unfortunately, the last song of the night inevitably came with “Once Upon A Nightmare.” 

As the lights shut down, chants of “Epica!” filled the room before Janssen returned. Pumped that there would in fact be an encore, Janssen stated that the tour was a blast, giving a shout out to the rest of the bands on the bill, emphasizing all four acts had one mission, which was to make America epic again. Cheering in response for the clever play on words, the rest of the band reemerged and the encore began with “Sancta Terra.” Announcing the next cut, Simons expressed that it was the end of the tour, playfully saying they had too many donuts to eat in celebration. Wanting to burn off those calories, they wanted to do something different for the New York crowd as they went into “Beyond the Matrix.” Going into the final song, Simons encouraged the crowd to enter the Wall of Death for “Consign to Oblivion.” Stampeding into each other and moshing throughout, additional surprises occurred, including Janssen and Delahaye jumping into the audience to give out a few high-fives.

With the night officially complete, the friendship and love Epica had for each other was evident as they joined for an effortless bow to the audience. Epica is an act where no matter what song from their catalog they performed, no one goes home feeling disappointed. Their positive energy shines out to their followers and melts the hearts of Metalheads everywhere. This in mind, Simons vowed the band will return soon enough. Hopefully, they will stand by the promise. 

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