January 28, 2016 Epica Dazzle NYC 1-21-16 w/ Moonspell & Starkill
Music can become a powerful and uncontrollable force. A particular artist can dig into the soul and break the mind free from personal demons. Dutch Symphonic Metallers Epica do just that. With a music career spanning thirteen years, they have created six flawless albums since 2003’s The Phantom Agony. Surpassing a performance level, the band radiates an unspeakable energy to the crowd, making it an incredible show to see live. It is as though they have a mysterious power that leads fans to an out of body experience where they lose themselves, awakening a rush of ample excitement. Last September, many hearts were broken hearing the news about Epica pulling out from the 2015 North American tour with Eluveitie, The Agonist, and Martina Edoff due to a family emergency.
Known to being dedicated to their fans, a month later in October, the rescheduled Enigma North American Tour was revealed. Fans rejoiced since it has been an incredibly long wait, or so it seemed, since their last North American run in 2012 supporting the fifth album, Requiem for the Indifferent. This time, Epica shares the sixth masterpiece from 2014’s The Quantum Enigma via Nuclear Blast Records to the continent. Consisting of fourteen dates that include 70,000 tons of Metal, the first night of this highly anticipated journey kicked off on Thursday January 21st in New York City at Irving Plaza. The supporting acts were the legendary Portugal Dark Metal act Moonspell and the Symphonic Black Metal band Starkill.
New Yorkers were ready as the venue was packed before Starkill embarked on the stage. It was 2012 when the Chicago, IL-based group signed with Century Media Records and released 2013’s Fires of Life and 2014’s Virus of the Mind. Currently, the band is taking matters into their own hands as they record their third album, The State of Things. Controlling their destiny with a crowdfunding page using Indiegogo, Starkill moved towards an independent direction, leaving the record label behind. This evening, Parker Jameson (lead guitar/vocals/keyboards), Spencer Weidner (drums), Tony Keathley (guitar), and Shaun Andruchuk (bass) were eager to get the tour started.
With a dramatic introduction, Jameson engaged the audience with, “Let me see some fucking horns! Are you ready?” Opening up with “Be Dead or Die” and the new track “Burn Your World” had fans moving instantly. The dark and mysterious lighting enhanced their ruthless performance. Jameson acknowledged the crowd and introduced the next piece, “We got a new album available for pre-order, this is a new song called ‘Cloudless.’” Continuing to power through with songs “Fires of Life” and “Virus of the Mind,” the audience remained hooked. Jameson introduced the final track, “We are going to be fucking partying all night tonight with you. Let’s have some beers and hang out. This is an old song, and it’s called ‘Before Hope Fades.’” Leaving an impressive mark on the audience, they proved to be great performers.
As the night continued, Moonspell gathered onto the stage. Fernando Ribeiro has led Moonspell since the 1989 formation. It was slightly over twenty years ago when the infamous Wolfheart was released in 1995, and since then, they have become one of the most recognizable Portuguese Metal acts. Celebrating their eleventh studio release with 2015’s Extinct under Napalm Records, they were ready to unleash their darkness to the crowd.
An electronic sound was heard as fans howled out for “Moonspell!” Ribeiro and his pack walked onto the stage, ready to shred with brutality. Ribeiro roared into the mic, “Let me hear it, wake the fuck up now!” As they ripped into Extinct material, “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” was followed by “Extinct.” Ribeiro acknowledged the crowd, “Welcome to the first run of the tour. I’m glad it’s here in New York. Thank you so much! We will make sure the night is ours!” As he moved into “Night Eternal,” Ribeiro’s excitement remained as he embraced being in New York. He continued to say, “Like I said, it’s great being back and it’s a great city. It’s a great atmosphere. We are here from Portugal and celebrating our over 20 years career. Now I want you to join us with the 1996 album Irreligious.” “Opium” and “Awake!” soon followed, beckoning howling screams in the audience.
As the set reached the halfway mark, Extinct material progressed with “Domina” and “Malignia.” Energy resumed as Ribeiro held the reigns as a true leader. Moving back to Wolfheart, Ribeiro asked all to, “Scream very loud” in “Vampiria.” The night took a different path, as Ribeiro introduced the final track of the night by announcing, “We’re going to play our last song for the night. Thank you very much, it is the first night of the tour, and I am not kidding you it is great spending it here with you in New York. I do not think we will go wrong with this one. This is our Alma!” He continued to shout, “Alma” having the entire audience scream along with him as they concluded with the infamous “Alma Mater” from Wolfheart. Carrying out as an outstanding set filled with dramatic music, Moonspell left many hungry for more.
The energy was monstrous in the packed crowd as fans were ready to see Epica conquer the stage. Shortly after departing from After Forever, the multi-talented genius Mark Jansen created Epica in 2002. Known for never repeating themselves musically, each album stands out on its own. Incorporating additional Classical elements has brought this group to a different level than other Symphonic Metal acts. Their sound has been unique and mesmerizing since 2003 where masterpieces have continued, which is shown in their most ambiguous album thus far, 2014’s The Quantum Enigma. Despite a few lineup shifts, the cast has been pretty active with Jansen (rhythm guitar/growls), Simone Simons (vocals), and Coen Janssen (keyboard) since 2002. The rest of the group includes Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums), Isaac Delahaye (lead guitar), and Rob Van der Loo (bass). The band was eager to begin, and so were the ecstatic fans, as many were geared for nonstop exuberance.
The crowd roared as soon as the opening of “Originem,” from The Quantum Enigma, sprung in. As most members set their spot on the stage, Simons surprised all, walking in last during “The Second Stone,” leading the crowd to heightened cheers. A magnificent introduction from the latest release, Simons’ vocals echoed across the venue. Simons conversed with the crowd, “Good evening NYC! We are so excited! Thank you so much for waiting, we appreciate it. Let’s enjoy beautiful music together. Are you ready my friends? This is ‘The Essence of Silence.’” The entire band did not hold back their excitement as they headbanged on the stage. At this point, it was time to step away from the newer tunes as Jansen pumped up the crowd and introduced the classic “Sensorium,” from The Phantom Agony. A circle pit, and quite a few moshers, swept in during this tune. Simons swiftly introduced the next song by stating, “So glad to finally be here, that we were able to reschedule, and you guys were so patient and loyal. My question to you is, are you ready to be ‘Unleashed?’” Slowing down the set slightly, the spotlight hit Simone and the band urged the fans to participate by clapping their hands together. Chaos struck shortly after, leaving an unstoppable performance. Janssen moved towards the front of the stage to interact with the fans during “Martyr of the Free Word,” from Design Your Universe.
Simons kindly introduced the next piece, “Are you guys having a good time? Are you all drunkenly hydrated? Whether it’s water or beer, don’t drink and drive. This one is going back to the roots of Epica, the very beginning.” As the crowd cheered, guessing what was next, Simons continued, “We keep going back in time because everybody loves this song. So here we go,‘Forever and Ever.’ Come sing along with me as loud as you can.” As “Cry For the Moon” shined in with Simons’ incredible vocals, a drum solo by Weesenbeek soon followed which shook the room with excitement. Jansen asked the crowd to decide on the next piece, “Next one is up to you, first one is ‘Storm The Sorrow,’ or ‘The Last Crusade.’” Asking all to shout for which song should be next, they moved in with “Storm the Sorrow,” from Requiem for the Indifferent. Simons asked the room to raise their hands as they surprised all with “The Last Crusade,” from Consign to Oblivion. This track radiated through the room with a mass amount of energy as Jansen had the crowd moving for an additional round of the infamous chorus to this tune.
Continuing to heat the night up, Simons spoke, “So we just gave you guys two songs for the screaming of one. So now you have to do something in return. This next song is a love song, but a very dark love song, so bang your heads as hard as you can.” As they went into “The Obsessive Devotion,” from The Divine Conspiracy, fans poured out their own emotions with extreme headbanging upon Simons’ request. Jansen interacted with the crowd as he introduced the next, “Victims of Contingency,” from The Quantum Enigma.
As the set was coming to a close, Simons shared a few words of inspiration, “Thank you for taking off the evening early, you guys do know how to entertain us as well. I think we got a good deal here. If you allow me to give you a little life lesson, this next song is very special to me, especially because I talked to a friend today about it. If you have a dream, work your ass off to make it come true. All you need is to believe in yourself.” As they moved into the final “Design Your Universe,” Simons belted out her exquisite vocals, showcasing her incredible talent. She commanded the crowd to wave their hands until the song concluded. It was a magical moment; everyone continued to raise their arms as the energy and moment flourished. Epica quietly left the stage, leaving the audience in darkness.
Fans clapped their hands and shouted, “Epica! Epica! Epica! Epica!” Hoping for an encore, they continued to clap and cheer louder until the venue echoed at roaring heights, begging for Epica’s return. Janssen jumped onto the stage and interacted with the eager fans, “New fucking York, the United States of America. This is the best way to start a tour man. This is the best way to fight a jet lag. This gives us a lot of energy. I see a lot of circle pits and mosh pits going on there, and we are not done yet. We have two more weeks of it! Now it’s great to be back in the United States. We had a lot of shit going on in our previous tours here. But now, we’re back thanks to you, we’re fucking rocking out every night!” Janssen pumped up the audience even more until the rest of the band returned to the stage and ripped into “Sancta Terra,” from The Divine Conspiracy.
The encore took a joyful and surprising turn when Simons announced, “We’ve been very busy touring, and also busy writing a new record and recording it.” Fans cheered out with praise as Simons continued, “The seventh album, we’re releasing it this year. It’s interesting doing The Quantum Enigma, and yet we have all the new songs in our head. It’s hard to stay focused. Maybe you guys can help me with these lyrics.” As they went into the alluring “Unchain Utopia,” the closing of “Consign to Oblivion” followed. Many heads were moving and adrenaline was rushing to the point that the crowd did not want to leave.
Epica is an experience. More than just performing tracks effortlessly, they give it a memorable act, one worth waiting for since 2012. With a strong catalog, anything can go in terms of the setlist. Fans tend to lose themselves because Epica sends out an unspeakable energy. Hopefully, it is true what Simons stated with a seventh album to be released this year, and perhaps they will return to The States soon enough.