Powerwolf & Epica at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London Friday, 03 Feb 2017

Words and Pics: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media

With so many bands managing to tour at exactly the same time, often playing the same cities on the same date, the trust coin of random choice often has to be deployed to decided which act to go and see. Thankfully, what is also becoming more frequent is that these acts recognise the benefit of teaming up, going out n the road together and benefiting from bigger crowds and thus bigger venues and stages. It gives the fans the show they really want to see and affords the band to show off the stage sets they can employ when given the freedom and space to work. 

Both Epica and Powerwolf have headlined shows in their own right of course so they’d manage to draw good sized crowds to London, of that there is no doubt. Both acts also draw massive festival crowds when they play. Thus the stage, when set for Powerwolf, playing the earlier, slightly shorter slot, resembles huge gothic cathedral, fitting perfectly with the band’s look and feel. 

POWERWOLF

Coming on to the opening echos of ‘Lupus Daemonis’, Roel van Helden appears first behind his drum kit, perched on a riser flanked by golden eagles that covered up the keyboards of Falk Maria Schlegel. Never managing to stay still for a moment, spending as much time at the front of the stage as behind his keyboards, Falk Maria needs two sets of keyboards as there were several moments where a frantic run back to the nearest set was required in order to play the next piece of music. A born entertainer, he doubles up as ringmaster on more than one occasion, corralling the crowd and whipping them up to chant back to the band. 

They open the show with the title track from ‘Blessed & Posessed’, and never look back. Even though they had a slightly shorter stage time with just 70 minutes compared to Epica’s 90 minute slot, they still delivered a headliner’s set fitting in some 13 songs in the process.

Decked out like a medieval priest, about to attack a vampire’s castle, Attila Dorn commands front and centre with a voice that reaches out and punches into the smallest furthest corners of the Empire ensuring everyone was paying rapt attention during the set.  He and Falk Maria split, always, the room and encourage chanting competitions with the crowds complying happily. It drives the energy and warmth in the room although possibly at the expense of an extra song given the reduced set time. 

Dorn always elicits a smile from the crowd and is quite the master of witty banter making the show feel like everyone was involved. With the Greywolf brothers roaring from stage left and right, the crowd fell under their spell and threw themselves into it like rabid wolves on meat and by the end of the set, it felt like a few full moon transformations had taken place with some of those nearer to the front. 

Set wise, there were no bad choices. Anthem after anthem was delivered, raw, bloody and ready to be devoured by the hungry audience. As the set progrssed, with ‘Armata Strigoi’, ‘Dead Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Resurrection by Erection’, everyone wanted more. ‘Sanctified With Dynamite’ and ‘We Drink Your Blood’ closed proceedings and probably converted a fair few Epica fans who’d not heard Powerwolf before. 

SETLIST

Lupus Daemonis (intro)
Blessed & Possessed
Army of the Night
Amen & Attack
Coleus Sanctus
In the Name of God (Deus Vult)
Sacred & Wild
Armata Strigoi
Dead Boys Don’t Cry
Let There Be Night
Resurrection by Erection
Werewolves of Armenia
Sanctified With Dynamite
We Drink Your Blood
Wolves Against the World (outro)

EPICA

With a mere 30 minute gap to strip down a cathedral and all of Powerwolf’s gear, the stage team worked wonders and shortly before they were due on stage, the revamped Empire was set to host Epica. When they ran onto the stage it generated a tremendous roar from the crowd proving how much the band are loved in the UK. 

Like many of their peers, Epica have proven that hard work and perseverance pays off. Their debut album was released in 2003 and, like Sabaton, who took over 10 years to begin to headline the type of venues they deserve in the UK, the packed Empire is testament to that same effort that Epica have put in. The style, and delivery combined with some seriously strong songs have turned Epica from another female fronted metal act that frankly are in a massively over saturated market, into a band with a real edge. Like Nightwish and Within Temptation, Epica have that secret weapon in their vocalist. Simone Simons looks amazing, exudes warmth and hits all of the notes that men can only achieve when certain parts of their anatomy are firmly clamped in a vice. 

When you have someone like that front and centre, it’s no surprise that a crowd responds and they did. Waving, chanting, cheering and singing along to everything (even the high notes, so well done the gents for that effort!). It was ninety minutes that felt like fifteen. It flew past.  

Even with the slightly extended stage time over Powerwolf, the two sets felt like a real co-headlining experience and the evening was definitely the sort of experience that fans crave these days. If it can become the norm to get multiple, high quality, bands on the same bill, then everyone wins. Venues will be bigger, sets will be more elaborate and fans may even discover something new about ‘the other band’ that they never knew before. It’s effectively a 2 for the price of 1 solution and avoids the inevitable city clashes. With more and more acts recognising that the live arena is the way to make money (more so than music sales) then those clashes will become more common as all bands crave for you latest pound, dollar, Euro to see them.

There were a lot of happy faces leaving the Empire, I guess that this, therefore, must have worked. 

SETLIST

Eidola (intro)
Edge of the Blade
A Phantasmic Parade
Sensorium
Universal Death Squad
Storm the Sorrow
The Essence of Silence
The Obsessive Devotion
Ascension – Dream State Armageddon
Dancing in a Hurricane
Unchain Utopia
Once Upon a Nightmare
Encore:
Sancta Terra
Beyond the Matrix
Consign to Oblivion

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