Review and Photos by: Karan Dutta
Melodic power metal has largely been a product of bands from the Nordic region combining the traditional modes of metal music along with symphonic and melodic instrumentation. Bands like Carcass and Dark Tranquillity were early pioneers of the musical style later popularized by a host of Swedish bands in what became known as the “Gothenburg metal” scene by the mid/late 90s. While the style has been popular in northern Europe, it hasn’t been since Anvil of Death (back in 1998) that a Spanish band of repute has taken on the challenge of venturing into this space until Lords of Black (“LOB”) exploded on the scene in 2014.
Currently, on tour with their second album, LOB have spent a large part of 2016 promoting their new release with shows mainly across Europe along with a couple of visits to the Far East, specifically Japan. I recently had the opportunity to catch one of their shows at The Underworld in Camden, London and was treated to an evening of some special music, despite the poor showing from fans.
For those who’ve been following Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow project, it would come as no surprise that when Ronnie opened his mouth to sing the first song, it was evident how Blackmore had made his decision to invite Ronnie on the Rainbow tour. With a powerful tone to his voice, grounded in the choir singing he’d practiced as a child in Chile, Ronnie displayed impressive command over his voice that would be the standout element for the evening. That is not to say that the other musicians were any less impressive in each of their disciplines, however, to be able to sing a melodic metal vocal part whilst maintaining intensity, timbre, volume and versatility are no easy tasks yet seemed to be effortless on Ronnie’s part that evening.
Equally, Tony’s performance on the guitar was staggeringly impressive given how full the sound on Lords of Black II is and the lack of dual tracks in their live performance. A veteran of the solo guitar album world, Tony is used to developing and playing musical parts centered around the guitar and with the importance of that songwriting in melodic metal, Ronnie and Tony dovetailed incredibly well during the course of the evening to produce a solid performance. On a number of occasions, I found various members of the audience (myself included) mesmerized by the speed, precision and melodic execution of riffs emerging from Tony’s guitars that it was easy to forget he alone was steering the melody in those moments.
As with all metal acts of repute, especially in this genre of metal, a solid backbone of double bass drumming and cymbal crashes is a must in order to bring the requisite organized chaos to compositions. Andy C’s background in composition and piano played a big part in the drum parts that he wrote and executed that evening. I recall standing next to the guy who was doing lights for the show that evening, Sploote, and him telling me how Andy was one of the best drummers he’d heard in his time at the venue. To put it in context, Sploote has been at the Underworld since Blockbuster rentals were a thing (1999 if you’re struggling to remember) and in that time has heard over 14,000 acts, mostly metal, which makes his opinion worth taking note of. Regardless, the energy that Andy created with his tireless attacks on the kit coupled with the elements described above made for an incredibly tight set on the day.
While the above three form the core of LOB, their touring bass player Javier Garcia was no less impressive on the bass than those he shared the stage with. A signature goatee that would give its quadruped namesake a run for its money, dyed red obviously, was only one of the stand out features that Garcia had that evening. A dominating stage presence, Garcia was most interactive with Ronnie through the evening, the two of them feeding off each other’s energy and clearly feeling their music coursing through their veins.
On the whole, the evening was a great experience of how the melodic metal sound has been embraced by some new faces in the metal community and that they’re able to hold their own with their contemporaries. My one criticism of the evening would be that on occasion I felt as though certain parts of the music were lacking a fullness of sound that one can hear on the album. I’d put this down to the fact that neither keyboards nor backing guitars, both of which were on the album, were part of the stage setup that evening. I think their shows would be even more enjoyable if they are able to incorporate either of these into their live repertoire. That aside, worth checking these guys out if they’re in your neighborhood.