Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
A lot of bands have been bringing their tours to Dublin for the first time recently, and tonight two more acts pop their Irish cherries; Myrkur and Epica. Once again, the Tivoli Theatre is bustling with a near capacity crowd, proving that the metal scene in the city is vibrant enough to fill venues week-on-week with the disparate genres on offer.
Despite arriving in plenty of time to catch Amalie Bruun (formerly known only by the mysterious Myrkur moniker), a miscommunication between tour management and ticket desk means I don’t get into the venue until after the performance has ended. However, from what could be heard from the front door, the Danish damsel sounds pretty damn good live. Her haunting hit ‘Ulvinde’ was instantly recognizable and the crowd’s audible reaction confirms its familiarity and popularity. A divisive musician, Myrkur has split opinions within the black metal fandom, with some claiming that her rapid rise to fame is “just because she is a woman in a man dominated genre” (in her own words) rather than on the merits of her talent. But speaking with members of the audience while waiting for tonight’s headliner, I hear admiration and praise aplenty for her powerful performance. The only criticism seemed to be that her setlist may have been toned down to better suit the musical tastes of the symphonic metal fans in attendance. I can only hope that Myrkur will return to Dublin soon with a tour of her own to give me a second chance to experience her live show first hand.
Epica by name and epic by nature; their backline, drumkit, lighting rig and stage entrance are as dramatic and extravagant as you can imagine. A massive cheer erupts as each band member takes their position one by one, starting with drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek who gets straight down to business, delivering the beat to ‘Edge of the Blade’ while his brethren gather, until they are finally joined by frontwoman Simone Simons. Dressed in a figure-hugging black number, the confident red-head dominates the room from the get-go, with her melodic vocals contrasted by the growled backing vocals of rhythm guitarist Mark Jansen. The incredible light show, pitch-perfect sound quality, and impeccable musicianship enthrall the avid audience, as the setlist continues with tracks cherry-picked from their fifteen-year career. The crowd tonight has a noticeably higher percentage of ladies than most Dublin metal shows, and one can only hope that their interest in tonight’s female-fronted bands might spur them onto careers of their own, and bring about an improved gender balance in the industry.
All six members of Epica truly appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves with synchronized windmill headbanging from the guitarists and flamboyant behavior from keyboardist Coen Janssen, who makes full use of his rotating and curved portable keyboards. The setlist is weighted in favor of songs taken from their most recent album The Holographic Principle, released in 2016 and The Solace System EP released in 2017, with highlights including ‘Dancing in a Hurricane’ and ‘Ascension – Dream State Armageddon’. There’s not much in the way of banter between songs other than brief introductions and apologize for their delay in visiting Ireland. Before wrapping up the main part of their show, Simons does ask if the audience “would be willing to help a little girl on the road on her own” and to turn on the flashlights on their mobile devices, as the house lights are extinguished and the band performs ‘Once Upon a Nightmare’. Modern mobile devices have far surpassed the humble lighters formerly used for such effect, and the venue is probably brighter than many metal shows we’ve been to in this city.
Of course, their exit from the stage is short-lived, and they return before long to a keyboard rendition of the Jaws theme tune, as Coen brings out his curved instrument once again. However, technical difficulties lead to some comic relief and a back-and-forth between instruments before they eventually get the ball rolling again with ‘Sancta Terra’. The encore is used as an opportunity to burn whatever energy is left, and to encourage as much crowd participation as possible. Simons tries to get everyone jumping in unison for the intro to ‘Beyond the Matrix’ and for the finale of ‘Consign to Oblivion’ they succeed in orchestrating an impressive, and frankly surprising, wall of death. As the last notes ring out, a quick scan around the Tivoli Theatre reveals nothing but happy faces, and we’re certain a return visit would quickly sell out.