When Epica was forced to cancel their final few shows with Eluveitie and The Agonist in September of last year, many fans were extremely disappointed. However, the Dutch symphonic metal band were true to their promise of coming back, and more than made up for it at the Opera House in Toronto on January 22nd – only this time, they brought Moonspell and Starkill along for the ride.
Chicago’s Starkill hyped up the crowd instantly, having great stage presence. As many audience members were already fans, sporting Starkill apparel, it was nice to see guitarist Tony Keathley speaking with a few of them before the show even began. However, the music itself didn’t stand out to me, and I think that the band would benefit from focusing more on their musicianship and creativity rather than their appearance. Although if you enjoy classic guitar solos in your metal, you might end up a fan of theirs, as there seemed to be one in almost every song.
Next up was Moonspell, from Portugal. Having had a substantial career and discography already, many audience members were hoping to hear older material, as well as the expected songs from last year’s album, ‘Extinct’ – and they weren’t disappointed. Half of their setlist was comprised of songs from the first two Moonspell albums, ‘Wolfheart’ and ‘Irreligious’, punctuated by four tracks from ‘Extinct’. The gothic style of frontman Fernando Ribeiro’s stage attire and deep, mysterious voice provided a nice contrast to the other bands on the bill, and it was amusing to watch him turn around and conduct some of the instrumental sections with a flourish of hands. They ended their set powerfully with “Full Moon Madness”, which was extremely fitting, as the full moon was indeed shining in all its glory that night above the Opera House.
Then, the lights dimmed on stage, the entire venue erupted in applause and cheers, and the members of Epica walked out one by one. Their 90-minute set contained a few songs from their most recent album, ‘The Quantum Enigma’, immediately opening with back-to-back tracks “The Second Stone” and “The Essence of Silence”. About half way through, they performed “Cry for the Moon”, which ended in a fairly impressive drum solo from Ariën van Weesenbeek. Other highlights included “Unleashed”, “Storm the Sorrow”, and “Victims of Contingency”, with a rather epic encore consisting of “Sancta Terra”, “Unchain Utopia”, and “Consign to Oblivion”.
Generally speaking, Epica is one of the most energetic and interactive bands that I have had the pleasure of seeing live thus far, and it was highly refreshing to see just how much fun they appeared to be having with each other and the crowd. Coen Janssen was particularly lively, jumping down between the barrier and the stage with his curved keyboard at one point, then later taking photos of the band in action with a fan’s phone. Toward the end of the set, the band even remarked that they had seen crowd surfing but no wall of death, proceeding to part the audience and watch their fans go flying. And throughout all of this, Epica performed spectacularly, never appearing to tire or falter. The sound was good, with the backing tracks lining up well without being overpowering; however, I would have preferred to have Simone Simons louder in the mix, as her beautiful operatic voice was slightly lost at times. The Pirates of the Caribbean theme during the bows was a nice touch to wrap up the evening, as sticks, picks, and set lists were distributed amongst the ecstatic crowd. With a few dates remaining on the North American leg of this tour, fans on this side of the pond still have a chance to experience the magic and excitement that an Epica show can provide.