Petit Bain was last night host to a very unique ensemble of bands, not only in terms of country of origin but also in genres. Aevum is a symphonic metal with gothic and neoclassical elements from Italy. Subterranean Masquerade, a progressive metal band with very varied influences, ranging from jazz to Indian classical music; is from Israel, same as the main act, Orphaned Land. With the excellent 2017 release ‘Vagabond’, it was a band I was eager to catch live. In Vain, a progressive death metal band from Norway is the most popular among the support acts and a quick glimpse into its discography would reveal why. The band was along on tour to promote its excellent new 2018 album, ‘Currents’. And finally, the stalwarts of the progressive folk metal community, Orphaned Land, was the leader of the pack here – it too was promoting another excellent 2018 album ‘Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs’. These opening bands, and even the main act, are among the most underrated bands in today’s progressive scene – I, for one, cannot recommend them enough.
Aevum opened things with their vocalist duos – the female one (Lucille Nightshade) implementing the symphonic clean elements while the male one (Hydra) the harsh ones. The first thing that I noticed was how the band was clearly out to gather as many eyeballs as possible. Dressed in fancy skirts, suits and masks, the members embodied the symphonic genre well. There was even a woman extra who appeared as different personas and in costumes – once even in a bright bride gown – and who was dancing to the music. The music itself on the other hand wasn’t as flashy or unique, though, since this was the only band on the night that I’d never listened to before, my opinion may have been a bit clouded.
Subterranean Masquerade was next on stage but was delayed because of some sound technicalities and ended up playing a shorter setlist consisting mostly of songs off their new record, and the opener off the album ‘Suspended Animation Dreams’. When things did get going, the band exceeded expectations, putting in a memorable performance full of energy and animation. The balance of cleans and harsh vocals was achieved perfectly; the clean vocalist was particularly on a mission to animate the crowd, asking it repeatedly to shake a leg and he’d have been delighted by the outcome as many did so during the hypnotic closer “Hymn of the Vagabond”.
In Vain was a complete surprise package for me, and while I have enjoyed the last two albums, I was absolutely blown away by the band live. The opener “Against the Grain” packed such a solid punch that I have had a persistent neck pain ever since due to some irresistible handbanging that took control of me during this and the following tracks. Even with a short setlist, the band managed to capture their discography very well, including the headbangers from ‘Currents’, such as “Origin” and “Seekers of the Truth” while adding a few of the more blackened, Viking metal tracks from the older albums. The vocalist Andreas Frigstad is a massive talent, achieving unbelievable vocal ranges, both clean and harsh, while keeping up astonishing energy levels. The complex riffs written in studio seemed no hassle for these talented instrumentalists to execute on stage, occasionally provide vocal snippets that complemented the main ones’ of Frigstard very well. The drummer on tour was no Baard Koldstad, but at no point did I feel there was something missing from his side of the stage.
Orphaned Land wasted no time to join in on the fun in front of a crowd that was clearly hyped to the brim at that point. “The Cave” is my favourite track off the new album, and as the initially female recorded vocals shook the air in the cosy venue, I was transported to a different part of this world, only returning to my physical location after a two-hour musical journey. Kobi Farhi has the most unique voice in the metal scene, and this is even more evident live. He got the entire crowd throwing fists with “We do not Resist”, putting their hands together for “All is One”, humming along melodies from “The Kiss of Babylon” and jumping to “Like Orpheus” – at which point we literally made the whole venue shake (Petit Bain translates to small boat – the concert venue is a boat!). The crowd was driving the band the vice-versa, it was a truly immersive experience. The setlist was dominated by songs of the new album, but they all sounded so great live that I could have no complains really. Yet, the classics were not left out – three tracks were from ‘Mabool’. Crowd favourite “Sapari” found its way in the list and, perhaps surprisingly, a track off their debut and lesser known album, ‘Sahara’. The night ended beautifully as the crowd sang along the melody from “Ornaments of Gold” in place of the keyboard solo during the encore of “Norra el Norra”.
I’ve already mentioned Kobi once, but the focus with which he sang the higher clean notes, with his signature nasal tone, and the energy with which he delivered the harsh ones deserve a second mention. The instrumentalists were completely on point the whole night, with some exquisite guitar solos on display from tracks such as “All Knowing Eye”. The sound was excellent, with slightly poor drum crashes during Aevum’s performance quickly disappearing soon after.
Orphaned Land and the opening acts put in a special performance on the night and took the crowd in a musical journey without geographical or musical boundaries. A faux warning to those planning to catch them soon – You’re sure to be end up with one or more tunes stuck in your head and persistent neck-aches for days to come!