Symphonic metal came to Camden last Friday, with Xandria in support of their new album Sacrificium (reviewed here), and Stream of Passion having also just released their new album A War of Our Own (reviewed here), both of which are the respective bands’ best releases to date. With support coming from local symphonic metal band Apparition, it was all set for a great night of symphonic metal.
First up were Apparition, who played a decent brand of power metal with symphonic influence. With a good guitar sound and chunky riffs their music also had a good dose of melody coming from the lead guitar work and the nice voice of vocalist Grace Meridan, who sung very well with a good, melodious sound to her voice, but it was unfortunately buried a bit too much in the mix and wasn’t really powerful enough to go with the music either. After an enjoyable, but unspectacular set, they picked it up for their last song which was their best for sure, but ultimately their style is a bit too common place and generic, lots of bands do this style, and they don’t have much uniqueness to their sound. They’re enjoyable enough, but you couldn’t envisage them being a headliner in the future.
Stream of Passion however were absolutely flawless. Having seen them support Epica in 2012, they blew Epica away with one of the most fun performances I’ve seen, and they managed to be even better here too. With a new album under their belt with some of their best material, they put on a performance which was simply incandescent with the passion and energy they bring to the stage. Opening with new song Monster, Marcela gave a masterclass in beautiful singing, full of charm and energy. Singing in both Spanish and English she gave a beautiful performance throughout the set, and some of the high notes she hit throughout were stunningly powerful. She also played the violin throughout the set, and this along with the keyboards of Jeffrey Revet give the band their really unique and keen sense of melody that makes the band really stand out from others in the scene. It’s fitting that their second song on the set is Passion, because they give so much passion and energy towards their performance. A fantastic song, with really catchy progressive sounding riffs and beautiful melodies, as well as the stunning voice of Marcela – the song is a real love letter to the power of music, with great lyrics, and its a fantastic performance from the band. Throughout the set, bassist Johan Van Stratum is up there with the best musicians I’ve ever seen for the sheer energy he gives to his performance. Never standing still for a second he’s either getting the crowd involved or running round the stage, all with a huge grin on his face, and playing the bass excellently, while their two guitarists Eric Hazebroek and Stephan Schultz give great energetic performances that are both melodic and progressive. Playing great renditions of other new songs from the album, such as A war of Our Own and The Curse, as well as a lovely cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit, the set is perfect from start to finish. Ending with one of their best songs This Endless Night, they put in a brilliant performance, and it’s an incredibly catchy song, its really well written. With a beautiful introduction on the violin, and riff after catchy riff, as well as a fantastic chorus its a song to go really mad to live, and they put so much energy into it I can’t imagine any fan of the genre not having a grin from ear to ear, it’s almost hard to describe just how good it is, and it’s a great way to end a perfect set. Overall it’s a shame they only had the time to play eight songs, because they should easily be headlining concerts like this, they’re an incredible, very unique sounding band, and they’re even better live than they are on the album.
Xandria were the headliners and they put in a great performance too. Opening with Nightfall, the lead single from their new album, they have a very powerful and epic sound, with stirring orchestral elements fused with an incredibly powerful heavy metal sound with fast drumming, pounding riffs and sweeping guitar solos. In Dianne Van Giersbergen they have a singer with an incredibly beautiful voice, and with the combination of her immensely powerful classically trained operatic style, and her beautiful sounding cleans they have a fantastic singer who’s really up there with anyone in the more operatically inclined symphonic metal groups. Live her voice is every bit as good as on their albums, and throughout the set she’s on top form. The band mostly play songs from the new album Sacrificium, and previous one Neverworld’s End, as well as the title track from their second album Ravenheart, a real fan favourite. All the songs from Sacrificium were fantastic, with Nightfall and Dreamkeeper being great catchy live songs, while the ten minute title track is one of the best symphonic metal tracks of the last decade, with incredible riffage and solos, Dianne’s powerful voice, and the amazing orchestral elements really ramping everything up to eleven and delivering a song that is fantastic in it’s scope and power. Epic is a word that’s very overused, but in the case of this track it’s definitely warranted, and they give a great version of it. They also played the beautiful The Undiscovered Land from the new album, a great slower song which really gives Dianne’s voice it’s place to shine. In my opinion, the songs from Neverworld’s End are weaker than those from Sacrificium, but with Dianne’s voice being much better than previous singer Manuella’s she really brings the songs to life in the live environment, with Soul Crusher as well as The Nomad’s Crown being particularly good. Both guitarists put in a great show, playing fast pounding riffs and sweeping solos with aplomb, while Gerrit Lamm on drums had a great performance too, and his style is very dramatic with a great use of cymbals giving their sound that extra strong crash. With an encore of a great rendition of Valentine they end a really great set on a high, with a great drum solo from Gerrit really keeping the band’s power going right to the end. It’s a great set from a great band who’ve really come along way from their average early material to become one of the very best bands in symphonic metal today.
Overall Stream of Passion and Xandria played sets that were mindblowing, definitely two bands you should see live if you get the chance, with the former’s combination of keen melodic sense and progressive guitar work, and the bombastic epic sound of the latter with oozing power from every aspect of their sound making a night of fantastic and varied takes on symphonic metal music. Both bands also hung about after the show to meet fans, take photos and sign CDs, which was great fun!
Xandria’s Sacrificium was released on May 2nd, and Stream of Passion’s A War of Our Own was released April 18th. Watch the videos for Nightfall from the former, and A War of Our own from the latter respectively below: