This gig almost didn’t happen. Originally Imperia were meant to be headlining, and had to drop out due to the unfortunate illness of their singer Helena Iren Michaelsen. With two days notice, Neverworld stepped in to open the show, Ex Libris moved up the bill, and being their album release show, EnkElination filled in the headliner slot and they managed to save the show.
Neverworld’s style of power metal was convincing, and the range of influences they had were certainly put to good effect. With the heavy chugging riffs of Metallica, power metal vocals and trad metal leads, they mixed it up a lot throughout their songs. Drummer Mike Vaughan was fantastic, using the double bass to the extreme, unfortunately knocking one of his drums over at one point due to his ferocious playing, but it was picked up not too long after. Their keyboardist though was unlucky, the sound barely audible and completely buried under the rest of the band. Still, they had good songs and a sound ranging from power metal, to thrash and even the prog of modern day Iron Maiden. With both guitarists trading solos, the great thrashy riffs, decent high pitched power metal vocals and a frantic drummer they were a lot of fun.
Ex Libris came next and were the band of the night. Their new album Medea is one of the best of the year so far, a highly original piece of progressive metal, with symphonic influences stemming from the voice of the amazing Dianne Van Giersbergen. She also played this venue two months previously with her other band Xandria, so I knew we were in for a treat seeing her again. The band showed themselves to be just as great live as they are on the full length, the progressive nature of their music really coming to the forefront in the live setting. They have a phenomenally talented group of musicians, with Paul Van Der Broek on guitar playing both incredibly catchy riffs, such as on the opening track Medea, and fast intricate solos. With the technical six string bass playing of Peter Den Bakker and fantastic drumming of Echo Van Der Meer the rhythm section was as creative and engaging as any you’ll ever see, and they play so tightly as a unit through great songs – they move seamlessly between slow and soft, heavy and fast, epic and atmospheric, with an additional layer of keyboards to just add that extra degree of melody. Their greatest asset though is their incredible front woman Dianne who has a simply incredible voice live. Whether singing beautifully in her operatic style, or belting out in a more straight forward powerful metal approach her voice is beyond belief from start to finish. Not only does she have a great voice but she has a stage presence to match, whether dancing away while singing or getting everyone in the crowd involved in clapping or cheering. It was a rather short set, but with the brilliant atmosphere throughout Medea, the way the crowd got involved for On the Ocean’s Command, and the sheer scope of the epic ten minute closer From Birth to Bloodshed, it was fantastic no matter how quickly it flew by. I’ve said it before, but they’re so good it’s criminal that they’re unsigned and have such a small following relative to other bands in the scene.
EnkElination had a tough act to follow even with it being the launch show for their new album Tears of Lust, but despite a few problems with their guitar they managed to put on a great show. They have a good singer in Elina, her voice being high pitched and very pretty. With the synth heavy approach they use on the album it was surprising that they don’t actually have a keyboard player live, instead just having a backing track with the keyboard lines. Either way they’re able to replicate some of the dark mellow atmosphere live that they have on the album, especially aided by the soft voice of Elina and some of the slower lead guitar lines. Half way through the set Elina mentioned that Imperia were meant to be headlining but couldn’t due to Helena’s illness, and that the gig nearly didn’t take place. Appropriately they played a cover of Queen’s The Show Must Go On, an odd choice for a gothic tinged metal band, but with Elina’s great voice and the performance of the band, especially in the solos, they pulled it off well. Moving into the next track Insane, she asked everyone to go as crazy as they could, resulting in lots of headbanging through the crowd to what was the most energetic and best song of their set. A great galloping riff during a powerful chorus got the crowd going, and it was a much better performance than on the album, being heavier and more engaging. Moving from that to the much slower ballad Last Time Together it gave them a chance to show not only some variation, but also the great voice of Elina singing softly. They played a short set considering their headline status, in order to talk to fans afterwords, but having played a good show in that time.
Overall Ex Libris stole the night with their incredible melding of progressive and symphonic metal with such tight playing and phenomenal vocal performance, but EnkElination and Neverworld both put in good performances too on a rather varied night of metal at the Underworld.