Live Review: Apocalyptica & Epica (The Epic Apocalypse Tour) Manchester Academy, Manchester 03.02.23

Phil Pountney

Numerous complications and difficulties left me fighting a losing battle to get to the Academy on time to catch prog metal band, Wheel, although from what I heard they fought their corner and put on an admirable display for those in attendance. Absolutely gutted, note to self, must try harder!

With the now pretty full Academy suitably warmed up, the stage had been transformed into an impressive sight ready for the Dutch symphonic powerhouse that is Epica. As the house lights faded away, the band hit the stage with purpose and energy. ‘Abyss Of Time – Countdown To Singularity’ set out their intentions, obviously ones of power, muscle and might. Simone Simons graced the stage, front and centre, and brought with her the usual trademarks of elegance and grace, delivering perfectly on point vocals with true decadence and colossal passion. Each word delivered with pride and authority, the beauty and splendour backed up with the harsh brutal vocal talents of Jansen, each style combining with the usual ease with which they never seem to falter on.

As the set progressed, giving a nod to all of their studio albums back catalogue bar ‘Requiem For The Indifferent’, the band seemed to grow in stature and confidence, even finding time to amuse themselves with frivolity and merriment whilst still maintaining perfect renditions of the tracks we all love and nurture as if they were our own. ‘Unleashed’ was absolutely phenomenal, a platform which allowed Simons to showcase her mesmerising vocal ranges and abilities while the band delivered a spectacular score behind her, all of which seemed to bait the crowd and poke them into delivering a visible show of admiration and love towards their idles who were stood before them.

Van Der Loo was an absolute beast throughout the whole set, beating his bass with brawn and brute force, generating palpable bass lines on which the others were able to perch and deliver perfection of their own accord. A giant video screen and drum riser was utilised to good effect throughout the healthy set length, almost orchestrating at times yet always backing the audio up with enthralling visual delights.

Then came true decadence, enchantment and wonder in the form of the behemothic ‘Cry For The Moon’ and it did not disappoint this evening in Manchester, it was perfection from the opening notes to the closing bars, absolutely fantastic and mesmerising yet that wasn’t the end of the journey for we were then opened up to a bouncy, key changing and feel good ‘Beyond The Matrix’ before the set closer, the truly anthemic ‘Consign To Oblivion’. We then had to remind ourselves that we were still due another set with grand potential, that was just the beginning, oh and what a beginning. 

The stage was then pretty much stripped bare except for a few cables and an impressive drum kit, the lights then faded away for the last time tonight and the cellos appeared, accompanied by a wall of sound, ladies and gentlemen the Finnish juggernaut had arrived. Opening up with an absolutely phenomenal ‘Ashes Of The Modern World’, the sound created by a drum kit and 3 cellos was awe inspiring and they seemed to have the attention of the whole of the Academy, all eyes and souls focused and transfixed on the art which was being cascaded down from the stage.

The set was punctuated with changes in direction throughout, Franky Perez joined the orchestral movement to add some refreshing vocals to the mix and absolutely blew ‘Not Strong Enough’ out of the water. Simone Simons added some absolutely compelling and hypnotising elegance to ‘Rise Again’ and Franky Perez then made another appearance before the set snapped in half and we were drawn into a set of covers which were varnished with the Apocalyptica trademark sound and remade into new classics though this time from a different vantage point, that of a luxurious and impressive string and percussive mind.

‘Nothing Else Matters’ had each and everybody transfixed while ‘Seek And Destroy’ mustered the loudest sing along of the evening, one of truly epic and spine chilling proportions, one which a certain four gents from California would genuinely have no option but to be proud of had they been here partying with us tonight. 

A co-headlining event which saw two very different sets, both encompassing a similar core and both a success in their own right. Does it get better than this, I’ll just leave that there for you to decide.

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