Review and photo by Mark Gromen
Mid-week early start (makes sense), saw a couple of local bands, then Montreal’s BLACK GUARD and THREAT SIGNAL opening for the second night of the EPICA tour. A bit of an odd tour. Who do you get to open for the voluptuous Simone Simons, as Epica has its death metal moments? Predominately interested in the headliner, Philly wasn’t really a metal crowd, thus the other acts suffered, in fact, Blackguard won the day.
Having been to Montreal, I understand the bands tend to be ahead of the time (FORGOTTEN TALES was covering BLIND GUARDIAN in 2001, when they opened for NIGHTWISH's North American debut), and Blackguard probably were “unique” once upon a time, but in 2010, they come across as the bastard children of bombastic Nightwish keyboards melded to ALESTORM and CHILDREN OF BODOM, even with syncopated hair twirls (clockwise windmills actually), all six of them. With twin guitars, the keyboards still dominate. Ending with ‘This Round’s On Me’, frontman Paul Zinay said, “Punch us in the face, or buy us a beer. I prefer you buy us a beer!”
In all truth, Threat Signal didn’t have (nor attempt to win) the crowd, like Blackguard did. ‘A New Beginning’ was up early, but it was on to the headliner. Given the general lack of support, this was a decent turnout. Opening the same as the Dutch outfit’s latest CD, ‘Unleashed’ was up early, Simons in black leather pants, covered with a micro tunic. A fan blew her titian hair skyward (when not headbanging, or shaking side-to-side). Guitarist/founder Mark Jansen introduced the songs, as well as adding deathly growl, when needed. Bathed in reds and blues, the stage was minimalistic throughout ‘Martyr Of The Free World’, with its aggressive verses and melodic chorus. ‘Cry Of The Moon’, off the ’03 debut was unexpected, Jansen taking the vocal lead and Simons on the keyboard riser. The pre-recorded orchestral intro to Star Wars ‘Imperial Death March’ saw the band completely abandon the stage temporarily, only to be performed as an instrumental. Simons returned, to a bare stage, offering the ‘Tides Of Time’ (off the new Design Your Universe) along with her boyfriend/keyboardist Oliver Palotai (ex-KAMELOT/SONS OF SEASONS). Later, we (thankfully) got to hear, ‘Quietus’, ‘Sancta Terra’ (really? Wow!) and the title cut to the new album.
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