Originally planned for 2020/2021, this much anticipated Epic Apocalypse co-headlining tour is finally hitting venues around Europe, visiting 19 countries over two months. Sadly, due to traffic and early stage times I was unable to catch the opening set from support band, Wheel.

The stage was then set with illuminated, intricate wrought iron mic stands, an impressive drum setup and electronic piano set up on what turned out to be a moveable, rotating plinth. Epica took to the stage with Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity and it was not long before the whole crowd was animated in appreciation. The band wasted no time getting into the crowd as Coen Janssen strapped on an impressive curved keyboard and rocked out over the barriers.

I must admit that it does make me very happy to see a whirlwind of hair on stage and Epica certainly did not disappoint in that department with the majority of the band headbanging furiously as they played. Churning out storming renditions of tracks such as Victims of Contingency and The Final Lullaby with Mark Jansen’s growling vocals counterpointed perfectly with the soaring, operatic vocals of Simone Simons.

With a stage drenched in red light the tone shifted slightly with a rendition of the middle-eastern styled Fools of Damnation before getting the audience to light up the venue with their phones for River and getting them to sing along with Cry for the Moon.

Epica are incredibly fun to watch perform as it is clear how much the band enjoy performing together with all of the band members interacting and having fun with each other during the set. Notably with Coen Janssen leaping halfway across the stage to hit notes on the keyboard and duelling guitarists.

There was no respite for the audience as the set drew to a close with the band urging them to bounce all the way through Beyond the Matrix before clearing space for the audience wall of death finale as the circle pit was established with gusto. As they thanked the crowd, It was clear from the band’s parting words how genuinely happy they were to be performing.

Now, I had thought Epica’s drum set up to be impressive, but the setup for Apocalytpica was more akin to an art installation than a drum kit with hanging spiral cymbals and hollow toms stacked so high they were pretty much scraping the rafters.

Even after having listened to Apocalyptica for many years I am still blown away by the phenomenal sound that comes out of three cellists and a drummer. Musical comedian Rob Paravonian once said of being a cellist that it’s impossible to look cool when your instrument is larger than you. Well, Apocalyptica are here to utterly debunk that hypothesis by looking effortlessly cool as they blast out set openers Ashes of the Modern World and Grace.

For vocal duties on I’m not Jesus, they are joined onstage by Franky Perez who fits in seamlessly with the band and gets the crowd going with this and the anthemic Not Strong Enough. I must say I was incredibly surprised at how mobile the band were around the stage given how unwieldy their instruments are, but they proved that it was no barrier to an animated stage performance.

After Perez left the stage the band took a seated position for renditions of a couple of tracks from their more classical inspired album Cell-0. These were much more laid back tunes employing pizzicato arpeggios and soulful melody lines with drummer Mikko Sirén stepping away slightly from his gargantuan drum set in favour of an electronic kit.

Returning to the stage for Shadowmaker, Perez briefly took over on drums mid song in a seamless fashion and swapped out again without either musician missing a beat in a truly impressive display of talent. Before finishing off the track with a segue into a cover of Killing in the Name of, followed by an epic rendition of I Don’t Care.

Digging well into their back catalogue the band embarked upon a selection of cover versions  including Nothing Else Matters, with the audience in fine voice providing the vocals and a perfect rendition of the guitar solo from Perttu Kivilaakso. It was truly a wonder to watch them perform Inquisition Symphony with some of the most breathtaking displays of talent I’ve ever seen as they manage to wrench the thumping riffs out of their instruments. Ending the main set then with a cover of Seek and Destroy which they morphed perfectly into a version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.

For an encore was a performance of Hall of the Mountain King and I cannot explain how amazing it was to hear this version of a track that would plague my youth as I tried unsuccessfully to beat Manic Miner on my old Spectrum. This version is a far cry from the 8-bit version of my youth and perfectly rounds out the evening with the band giving a heartfelt thanks to the crowd. The tour continues across Europe throughout February and March.

Originally posted at https://www.hrhmag.com/2023/02/06/live-review-apocalyptica-epica-at-rock-city-in-nottingham/