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Hailing from Alicante, innovative Spanish metallers Nahemah open up the night at 7:15pm, the first of a trio of bands forming a particularly strong bill. I caught Nahemah in action once before, at the 2007 ProgPower Europe fest, where they played a rather awesome hour long set. Tonight, in the 800 capacity Islington Academy (which is under half full when they take to the stage), they shine once more. With their songs characterised by a melancholic, dark vibe, post-rock/metal based passages are mixed up with prog and extreme metal elements, although the experimental essence of their material seems a little lost on Amorphis' audience of which ninety five per cent remain static throughout the band's half hour set. Frontman Pablo Egido's half-hearted, occasional attempts to involve the crowd inspires only minimal movement from those who watch as no more than two or three people clap along for only a few seconds when he prompts them to do so. A shame really as I recall Egido far more efficacious with his audience interactions in Holland four years ago. Nahemah have a good, but not great, sound through the PA and, at times, Egido's vocals, particularly his death growls, sound somewhat disjointed from the rest of the music, so the overall mix is far from flawless. Generally though, the innovative soundscapes created by these Spaniards are still thoroughly absorbing and awash with emotion, although I can't help but feel a mere half an hour is not enough time for those present to also become absorbed in their music. Slightly flawed sound-wise but a great performance albeit an indifferent crowd reaction.
Sunday 27th November 2011
Islington Academy in London, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Last seen in the UK as Ihsahn's backing musicians at Bloodstock Open Air three and a half months ago, Leprous previously entertained Therion's audience at Shepherd's Bush Empire as a band in their own right just over a year ago. With a new release under their belts since then, the truly amazing, absolutely flawless gem of genuinely progressive metal, 'Bilateral', here they are again as main support on Amorphis' 2011 autumn tour. And they commence their forty minute set at 8:00pm with a track from said album, 'Thorn', followed by another, 'Restless'. Apart from the third song, 'Passing', Leprous draw solely from 'Bilateral' tonight. It would've been great to hear more of the 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' tracks but with only a relatively short time on stage, and with such a strong new album to their name, a heavy dose of 'Bilateral' material was, perhaps, a given. So we're also treated to airings of the down-tempo 'Mb. Indifferentia', 'Waste of Air' - the band's heaviest song to date with extreme metal elements balanced out with some crazy synth sounds and an ambitious mid-song vocal line, and the lengthy 10+ minute set closer 'Forced Entry'. As expected for musicians of the calibre of those in Leprous, the new songs are executed flawlessly in the Islington Academy this evening and, unlike Nahemah, the band are blessed with an amazing sound through the PA. Guitarist Řystein Landsverk is noticeably absent tonight, as I gather he has been from the last few shows, but stand-in guitarist Jonas Kiste does a mightily fine job filling in (as I understand he did for other guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhrke who was unable to participate during the first part of the tour). Leprous seem to be flourishing as a live act and convey an even more energetic vibe through their performance than on the previous two occasions I've seen them. Frontman Einar Solberg, while incessantly dynamic behind his synths, takes centre stage more than before - I guess various passages of music in the new material has afforded him the opportunity to do so, such as when he grabs a microphone to growl his way around the stage during 'Waste of Air'. Leprous are rewarded for their onstage energy with a far better crowd reaction than Nahemah and deservedly so. It's surely only a matter of time before they return here as headliners.
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At the climax of the first leg of 'The Beginning of Times' European tour, Amorphis find themselves in London for what is a sole UK show for the Finns. It took them, rather inexplicably, nearly two decades to reach these shores for their debut performance at the Camden Underworld in 2009 but, since breaking their UK gig virginity, have returned each year. And justifiably so as, by the time they hit the stage at 9:15pm, the Islington Academy is filled with their eager fans - not sold out by any means but at least three quarters full. Appearing to a rapturous reception from a crowd of avid devotees, Amorphis commence attack with a couple of new album tracks, 'Song of the Sage' and 'My Enemy', before dipping into 'Eclipse' for 'The Smoke' (or 'Smoke Spliff' as it's amusingly written on their setlist!). With the majority of band members opting for a generally laid-back, though commanding, stage presence, it's left to Tomi Joutsen to exert bursts of energy throughout and, at this, he excels in his frontman role. Surely a man in possession of the longest dreads in metal, in-between singing and growling into his customised microphone (complete with rather unique mic stand), he interacts well with the audience by encouraging clap-alongs, sing-alongs and is generally animated for the whole hour and a half of Amorphis' performance. The crowd reciprocate with Joutsen's sustained dynamism as fists pump the air and bodies jump up and down, perhaps more vigorously for the heavier, earlier material played such as 'Vulgar Necrolatry' and 'Into Hiding'. All in all, there's a very amiable atmosphere in the venue and a communally convivial buzz amongst the audience as classic tune after classic tune, along with four new album tracks, is greeted with the same display of elation. 'Alone' sounds particularly awesome this evening, as does 'Skyforger' number 'Sky is Mine'. In fact, every single bar of music exhibits emotionally charged sonic awesomeness, aided as the band are by a near-perfect sound and mix. 'Black Winter Day' wraps up the pre-encore set before the perennial gig formality of exiting/re-appearing to end the night with 'Silver Bride', 'My Kantele' - for which an electric sitar is brought out by a roadie for Esa Holopainen to play the opening of the song's outro (I'm guessing a kantele itself wouldn't have been practical in a live context), and 'House of Sleep' that sees the audience erupt one last time in a mutual sing-along en masse. It seems people can't get enough of Amorphis in the UK which fares well for the future in terms of further shows over here. With performances as impressive as tonight's, I for one am already looking forward to their return.
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