When After Forever announced their permanent disbandment just over two years ago, it was a sad day for the metal fraternity the world over. However, just eight months later, towards the end of 2009, said band's frontwoman Floor Jansen announced her return to the scene with new project ReVamp, a studio based collaboration with Waldemar Sorychta and ex-bandmate Joost van den Broek. Following the release of an eponymously titled debut album the middle of last year, Floor assembled a live lineup (excluding Sorychta and Broek) and took to the road once again. Over in the UK to support labelmates and fellow countrymen Epica on their 2011 tour, it's the first opportunity us Brits have had to sample ReVamp in action. With a stage time of 6:45pm, being the sole support act with a 45 minute slot, it's rather inexplicably early for a Friday night although when Floor and co take to the stage during a piece of intro music, the crowd erupts into a fever of deafening cheers and flailing arms, and time becomes insignificant. Opening in up tempo, bombastic fashion, 'Here's My Hell' is first up which epitomises ReVamp's symphonically grandiose metal attack. Floor exercises her wide ranging, powerful voice, note perfect from the off, verging into operatic sonance when the song requires such a style, and windmills centre stage when guitarist Otto Jord takes to the mic for some death grunts. What's most impressive is how together and tight ReVamp are for what is effectively a band in the very early stages of their career, and there's no sense at all that we're witnessing Floor Jansen with an assemblage of session players; rather ReVamp are very much a band, and a pretty fucking amazing one at that. Their three quarters of an hour on stage passes by in no time at all, although with eleven of the fourteen album tracks aired (including special edition bonus track 'No Honey for the Damned') they maximise their slot to the full. Floor is discernibly happy to be back in live action, grinning sincerely at the audience between songs, looking genuinely delighted with the rapturous audience reactions. And it's a glowing reception well deserved for ReVamp are stunning this evening. A mightily tough act for Epica to follow.
Friday 11th March 2011
Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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It's a strange phenomenon in the UK where the majority of audiences for female fronted metal bands are dichotomised between middle-aged men and teenage girls. Such is the case in Nottingham tonight, and with the Rescue Rooms falling short of a 450 capacity crowd by only around 60 tickets, it seems Epica's popularity has grown significantly since their last headline shows on these shores nearly six years ago when, also in Nottingham, they only managed to attract an audience of little over 200 in Rock City's basement room. Band members appear onstage to the intro piece from 2009 album, their latest to date, 'Design Your Universe', 'Samadhi (Prelude)', and are greeted with loud cheers, although when frontwoman Simone Simons appears, punters crammed into the hot and sweaty confines of the Rescue Rooms become noticeably more vociferous. Commencing with a song from the 'A New Age Dawns' conceptual suite, 'Resign to Surrender', Epica, quite frankly, sound terrible. A bass-heavy mix seems to dampen any bite the guitars otherwise might have; drums come across as a weak, cacophonic mess; while orchestral backing tracks and keyboards sound entirely disjointed in the overall sound. Worse still, Simons' vocals are weak and ineffectual, so it's somewhat of a lacklustre opening for the Dutch symphonic metallers. 'Sensorium' from debut album 'The Phantom Agony' is aired next but the sound problems inexcusably persist throughout the track - I say inexcusably because we're now talking 10 minutes of music whereby the band's sound engineer should really have rectified the sonic mess that fills the venue. Matters improve slightly for 'The Last Crusade' but it's not until fourth track 'Unleashed' that Epica have a vaguely acceptable sound, albeit still far from perfect. Interestingly, though, Simons' vocals remain weak throughout the entire set - contraposed as they have been against Floor Jansen's powerful delivery earlier in the evening, this is made more emphatic. Sounding somewhat languid, her voice seems to struggle against the force of the bombastic, multi-layered instrumentation to which she sings. Either that or vocals are, more simply, too low in the mix, but Mark Jansen's death growls seem to be at the right level. Still, a large number of people in the Rescue Rooms are either oblivious to, or simply not bothered by, the inferior sound tonight as many can be seen to ardently digest each and every song with generally enthusiastic reactions. And, more importantly, at least Epica look like they're having fun onstage (perhaps all sounds great through the monitors?) A set with few surprises, mainly biased towards their past two albums, it's refreshing to witness Floor Jansen return to the stage for first encore song 'Sancta Terra' to lend a bit of vocal punch that has been missing since Epica took to the stage, and her duet with Simons further highlights the Epica singer's deficiencies in the live environment. Wrapping up their set with 'Quietus' and the lengthy 'Consign to Oblivion', lights in the venue eventually go up as Epica exit the stage. Average and underwhelming would appositely describe their long-awaited return to Nottingham which has not been aided by the aforementioned sound issues. Perhaps I would be able to say above average had they not been comparatively overshadowed, and blown off the stage, by the might of ReVamp, for the night most certainly belongs to Floor Jansen and co. (who were blessed with a great sound through the PA).
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