Kamelot, Evergrey & Visions Of Atlantis, O2 Academy 2, Birmingham
We've talked about the Birmingham O2 Academy before. It's a venue plagued by endless clubnights meaning early finishes for most of the gigs there. Even in rooms 2 and 3 a 10pm curfew is enforced for Ramshackle or some such student baiting drinkathon. Because of this Birmingham is not always feasible for gigs in weeknights however this was a Friday so with a hotel booked a few minutes away it was and early finish and 2hr drive up to the 'second city' for a night of melodic, symphonic, bombastic metal. We arrived about two hours before the 6pm kick off time so it was over to Subside Bar for a few light ales and to check it out for the Bloodstock Metal Forums Easter Massacre. With Roadcrew on cask and Lilley's Mango on tap I'm sure we can get ourselves nicely pickled come Easter Sunday.
However back to a Friday in March and after a few swift halves (maybe more than a few) we walked over to the venue just as Austrian symphonic metal act Visions Of Atlantis (7) were starting the night off. Formed by drummer Thomas Caser in 2000 the band have had numerous line up changes but Caser is the constant, they like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil have dual male/female vocal interplay. Taking the mic for the ladies is Clémentine Delauney who has been here since 2013 and having seen her perform with Serenity I'm no stranger to her talent, for the guys former Temperance man Michele Guaitoli is the latest addition to the band. VOA are a standard symphonic metal act using the vocal mix to their advantage, the songs bounced along, Guaitoli becoming the MC for claps and chants, in between his harmonies. They were packed a little tightly on the stage but no one seemed to notice as the already filled room were going wild. The pace broke a little for the ballads on which Delauney displayed her impressive range but it was a frothy, dramatic way to begin the evening, getting everyone in the right frame of mind for what was to come.
Probably the odd band out on this bill, it was Swedish prog metal act Evergrey (7) up next. Led by Thomas S Englund they came to the stage with little fanfare and ramped up the volume as the heaviest act on the card. Much of their set came from their most recent album and of I'm honest they were the weakest tracks as it seemed like Englunds voice was struggling though when he played the older material like A Touch Of Blessing and even tracks from the previous release like Distance, there was nothing wrong with his muscular baritone. As I said they were the heaviest band of the night by a mile and as they concluded with epic King Of Errors I couldn't help but think that maybe the new material has yet to settle in. Still the throng of humanity in the small room were at booking point so it was about time for the headliners to take the stage.
Say what you will about the international (but mostly American) symphonic metal act they are certainly a slick unit. Everything from the lighting, to the stage moves was choreographed down to the last detail ensuring that when there was a guitar solo band leader Thomas Youngblood was given all the spotlight, but equally when giving a heartfelt performance on a track like End Of Innocence Tommy Karevik is front and center. It's him you're drawn too, not as theatrical as Roy Khan but a consummate professional with a heck of a voice whether along or with Lauren Hart, who gets probably the highest praise of the evening effortlessly braking both the operatic harmony duets and the harsh roars, most effectively on March Of Mephisto. Kamelot (8) were probably the best I've seen them and with set list that balanced new tracks from Haven and The Shadow Theory with classics from Black Halo (When The Lights Are Down) and Ghost Opera (Rule The World) it was perfect for fans of both periods showing that Kamelot are still very much relevant and also in a league of their own, in terms of their sound. Personally I think the set should have finished (as always) with Forever but as Liar Liar faded out, we went off into the night for a bit more liquid refreshment before retreating to our hotel content with an evening of great music. Next time though it would be nice to see them a bit closer to home.