Xandria_Webflyer_800x600Due to a bit of a shifty on the running times I only caught a couple of numbers of first band Apparition. I have to admit that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They were quite a soothing experience at first, nothing too forced as they mixed a gothic and folk etched sounding slant on things. The singer who apparently is a guest from the USA Grace Meridan had a lilting voice as I started getting acclimatised the song finished. It was rammed already in here and the crowd seemed like they were enjoying themselves as the band started playing the next one ‘Beyond The Wrath Of Ra.’ They upped the pace a bit with the drummer giving it all a good work-out but it quickly went on to the lethargic side of things after the thrashy and bombastic start and I found that the spark had quickly been lost here and this was incredibly average fare. For a warm up band they were hardly delivering the much needed invigorating charge and I found them too soporific for comfort and the vocals were drifting far too off key for comfort.  As someone said after their spot “there were just two real problems with the vocals, one the singer couldn’t hold a note and two she tried! Ouch but it was unfortunately a fair judgement.

No such problems for Stream Of Passion who were highly charged and sounded fantastic the second they burst into new song ‘Monster.’ The huge bass swagger and jumping around dynamics of dreadlocked player Johan were great to hear and watch and the band’s sound hit like a fist tearing through the venue. It was like a storm had been unleashed and this was before singer Marcela Bovio had even graced the stage. When she did starting gently and building to a powerful anthemic stadium roof raising pitch it was enough to floor us. I could completely understand why everyone was locked in tight at the front not wanting to give up position. It made it tricky taking photos but luckily a bit of space was gained due to a leak in the roof, hell it was worth getting wet for a few shots. Despite the fact that this and title track of recent album A War Of Our Own are brand new it did not seem like anyone here was unfamiliar with them. I have lived with the album plenty since it arrived for review and would have grabbed it on disc tonight but thought £15 was a bit on the steep side. Slight disappointment at that aside the words sublime, breath-taking, gorgeous and above all passionate were hastily scribbled down as the full flow of this performance hit.

All three bands here were off the next day to Dames Of Darkness festival in Bilston and it seemed when asked many were taking the journey to Wolverhampton to make a weekend of it. The new songs such as ‘The Curse’ with its head banging fervour were already tightly honed for the live show but thankfully for those that wanted to dip back in time and had not heard them yet there were a few solid oldies such as ‘Passion’ from ‘Embrace The Storm’ which had the clap happy crowd chanting along and pumping fists in the air.  Everything was delivered with precision and poise and the band were obviously loving their fourth London show as much as the rest of us, many I am sure who had been at the others like myself. It’s not often that you would catch me singing praises of a Radiohead song but the cover of ‘Street Spirit’ seemed to be an expected part of the show as far as the audience were concerned and everyone was joining in as the band totally made the number their own. Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end and they only had an all too brief eight numbers to play (Exile sadly scrubbed off the set list). Finishing with ‘This Endless Night’ we wished as far as Stream Of Passion were concerned it had been but the show had to finish. The band took a bow and left me feeling a bit dizzy; surely next time they can only be back as headliners.

But that task fell to Xandria tonight and after a prompt change around it was time for jostling for position at the front again. I admit this was my first live encounter with the band and I had got a good insight into what had been going on with the making of the new album prior to the show thanks to an interview with main composer Marco Heubaum (which will be posted here soon). It was most of the audience’s first encounter with new bassist Steven Wussow and singer Dianne van Giersbergen too.  ‘Nightfall’ from brand new album ‘Sacrificium’ was completely the song for the band to come onto and it saw them burst into life dramatically with its bombastic and powerful punch which had the audience immediately thrusting fists in the air to its huge and austere sound. The operatics leapt out and despite just a few gigs behind the new line up and an all new song I fail to see how it could have sounded or got a better reaction. Dipping back into Neverworld’s End (an album I am going to have to pick up) ‘Blood On My Hands’ proves that despite not having sung on it the new singer has firmly replaced her predecessor Manuela Kraller and proved that  her sudden departure means things have all worked out for the best. ‘Until The End’ had graceful flowing solos and the sampled choral parts flying to the heavens and ‘Forevemore’ may have been more of a ballad but it enchanted and dazed us as it took us off to fantasy land.  Suddenly this one charged into life and got the European festival hey, hey, hey chant out the audience who pumped fists in the air as though lives depended on it.

After the ‘Euphoria’ it was time for the monstrously epic ‘Sacrificium’ as Dianne quite rightly told us, you can’t have an album release show without its title track. I guess that was an album that was flying off the merch table after this faultlessly played 10 minute number of symphonic might and majesty. Even though sampled the presence of the PA’Dam choir was phenomenal and helped boost the performance into the stratosphere. Grabbing a much needed pint and finding a bit of space I attempted  to watch from the side lines and avoid doing so through someone else’s camera phone and revelled as we went into a burst of boys own Maiden solo worship on ‘Stardust.’ This one with its catchy chorus already seemed to be a firm favourite, I guess fans of these bands don’t hang about at all when it comes to hearing new material. ‘Cursed’ twisted and turned in a sultry and heady way and I have to admit I was here and at other times reminded quite strongly of Leaves Eyes. Can’t say that is a bad thing in the slightest and guess it is kind of inevitable too. The Celtic sounds of ‘The Undiscovered Land’ hit the mark and added a bit of mystery to things. With Dianne having a solo spot as  such she proved completely captivating and lush. By comparison ‘Soul Crusher’ did exactly as described and literally gave us a full on thrashing. We were informed it was the tenth anniversary of the ‘Ravenheart’ album and no doubt many were really pleased to hear the title track from this, I can’t compare the versions but liked what I heard and with another new one ‘Dreamkeeper’ consolidating the strength and power of the new material it seemed a fitting time for the band to take an encore break and wrap up a night of epic symphonic metal in fine style.

(Review and photos © Pete Woods)