I enter the Ritz to a half empty floor and hoped that the crowd would swell in order to show Epica the support they rightly deserve.
Oceans Of Slumber opened up the night and had a sleek and limited set to try and impress the assembled few, and on the back of the last time I saw them at Damnation Festival, I was keen to witness their art again.

They came onto the stage awash with intermittent solid blue and red lights, but the sound desk didn’t do them any favours tonight. The sound was way too muddy, and the mix was completely left field. The whole mix sounded plodding and the band was static in their stage demeanour.

Cammie Gilbert commanded the stage, but her attempts to conduct the crowd fell a little flat, as the sound completely washed over her, and I felt that the band lost the majority of the crowd by the time the final chords rang out on their short time on stage.

Next up was Myrkur and I would say that, controversially, they had the biggest crowd of the night. The mike stand was positioned stage central. It was adorned with creepers and flowering plants, and stood alongside an enlightened Danish flag, which set the mood way before Myrkur even set foot into the throng. When they finally did appear, Amalie Bruun was flanked either side by 2 hooded figures adorned with their axes, and she stood like a symbol of an angel, draped in a white gown. The whole set was mystical in its appearance and the sound was decidedly a lot better for these Danes than their predecessors. Myrkur seemed to be in their own world, trance like in their movements, and it almost felt a privilege to be able to gain a glimpse through the Myrkur door.

Myrkur’s set was made up of 8 songs, and the band seemed to step it up a gear and find a different level of energy when ‘Måneblôt’ kicked in, which saw Amalie Bruum start the proceedings with a demonical, blackened scream, which any frost bitten Norwegian band would be proud of. The track continued to develop into an all-out black metal assault, Myrkur style. Myrkur then closed the set off with ‘Villemann Og Magnhild’, a drum laden traditional folklore song about trolls, which was eerie in its deliverance and truly exhibited Bruuns vocal abilities. With just Bruun, a hand drum and the drummer entertaining the masses, this was a perfectly mesmerising ending to a more than accomplished set.

Time for a quick change round on stage before Epica, and glimpses of the holographic universes album artwork started to emerge, adorned on various stage props and the drum kit, which is raised and central in its location. Motorised Fans are also strategically placed on stage, as well as intermittent steps for the band to stand on to give further height to their stature.

The band then made their way onto stage to rapturous applause, with Simone entering to the biggest cheer of them all, and they launched into their set like rabid dogs. They were bathed in crystal white lights which highlighted each member of the band perfectly, and the band were on absolute clinical form tonight. They opened the set with ‘Edge Of The Blade’ and ran through the rest of the set very much concentrating on the ‘Holographic Principle’. Each track was delivered with precision and vigour which was refreshing given its nearing the end of the tour. While they entertained us with only an individual song from 4 of their back catalogue, as well as a duo from a further 2 albums each, the classics they do throw into the mix are fan favourites. To my personal tastes, there were major players omitted from the set tonight, it would have been nice to witness ‘Unleashed’, ‘Feint’ and ‘Chasing The Dragon’, but it was excellent to bear witness to ‘Sensorium’, ‘Storm The Sorrow’ and ‘Cry For The Moon’. From where I was stood, it did come across that they were trying just too hard during ‘Cry For The Moon’, and the sound became distorted and slightly painful at times, although reports from elsewhere in the venue couldn’t falter the rendition, so I guess I must have just been unlucky. The band then exited post ‘Once Upon A Nightmare’ and shortly returned for the obvious and expected encore, which they opened with a powerful and beautiful rendition of ‘Sancta Terra’. The whole venue then bounced, and the energy on show was powerful during the almost party anthemic ‘Beyond The Matrix’. The whole place was absolutely buzzing and they then closed tonight’s frivolities with a mesmerising ‘Consign To Oblivion’.

The venue was a little over ¾ full tonight, which is a shame, because all the stay at home moshers had well and truly missed a good time tonight

Review and photos Phil Pountney