It’s a long time since I’ve seen a queue as long as the one I was met with tonight, full of visibly excited black clad figures, all eager to enter the venue to witness a masterclass in metal which was inevitably going to happen tonight with the stature and reputation of the headliners and special guests, who were accompanied by a lesser known Moldovan metalcore crew.

This was Lacuna Coil’s show, and this was clearly visible with the amount of shirts displayed in the crowd tonight, although the special guests, Switzerland’s very own folk maniacs Eluveitie, could easily have filled this venue on their own merit, have a healthy representation of shirts in the confines of the Manchester Ritz.

The proceedings were opened by Infected Rain and created a colourful and impactful start with the multicoloured dreadlocks of Elena Cataraga flailing with as much enthusiasm as was exuded by their owner. Serghei Babici and Ozhog flank either end of the stage and they were like a couple of whirling dervishes. Cataraga filled the set with an impressive vocal range, deviating from high-pitched screams to death guttural growls and even an element of clean singing. Within their relatively short set, they injected chugging guitar riffs and melodic death metal, all bolstered by competent work on the drums and bass by Voluta and Vladimir Babici respectively. A competent opener to the triple bill tonight, and a healthy crowd amassed at the merch stand as soon as the last chords from Infected Rain rang out, a true testament to the impressive shift the Moldovans had just put in. Surely big things are on the horizon for this bunch once more exposure has been had.

There had been a constant flow of eager punters at the Eluveitie merch stand and this was only to add to the catalogue of shirts already saturating the crowd and as the lights went down, the air of anticipation erupted into a monstrous roar from the jam packed horde, worshipping at the foot of the stage. As the Celtic Folk warriors strode out onto the stage, the roars got even louder and were only fought into submission when the chords of ‘Ategnatos’ blasted out and Eluveitie launched into a full on attack which saw the entire set crammed with classics, although a heavy focus was on the latest opus Ategnatos, which was then spotted with highlights from the rest of the career. The melodic death metal, tinged with traditional instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes, flutes, violins, whistles and the Celtic harp, to name but a few, was delivered with intensity and ferocity a plenty.

Each band member portrayed their role with passion and force which created a penetrating platform on which they built the party tonight. Glanzmann was the conductor and he strode about the stage with purpose and intent. The set was punctuated with impressive angelic vocals from Ansperger and Erni, all intertwining to create a mesmerising body of work. The set was closed out with the anthemic ‘Inis Mona’ and this saw the whole floor moving in unison. A resounding success and surely Eluveitie need to return to these shores very soon with a headline tour of their own

As the stage was being turned around for the Italian masters of their genre Lacuna Coil, the crowd seemed to thin a little round the edges, although a still, healthy, almost uncomfortably, amassed crowd remained for the headliners. The lights went down and the painted face of Richard Meiz created a rapturous roar from the eager crowd, before Cavalotti, and the impressive stature of Zelati, entered the fray. These entrances only served as a lead up to the arrival of the duel vocal talents of Andrea Ferro, and the angelic, unmistakable Christina Scabbia.

The set opened with ‘Blood, Tears, Dust’ and was powerful and controlling from the start. ‘Trip The Darkness’ followed and then the colossal ‘Our Truth’, spat out with venom and power from every angle. As the set progressed, it was obvious that the evenings structure was built around the latter end of the bands career spectrum. Four from the latest opus, Black Anima, is almost expectant as the tour is on the back of that release, but to only include ‘Heavens A Lie’ and ‘Swamped’ from Comalies (even having to wait until the ‘encore’ for these to be spawned) and ‘Our Truth’ from Karmacode, even totally omitting anything from In A Reverie, Unleashed Memories and Shallow Life is almost criminal.

Towards the end of the ‘main set’ the band seemed to be losing the crowds interest a little, and the set length just seemed to be getting on top of the Italians a little. ‘Enjoy The Silence’ was then released and this seemed to bring the whole venue together into a party atmosphere, with the crowd almost as loud as the band themselves. It does pose the question though, why does it take, as much as the song has been a hit in the Lacuna Coil career, a Depeche mode cover to wake the sleeping crowd on a Lacuna Coil headline tour.

The band then exited and returned with ‘Naughty Christmas’, including sleigh bells and cheesy lyrics a plenty, a touch seasonally premature maybe, although Scabbia et al seemed to be loving the unleashing of this seasonal ‘anthem’. ‘Heavens A Lie’ and ‘Swamped’ followed, and as much as this duo goaded the crowd into a massive frenzy, they did seem to appear a little strained and not as tight or crisp as I’ve seen them played on previous outings. I just wonder if fatigue and lethargy have taken hold of the band at this point in the set.

‘Nothing Stands In Our Way’ concluded the evening and the crowd left the building in somewhat high spirits, I was left pondering, and a massive impression that as much as the vocals of Christina and Andrea were on point, and not faltering throughout, Meiz was an absolute beast behind the kit and Cavalotti and Zelati were pure maestros on the strings, the set list was probably a massive hurdle of the bands own making. Add more ‘classics’ into the equation, mix the song positions up a little and this may have just been a resounding success rather then a stumbling and faltering mediocre performance, with the Italians playing second, ahem, fiddle to the supposedly ‘Support band’

Review and Photos Phil Pountney