Fact - Irving Plaza has the worst sound in any NYC venue. I don’t care who has told me so-and-so sounded good once 6 and a half years ago, or if standing in a certain spot is better than such and such. Nope. Every time I see a show there, I am sorely disappointed in how they can mess up the sound of a metal show. The bass is way too incredibly heavy, lead guitars are impossible to hear, and the vocals are buried. And this time around, I was not disappointed in my planned disappointment.
First things first, I was waiting in line with CROMCarl for about an hour and half before doors because I wanted to be up front for Battle Beast...enough time, right? Wrong. They didn’t start letting people in until 15 minutes before they went on, and I was in there just in time to hear the end of their first song “Straight to the Heart” and Carl was just in time to take picture of their set. There were many upset fans who were behind on the line who didn’t get in the show in time to see them at all.
Venue gripes aside, I think Battle Beast is going to be huge. I saw Battle Beast on the 70k Tons of Metal cruise this past year and I was surprisingly moved by their energy and passion. Noora is just the coolest. She is a freaking powerhouse. When you watch her, it’s like you know you are watching something big, and I’m thrilled to be around for their beginnings. This show brought no less of their energy, although the sound was unfortunate. Their set consisted of songs off of Bringer of Pain, and “Black Ninja” from their self-titled. My only gripe was that they didn’t play longer, and that they didn’t switch slots with Delain.
I’m sorry, but Delain is just one of those bands where you wonder how they got off the ground. I know they have a decent-sized loyal fanbase, but I am not one of them. It is truly a struggle to will myself to stand in my very good spot (second row) for Kamelot when Delain played for almost an hour. And of course, the sound did this band no favors. They don’t have a bass player, and even STILL the venue managed to make the bass frequencies overwhelming. They played with decent energy, but Charlotte Wessels is unfortunately a bit of an awkward performer. It kind of matches their tepid mid-tempo music, but I would have enjoyed it more if she didn’t seem as..shy? Performing after Noora definitely, definitely didn’t help.
[Editor Comments: Delain is one of those polarizing bands in the world of metal - you either hate them, or love them...except if you are me. I enjoy Delain much more than I do the band's fanbase, which is the split personality between gleefully teenage like girls on one side and creepy stalker like middle aged men (one right behind me begging Charlotte not to leave the stage). The fact is, the band has some quality tunes and I'm a big fan of the talents of guitarist Timo Somers. Not sure what happened to Otto, but it was weird that the band was short its bass player mainstay (who most famously had a testicular injury on the band's last North American tour). Make no mistake about it, the band has the ability to whip the crowd into a fury and they had Irving Plaza in the palms of their hands. - Carl]
No secret here - I’m a huge Kamelot fan. Chances are if you’ve heard the new Kamelot album The Shadow Theory, you’ve also heard the endless ranting on the vastly opposing opinions of “worst album yet” and “the best since Roy Khan’s departure." While this is absolutely not my favorite release of theirs, and for me, the least enjoyable SINCE Tommy (the greatest singer in metal today - don’t argue with me), my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. There is nothing inherently BAD about the album, but there’s not a single song on the album that really touches me on a soul level. Haven, for me, was my AOTY for 2015 and quickly made its way into my top 10 albums of all time (a little unprecedented, I know). I had very high expectations, as well as I think a lot of their fans did, to deliver an album that was greater or equal than their previous releases. Strangely enough, the “Tommy-haters” seemed to like this album the best out of the Tommtrilogy and overwhelmingly the “Tommy-lovers” liked this album the least.
Anywho, I was quite relieved to only hear three songs from this album out of their 14-song set at this show. They opened predictably with “Phantom Divine” with a guest appearance by the amazing Lauren Hart of Once Human. Her presence turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the show - not only with her powerful voice, but her warm personality and love of what she was doing was shining through. Next up was “Rule the World”, which Tommy navigated masterfully Roy-like, and I think was well-placed after one of the new tracks. After “Insomnia”, they played “The Great Pandemonium”, which I think is the weakest Kamelot single ever released, and I know I’m not alone here. I’m assuming it’s just to represent an album (which not many people loved) - but if that’s the case, what happened to representing Epica - a VERY-loved album? I know of course bands must change up a setlist to accommodate a new album, but it was totally disappointing that they got rid of “Center of the Universe” and “Karma” from their rotation. “When The Lights Are Down” was a welcome surprise after not hearing it in a set for many years, but after that were almost only Tommy-era songs.
As I said before, I love Haven, and was happy to see it heavily represented with “End of Innocence”, “Veil of Elysium”, and “Here’s to the Fall”. The Shadow Theory’s “Ravenlight” and “Amnesiac”, I must say, were very enjoyable and seem to be much better performed live. “March of Mephisto” was predictable, and is another one of those songs that could have been replaced with something better. However, I think one of the main reasons for this song is if they continue to invite a guest artist on tour with them, they need to play a few “female growler” songs to make it worth their time, and that’s what they did. The only classic (not Black Halo) song they played was “Forever” BEFORE their odd choice of an encore - “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)”. Don’t get me wrong - “Liar Liar” is one of my absolute favorite Kamelot songs and was thrilled to hear it as an encore, but even I thought it to be a strange one. On top of that, they played the even stranger video-edit version of the song, which sounds like a version you’d get off of a 90s HitClips. Kamelot, please, I beg of you, I love “Liar Liar”, but play the whole damn thing.
Overall, I actually loved their performance and it is always a thrill - especially after not having seen them in a couple years. My disappointment in the setlist didn’t distract my enjoyment in the moment, as Kamelot always gives solid high-energy performances. Much to my pleasant surprise, Alex Landenburg, drummer of LT’s Rhapsody and overall good guy played with them for this date and the remainder of the tour due to Johan Nunez having leg issues. CROMCarl and I had a little chat with him before the show, and when asked if he was prepared to play the show he said - “We’ll see”. Well, he could have fooled us because he absolutely nailed it. Honestly though, when is Landenburg not impressive?