Concert Review: The Ultimate Principle Tour, 8.31.2017

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There is a good reason why it took a month to complete any publication on my most recent concert adventure, I promise. September saw endless travel and adventure from one week to the next (including a stretch of living in the woods up in Maine). But when I go back and reflect on everything that happened, I’m going to remember that it was this concert that kicked this blitz of a month off. The last day of August saw me make a familiar journey to Boston’s Royale (familiar, indeed) to capture the opening night of The Ultimate Principle Tour featuring ElantrisInsomnium, Lacuna Coiland headliner Epica. That lineup may sound a bit random, but the relevance of these names is undeniable. So without any doubt, this was a show I didn’t want to miss. Mostly for Insomnium though. Duh.

Doors were scheduled for around 6:00 pm, so I escaped work as soon as I could to get to Boston with enough time to organize my shit. Being the first night of the tour, my hustle was wildly unnecessary (as usual). You never know how the first date will go, but you can pretty much rule out a show starting on time. This held consistent. As the line to get in wrapped around the block, I parked myself by the entrance until I got the nod from security to scoot in, about 45 minutes later. This waiting period wasn’t totally wasteful, however. One of the best things about the Royale is the staff. They take what they do seriously, but they still have fun. Chatting with them and hearing them interact with the crowd made things move along faster. Once inside, and thoroughly stocked up on merch and PBR pounders, I made my way to the front.

I thought this lineup was diverse just given the bands I was familiar with — Lacuna Coil, Epica, and obviously Insomnium. Elantris, who I hadn’t even listened to, furthered that impression. They label themselves as symphonic metal as far as I’m aware (and there was plenty of that), but there was also a heavy dose of metalcore which added another element to the evening. Not my thing musically, but I didn’t hate it either. Given the late start, first date of the tour, opening band, etc, I would have expected and understood some complications. For the most part, however, they sounded pretty tight. Thomas Ullom, the backing vocalist, had to swap his mic out, but otherwise things appeared to run smoothly. Even the set time seemed healthy. The keyboardist didn’t fit on stage though, so they stuck him and all his equipment in the stairwell area behind it. It was a bit comical, but they made it work.

Insomnium had the second slot on the bill, and as I not-so-subtly stated before, this was who I was the most charged up to see. I had seen them twice since Shadows of the Dying Sun dropped, but I still needed to make this show happen. The first time I saw them, they opened for Dark Tranquillity in Worcester. Everything about their set was impressive… except for the fact that the lead mic wasn’t active for almost the entirety of the first track. And when you open with the incredibly epic “The Primeval Dark”/”While We Sleep” (the immense opening to the aforementioned record) that’s just not cool. NOT. COOL. The second time I saw them was also in Worcester, headlining this time. That show was unique for a number of reasons, but a significant portion of the band stayed home (including Niilo), so despite how much I appreciated their ability to roll with the punches, there was still something left to be desired. So, here we are in 2017.

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This time, everything worked out. They greeted us with the same opening tracks, which were as awe-inspiring as ever. The sound was clear and precise, every note and lyric carried perfectly. There’s something special about seeing this band deliver their solemn, melodic death metal in a live setting, and this was the most impressive experienced I’ve had to date. Their performance is more than just a visual and listening event… the energy and emotion in their music just envelopes you. It’s entrancing on all fronts. You simply feel it. The set itself was familiar yet diverse, filled from plenty of Shadows as well as highlights from Above The Weeping World, which was an unexpected but appreciated touch. Obviously they just dropped the massive Winter’s Gate, but I didn’t expect them to fill the set with this single 40 minute piece (which I would have loved). The set was long enough, but while they didn’t play the entirety of it, they did play a solid portion. I have never listened to it broken apart, but I believe they worked through the first four parts or so. These minutes served as my highlight of the evening.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Insomnium is one of my favorite bands going because of their consistency and their live delivery. Album to album, they continue to deliver an exceptional product with just enough deviation from one to another. And the live setting? One of the most powerful musical experience I can remember. It was the set I was most anticipating, and it lived up to expectations in every way. 

But there were still two more bands to go. Don’t let my excitement over Insomnium undersell how much I was looking forward to Lacuna Coil. I had only seen them once — at an Ozzfest right after Karmacode dropped. So it had been awhile. Also, that album was the last I had listened to by the Italians. Obviously I’ve heard some of their singles since then, but that’s been about it. I honestly didn’t expect to recognize most of their set, but I was pleasantly greeted with some households across the spectrum of their discography. Out they came, led by drummer Ryan Blake Folden and eventually Cristina Scabbia. I had to smirk a bit at their chosen look for the evening… channeling their inner Slipknot. Of course I understood the branding of their recently released Delirium, but it was still rather unexpected. Granted, with Behemoth being my favorite live band, I’d be a hypocrite for criticizing excessive theatrics. So, it was cool by me.

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The set was visually stimulating enough, but their sound was even better. I remember seeing them so many years ago and I don’t remember them sounding anywhere near this precise. Instrumentally, everything sounded on point and vocally Cristina sounded as good as ever. Again, expectations aren’t always super high on the first night of a tour (and a delayed start time doesn’t add confidence), but you would have never known the situation given their quality. Their energy was high, as well as their level of interaction with the crowd, and naturally the audience responded with just as much enthusiasm. The whole set made high school me so happy.

Finally, Epica took the stage for their headlining set. The first thing I can say is that they certainly perform to their name. The lighting was insane; beams of light from the floor, the ceiling, behind the musicians… everywhere. It seemed like a lot, but it certainly cast the performers in quite the mesmerizing setting. They had raised platforms for the guitarists and drummer, which the former took full advantage of while wandering the stage. The most amusing of all? The wandering keyboard. AGGRESSIVE. This thing was on a swivel, so Coen Janssen was constantly spinning it to add to his own presence. Furthermore, the damn thing was on a track, so he was literally walking it from one side of the stage to the other. They say imagery is crucial to a successful live show… and this set certainly supported that theory. It was a spectacle to behold, regardless of your opinion on the music.

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Speaking of the music, I’ve always said that a little symphonic metal goes a long way. That remains true. There is no question that this was one of the most, well, epic performances I had ever experienced. But you definitely get your fill after a handful of tracks. Sure, it will always scratch a certain itch, but how many of us listen to one symphonic metal album after another before we get the idea? I will always appreciate the purpose this genre serves and I will always love the energy and power that is inspired by the music, but it can also be a bit much after a certain point. Basically what I’m saying is, this set was incredible in so many ways, but I’m good on symphonic for a little while. Truthfully, I had only listened to 2014’s The Quantum Enigma recently, so I think going into this with a relatively blank slate enhanced my experience. I can’t predict when I’ll pick up another Epica album, but if they were ever to roll through my area again I wouldn’t hesitate about getting in line. Some things are better in person than on record, and this definitely qualifies.

All in all, this show lived up to its billing. The diversity in sounds, from the solemn melodic metal of Insomnium to the lively symphonies of Epica, ensured that there was something for everyone. The crowd was one of the more diverse I had seen at a show, but I could tell that everyone grew to appreciate each set as the bands worked from one track to another. Sure, the bands covered a wide spectrum, but it wasn’t exactly Emperor opening for Babymetal or something. The styles meshed well enough that the unfamiliar became familiar. The venue, the sound, the images, everything about these four sets left a lasting impression for me. It was a lot to absorb and it’s hard to really put into words everything I experienced this evening. Total sensory overload. But I will say that if this show rolls through your town (if it hasn’t already) and you get a chance to check it out, it will definitely give you a memorable evening in one way or another.

Oh, and if you enjoyed the photos I shared above, the full collection can be found on my personal site here.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
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