REVIEW: EPICA Brings the Curtain Down on “The Ultimate Principle”

My two favorite nights to catch a tour are opening night, when the bands are fresh and ready to go, and closing night, when there’s nothing to save for tomorrow. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of my favorite bands on opening night – Nightwish x2, EPICA, and The Struts, and I’ve also been lucky enough to see closing night a couple times with Gojira and now EPICA and Lacuna Coil. Opening night is fun because it’s the start of a sometimes months-long journey and your favorite band’s singer’s voice is still perfect, but there’s something magical about the last night of a tour that you’ll never get at the beginning or anywhere in the middle. The bands have nothing to lose and can pull out all the stops and do things they maybe wouldn’t have done a week into a two-month tour.

That was the case at Playstation Theater here in NYC on closing night of EPICA’s Ultimate Principle tour with Italian goth metallers Lacuna Coil, where the tour’s end meant “guest appearances” for each band’s set – Simone Simons coming out to sing with Cristina Scabbia on one of Lacuna Coil’s tunes, and Scabbia joining EPICA during Storm the Sorrow later in the night – and EPICA’s “wall of death” during the tour’s final song, Consign to Oblivion, where members of the band’s crew came out on stage for the sole purpose of moshing along with the crowd.

I picked a hell of a time to see Lacuna Coil for the first time, on the last night of a tour as direct support for another band after missing their headline run last year, so that meant a shorter set than what they would play on their own tour. That’s an automatic disappointment, because while there is no setlist available at the time of this writing, I know they did not play a few of the tunes I’m a familiar with and like. It’s fair to say that I went through a Lacuna Coil “phase” 12 or so years ago when I first got into Nightwish and other European metal bands, but I’ve really stopped listening to them over the last few years as I found other bands from that side of the world that I like better, and Lacuna Coil just kind of faded away for me. Still, an opportunity to see them live and see EPICA for the third time was not one I was going to pass up.

Really, Lacuna Coil only played two songs I know well – Heaven’s A Lie and Spellbound – which meant not hearing ColdSenzafineUnchained or Reverie, and while I can’t find a setlist, that won’t stop me from saying the songs Lacuna Coil did play were so good that I’m going to have to start listening to them again so I can figure out what they played. I’ve been missing out the last few years, as Cristina ScabbiaAndrea Ferro and the rest the band are absolutely phenomenal live and if they were touring with anyone but EPICA they would have stolen the show. Check out the photo gallery from Lacuna Coil’s set below.

Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil at Playstation Theater

For EPICA’s part, they had 14 songs ready to go for us – 15 if you count the instrumental Eidola that blasted through the venue before the band came out to kick off the final night of their month-long run with Edge of the Blade as they have been doing since The Holographic Principle was released last year. As I mentioned earlier, this was my third EPICA show after seeing them twice in 2016, once on opening night of the North American Enigma tour and again the night before closing night of the North American Principle tour, and for EPICA to be back on this side of the world for a third tour in 18 months speaks volumes to how much success they’ve had with their last two runs after not touring North America for a few years.

What’s there to say about EPICA that I haven’t said the first two times I wrote about their live performances or any of the album reviews I’ve authored? Simone Simons never falters on stage and is even more brilliant live than she is on any studio track, while Mark JansenCoen Jansen and the rest of the band create the symphonic metal that makes EPICA, well, epic. There was a time where this band may never have existed if not for the dissolution of After Forever, in which Mark Jansen was the guitarist to Floor Jansen’s vocals. The former Jansen left in 2002 to form EPICA, and as a massive Nightwish fan I will tell you that Floor Jansen is the best thing to happen to that band in a decade, but if the latter Jansen joining Nightwish was amazing, Mark Jansen replacing Helena Michaelson with his then-girlfriend Simone Simons and renaming the band EPICA (from Sahara Dust) is even better.

I won’t go through the entire setlist, I’ll leave that at the bottom, but I will say that the one new track from the newly-released EP The Solace SystemWheel of Destiny, was absolutely unbelievable live. I haven’t heard The Solace System yet, I purposely skipped over it so that I would be surprised on show night, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the one tune they did play from it, though I had hoped for more on the last night of the tour. So goes life, however, and to quote another photographer, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”, so I won’t get upset and will instead focus on the crazy encore that featured Coen Janssen leading a keyboard score of what sounded a little like Queen’sWe Will Rock You“, thanking the other bands on the tour (Elantris and Insomnium) as well as EPICA’s entire crew before the band brought the curtain down on The Ultimate Principle with Sancta TerraBeyond the Matrix and Consign to Oblivion.

Hugs, cheers, horns up from the crowd, goodbyes and one big group photo with the band, crew and members of the rest of the tour including Lacuna Coil, and The Ultimate Principle had reached its conclusion. EPICA catches a flight back to Netherlands to presumably unwind and plot their next tour, and I can only hope it brings them back to this side of the world sooner rather than later. For the third time in less than two years, EPICA has managed to leave me speechless, only this time they were also able to pour everything they had into one last night on the road. I’ve seen a lot of bands near the end of a tour, and you can tell when a band has nothing left and is just going through the motions. For EPICA, this could have been the first night of the tour, as they still had all the energy of band just kicking off a long run, and they were still having fun out there. That’s what really makes closing night special.

Check out the photo gallery and setlist below.

Simone Simons & Isaac Delahaye of EPICA close out The Ultimate Principle tour at Playstation Theater in NYC

EPICA setlist:

Edge of the Blade

Unleashed

Wheel of Destiny

The Essence of Silence

Ascension – Dream State Armageddon

Dancing in a Hurricane

Victims of Contingency

Storm the Sorrow

Reverence

Unchain Utopia

Cry for the Moon

Encore:

Sancta Terra

Beyond the Matrix

Consign to Oblivion

 

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