Nice to see a rather stout contingent interested in Insomnium too. Given their surroundings, the Finns opted to showcase (as can best be done in the allotted twenty minutes or so) the melodic death metal nature of their repertoire. 'Down With The Sun' saw non-stop headbanging from the gruff throated, dual guitar quartet, the six-stringer both exhibiting the patented Alexi Laiho (COB) Finnish guitar god poses: hunched over, legs splayed, playing a guitar held vertically aloft. Only the 'One For Sorrow' finale approached the slower/heavier material. Afterwards, as their countrymen are want to do, the Finns could be found at the bar, double-fisting beers provided by fans and the booking agent.
Alestorm, the Scottish pirates led by keytar playing singer Chris Bowes, opened with 'The Sunk'n Norwegian', a pair of scrims depicted the old (80s) "home taping is killing music" symbols of a cassette tape and crossed bones on either side. Twice he tried to refer to themselves as being from the South, first Birmingham, Alabama, then Little Rock, Arkansas. Not sure what's up with that, apart from his wacky sense of (inside) humor. In addition to Bowes, they also brought a full time synth player with them, from whom Bowes pilfered a beer, right from the start. 'Keelhauled' and 'Nancy The Tavern Wench' followed, the later featuring a guest acoustic guitar stint, courtesy of one of the guys in Blackguard. The frizzy haired frontman wore red straight leg jeans and a black, Kraken spiced rum promotional T-shirt (dovetailing two of their songs). He introduced 'Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid' as "Our next song is very long, very boring and about squid." Well, if that's how you feel Chris, you have much more lively numbers from which to choose. Witness the sing-song keyboards that begin 'Shipwrecked', which followed. The crowd wasn't really moshing, more like skipping around, almost hand-in-hand! They ended with 'Rum', Bowes putting down his keytar, jumping into the photo pit and then into the crowd, for a short surf, before returning to the stage for a triumphant finale.
Five weeks earlier, Epica headlined ProgPower USA, in Atlanta, GA, with a slightly longer, but essentially the same set (minor alterations in running order). Simone Simons bounded onstage to 'Monopoly On Truth' (a number I'd spoken to guitarist/founder/Simons' ex Mark Jansen earlier in the evening) in an asymmetrical cut, off the left shoulder, dress with black leather pants underneath. 'Unleashed' was lit in blue and prior to 'Martyr Of The Free World' the raven haired beauty informed the audience that "We had a day off and saw a lot of Philly. We like it." A giant flower ring nearly obscured her face, from photographers' close-ups. The song was lit with pink and white, streaks of blue from behind, as Jansen (who provides death metal growls in counterpart to Simons angelic voice) made a rare move to the opposite side of the stage. He still handles some of the stage banter as well. Some misguided kids slam danced. Truth be told, at times, apart from Simons, this could have been Jansen's alter-ego MAYAN. It was heavy enough. In purple, white lights all around ,the fem-metal singer is joined by Coen Janssen at the front of the stage, the keyboardist imploring the crowd. 'Cry Of The Moon' sees brilliant orange and reds overtake the stage, Simons getting the crowd to sing along to the "forever and ever" chorus. Green highlighted 'Sancta Terra' has Mark and former GOD DETHRONED guitarist Issac Delahaye standing atop stage front risers/lightboxes. It's followed by 'The Phantom Agony', which closes the proper set. "Next song is from an album from ten years ago. That's a reason to party. Are you ready to party," asks Simone, with a flash of the horns. Multi-colored lights onstage, it breaks into an almost disco presentation, as Jansen bounces, Simons squeals and everyone else pinwheels their hair. The sepia lit and lively 'Storm The Sorrow' sees the band back onstage, ultimately closing with the requisite 'Consign To Oblivion'. A full range of emotions, onstage and in the crowd.