Amaranthe, I Prevail, Santa Cruz – May 15, 2015, The Palladium, Worcester, MAMonday, 18th May 2015
Determination and persistence are two mainstays in establishing a fervent fan base in North America these days. Bands need to make this territory a priority – no longer content to conduct one touring cycle per album to make a living, as many who move up the ranks need multiple rounds each year to remain top of mind to the consumers. Amaranthe understands this principle – as six months past their opening swing for Within Temptation, they’ve embarked on a headlining tour to deliver more of their hybrid melodic metal.
Starting the day upstairs with a series of local bands at 4pm, it appeared that the original six acts scheduled would be pared down to four – allowing each band an extra 5 minutes in their set if they so choose. The Last King of Milton, NH would go on first to about 50 patrons, a melodic death core band that saw vocalist Eric Zuchowski mill about off stage, getting very much into the face of the audience members and also taking his screams to the bar top in an attempt to move people. Entertainment value for sure, but musically not close to impressive for my ears. Western MA power metal act Thunderforge wowed the patrons with their brand of gallops, harmonies, and the most impressive, soaring range of vocalist Adam Wayne Raphael Morini. Of the four songs they played, “Hold On” and “Sound the Horns” went over tremendously, as guitarists Jules Conroy and Christian Morini took advantage of their wireless set ups to perform in the crowd and upstairs as well. The final act Anaria were well received, a NH symphonic metal band making waves for their addictive brand of songs. They performed a couple of new songs from the recently released new album Seasons of the Mind Volume One: Inception, as well as a heavier cover of the Michael Jackson classic “Beat It”.
Downstairs the national action would begin at 7pm with Finland’s Santa Cruz. The four-piece band straddle the lines of Sunset Strip oriented glam metal and a lot of that grit and texture that makes Scandinavia a hotbed for musicians. Concentrating for the most part on their latest self-titled album for 6 of the 7 tracks, songs like “My Remedy”, “Let Them Burn”, and “We Are the Ones To Fall” possess strong hooks in the vocal and musical department plus killer licks/musicianship to back up the energy given off on stage.
Detroit, Michigan’s I Prevail took the next slot… a six-piece band with two vocalists. Describing their sound is quite easy if you love a mixture of Linkin Park, post hardcore, and emo elements. The wife beater teens and twenty-somethings roared, bounced, moshed, and made lots of karate moves to their music…but I just couldn’t get it. Predictable breakdowns, over use of smoke and strobes, plus unnecessary covers of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” made their 35 minute set seem like it went on for twice as long.
Like clockwork at 9pm Amaranthe hit the stage. Three songs into their set, the band had to stop for a few minutes to settle inner ear monitor issues, but the real struggle all night would be discerning Olof Mörck’s guitar from the bass heavy mix that bounced all through the venue’s walls. Such a shame too, as the six-piece band is supporting Massive Addictive, possibly their biggest record to date in North America – gaining a healthy cross-section of rock and metal fans to their style through the past few years. Acknowledging the fans for their genuine support, the band quickly ran through 19 songs off their three albums – favorites for me including “Trinity”, “1.000.000 Lightyears”, the beautiful ballad “Amaranthine”, and the danceable cyber crushing “Electroheart”. The band would finish their main set in 70 minutes… leaving room for a four song encore including the fine double shot ending of “Drop Dead Cynical” and “The Nexus.”
The numbers could have been a touch bigger in the spacious downstairs ballroom as even the general floor area wasn’t packed to capacity, but the band delivered as if they were playing for thousands. Maybe the third time will be the charm sound-wise if Amaranthe decides to come back to the Palladium on their next touring jaunt. – Matt Coe
After a number of missed opportunites to catch Amaranthe live, and still particularly miffed about not catching their last US run with Within Temptation, it was decided that this time was a can’t miss opportunity. Strolling in from conducting interviews just in time to catch the last three tracks of Thundeforge‘s set, they quickly made an impression. Lots of stage energy (combined with the guitarists stepping off the stage to play throughout the room) and some impressive vocal pipes from Adam Wayne Raphael Morini was a welcome start to the evening’s festivities. The last of the local openers, Anaria only furthered this feeling with their take on symphonic metal. Heavy, with just a smidge of commercial influence that their sound could easily take off with enough exposure, some highlights included “Covet” and of course, their cover of “Beat It.”
Heading downstairs, Santa Cruz kicked things off in admirable fashion. They effectively pull the “fun factor” from the golden years of glam and combine it with a modern sensibility and technical chops. Mostly focused on their latest, self-titled effort, the band’s seven song set included highlights “Bonafide Heroes,” “My Remedy,” and “Wasted & Wounded.” Effectively bringing the “arena experience” in their stage presence, Santa Cruz seems the type of band that is going to put on a great show, whether it’s for 5 people or 5,000. It’s that type of attitude that is sure to bring them further success down the line.
Next up was I Prevail. Using an large amount of lighting and strobes to start things off, it was hard to actually look at them on stage at the start. Despite drawing a decent crowd of enthusiastic fans, the band did nothing to really impress (perhaps we at DR are beginning to show our age). Predictable in every sense of the word, from forced breakdowns to clean/harsh patterns, it’s a tired sound but perhaps Santa Cruz and Amaranthe gained a few fans from them.
Finally Amaranthe took the stage and truly lived up to any and all expectations, despite of some technical issues that disrupted their set and caused them to stop for some impromptu standup comedy courtesy of bassist Johan Andreassen after a strong opening with “Digital World,” “Trinity,” and “Hunger.” Thankfully the band pushed forward and the one-two combo of highlight “Razorblade” (one of this scribe’s favorite cuts) and “1,000,000 Lightyears” saw the band and crowd regain their lost momentum. The three vocalist approach is as effective in the live venue as on recording, with all members of the band being actively involved in some sort with an abundance of stage presence. Elize and Jake have their own personalities that mesh quite well together and session screamer Olle Ekman fit right in to a tee (Henrik is sitting this one out as an expectant parent).
Some other highlights included the three more ballad-esque numbers “True,” “Over and Done,” and “Amaranthine” as well as the danceable “Call Our My Name” and “Electroheart.” The encore finally brought forth the current single “Drop Dead Cynical” (my three year old’s favorite track) and ended things with a bang with “The Nexus.” It’s evident that the band are genuinely enjoying themselves on stage and that feeling is infectious, along with their equally genuine gratitude to their fans. In all honesty, the headlining setlist had every track an Amaranthe fan would want to hear (outside of playing every single song in the discography har har) – it’s practically a greatest hits compilation, which makes this a tour fans can’t afford to miss. Amaranthe is really pushing themselves to succeed in the North America market and it’s only a matter of time before they do so completely. Let’s hope they’ll be back again soon. – Kyle McGinn