By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
It is hard to fathom that the year is almost over. It seems that with each New Year, it ends as quickly as it begins. Matt Martinez and I have been to so many shows, more this than any year we have attended concerts. We saw a lot of amazing acts, from Christian Rock giants Skillet to nu metal icons Korn (twice), and covering the very first Blackest of the Black Festival, created by Glenn Danzig. Most of the shows he and I went to, took place at the Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif., either in the main room or the intimate, Constellation Room. On Saturday, September 16th, we were at it again, once again at the Observatory. It was a night where Gothic metal and symphonic metal came together, to wow the metalheads of the night. Italy’s Lacuna Coil, and Epica, of the Netherlands, have finally made it to Southern California. With Insomnium and Elantris accompanying them, this was one show that could very well be the best one of the year.
First up was Elantris of Lisbon, Ohio. This is a young, six piece, symphonic metal band that is currently looking to get signed. After watching them perform, I have concurred that, record labels on the lookout for new talent should definitely check them out. The band features two lead singers, the soulful Lindsay Ketchum and the beastly Thomas Ullom. Both of them played off each other, like they were Beauty and the Beast of heavy metal, with some fantastic songs like “Diluted,” “Seas of Torment,” and “Captivate” to name a few. Ketchum brought the majestic, while Ullom screamed to the moon with fierce willpower. There were some high-quality neo-classical riffs provided by guitarist Garrett Chetock, bassist John Dobosh, and drummer Erik Liber. Erik’s brother, Mark, was beyond superb on keyboard. He played in the back of the stage due to room limitations on stage, with the other bands’ instruments there, but that did not stop him. He made sure he was heard in the night. Elantris is still young and finding their feet, but if they keep making stellar music, it will not be long til they headline their own show.
Full Elantris slideshow below:
Going in a different direction, Insomnium raged onto the stage. The melodic death metal group from Finland, laid the foundation for some serious headbanging. They brought pain, sorrow, and despair to the masses, and they all rejoiced to the doom, projected from the stage. For a band that is also known to play doom metal, Insomnium is a very energetic band. Bassist/vocalist Niilo Sevänen hollered with passion and tenacity. The room filled with screams and chants, cheering him on for more ferocity. Helping him with melodic side of things was rhythm guitarist Ville Friman, who let us feel his agony with songs like “While We Sleep,” “The Primeval Dark,” and “Change of Heart.” The band went to play three parts of “Winter’s Gate,” and everybody went ape shit for each part. Lead guitarist Markus Vanhala rips it up with authority, shredding the guitarist with such momentum. Add in the kick ass drumming by Markus Hirvonen, the progressive metal artists hit a home run. Doom never looked, nor sounded this cool.
Full Insomnium slideshow below:
Lacuna Coil had escaped the asylum just to play for us OC fans. Donning straightjackets and horror make-up, the crowd longed to go crazy along with the iconic Gothic metal band. Leading the charge was the delirious songstress, Cristina Scabbia and madhouse growler Andrea Ferro. They are one of the best metal singing duos the world has ever witnessed. A majority of their songs came from their Delirium album (one of my 2016 Top 20 picks), which included “Blood, Tears, Dust,” “Ultima Radio,” “Ghost in the Mist,” etc. Scabbia has a way of connecting with fans, understanding the demons we all face, through her song, “My Demons.” When they started to perform “Downfall,” we all turned on the flashlight setting on our phones, and raised them to Heaven, as a tribute to family and friends we lost in our lives. I dedicated my light to my childhood Michael O’Bannan, my aunt Kathy, and my grandparents Carol and Barney McCarthy. Guitarist Diego Cavallotti is the new guy, and watching him shred with perfection is proof that they made the right choice in having him join the roster. After they ended with “The House of Shame,” I would have to say that I have gone insane with awe. I was so happy to finally see Lacuna Coil live. They filled my gothic void.
Full Lacuna Coil slideshow below:
I was ready to end the show with a grand symphony. That was where Epica came in, accommodating the fine sound of symphonic metal. Operatic metal diva Simone Simons is one of those singers, who a person would think belonged in a different field of music all together, with her amazing range. However, she is where she belongs, carrying a high falsetto tone that could belong in the Metropolitan Opera house in New York City. Both she and guitarist/unclean singer Mark Jansen brought the Observatory to life. While armed with hit songs like “Edge of the Blade,” “The Essence of Silence,” and “The Obsessive Devotion,” Epica was the definition of “epic.” I really took pleasure in surveying Isaac Delahaye pull terrific solos out of thin air. Keyboardist Coen Janssen was an artist on the ivory, giving the songs a classical touch, satisfying to a metalhead. His keyboard was on a roller that allowed him to maneuver on both sides of the drum kit, and he sported an arch shaped keyboard the fans loved seeing.
During the performance of “Storm of Sorrow,” we were surprised to see Elize Ryd of Amaranthe join Simons up on stage to help sing. It is obvious that both rock divas have a close bond that we loved to see, especially Matt. Toward the end of “Cry for the Moon,” Ariën van Weesenbeek thrashed out an extravagant solo, that was so good, the band circled around him to take in his magic and support him. That was not the end, Epica came back out for 3 more songs. During “Sancta Terra,” the band mates scattered into the audience, and poured out their talents for the masses to take pleasure of up close. With all of us whipped into a frenzy, Simons and company ended the show with the classic “Cosign to Oblivion.”
Full Epica slideshow below:
I have said this before in other articles I’ve written, but this was a night I would never forget. Each group went to the max to give us metalheads a pleasurable concert. I also got to see my rocker friends Elize, Eddie Veliz of Kyng, Aaron Stechauneron and Miles Baker of Rings of Saturn, Luis Delgado of Trendkill Revolution, and Jose Mangin. It was the best night to be a metalhead. Epica and Lacuna Coil may come from Europe, but whenever they travel to the states, especially Southern California, they are always welcomed. To Epica, Lacuna Coil, Insomnium, and Elantris, I salute you. Horns up!!!
This article and photos are dedicated to the memory of Jaysen Ilharreguy