Review by Paddy Gallagher for MPM
A midweek gig in dear old Dublin, a near 4-hour drive both ways and work the next morning: but worth it! This gig was another victim of the pandemic, this being the rearranged date that now clashed with another rearranged date, Black Crowes at 3 Arena.
I had a fear all things combined would have led to a smaller than expected attendance. No fear, Opium was pleasantly packed for Evergrey taking the stage.
First up was a relatively new find to me, Virtual Symmetry from Switzerland. Now having just released the third studio album of their career, combined with two live albums and an EP, they make a damn fine slab of Melodic Progressive Metal in the vein of Dream Theater, DGM, Kingcrow and Threshold.
Marco Pastorino has a fine voice and stage presence squeezed in as he was tonight on the equipment laden stage between Alessandro Poppale on Bass and the left-handed Valerio Villa on guitar. Considering myself to be usually on the ball with exploring new bands, I wasn’t expecting to make a new personal discovery, but how I missed these lads until now provided me with an exciting find of the year for 2022.
Being the opening band of a three-band bill limited their set to roughly 30mins, but it was simply put, superb! Top notch musicianship and the songs to match! Seriously worth checking out folks and deserve to go far, and while the bands mentioned above are an obvious influence, Virtual Symmetry stamp their own sound into their music and are not by any means yet another DT worship fest. https://www.virtualsymmetry.com
Middle band on the bill and main support, therefore getting about 45mins on stage were France’s Fractal Universe. Their music is in the Progressive Death Metal genre drawing comparisons to Cynic, Gojira, Obscura.
Complex, technical music but at the same time the lads on stage seemed to be enjoying themselves through the concentration, with the introduction of the saxophone by Vince Wilquin amid his fretboard journeys and vocal duties showing their openness to progress their sound and providing Vince with the excuse to go walk about through the crowd with his sax.
While at the opposite end of the progressive spectrum from the melodic approach of the other bands on the bill tonight, these guys fully deserve recognition of their craft and musicianship. https://www.fractaluniverseband.com
Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden but not playing the Melodic Death Metal favoured by a significant number of their townies, 13 albums into a career spanning 27 years, Evergrey to my mind are every bit as deserving of being included in the same breath as Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Symphony X. The consistency and frequency of their song writing and output over the years, two studio albums and a live album during the pandemic times, they have a wealth of material for the Progressive Metal afficionado to immerse themselves in.
Playing for 90mins they arrive on stage bathed in dry ice and launch into “Save Us” from their superb new album “A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament”, all fists pumping the air and the refrain of the chant along “Oi!” getting the set off to a flying start.
We then head back 3 years to “The Atlantic” album for “Weightless” which grooves from the speakers. Watching the guitar interplay between Tom Englund and Henrik Danhage was transfixing with Johan Neimann holding down the low end impeccably. Also critical to Evergrey’s sound is the thunderous drumming of Jonas Ekdahl and the keyboards of Rikard Zander.
All in, if you think Evergrey are good in the studio, they blow you away live. The thunder from the drums and the riffage giving a hint to their hinterland.
Material from 7 albums is included in the set with a natural leaning towards the later releases with 4 from “A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament” and 3 from “Escape of the Phoenix”. “The Atlantic” and “The Strom Within” supply 2 songs apiece, with 1 song from “Hymns for the Broken”, “Recreation Day” and “The Inner Circle”.
The depth of material at their disposal would easily allow for an “Evening With…” type set up but that would require a few more days off between gigs; this tour contains 36 dates in 38 days, that’s 2 travel days, not 2 days to relax! I’m exhausted just thinking about the stamina needed, but obviously when you enjoy what you’re doing and having the pleasure in playing quality material, the time on stage gives you a buzz to take you through the other 22 hrs in a day as does having a pint and a chat with the fans. What a nice bunch of lads and great to meet.
As always happens when a set is as enjoyable as this, the time went quick. The main set was over, and the lads were back out for 3 song encores of “Blindfolded”, “Recreation Day” and “King of Errors”.
What a brilliant night. Post gig discussions confirmed everyone had enjoyed themselves and I know I was extremely jealous of the Glasgow fans who would see this tour the next night.
Tom S. Englund – Vocals, Guitar
Henrik Danhage – Guitar
Rikard Zander – Keyboard
Jonas Ekdahl – Drums
Johan Niemann – Bass