Sunday 27th November 2016
The Underworld, Camden, London
On Sunday evening, I headed to the Underworld in Camden to see headliners Eden’s Curse supported by Evolve and C.O.P. UK, in the final date of their Cardinal tour. All three bands categorise their music as “Melodic Metal”, an established sub-genre that, to me, has always sounded somewhat paradoxical: I never think of melody as one of Metal’s defining characteristics. Could tonight’s bands justify this apparently contradictory label - there was only one way to find out ….
The evening got off to an inauspicious start when I arrived at the World’s End pub, where I’d agreed to meet Geoff, my fellow reviewer, for a pre-gig pint. As I walked towards the door, sober as the day I was born, the bouncer stepped across my path saying “Sorry, mate, you’ve had enough already”. Despite my wrinkly age, being accused of drunkenness, when totally sober, was a completely new experience. I was utterly gobsmacked, and flummoxed as to how to prove no alcohol had passed my lips since the previous evening, although I certainly had a go. Fortunately, Geoff arrived at this point and, although the bouncer eventually relented, there were plenty of more welcoming pubs in Camden. So no real harm done, unlike after the gig when, knowing that trains to Cuffley had been reduced to only one per hour because of engineering works, I arrived at Finsbury Park in good time for the 23:34 - only to be told it had been cancelled. Finsbury Park station is not a pleasant place to be for well over an hour around midnight, as I’d already found out after a similar experience the night before. It seems the lack of concern for customers long shown by Govia’s Southern Train franchise has now spread to their Thameslink and Great Northern franchise. The success of London’s evening and night economy is dependent on reliable transport: it seems to me the sooner TfL takes over the Govia franchises the better!
Anyway, that’s more than enough about my pre and post-gig trials and tribulations; I was in Camden for an evening of quality live music, which would hopefully more than make up for a couple of inconveniences. The live music opened with Evolve, a Swiss Progressive Metal band based in Montreux (definitely not to be confused with the Evolve from over the pond, a Christian Rock band from America’s bible belt!). Evolve’s music has a sombre edge, reflecting on time, power and life; its experimental nature helping them win the prestigious Dennis Ward Rock & Metal Song competition for 2015. Sunday’s set was characterised by intricate yet aggressive guitar playing and thunderous drums: the perfect introduction to the evening ahead.
Next on were C.O.P. UK, as in Crimes Of Passion, the abbreviated version presumably being introduced to avoid confusion (maybe even legal action) with similarly named bands in Australia, America and elsewhere. C.O.P. UK evolved from the industrial heartland of Sheffield. Formed in 2005, they have recently released their third album, ‘No Place for Heaven’. This evening’s well polished set is a testament to their insatiable appetite for touring, honed to perfection on club stages across Europe. C.O.P. UK’s illuminating stage presence is largely due to their experienced vocalist Dale Radcliffe, a prime candidate for membership of the WRC! Dale’s vocals are supplemented by atmospheric guitar riffs (with some occasional hardcore showing off), and a talented powerhouse of bass, drums and keys. C.O.P. UK’s own songs that demand particular attention include ‘Love is to Die For’ and ‘Catch me if you Can’, both full of harmonic vocals and lots of juicy guitar riffs. The band finish their set with an uplifting version of Journey’s classic ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’, which had the whole audience bouncing and singing along.
It was now time for headliners Eden’s Curse, a multinational Metal band whose members hail from Germany, Serbia, Finland and Scotland. Their current tour has been to promote ‘Cardinal’, their fifth album, released just a couple of months ago. Reviewers of the album agree it represents a return to the earwormy anthems of Eden Curse’s Melodic Metal roots and a step back from the radio rock of its predecessor, ‘Symphony of Sin’. This evening’s set list includes six songs from the new album, seamlessly interspersed with a dozen favourites from their back catalogue. Right from the start, Eden’s Curse successfully engage with the crowd, and vocalist Nikola Mijic does a great job at keeping it that way. His smooth, versatile voice maintains the audience’s admiration, handling Power Metal equally as well as mainstream Melodic Rock. The instrumental support is equally versatile, Thorsten Koehe on guitar and Paul Logue on bass provide trademark Eden’s Curse melodies, hooks and riffs. Newcomers John Clelland (drums) and Christian Pulkkinen (keys) have fitted in perfectly: you’d think they’d been with the band since its inception. My highlights from the first hour of the set, all from the new album, were ‘Prophets of Doom’, a grandiose power pomp with a memorable chorus, the balladesque ‘Find My Way’ and ‘Unconditional’, a duet featuring guest vocalist Helen Hurd. Eden’s Curse seem to use a different guest female vocalist at every venue, implying this was Helen’s first live performance of the song, after limited rehearsal time. You wouldn’t have known it; her silky movement and angelic tones definitely gave the band that extra wow factor. ‘Jericho’s long instrumental middle gave the musicians the opportunity to show how accomplished they really were: they didn’t disappoint. However, Eden’s Curse saved their very best for their encore. Audience participation got well underway with the well-known ‘Symphony of Sin’ but, when Evolve and C.O.P. UK joined Eden’s Curse on stage for a cover of ‘Highway to Hell’, the volume reached a new level, shaking The Underworld to its foundations. Which only left one song, ‘Angels & Demons’, another powerful duet with Helen Hurd, a truly fitting finale that nearly brought the house down.
So, overall, an awesome evening, even with my pre- and post-gig inconveniences. As for that apparent contradiction, all three bands demonstrated the range of Metal music and played songs with obvious melodies. Eden’s Curse were particularly good at this, helped by slick song writing, their technical guitar work and the wide, rich vocal range of Nicola Mijic offset on a couple of songs by the angelic tones of Helen Hurd.