If, a year ago, concert streams were seen as a modest way for a band to connect somehow to an audience and were mostly played live, this year, the idea of a virtual concert was taken to a whole new level. First, NIGHTWISH invited fans and music lovers to join them for an intimate experience in the Islanders Arms, then EPICA released the five-part beauty, “Omega Alive.” Rounding up the trio of symphonic metal heavyweights, WITHIN TEMPTATION released the most epic show of the pandemic – “The Aftermath.” Presented as “a show in a virtual reality,” this was by far the biggest production I have seen for an online show to date.
Following the narrative of destruction and survival, the streaming event was divided into four parts, with three songs each, that made up that part of the story. A talking robot head guided us through the events that had left humanity on the brink of extinction and how they ultimately looked to the stars for a new home. Truth be told, this theme is not a new one for me (and I am sure it’s not new for many of you) as I am a fan of such concept albums as SEVENTH WONDER’s “Tiara” and AYREON’s “The Source.” However, the way WITHIN TEMPTATION tied all the pieces together, added some new elements to their story, and selected the best songs for each part is what made the concert a smooth and wonderful ride from hopelessness to salvation.
The show itself started off with “Forsaken” as the band played in what seemed to be the ruins of a city, on platforms placed through rubble and debris. For the next song, “Our Solemn Hour,” the band shared a stage together as bursts of red light highlighted the desolate atmosphere and merged with the message of the song. The camera switched from close-ups on the band to wide-angle views as Sharon den Adel delivered the song with power and emotion. Tarja Turunen joined in for “Paradise (What About Us?),” which made for a special treat, as both their vocals combine so well, especially during the operatic part of the song. As always, when both of them hit those notes, I had goosebumps. This performance was definitely one of the highlights of the show. This was a very good start to the concert that made me want to know how the story would develop.
And sure enough, the talking head reappeared to tell us how we had put our faith into gods to save us from perdition and purge our sins… but these gods soon turned into demons that enslaved the weak. The location was also changed as, at one point, the stage was lowered into the earth and we were presented with a manifestation of hell. To continue the narrative, “The Purge” was played as the background screen showed flames. It was a real treat to hear this awesome single played live for the first time since its release. Keeping the energy on a high level, “Entertain You” followed suit, with the official video playing on the screen. The light show was absolutely spectacular, adding to the dynamics of the music and making everything that much more of an immersive experience. “Raise Your Banner” made for a symbol of rebellion against the gods and signaled the transition to the next part of the story.
Abandoning the gods and finding the planet beyond salvation, humanity searched the heavens for a new home. “And We Run” was an intriguing piece of the show’s puzzle (especially considering Xzibit’s rapping parts) but it actually fit in with the overarching theme of fleeing from the gods in search of freedom. “Shed My Skin” expressed the same sentiment as WITHIN TEMPTATION shared their virtual stage with German post-hardcore band ANNISOKAY. Again, the light scheme stole the show and made the viewing experience more engaging. At this point, it felt like the production was bigger than the music and the interaction between the musicians, and that the songs were just an excuse for bombast and extravagance. “Firelight” was the quiet and beautiful moment of the show, as the calming vocals of Jasper Steverlinck combined with the ethereal voice of Sharon den Adel to create a haven of serenity and tranquility. Undoubtedly, this was another wonderful highlight of the concert.
The time had then come for the final chapter to be unveiled, as humanity learned from its mistakes and came together to save itself and ensure the survival of its race and legacy. As expected, “The Reckoning” fit in perfectly with this segment of the story, as it came time for mankind to face its faults and sins. Unfortunately, Jacoby Shaddix was not a part of the event and his vocals were played from backing tracks, but that didn’t diminish the power of this song. To make this transition to the heavens clear, the stage appeared to have been lifted upwards as the band then played somewhere among stars in outer space. “Supernova” and “Stairway to the Skies” brought this outstanding streaming event to an epic end, wrapping up the narrative in a satisfactory way. Before the last song was played, Sharon addressed the fans to say thank you for watching and expressed fervent hopes of seeing them soon in a proper live setting.
To sum it up, “The Aftermath” was the streaming event to end all streaming events, as I don’t see how any other band could pull off anything close to the scale of what WITHIN TEMPTATION offered their fans. And since the sky is the limit with what can be achieved when using virtual reality, they really went all-in with this experience, not just creating a virtual world but building an entire narrative based on twelve of their songs. Even though at times it felt like watching a very expensive 60-minute-long music video, “The Aftermath” is, and will remain, an overwhelming accomplishment of technology, vision, art, and music.
Written by Andrea Crow
Photos are stills from the streamed event
- Our Solemn Hour
- Paradise (What About Us?)
- The Purge
- Entertain You
- Raise Your Banners
- And We Run
- Shed My Skin
- The Reckoning
- Stairway to the Skies