It’s been 6 months already since APOCALYPTICA released “Shadowmaker,” and after a long wait, they finally brought their Shadowmaker Tour to their home country! On November 21st, 2015, they played a gig at The Circus with their new album’s guest vocalist, Franky Perez. Check out the full gallery here.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen APOCALYPTICA live, but I realized recently that I can’t actually say that I’ve ever seen them in a club setting (assuming their show with the AVANTI! CHAMBER ORCHESTRA doesn’t count). After all of these festivals and one very inspired album, I was enthusiastic to see them play a local show. The downside is that, since the album came out in April, it’s been such a long time, and a year jam-packed with such great music, that “Shadowmaker” had gone a bit by the wayside by the time this show rolled around. I had to have a refresher listen to remind myself how good the album was before the show.
When the lights went down, I admit that I was initially disappointed by their choice of starter track. I had been hoping for “I-III-V Seed of Chaos” into “Cold Blood” but was sadly disappointed to hear “Reign of Fear” instead. If you read my review of the album, you might recall that I didn’t find any of the instrumental tracks to be especially noteworthy, and plus, if you’ve got a great new album with a great singer, why wouldn’t you show him off immediately? They didn’t even bring him out for the second song, waiting until “I’m Not Jesus,” which wasn’t even one of Perez’ songs. Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to hear him sing it and he did an outstanding job, but I was just a bit disappointed that they waited so long to bring him out and then didn’t even give him one of his own songs to kick things off.
It was the fourth song in when Perez (finally) got to show off the new material with “House of Chains.” He’s an interesting frontman. He’s really charming and looks like he enjoys what he’s doing and definitely works to connect with the crowd – at one point he pointed to someone to the balcony to try to get them to smile. I got the feeling that he could be quite diverse on stage as well – he had little hints of rock and punk and metal showing through in many of his songs, and I’m really interested to know what he’ll do once he’s done with APOCALYPTICA (as well as who will be singing his songs in future shows). He’s also on my new “list of vocalists who do their own thing with songs” – during “Not Strong Enough,” he was singing to his own timing and not mimicking Brent Smith at all. He even came down into the pit a few times (which naturally elicited some screams from the crowd).
With regard to the set, the choice of older songs that had a guest vocalist were really good, and it was cool to hear “Hope” with the lyrics. As far as I recall, it was the first time I’ve heard that one live with a guest singing. But they didn’t play “Path!” That’s borderline unforgivable in my books. I’m also a little iffy on the METALLICA covers. I’ve never been big on METALLICA and I’m completely over “Master of Puppets” and “One.” I’d love to hear them play “Until it Sleeps,” or maybe even “Sanitarium,” if they insist on keeping METALLICA songs in their sets. But… the rest of the crowd cheers for the gimmick every time, so it seems I am overruled on this one. Also, even though “Bittersweet” is technically a duet, I would’ve liked to hear Perez sing it.
As for the rest of the guys, they were all playing very well, looking comfortable on stage. I have to admit that Paavo Lötjönen has somehow gone from my least favorite APO stage cellist to my favorite. Back in the day I had always found him somewhat pretentious on stage. I don’t know if I was crazy or his stage presence has changed but I adore him nowadays! He’s quite goofy and fun, full of smiles and energy and I really enjoyed watching him and I’m so glad that, for whatever reason, my opinion has changed.
They all had their spotlight moments as well. Mikko Sirén had two drumkits, one of which had cymbals that were full of holes. I’ve been told that the point of them is for a harsher, thrashier sound, so I see in hindsight why he had the second kit for some songs but not others. Sirén got a little drum solo mid-show somewhere as well… it might’ve been after “Hope” but I can’t honestly remember.
A shout out to the lights in “Riot Lights” – they were really appropriate for the song. It was a bit odd that all the new songs were lumped together in the middle of the set though. As I’ve often said, the optimal way (in my opinion) to organize a tour set is to start with new tracks, break it up with an old song or two, and rinse and repeat throughout, and end with one of the most popular songs. This show, with the exception of “House of Chains” and “Dead Man’s Eyes” had all of the new songs together towards the end, which honestly doesn’t quite get me up and jumping for new material, if I have to wait for it.
I have to say as well, that I was a bit disappointed in the crowd. It was rather strange, because The Circus was pretty packed, floor to ceiling, and “Shadowmaker” was one of the best songs they played all night. I for one had been anticipating it a lot, so during the dramatic pause towards the end, it seemed only appropriate to throw a fist up, but there were shockingly few. Don’t get me wrong, they were certainly enjoying themselves, but not especially into it. I wonder if it’s the style of music or what, but the energy was there, just not being shown off.
They ended the set with “Hall of the Mountain King” with “Finlandia” as an intro, and then came back for three more songs for the encore – “One” (the METALLICA cover), “I Don’t Care,” and “Dead Man’s Eyes.” You’ve already heard my thoughts on “One,” but “I Don’t Care” was a great choice, which almost worked to highlight “Dead Man’s Eyes” as a weird choice. My opinion is that you should always leave the crowd wanting more and end on a high note. “Dead Man’s Eyes” is a decent enough track to end an album on but it’s rather slowish and not that exciting compared to some of their other stuff, so I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it as an ender to a show.
All-in-all, what can I say? It was a great performance and I really enjoyed seeing Franky Perez live at long last – he was everything I hoped he would be. You’ve got four amazing musicians and a strong singer so you can’t really go wrong. My only real beef with the show was the rather oddly pieced-together set – if you’re promoting an album, it seems strange to me to not emphasize the new material. It started wrong, it ended wrong, and the “Shadowmaker” songs weren’t dispersed evenly throughout. And again, they’ve got a lot of good covers in their repertoire so I don’t really see the point in choosing the lowest common denominators. Still, it was a good show and I definitely hope to see them in a club again someday in the future! One thing I love about these guys is that you never know what to expect, be it vocalists, or orchestras, or whatever!
1. Reign of Fear
3. I’m Not Jesus (ft. Franky Perez)
4. House of Chains (ft. Franky Perez)
5. Not Strong Enough (ft. Franky Perez)
6. Master of Puppets (Metallica cover)
7. Inquisition Symphony (Sepultura cover)
10. Hope (ft. Franky Perez)
11. Riot Lights
12. Shadowmaker (ft. Franky Perez)
13. Hole in My Soul (ft. Franky Perez)
14. Cold Blood (ft. Franky Perez)
15. Angry Birds Theme (Ari Pulkkinen cover)
16. Seek & Destroy (Metallica cover)
17. Hall of the Mountain King (with Finlandia intro)
18. One (Metallica cover) (encore)
19. I Don’t Care (ft. Franky Perez) (encore)
20. Dead Man’s Eyes (ft. Franky Perez) (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Jana Blomqvist