Corporation, Sheffield, UK
This was a transcontinental affair at Corporation, with melodic/progressive metal from Europe, Africa and North America all on offer.
7pm on a Monday evening is not your typical gig time, and thus it’s a sparse crowd that welcomes France’s Melted Space. A “metal opera” band in a similar vein to Avantasia and Ayreon, their trio of vocalists (clean male, harsh male and operatic female) work together nicely and the band’s enthusiasm is admirable in the face of a lukewarm reception. Their layered, intricate sound is also somewhat muddled by the Corporation’s poor acoustics so, through little fault of their own, their set is ultimately disappointing.
Tunisia’s Myrath, on the other hand, fare somewhat better. With a set largely taken from their new album Legend, their catchy blend of crushing progressive rhythms and Arabic folk melodies goes down well with the crowd. It’s a sound that many people here won’t be familiar with, but it doesn’t take long for them to be converted; the increasing globalisation of metal in the social media age has brought greater prominence to many sub-genres and regional scenes, and Myrath’s brand of “Oriental folk metal” is a notably strong example. This is a confident, yet modest, performance from a band whose star is firmly in the ascendancy; expect to see them back in the UK soon, headlining.
Early in their set, Symphony X frontman Russell Allen self-deprecatingly acknowledges that his band doesn’t tour very often as they take ages to record their albums. The US fantasy prog-metallers last toured the UK five years ago, and the rapturous response they receive indicates it’s been worth the wait for many. Their recent album Underworld is played in its entirety at the expense of a lot of earlier material (à la Iron Maiden’s A Matter of Life and Death tour), but there are few grumbles from the crowd, as it’s thankfully one of the strongest albums they’ve made in years, with crushing heaviness, technical dexterity and Allen’s rich, soaring vocal melodies complementing each other harmoniously.
However, despite the undeniably precise performance from the band, the mood throughout is distinctly flat. The venue’s half-full at best, a case of preaching to a small group of die-hard fans (many of whom sound like they still have the Monday blues) rather than reaching a wider audience. There’s plenty to celebrate about Symphony X’s uplifting take on progressive metal, and they’ve certainly carved out a niche for themselves over the past twenty plus years. It’s clear though that that niche is evidently not big enough; it’s a shame that they’re not big enough to fill arenas, as their soaring sound would no doubt translate well in such an environment. As it stands, there’s a distinct incongruity between the music and the surroundings; this is a cold, rainy Monday night in a half-full, sticky nightclub in northern England and, even though the band plays well, they seem noticeably deflated by such surroundings. Die-hard fans here would surely pay no attention to such concerns, but the lack of a suitably uplifting atmosphere will not have endeared Symphony X too well to more casual listeners.