Byblos International Festival 2014 - Epica Concert
Band: Epica & Blaakyum
Author: Carmina Khairallah - 2014-08-06
On Saturday, August 2nd, Byblos International Festival blessed the local Symphonic Metal fans once again, this time with none other than the Dutch Symphonic Metal band EPICA. Part of what made that night a considerable part of the Lebanese Metal scene history was the fact that the opening act for the night was our very own Thrash/Heavy Metal band BLAAKYUM, which marked the first time that a local Metal band made it to Byblos International Festival.
Stunningly enough, the event started exactly on time, with less than five minute’s lateness as opposed to the announced inauguration time of 8:30 pm. That fact alone isn’t shy of making history by itself, if you ask me. Unsurprisingly, though, the exactitude of the timing did backfire on the opening act, since people never bother to make it on time, expecting at least a half an hour’s wait, and the audience was rather scarce at that point.
BLAAKYUM was an interesting choice for the event, as they are the oldest still active Lebanese Metal band, having started off in 1995. Their thus increased amount of experience helped with their task that basically amounted to representing the scene, and they did not disappoint. Truth be told, the responses to their performance, both from fans and the organizers themselves, were overwhelming, proving that the job was definitely given to the right people. Although their style differs from that of EPICA, their performance complemented the latter’s rather nicely and did a good job at building up the crowd’s excitement, which was enhanced by vocalist Bassem Deaibess’ lively interaction with the audience. There were even a few (interrupted) attempts at moshpits, one of which requested by the band themselves. Their all-original playlist was as follows:
- Cease Fire
- Lord of the Night
- The Land
- Rip It Off
- Al Ain/Last Stand (mashup)
Although BLAAKYUM’s performance was very professionally delivered and the mistakes in it were negligible, the sound was not on their side, and their music came out rather muffled throughout the show, making the instrumentals and vocals indistinguishable at times. The quality of the sound also affected what was a great surprise in the band’s performance: the derbakke, the Lebanese percussions instrument by excellence, which acted not just as a supplement but as a healthy component of the band’s music, especially in the song “Al Ain”. That was definitely something new and served as a great tribute to the band’s musical and cultural heritage. Also keeping true to their origins, BLAAKYUM asked the crowd for a minute of silence for all the innocent victims throughout the Arab world.
About twenty minutes of playback music followed, during which we were free to indulge in hits from upcoming Byblos International Festival artists, as well as various pieces of Metal music. At that point, the audience did have some more people within it, but the venue was far from packed. Nevertheless, those who were present’s excitement rose greatly as the volume faded out and gave way to a playback of Originem, the intro of EPICA’s latest album “The Quantum Enigma”.
The band then climbed on stage and, under copious amounts of cheers and applause, delivered the following tracks:
- The Second Stone
- The Essence of Silence
- Victims of Contingency
- Storm of Sorrow
- Chemical Insomnia
- Kingdom of Heaven
- Natural Corruption
- The Obsessive Devotion
- The Phantom Agony
- Sancta Terra
- Cry for the Moon (followed by a lengthy drum solo by Arien Van Weesenbeek)
- Unchain Utopia
- Consign to Oblivion
Most of the band’s playlist consisted of tracks out of “The Quantum Enigma”, but classics such as “The Obsessive Devotion” and “Cry for the Moon” received a particularly excited reaction from the almost berserk fans. The band’s performance was very clean, and the sound was much better at that point. Both the instrumentals and vocals were nearly flawless, although vocalist Simone Simons made a few easily forgiven slips during some of the higher pitched parts. The colorful spotlights captured each of the band members’ movements quite well as they each gave it their all with a huge smile on their face. Simone Simons (alongside guitarist and growler Mark Jansen) made it a point to keep a friendly interaction going with the crowd, never afraid to slip in a few humorous notes, such as the way she introduced her fellow band members to the tune of the chorus of “Cry for the Moon” while skipping around the stage. As for keyboardist Coen Janssen, he broke the unspoken rule of the stillness of all keyboardists by resolving to a nifty portable synthesizer halfway through the performance. At 11:15 pm, all was said and done, but those who decided to stick around the venue grounds had their persistency pay off as they were granted pictures and autographs by the band.
One last thing, though. Although EPICA are definitely a wonderful band and it was an honor to get the chance to watch them live, perhaps the relatively poor attendance was a proof that it might be time for the Symphonic Metal streak to end. There are tons of Metal subgenres out there and all of them have at least a few bands that would be more than appropriate for a Lebanese venue.
Overall, it was a very good evening with very few mistakes to be noted. Thank you Byblos International Festival for once again supporting our scene and thank you BLAAKYUM and EPICA for a great musical treat.