Serenity - LIVE: The Underworld, London 2012

Death & Legacy Tour
March 25
Capacity 500

After the unexplained pulling out of original opener Nemesea, it was expected that tonight's bill would simply be Serenity and Pythia. But the promoters for some reason decided the evening needed a third band, and that third band should be Pet Slimmers of The Year. If that name doesn't sound familiar, but does sound a bit like an indie band who think they're smarter than they are... you'd be spot on. The band's indie/post-rock goes down like a lead balloon amongst a power metal crowd who simply look confused. The band's presence benefits nobody; not the promoter, not the crowd, and certainly not the band themselves who were no doubt very aware they stuck out. Fair play to them for seeing it through, and they weren't bad at what they were doing, but the wrong band at the wrong gig.

Nevermind, one band who are seemingly perfect for supporting Serenity are Pythia. Having quite happily packed out the Borderline only a month ago, the London symphonic power metal band could have probably handled the Underworld alright on their own. Certainly, the stage looks like Pythia are the headline band – there's vines and assorted plantlife thrown around the stage, and large heavy banners at the back to give a real presence despite their support status. The band don't do things by half either – even as support, the band are in full regalia, dressed in chainmail and elegant gowns where appropriate.

Looking good doesn't mean anything if you don't have the musical goods to back it up – but thankfully Pythia certainly do. The band are on generally good form, active on stage and clearly still buzzing after the warm reception their second album has received. As such tonight's set is mostly taken from that album, with very few cuts from the band's debut – usual closer No Compromise is strangely absent. Still, one can't help but notice the band's new material sounds so much better live – the heavy, fast and crushing power metal fronted by Emily Alice Ovenden's dominant operatic yell really does work a treat. The only down is the band still rely on pre-recorded keyboards – the band really could do with a live keyboardist.

That is a drawback tonight's headliner really doesn't share with their support band, mind. On CD, Serenity's music can sound a bit artificial; polished, cleaned and boxed to the point that it sounds sickly slick. Thankfully these issues really fall to the wayside when the band play live. If anything, Serenity live have a far fuller and real sound than many of their peers. Georg Neuhauser's not-so-typical vocal style for the genre is really enhanced by the full harmonising performed by his band-mates, feeling genuinely impressive during a time where backing tapes have become the norm for such things. The band are either not using backing tapes, using very little, or have that miming thing down real well – the former is assumed!

The band's commitment to keeping things performed live does mean bringing on a second singer for a few songs. In the past that has been ex-Xandria singer Lisa Middelhauve, but in recenty months it has been the recently former singer of Whyzdom, Clémentine Delauney. Clémentine is exceptionally talented and dearly missed from Whyzdom – with Serenity she still performs well but playing second fiddle to Georg doesn't really suit her. She is a little under-used (only three songs), and it seems a shame she has chosen to do this instead of staying with Whyzdom, but perhaps there's more going on.

But as for Serenity themselves, they are surprisingly impressive and despite only a moderate turn out, one can't help but notice the band have almost everyone in the crowd in the palm of their hands. The front of the club is simply a mass of raised horns for Georg to command, and they are commanded well. Regardless of your feelings towards the band's recorded work, they certainly have the energy, charisma, sometimes the humour and always the execution to deliver a fine power metal performance.

“ a far fuller and real sound than many of their peers ”

Pythia setlist: Betray my Heart / Sarah (Bury Her) / Kissing the Knife / Just a Lie / Army of the Damned / Circle / Cry of Our Nation / Heartless

Serenity setlist: Intro / Rust of Coming Ages / Reduced to Nothing / New Horizons / Coldness Kills / Circle of My 2nd Life / Fairytales / Far From Home / When Canvas Starts to Burn / Journey's End / Canopus Three / Forever // Heavenly Mission / Serenade of Flames / Velatum / Engraved Within

Written by James Donovan
More: 2012, Gigs, Power Metal,

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