Words & Photos by Kyle Finlan

On a beautiful Friday evening, fans of melodic death metal from all over the San Francisco Bay Area descended on Berkeley, California’s UC Theatre to witness a packed tour package consisting of openers Omnium Gatherum hailing from Finland and Portugal’s Moonspell, as well as Dark Tranquility from Sweden and Finland’s Amorphis.  Between Amorphis’s newest album ‘Queen of Time’ landing a high place on my list of favorite albums of the year and having only ever having the opportunity to see Dark Tranquility on a summer festival, I was incredibly enthused to experience this lineup in the amazing live music venue that is the UC Theatre.  Arriving about 15 minutes before doors open, a decently-sized queue was waiting to enter.  Just like clockwork, as 7 pm rolled around, the queue started to move and the time grew nearer…

Omnium Gatherum kicked off the evening’s festivities at 8pm sharp, launching right into the first track, The Burning, off their latest album, ‘The Burning Cold’.  For the first few songs of their set, somber blue lighting set the mood, only enhancing the chilly mental imagery that the band’s music conjures up.  Visually, Omnium is sharp – matching work shirts bearing the band’s symbol and copious amounts of hair-flipping only add to the performance.  Frontman Jukka Pelkonen is rather animated – he was all over the stage, working to hype up the crowd, and delivering the growls – all simultaneously!  The crowd seemed just as enthused as the band by the experience, with Jukka commenting “Nice mosh pit, guys” in response to the crowd.  In general, the band sounded tight, but unfortunately, the venue’s sound system caused the bass to be incredibly overdone (this would continue to be a theme for the remainder of the evening).  Omnium closed out their concise eight-song set with ‘Skyline’ (my personal favorite), followed by ‘Ego’.

After a late start due to a rather lengthy sound check, next up were Moonspell, bringing their unique form of extreme gothic metal all the way from Portugal to California.  Theatrics are what these guys are all about; red lighting flooding the scene as lead singer Fernando Ribeiro entered to the opening track, donning a top hat, trench coat, whilst carrying a lantern!  Moonspell’s stage setup was rather impressive, with a custom microphone stand and rather ornate keyboard stand…The singer’s antics on stage were impressive – the singer was rather animated throughout the entire duration of the set!  At times, vocals were rather hard to hear, but I still rather enjoyed their eight-song setlist, finishing up with the rather chill Full Moon Madness.

Carrying on after a quick changeover, Sweden’s Dark Tranquility took the stage with force.  Touring the United States for the third time in support of their album ‘Atoma’, the band is a finely-tuned machine – they sounded tight as can be.  The crowd was incredibly pleased by their presence; the UC Theatre is a venue that has three tiers of standing room, and the tier closest to the stage became nearly too packed to move as they threw themselves into their set.  The band made it clear that they were just as happy to be in Berkeley as well, referring to the crowd as one of the “most cool, open minded communities” around…  The setlist was definitely skewed towards their newer works, including songs such as Forward Momentum, Encircled, and the title track off of their newest album, Atoma.  Visually, the band was on point, with a gorgeous-looking video wall playing a mix of sharp-looking animations and in some cases, such as for Forward Momentum, the entire music video.  Of course, a mosh pit was started and sustained itself for the majority of the set, and no one wanted the set to end, so it seemed.  Dark Tranquility played through their fifteen-song setlist, concluding with Misery’s Crown – a wonderful way to close as they made way for what was next…

Finally, the mighty Amorphis took the stage…  As this is their first US tour in support of their newest work, ‘Queen of Time’, it’s only fitting that they kicked things off with three songs in a row off of their newest work – The Bee, Message in the Amber, and The Golden Elk.   The great thing about Amorphis live, in a word, is “atmosphere”…  These guys know how to build an ambiance – I was in a trance for the entire set, just letting the music wash over me.  The combination of Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari’s guitar work and Tomi Joutsen’s vocals make for an excellent way to get lost in the music…  Unfortunately, the crowd seemed to thin a bit for Amorphis’ set; hopefully this is due to the fact that some people had to catch their train home rather than disinterest.  Either way – those who left missed out on a mind-melting performance.  Powering through an excellent thirteen-song set, Amorphis closed out the evening with “House of Sleep”, and I departed for home wanting to hear more.

This tour package is one that you won’t want to miss if you’re interested in catching even one band on the lineup!  They’ll be playing the United States and Canada through the middle of October, working their way through the South and continuing up the East Coast, concluding their tour with shows in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York.

Get your tickets to see Amorphis on their North American Tour HERE!