by MythofRock

Summer is a time period connected with open-air festivals – after a long winter of many live concerts and other interesting events, we have marked June in the calendar and were eager for the first concert day of Release Athens Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Greece. This first day of Release Athens had a great headliner – Nightwish, one of the world’s greatest symphonic metal bands, who were on tour supporting their latest album “Human II Nature”. Let’s see what happened that day!

We entered Plateia Nerou at 18:00 o’clock in a hurry, since we didn’t want to lose the first band, the Greek gothic metallers Elysion. Half an hour later we saw Christiana, the band’s frontwoman, taking her place at the stage. The Greeks started playing their fine, catchy songs, having a nice stage appearance and a good sound, warming up the fans. Surprisingly enough, the place was already crowded – it was obvious that the fans wanted to be present at the festival right from the beginning! Christiana was in the center of everyone’s attention – her impressive looks and her distinctive voice mesmerized us all. Elysion played proudly some songs from their great latest album, “Bring Out Your Dead”, as well as some songs from previous albums. The best moment of their set was the hit “Killing My Dreams”, which set everything on fire! Elysion got off stage on a standing ovation and it was time for the Finnish team!

Yes, Insomnium was next and as the night was falling, the whole scenery was perfect for their melodic death metal music. It was the first time I was present at an Insomnium gig, and I really enjoyed their fine performance – the guys played with passion and devotion some of their best songs, and having a nice sound, they managed to satisfy even the most demanding fans. Niilo Sevänen and co. are extreme metal visionaries, since their ambitious melo-death has many black metal, doom metal and progressive metal influences. Insomnium’s live appearance was also interesting for me, for the reason that Jani Liimatainen (ex-Sonata Arctica, ex-Altaria, Cain’s Offering, The Dark Element, solo) is a member of the band – I liked very much his playing and his clean vocals. Another highlight of Insomnium’s set was the guest appearance of Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ), who sang together with Sevänen on the song “White Christ”, off their latest album “Anno 1696” – a great moment indeed. Insomnium gave their everything and their show was fantastic. But it was time for some …

In Flames stuff! The pioneers of Swedish death metal were the special guests of the evening and we were there ready to witness a melodic death feast! Also my first time to see the band live, In Flames played comfortably and shocked everybody with their class and finesse. We are talking about an excellent live show by a really big band, which showcased all their talent and skill. Anders Friden sang like a beast, the rhythm section was awesome and the guitar work was … from another planet;  Björn Gelotte was an absolute lead guitar hero and Chris Broderick – yes, the famed guitarist, who plays now the rhythm parts in In Flames – was also exceptional in his role! I also liked the fact that the current style of the band, which blends melo-death with nu-metal and alternative metal, sounded really cool on stage. The Swedes played songs from all their periods, without changing their music identity as a live act. They set Plateia Nerou on fire and we really went crazy. At this point I have to say that the choice to add In Flames as special guests before Nightwish wasn’t wise enough – Nightwish is a symphonic/melodic and female fronted band, with a totally different style from In Flames. I am sure that most of the Nightwish fans wanted to see In Flames out of curiosity and not because they like In Flames music. That’s why, in my opinion, the fans’ overall reaction during In Flames wasn’t so much vivid – of course, Anders Friden made some comments about that! I think tour agents should take all these into consideration. But In Flames’ show was a blast.

Everything was ready for Nightwish to storm the stage. It was 23:00 o’ clock when Tuomas Holopainen, Floor Jansen and the other guys sat before the screaming Greek audience. Some months ago, Jansen beat breast cancer, she is now pregnant and you could tell that she stood there on Plateia Nerou stage as a hero, yet it was obvious that Jansen was a little restrained in her performance – she sang perfectly, but at some points she could have been even better, especially in the Tarja-era songs. Her voice was velvet, really fantastic and matched perfectly with every song of Nightwish. Led by Holopainen, Nightwish didn’t only deliver the goods, but they also took us on a mind-blowing journey of heartfelt symphonic metal, with the beautiful, heavenly, celestial anthems of their discography. We were amazed, we surrendered to the arms of the Finnish brigade, which had the aura, the wisdom and the fame of the big band. Holopainen was the captain on this ride, with the drums set on his right, the unbelievable Troy Donockley on his left, and in front of him the guitar, the bass and Jansen. Let’s note down the following; it is true that the sound wasn’t so crystal and clear in the beginning of the show, especially in the first 2-3 songs of the set. That was solved later on. Then, I have to mention that the sound of the guitar wasn’t as loud as it should be – of course, we are talking about a band without a prominent guitar sound, that doesn’t mean though that the guitar should be so much under in the mix of the band’s live sound. And finally, Nightwish should have played some more of their classics – for example “Wish I Had an Angel’ and “Ever Dream” should have been played, but this is something personal! Generally, it was a fantastic one hour and a half with this Finnish myth of the symphonic, female fronted metal, which has been engraved on our hearts and memories – forever. We had some complaints, however, it was a great first day for Release Athens Festival 2023 – let’s hope the other days will be successful, the same or even more!

Dimitris Zacharopoulos

P.S.: In my opinion, each festival day should begin earlier, so that it ends earlier. Not only for the ones who use public transportation, but also for the teenagers/kids, who have attended the festival.

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