Power metal is less typically aligned with wintertime than, say, the grimmest and most frostbitten of black metal, which tends to dwell on permafrost and inhospitable landscapes translated through gelid guitar tones. Nonetheless, there was a bit of the yule season in this particular show, a bit of ice and holly, cinnamon and clove in the air. Part of it was certainly the universally positive, upbeat energy that all three bands projected, and the chill that pervaded the Opera House, leading to a celebratory atmosphere.
Proudly Canadian heavy metal band Kobra and the Lotus opened the night with a stirring and energetic set. Their style is anchored in the NWOBHM tradition, but strays into power metal in scope and style the way that Iron Maiden and Dio tend to do. Band founder and frontwoman Kobra Paige refers to herself as the band's shaman, and she certainly portrayed the image of a tribal mystic with her stylized makeup and waist-length dreadlocks. Her muscular alto voice was a highlight of the set, powerful with a hint of smoke in the tone. Griffin Kissack's drumming was also solid, displaying strength without unnecessary flourish and an organic style that evoked everything from ice floes cracking apart to tectonic shudders.
Yorktown, VA's well-respected technical/melodic death metal band Arsis provided direct support. Once again, while their style cannot be described as pure power metal by any stretch, there is a tone and sense of epic narrative that infuses their work. The band's set drew heavily from their most recent EP, Lepers Caress, a revisitation of some of their oldest material. "Six Coffins Wide" displayed particular depth and richness, as did the soaring "Carve My Cross." Between their technical dexterity and stage presence, Arsis may have stolen the show.
Finnish power metal icons Sonata Arctica brought the most theatrical set of the night to the Opera House. They balanced their song choices between material off of their latest release, Stones Grow Her Name, and their extensive back catalogue. They chose primarily songs that engaged with social commentary in some way, like "Alone in Heaven" or the uplifting and hopeful "The Day," though there was a hint of the magical in tracks like "The Last Amazing Grays." In addition to the songs themselves, there was also an extended guitar solo (complete with spotlight), a keytar solo and even a playful "Jingle Bells" interlude. Vocalist Tony Kakko had a grinning, cheery mania to him as he commanded the crowd with gestures and proudly announced that all creative people had screws loose in their heads. There were a few moments in the set where there appeared to be some sync issues, especially between the keyboards and the rest of the instrumentation, which was occasionally distracting. Despite this, there could be no doubt that their cheerful, sugar-coated set was high-energy and entertaining.