Some months ago, on May 10th, I attended Dames Of Darkness Festival 4, at The Robin 2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton (UK). Having attended the festival the previous year I was thrilled to be going again, especially after seeing last year’s line-up which included a debut UK performance of Visions Of Atlantis, and was headlined by Delain. With the addition of co-headliners Xandria and Stream Of Passion the festival once again had high expectations pulling in an audience from all over Europe and other parts of the world...
The festival opened with the Grandstand theme tune and the arrival of Jim Beerman who burst on the stage with a blast of energy. He was quick to get the crowd going before announcing the opening band – Divided We Fall. Stafford-based symphonic metallers Divided We Fall played a set consisting of six songs from their debut album Dreamcrusher which was released at the festival. Many members of the band seemed uncomfortable upon such a big stage, and while their set was good their lack of stage presence reflected on their overall performance giving the songs an almost ‘mechanical’ feeling. Despite this the band was on form. Philippa Ricketts’ vocals were clear and easy to hear over the beautiful, strong key tones and heavy bass lines. Her use of mid-ranged vocals unconventional to the symphonic metal style really drew me in, takes nice turns on Revenge and Escaping Wonderland. The juxtaposition between Philippa’s vocals and those of guest vocalist Melissa Adams from Aonia who joined the band on stage for Until I Win blew me away. Melissa’s operatic vocals cut cleanly through the atmosphere, clearly winning the battle against the ever prominent drums. The band brought their set to a close with Fight For Love, a strong finisher. A great opener for the festival, while a strong set I remained uninspired. Hopefully Divided We Fall will grow and develop the confidence they need to assert themselves firmly on the symphonic metal scene. (6/10)
The changeover to the next band was swift, and soon melodic metallers Incarnadine Coven were ready to take the stage. The band played a slightly longer set, playing all their songs from their EP, Army Of Ghosts alongside several cover songs, including Alanis Morisette’s Uninvited. The crowd were highly enthusiastic through the band’s set, with vocalist Rebecca Cooch pumping them up towards the end of the set maintaining her powerful vocals as well as baring her teeth with some deep growls. There was a lot of excitable energy coming from the band as they provided a dark energy to the day’s proceedings and I found myself admiring Rebecca’s energy and drive as she ploughed through the set with remarkable stage presence a month before her due date. (7/10)
Up next was Dyonisis, a ‘psychedelic’ rock band from Sheffield. The band seems to mix alternative rock with trip-hop to creative a unique, intensely atmospheric sound. The four-piece took to the stage, unknown to many. The band played with programmed beats, live guitars and a twin vocal style with a strong focus on harmony. Vocalists Nel Cave and Louisa Welsby fitted together perfectly, captivating the audience. The combination of Nel’s passionate, lower vocals and Louisa’s higher, soprano ones created a blend very unique to the ‘female-fronted’ tag. Of the vocalists Nel commanded the stage with a magnetic like performance, whilst her counterpart appeared to be more reserved. A dark, magical atmosphere filled the room and was maintained from beginning to end. Eve’s Song, Of The Fear and Lunatic were a few of my favourites from the set, featuring beautiful riffs and thick, watery bass lines. The band closed with one of their personal favourites Rainy Day and the room seemed to breathe in as if an inner thirst had been quenched before exploding into the loudest applause of the day so far. (9/10)
After Dyonisis came another Stafford based band, the festival’s ‘house band’ Apparition with the appearance of American guest vocalist Grace Méridan. Founded by festival organizer David Homer in 1997, the band performs in a melodic style. Having seen them several times over the years with many different vocalists including Laura ‘Sakara’ Marshall at Dames Of Darkness 3 and more recently with Greek vocalist Elina Laivera, I was excited to see how Grace would take on the old songs. Said to be a classically trained soprano I have to admit I was disappointed by both her vocals and her performance. Songs which I’d previously loved hearing such as Frozen Roses, Betrayed and my personal favourite Elysium appeared weak, and Grace’s vocals seemed to falter too often. Her high notes were pitchy and off key and her lower ones struggled to be heard over the thundering bass. The band closed with an energetic cover of Scorpion’s Rock You Like A Hurricane which saw the stage flooded by a collection of vocalists including Jamie-Lee Smit (Azylya), Karolina Pacan (Skeptical Minds), Elina Laivera (Universal Mind Project) and Lindsay Schoolcraft (Cradle Of Filth, Daedalean Complex, Schoolcraft). (4/10)
Up next was the first international band of the day, playing their debut UK show was the Belgian based industrial metal four-piece Skeptical Minds. The band opened with Schizophrenia, a very stompy number which got my feet twitching to jump along. The band’s overall performance was dark and heavy with a lot of killer bass, but amongst it all I struggled to hear Karolina vocals for a majority of the set and I felt that the live mixing for their set was quite poor. Despite this, Karolina was very energetic and charismatic on stage, encouraging the audience to put their hands up and sing along to the band’s rendition of Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades – a highlight of their set along with the performance of my favourite Skeleton Key. (5/10)
Jaded Star were next to take to the stage for the debut live performance. The band were newly formed by ex-Visions Of Atlantis vocalist (who had played the festival the previous year) Maxi Nil. From the moment the band were on stage they meant business, the performance was tight and the band seemed to gel well. Maxi seemed to be having a good time as ever, bouncing around with a grin plastered on her face. One could not help but smile at her energy as she spoke to the audience in between songs. The band seemed to make quite the impression as they stormed through numbers such as Wake Up, Innocence, Keep On Fighting and Until The End Of Time ending with the loudest cheer of the festival so far. (8/10)
Co-headliners Xandria opened with their latest single Nightfall from their new album Sacrificium featuring new dramatic soprano vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen also of Dutch band Ex Libris with who she performed at Dames Of Darkness with the previous year. Having seen the band with previous vocalist Manuela Kraller I was worried that I would not like Dianne’s take on her songs as much, however this was rectified when the band bashed out tunes such as Blood On My Hands, Forevermore and Cursed. Dianne’s vocals once again amazed me, with perfect clarity and control she soared through songs hitting note-for-note perfectly. The ‘crunch’ came early on when a friend and I looked to each other just as Blood On My Hands climaxed to the highest notes, and tears involuntarily came. Dianne didn’t have to prove anything to the audience and those nervous about her being unable to hit the highest dramatic notes or power through Manuela’s spinto passages were quickly put to ease. The band seemed to be having a blast on stage, interacting with each other and the audience, holding huge stage presence. While they didn’t play any songs from the Lisa Middelhauve-era the crowd certainly was not displeased and the symphonic metal giants showed us exactly why they deserved such a title and it was wonderful to see how much the band has evolved since their first shows with Manuela. Highlights of their set include Cursed, Soulcrusher, Stardust and the encore track Valentine. (10/10)
After an amusing raffle hosted by Beerman where we were exposed to the sight of David Homer in a bright green mankini, last on was Stream Of Passion. After Xandria I had a feeling I would be underwhelmed by their set, but the opening chords to Monster rang out before the band exploded into song and I was sold. Marcela’s light mezzo soprano voice carried throughout the room, dripping in emotion, her face pinched as she belted out each note. Their sets heavily featured tracks from their latest album A War Of Our Own, with performances of the title track, The Curse and Autophobia being amongst some of my favourites. Stream Of Passion were on form, with Marcela belting out fan favourites In The End and Lost amidst cheers. Exhausted from the day the band wandered off the stage… only to come back for the encore including their cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit and ending with one of my favourites This Endless Night. While not striking in the same way as Xandria, Stream Of Passion sure knows how to put on a show and capture the audience with passionate, emotive performances. (9/10)
Overall, Dames Of Darkness was a great, well thought out event at which I had an amazing time. I had a brilliant time seeing and meeting the bands over the day as well as seeing some old friends. The festival had a pretty good line up, and it was great to see the support of local bands among the bigger ones. My ‘top three’ bands were Dyonisis, Stream Of Passion and Xandria. Here’s to a hopeful Dames Of Darkness in 2015. Big thanks to David Homer for putting on such a fantastic event.
Author: Tayla DickinsonRead the full story