After the success of last year’s Dames of Darkness festival, headlined by Delain, expectations were high for this year’s fest. As with last year, the lineup was a mix of bands from mainland Europe plus some local bands, with Xandria and Stream of Passion being the top two acts. As testament to the strength of the lineup, some fans had travelled from abroad for the fest, with fans there from the USA, Spain, Holland and Belgium (and probably a few other European countries too).
First up were Divided we fall ( www.facebook.com/Dividedwefallmusic ), a symphonic metal band from Stafford. I’ve seen them before and while they were good musically they had no stage presence, so I wasn’t expecting great things, but I was pleased to see that they did show a bit more stage presence than the last time, with singer Philippa moving around more, but the guys were still pretty static and didn’t look that happy to be there. Once again musically they were good, and judging by the number of people buying the band’s debut album (released on the day of the festival) at the merchandise stand, they clearly made a good impression with a lot of people. With more stage presence then I’d have been a lot more impressed. They did bring on a guest, Melissa Adams, singer from Aonia, and the song they did together was the highlight of the set.
Incarnadine coven were next up. With their singer heavily pregnant, it’s understandable that she didn’t move about as much as normal. A melodic metal band from Reading ( www.facebook.com/IncarnadineCoven ), they put in a good performance, but they were still one of the weakest bands of the day – good but just not as good as the rest.
Dyonisis came next, ( www.facebook.com/Dyonisis.band ). They’re a band with a sound that’s very different to the other bands on the bill – more alternative, psychedelic, etherial rock rather than symphonic metal, so I was curious to se how they’d go down on a bill dominated by symphonic metal. Well the short answer is they went down a storm – the huge applause and cheers they got after every song and at the end of their performance showed just how good they were, and I know they made new fans among some of the other bands playing as well as among the audience. The best band so far by a mile.
Apparition were up next, with their current guest vocalist, Grace Meridan who had come over from the US for this show and the one at the Underworld the previous night (supporting Xandria and Stream of Passion). They did have some sound problems but struggled on and put in a good performance. During the more operatic vocal parts, Grace’s voice sounded fantastic, but during the quieter rock vocal parts her voice just seemed too faint. That aside, they put in a good set before they welcomed some guests on stage – Lindsay Schoolcraft (Schoolcraft & Cradle of Filth), Elina Laivera (ex Seduce the heaven & Apparition), Jamie Lee Smit (Azylya) and Michel and Karolina from Skeptical Minds, who all joined Apparition for a rendition of the Scorpions hit “Rock you like a hurricane”.
Skeptical minds ( www.facebook.com/pages/Skeptical-Minds ) were up next. This was the Belgian band’s first UK gig but with plenty of audience members wearing MFVF T-shirts then they certainly had plenty of people in the audience who had seen them before. Right from the start they put in a great performance – the whole band look to be enjoying themselves on stage, and singer Karolina is a superb frontwoman who gets the crowd involved. In fact they were going down well even before their set started as Karolina joked with the audience during the sound check and turned it into a music and comedy routine. The band put in a great performance and the crowd reaction makes it clear that people want to see more Skeptical Minds gigs in the UK.
Jaded star were next up, and were a big unknown. Why? Well the band haven’t released an album or even a single, and this is their first gig anywhere in the world, so although people knew that the band is fronted by former Visions of Atlantis singer Maxi Nil, they really had no idea what to expect from the tonight. The band came on stage wearing matching outfits – although I’m not sure the leather skirts/aprons worked particularly well. Musically they were very impressive, and for a band doing their first ever show then I expect them to just get better and better.
Xandria were next up, which was a surprise – on their tour with Stream of Passion, Xandria are the headliner, so for them to be on before Stream of Passion seems odd at first until you realise that Stream of Passion won’t be on stage till after 11pm, so fans relying on public transport to get home left as soon as Xandria finished. Tonight see’s the new Xandria singer, Dianne Van Giersbergen, performing at Dames of Darkness for the second year running, after playing last year with her band Ex Libris. The band have a new album out, Sacrificium, so tonight’s set includes a good few songs from that album as well as some older material. Xandria have had great singers in the past and Dianne’s predecessor, Manuela Kraller was particularly good, so Dianne was certainly under pressure to show she was the right choice as repalcement. She sounded superb whether singing the new material or the older material – her voice was fantastic and she put in a flawless performance, and also showed she’s a good frontwoman. This really was a superb set from Xandria, leaving Stream of Passion the unenviable job of trying to follow them.
Before Stream of Passion, there was a raffle draw in aid of charity, with the winner of the top prize walking away with a guitar signed by all the bands playing today (although sadly not until festival organiser and Apparition bassist David Homer came on stage with it while wearing a mankini – not a sight people will forget in a hurry (no matter how hard they try)
Finally it was time for Stream of Passion. This was their first UK headlining show, and they had plenty of fans in the audience to support them, with many wearing Stream of Passion T-shirts. Like Xandria, Stream of Passion have a new album out – A war of our own. I’ve seen the band several times before including the previous night in London and also a week earlier, so I knew what to expect, and the band didn’t disappoint as they put in a superb performance. Singer Marcela Bovio has a beautiful voice, and also plays violin (a very cool flying V violin to be precise). The rest of the band also put in great performances, with Bassist Johan van Stratum leaping into the air from the drum riser regularly when not headbanging with his dreadlocks flying everywhere. This is a band that I’ve never seen give a bad performance – in fact I’ve never seen them give anything less than an excellent performance, and they keep getting better. For me their cover of Radiohead’s “Street spirit” beats the original with Marcela’s vocals being simple superb.
Finally the day was over. A great day for fans of female fronted metal bands with eight bands that ranged from Good to Amazing. There was a great atmosphere and in the packed venue it was hard to walk for more than a few feet without bumping into someone you knew. Let’s hope there’s a Dames of Darkness next year as the UK certainly needs an event like this. I’m sure I’ll see many of the people who were at Dames of Darkness later in the year at Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium.
[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157644728835635″ size=”z” count=”100″]