A saturday in May saw hundreds of fans of female fronted metal descend on the Robin 2 venue in Bilston, just outside Wolverhampton for the Dames of Darkness festival. The third festival by that name, it’s the first for a few years, and the first to be held at the Robin 2. The lineup looked superb and played a huge part in attracting an almost capacity crowd – Delain, Visions of Atlantis, Whyzdom, Ex Libris, Azylya, Apparition, Chemikill and Incarna. For some of the bands it was either their first UK show or was their first outside London.
Attendance was excellent – certainly close to the full capacity of the venue by the evening, and even the first band played to several hundred people. It was such a good atmosphere and I could hardly move more than a couple of yards without bumping into someone else that I knew, and it was nice to see that people had travelled from all over the country to attend – one fan even travelled all the way from the USA for the day- now that is what I call dedication.
Introducing the bands and compering the days event was DJ Jim Beerman, who as always did a great job, and proved that even turning the microphone off isn’t enough to silence him.
The day kicked off musically with Incarna. Their melodic metal coupled with great vocals meant they got the day off to an excellent start and went down very well with the crowd. Sadly I missed part of their set as I had to go and do an interview, but the half I saw was excellent.
Chemikill were next up, and were a real surprise – they were amazingly good. How has a band this good managed to be going for 27 years without being much bigger? Until tonight I’d never heard anything by them but like most of the crowd I was thoroughly impressed. They definitely made themselves a LOT of new fans tonight, as almost everyone I spoke to during the night and after the event rated them as one of their highlights of the day. Their singer Natalie does a mixture of singing and a few growls, with the guys adding extra growls. Twin guitars plus bass and drums gives plenty of power to the music, and Natalie’s vocals are great. A band I definitely want to see again in the future.
Azylya came next. Singer Jamie-Lee Smit was a captivating sight as she came on in a white catsuit with a silver mask, and with a fan blowing her hair around, she started to sing – and what a beautiful voice she has, Azylya balance her beautiful clean vocals with male growls, and some great music meant that they were really enjoyable to watch and listen to, and I’m certain that they made a lot of new fans in the UK today.
Ex libris were up next, here for their first ever UK show. Dressed in a tiny pair of red shorts and high heels that made her legs look impossibly long, singer Dianne Van Giersbergenlooked to be having a great time on stage, and reminded me of Tarja Turunen as her face was so expressive as she grinned, smiled, pouted and sang. She had one hell of a good voice – classical soprano with lots of power. The band were very impressive too, and this was another excellent performance on a day packed full of them. As a measure of how impressive they were, the merch stand was pretty much cleaned out within a few minutes of their set ending.
Apparition came next. I think tonight was the fifth singer I’ve seen them with, and I was looking forward to hearing how Laura Sakara Marshall would sound compared to the previous singers. Apparition have some great songs, and the latest album was very good so I was confident this would be a good set. Musically they were spot on, but like many people in the audience I had mixed views on the vocals. Laura has a great voice, but with some of the older songs which were obviously written for a very different singer, she seemed to struggle. I think that as the band write more songs with her voice in mind then they are likely to go from strength to strength, but at the moment with a set made up mainly of older Apparition songs they were very good, just not quite as impressive as they should have been.
Whyzdom were next up. Like Apparition I’d seen them before but with a different singer. Last time Whyzdom played the UK was a few years ago when Clémentine Delauney was the singer, so I’d been looking forward to seeing them with their new singer, Marie Rouyer, as well as the fact that the band’s new album, Blind? is superbly good. As expected they were very impressive – some superb symphonic metal. Marie has a great voice (although personally I prefer Clementine’s), and puts in a great performance. Yet another great band today – this really is a superb lineup with so many strong bands with great vocalists.
On the road to Babylon
Dancing With Lucifer
Daughter Of The Night
Visions of Atlantis were next up for only their second ever UK show, with their first having been in London a few weeks earlier when they supported Serenity in front of a crowd of maybe 50 people. Tonight though they had a much bigger crowd – around 500-600 people, a much more impressive crowd and one that will hopefully persuade the band to visit the UK more in the future. Visions of Atlantis have two vocalists, one male and one female, and the way Mario and Maxi work together is excellent. The band are unusual in that they don’t have a bass player on stage keeping the bass parts on a backing track instead, but that just avoids the stage being too cramped and allows
Martin Harb to position his keyboards at the front of the stage instead of being stuck in a dark corner at the rear of the stage – the usual fate for keyboard players. Like the earlier bands, Visions of Atlantis get a great reception from the crowd and justify their position near the top of the bill tonight.
Delain were tonight’s headliners, and right from the start it was clear to see why – they were absolutely superb. Their setlist tonight was made up of a good mix of songs from their three studio albums, including ‘Stay forever’ and ‘April rain’, two of my favourites.
Performance-wise they were flawless and just made it look so easy, and they sounded fantastic. After a great set lasting around an hour and a half it was time for an encore, and when during the second song of the encore, ‘The gathering’, streamers dropped from the ceiling then I assumed that was the end of the show, but no, there was one more song – ‘We are the others’. Ending the night with ‘We are the others’ was an excellent move. The song was written about Sophie Lancaster who was murdered just for looking different, so is a song many rock or metal fans can associate with, and it really did feel the perfect way to end the day’s music.
Milk and Honey
Virtue and Vice
See Me in Shadow
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Get the Devil Out of Me
Control the Storm
We Are the Others
The day was a great success – a large crowd, good friendly atmosphere, all the bands were great, the venue staff were kept busy serving food and drink (meaning they’ll welcome the event back in future), and best of all, almost all the bands sold out of merchandise. I say best of all, but I was disappointed to miss out on CDs by a couple of the bands, but the fact that they sold plenty of CDs and T-shirts means that when Dave Homer starts planning the next event, band’s will be clamouring to be added to the bill knowing its an event that not only gets them a big crowd but also one that’s happy to buy CDs which helps the bands with things like fuel costs, recording new albums etc. A superb day and big thanks to David Homer for organising the event and handling all the stress that goes with such an undertaking. Thanks too to the venue lighting engineer who did an excellent job all day until the bands crew took over for the last couple of bands (and did a much worse job), the sound engineer who did a great job all day, and generally all the staff at the Robin 2.