Metal Female Voices Fest 2014 – Saturday

Today was the first full day of the festival.  Having sorted out wristbands etc on the Friday, we were able to skip the queue at the box office and head straight into the venue on arrival.

The first act of the day was Dutch band La Ventura.  I’d seen them for the first time a few weeks before MFVF at the FemMe show in Eindhoven, but today they had something special planned – joining them on stage were two Japanese drummers, each playing one of two giant drums set up on either side of the stage. When I say giant drums, I’m not kidding – they’re in stands, but the head of each drum was probably around 6ft across!  Unsurprisingly they make an impressive sound, and for the opening song they are used to create a really impressive beat.  It’s not long though before the Japanese drummers head off stage leaving the band to carry on with the rest of their set.  It’s a great set to start the day, and songs such as “song for an idiot” sound great.

Greek band Season of ghosts came next, and told the crowd this was their first ever gig, which was surprising as they sounded great and looked confident on stage.  They were very good, but the keyboards or electronic sounds seemed far too prominent considering they were on a backing tape rather than being from a live keyboard player.  Definitely a band worth seeing if you get the chance.

Dark Sarah were next.  Dark Sarah is the solo project of former Amberian Dawn singer Heidi Parviainen.  I hadn’t heard any of her new material before MFVF so was expecting something similar to her vocals in Amberian Dawn – operatic vocals with a fairly narrow range.  In practice, her work with Dark Sarah sounds so much better than I expected – there is a lot more variety than I was expecting, and this made things so much more enjoyable.  The music varies too with some of it being quite dark.  I purchased a copy of her limited edition cd which contains the first two parts of the forthcoming album (it’s being recorded in three separate stages, almost like three EPs), and I’m certainly looking forward to the full album coming out.

ancient bards
Ancient Bards

Ancient bards were next.  I’d first listened to them after they were announced for the festival, and had been so impressed I’d bought their three albums, so I had high expectations for their live set.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed either – they were great. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band at MFVF that I thought was rubbish (not something I can say about many other festivals). It was a very polished professional set that sounded great.

Jaded star were next. The band fronted by former Visions of Atlantis singer Maxi Nil, played their first ever gig in May this year at Dames of Darkness festival, and I’d been Impressed then.  Now, with a few more gigs under their belts they are even better than before – this is a band that is definitely worth watching out for.  I can’t wait for them to release an album – I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait though.  Tonight, Tristania singer Mariangela guested for one song.

Head phones president were next.  They’re a Japanese band and kicked off in highly energetic fashion with their singer spinning around and moving around the stage.  Japanese vocals are a marmite kind of sound – people love them or hate them.  I thought they sounded good, but only managed to see the first song before I had to disappear backstage.

skeptical minds
Skeptical minds

Skeptical minds came next, and as usual performed the best sound check of any band.  While the guys spend time setting up, Karolina entertains the crowd – it’s not often you’ll see a sound check that’s this much fun.  Once they start playing though you see the other side of Karolina – the talented singer.  She’s a great singer, but more importantly she’s a great front woman who knows how to get a crowd to sing or clap along, and she makes sure that everyone gets involved. It’s a great set, and as with Draconian, they have a sound that differs from the mainly symphonic lineup and as a result they stand out.  The set contains songs from their albums and latest EP, and also a Motörhead cover – Ace of spades.  It’s a great show – I’ve never seen a bad performance from them yet.

Diabulus in musica came next.  They’re a band who have played MFVF several times and always do something special.  Tonight singer Zuberoa Aznárez was carried on stage by some mysterious masked figures who then retreat to the back of the stage and after removing their masks turn out to be the backing singers.  They’re soon joined by the rest of the band for a great set.  Like many bands in the genre they mix clean or operatic style female vocals with harsh growling male vocals – it’s a combination that Diabulus in Musica do extremely well, and the use of the flute adds another dimension to the music.  A great band.

Draconian were next up.  The Swedish doom band don’t play many shows – their last one was at MFVF in 2011, a show that turned out to be the last one with their singer Lisa Johansson.  Now for their first gig with singer Heike Langhans they’re back at MFVF.  Needless to say, after a three year absence there are plenty of fans here waiting expectantly.  I can happily report that Draconian were superb tonight, and new singer Heike sounded great.  It’s really nice to hear a band like Draconian at MFVF that stands out from all the symphonic or gothic metal bands and they are clearly a popular booking judging by the crowd reaction.  It’s a great set – lets hope we don’t have to wait another three years before Draconian play some more live shows.

Draconian setlist:
Heaven laid  in tears (Angel’s lament)
The drowning age
Morphine cloud
Dishearten – new song
The death of hours – not played live before

Next up was The Sirens.  They’d originally been due to play after Sirenia but swapped to give Liv Kristine a break between this set and her show with leaves eyes.  I saw them play in London on Thursday night – a great warm up for MFVF,a nd loved it, so was looking forward to seeing them again.  If you’re unfamiliar with The Sirens, it’s Kari Rueslåtten (The 3rd and the mortal), Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes) and Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering), three singers who have all had solo success as well as performing with bands.  Together as The Sirens they’ve been touring and performing a set that consists of songs from their various careers.  Some songs are performed solo, some with two singers and some with all three.  It’s one hell of a lineup – any of the three singers are worth seeing individually, so to get all three in one go is fantastic.  They all sound great tonight and although it’s a shorter set than in London it’s still great.

The Sirens setlist:
Treat Me Like a Lady (Anneke van Giersbergen cover) (by Anneke van Giersbergen, Liv Kristine & Kari Rueslåtten)
Vervain (Liv Kristine cover) (by Liv Kristine & Anneke van Giersbergen)
Venus (Theatre of Tragedy cover) (by Liv Kristine)
1000 Miles Away from You (Anneke van Giersbergen cover) (by Anneke van Giersbergen & Liv Kristine)
Why So Lonely? (The 3rd and the Mortal cover) (by Kari Rueslåtten & Anneke van Giersbergen)
Death Hymn (The 3rd and the Mortal cover) (by Kari Rueslåtten)
Love Decay (Liv Kristine cover) (by Liv Kristine & Anneke van Giersbergen)
Image (Theatre of Tragedy cover) (by Liv Kristine)
In Motion #1 (The Gathering cover) (by Anneke van Giersbergen & Kari Rueslåtten)
Atupoéma (The 3rd and the Mortal cover) (by Kari Rueslåtten)
Ride (Kari Rueslåtten cover) (by Kari Rueslåtten, Liv Kristine & Anneke van Giersbergen)
Siren (Theatre of Tragedy cover) (by Liv Kristine & Kari Rueslåtten)
Strange Machines (The Gathering cover) (by Anneke van Giersbergen)
Sisters of the Earth (by Anneke van Giersbergen, Liv Kristine & Kari Rueslåtten)

Next up was a band I’ve been wanting to see for many years – they rarely seem to come to the UK, and last time they did I was at another gig so missed them.  Finally though I got my chance to see them, and what better place to see them than at MFVF.  Singer Ailyn has a beautiful voice, and after the band’s first three album featuring three singers, Ailyn has brought stability to the role having now recorded three albums with the band.  We’d heard her perform with MFV United on Friday night but now got to enjoy a full set of her vocals.  It’s a great set – strong performances from the band combine with AIlyn’s vocals to create a great sound.  Since Morten Veland formed Sirenia after leaving Tristania, it was nice to get a Tristania song (My lost Lenore) included in tonight’s set.  Definitely a great performance and well worth the wait.

Sirenia setlist:
Seven widows weep
Cold caress
Lost in life
My destiny coming to pass
My minds eye
Profound scars
The seventh summer
The other side
My lost Lenore
The path to decay

leaves eyes
Leaves Eyes

Finally it was time for tonight’s headliner, Leaves Eyes.  Tonight was the bands 10th anniversary show, “Hymns of the fallen”, and fans had been able to vote for what they wanted to hear in the setlist.  Things looked impressive right from the start as the stage had three swords on each side – with each sword being 5 metres (over 15 feet) tall.  To add some extra visual impact it wasnt long before they brought out the flames – barbequeing the photographers and security guys in the pit.  As they played with the flames soaring up I was amazed to see Alexander Krull headbanging on stage like mad.  Why was this a surprise?  Well if you’ve seen pictures of him you’ll know he’s a tall guy and has waist-length hair, so as he headbangs his hair flies out a long way, and doing this near towering jets of flames seemed like an accident waiting to happen.  Happily he’d judged the distances nicely so while he got close to the flames he never actually went up in flames himself.
The band sounded great, and Liv’s voice was in great shape – showing no signs of fatigue after performing earlier with The Sirens, but being a special show they weren’t going to perform the entire show alone, and for the third song, “Into your light” they brought on Sirenia singer Ailyn Giménez to duet with Liv.  Later in the show Diabulus in Musica singer Zuberoa Aznárez joined them for “Meredead”, which I think may have been the first time they’ve played the song live – it’s certainly the first time I’ve heard them play it.  We also got a couple of other songs being played live for the first time – “Hymn to the lone sands” and a brand new song likely to appear on the next album, “Halvdan the black”.

Leaves Eyes are great whether it’s in a small venue with no stage show or a big venue like this with a big stageshow – either way they put in a great performance, and I’m already looking forward to seeing them headline the Dames of Darkness festival in the UK next year.

Leaves eyes setlist:
Farewell proud men
Hell into the heavens
Into your light
Legend land
My destiny
To France
Hymn to the lone sands
Symphony of the night
For Amelie
Halvdan the black
Norwegian lovesong
Froyas theme

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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.