Thursday night saw the O2 Academy transformed with crimson flags adorned by black emblems. The overwhelming crusade of ‘The New Dawn’ had arrived, and around the room there were matching banners, armbands, and gift bags. The album has seen the evolution of Dakesis from a power-metal band with a dedicated local following, to a band that comfortably spans power, prog and symphonic metal, with a critically acclaimed new album, and an ambitious UK tour.
The evening began with two other Birmingham bands that embrace the resurgence of power and symphonic metal in the West Midlands. Like Dakesis, both Celestial Wish and The Mighty Wraith have very noticeable vocalists, who are well known for their range and abilities. More importantly, both bands share a love of story telling and imagery, which put the audience into the perfect state of mind for the headline act. Whoever put these three bands together certainly deserves great credit.
Celestial Wish are a band that I first saw nine months ago at the EP launch for Hidden. Saneeta Ram has an ethereal grace, and distinctive vocal range. The band has a very talented guitarist in Daniel Carpenter who is well matched to the symphonic genre, capable of huge theatrical solos, like those in fast-paced favourite ‘The Highwayman’. On the three occasions that I’ve seen the band, it’s been frustrating that the sound levels between Saneeta’s vocals, and the rest of the band haven’t been well matched. Watching the excellent music video for ‘Crossing The River’ on youtube taken from the 2014 EP the band are clearly capable of something remarkable and with practice I know they will replicate this in their live performances in the future. If you haven’t seen Celestial wish before, the band are appearing at heat 2 of metal to the masses at the Roadhouse in Birmingham, and I’d strongly recommend that you join them.
I recently spoke to The Mighty Wraith backstage at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton, and when I asked them about the upcoming album launch you could see the excitement on the their faces. On the Saturday before the album launch I also had the opportunity of watching them perform some of their new material at Scruffy Murphys. On Thursday the crowd were again treated to new songs and responded very positively. As always, Matt Gore stalks around the stage wielding his fantastic medieval gauntlets, decked in nightmarish black leather armour. Fists fly up in the air as he announces well loved classics ‘Dragon Heart’ and ‘Fury of the Norsemen’. Embedded in the theatrics and story telling is an incredibly talented band. Matt Gore is by far one of the strongest singers I’ve seen in the West Midlands, and Chris has been a fine addition on bass. Unsurprisingly the band has a long list of upcoming gigs, and this Wednesday they can be seen back at the Slade Rooms with Theia, Metal Militia and Tragedy.
With inspiring vocals by Gemma, and other-worldly guitar playing by Matt, Dakesis have always inspired passion and commitment in their fans (the ‘Dakesians’). I remember seeing them fill the basement in the Rainbow last September with a vocal and appreciative crowd who knew the words to most of the set. Now the band have rewarded those fans with an album which is not only breathtaking in its ambition and scope, but also in it’s beautiful storytelling, and unparalleled performances.
The album tells a story of uprising and revolution on an imaginary Kingdom. The album also spans a musical journey for the band, setting off in the power-metal sphere and moving toward more progressive themes, with expansive instrumental landscapes, and well crafted songs. The album is mixed by Nino Laurenne of Sonic Pump Studios (Sonata Arctica), and mastered by Svante Forsback of Chartmakers (of Rammstein fame). Some excellent videos are also up on the band’s youtube channel, including an official music video filmed and edited by drummer Adam Harris.
The quartet, with Amie Chatterly on bass, and Adam Harris on drums, are joined by Jacob Zachory Underwood on keyboards. The hour long album is going to be played in full and the stage darkens as the band assemble to the opening of ‘The Darkest House’. As Gemma’s exuberant voice carries the crowd to the imagined far away kingdom of ‘The New Dawn’ it’s impossible not to be swept away. Attention to detail is everything, and I notice that Gemma and Amie are both wearing costumes featuring the same crimson as the boys armbands, and the banners around them. There is a cinematic feel to the experience; I’m imagining the Hunger Games, or Divergence, only with riffs and melodies.
During the course of the night we see two excellent duets. Matt Gore joins Gemma on stage for ‘Betrayal’. After some challenges with Matt’s mic, the two voices begin to erupt in a furious battle to depict the despair and disenchantment within the song, and the souls it represents. Both singers exude drama and passion and the crowd are captivated from start to finish. The second duet is from Adam, who is temporarily replaced by Mez from Captain Horizon. This time the voices intertwine and form a perfect embodiment of the relationship between these characters. On both occasions that crowd are overjoyed with the performances.
Fifty minutes into the album and I don’t feel like I’ve been watching for more than a few minutes. I make a quick headcount and see no less than two hundred people as we approach the eleventh song on the album, “The Seventh Sky”. The anticipation in the room is tangible. Gemma looked around, paused for a moment and smiled, Dakesis were going to play their eighteen minute prog-rock opus in full. I looked around quickly (not wanting to miss a second) and saw that everyone around me had taken a step forward, also not wanting to miss a moment. Eighteen minutes later, and from where I stood, nobody has winced or tried to step back, and it’s clear from Gemma’s face and Matt’s bubbling excitement that the set it drawing to a climax.
On reaching the final song ‘By the Fading Light’, Gemma gets the opportunity for a hard won breather as Matt sets out on some mind boggling guitar work. Somehow an hour into the set he’s still making this look effortless, whilst in the crowd we’re all willing our feet to keep us standing till the very end. Gemma bravely thanks the crowd through hard fought tears. As she chokes up the crowd are only encouraged to cheer louder, and louder. Finally Gemma concedes with a rendition of the band’s much loved sing-along classic, ‘Valhalla’. At this point the crowd are now themselves starting to well up in what has been a very emotional journey, and an unforgettable night.
After the event, friends in the crowd mentioned that they’d already booked hotels for the second album launch at The Black Heart in London on Friday 1st April. If the band have recovered even a fraction of their energy by then it will be an incredible night. If you haven’t already seen Evyltyde then you’re in for a treat from the support bands as well. In the meantime if you’re off to watch a band in Birmingham anytime soon then expect to be asked: “Did you see it?!”