With Incassum pulling out of the festival at the last minute Enkelination and Skarlett Riot were to do extended sets plus rumours that the Winter In Eden singer had lost her voice proved true, but more of that later. Opening the second day of the festival was UK band Edenfall who looked nervous onstage and came across as little flat despite the obvious talent in their song writing and playing ability. With little interaction with the crowd there was an uncomfortable silence at times and some thought into how the songs flow from one to the other would preserve momentum. The contrasting male and female vocal styles worked fine but lacked ambition, though I did appreciate the flouncing gothic doom style. At times the female vocals were a little too high for my liking but that’s a minor point for an upcoming band with bags of potential to make inroads into this burgeoning scene.
With the majority of the bands earlier on the second day from our own shores unsigned Welsh outfit Insuna had different qualities within their approach that was refreshing offering a more aggressive stance that was tonally equivalent to what I consider as Kerrap music which isn’t to denigrate this outfit as they came across as extremely memorable on “Beyond The Hollow”. Stage banter was a little forced but appreciated by the gathered throng as the soft vocal style contrasted heavily with the denser music played and occasionally the vocals languished uncomfortably in the mix. “Deceiver” was Metallica like akin to their wilderness “Load” era initially before shoving it aside to reveal another string to the vocalists bow with harsh vocals being incorporated for a more modern flavour to the music which was enjoyed by the audience but needs tweaking here and there to hone the band style.
As mentioned earlier EnkElination (Angel in Finnish) were to play an extended set and enabled the band to start a little earlier. Building their songs around the striking vocalist Elina, her delivery and stage presence were alluring, engaging with the audience she had them stood like lap dogs awaiting commands. Added to their ranks was Julia on bass, Shadow on guitar and Ben on drums, they proved to be one of the bands of weekend with songs like “Tears Of Lust”, complete with swirling head bang, and “Last Time Together” exuding aplomb and swagger in reams and deservedly so. The latter being an emotive tune boasted an excellent lead, something that was missing from the weekend within these bands repertoires. An integral aspect of these bands is dynamism and EnkElination oozed sassy charm from start to finish and have the capacity to stretch into the big time with practice as their set ended and the inevitable wildebeest like charge to their merch area took place.
Starting ahead of schedule due to their extended performance Skarlett Riot blew most of bands away this weekend for me as their music was centred around Skarlett’s incredible vocals. With Danny (guitars), Martin (bass), and Luke (drums) alongside this band has the potential to be stratospheric in popularity. The bands hard rock style was very different to the whole billing over two days and at the pulsing heart of the band are raging and uplifting rock songs with “Wake Up” catching my attention very early in the set. Having seen the band a few times now the progression being made is exponential and their constant gigging is playing off as the band oozed class on songs like “Villain” and “Rising”. The camaraderie within the band was excellent feeding off each other’s energy to create a powerhouse set that had arena rock credentials though asking for a circle pit was a bit silly but the look on the faces of the older patrons was priceless and worth asking for just to see that. As the band progressed through their set it was patently obvious that they gained new fans by the minute and credit where its due the band worked very hard to put in a utterly fabulous show that quickly came to a close and meant refreshment for my good self in the form of beer, what else would it be!
With Winter In Eden being hit by the loss of their vocalist, Vicky, due to losing her voice the band were put in a quandary, but with all hands on deck they pulled off a miraculous show even if it intended to play an instrumental set. With help at hand various vocalists over the couple of days stepped in to salvage the situation with Andrea Casanova (Rainover), Bexie James (Khaos Theory) and Melissa Adams (Aonia) doing stints during the bands set with varied results and I commend the band and the stand vocalists for their bravery and tenacity in proving the cliché that the show must go on. Airing your songs with unfamiliar singers is a huge challenge but it was pulled it off brilliantly even if some of the vocal deliveries felt a bit off at times it added to the spirit and camaraderie of the scene . With the set soldiering on and having lyrics set upon a lectern for the ladies to use the performance was heroic from all parties but Andrea really nailed it for me. With the bands set being understandably shortened they left the stage triumphant knowing that it worked and I wish Vicky a speedy recovery.
With this day already full of quality bands it was difficult to see how Enemy Of Reality from Greece could top any of it but they did with a masterly display of dextrous gothic laced metal that was a sonic narcotic, coursing through the veins. Probably the best vocal performance of the weekend Iliana Tsakiraki had a larynx to shift continents, her cadence and dizzying articulation were unparalleled over the weekend even by the headliners. Clad in a black frock Iliana was visually outstanding and vocally dazzling at all times, her operatic tones and straight up vocals were knitted so tightly that without them the songs would have unravelled chaotically. The vocal start to “Needle Bites” was devastating, accompanied by the tremendous song writing the tune was a stand out for me. The band was loving every minute with smiles etched on their faces, the bond between them was mesmeric, each nuance of the song was amplified to the bewildering heights of magisterial eloquence. “Her Descending Ghost” was a straight out rocker possessing a fist pumping beat and stirring guitar lead which was followed Iliana’s radiant vocal acrobatics and in fairness she is pivotal to the bands individuality as I quickly scurried to their merch desk and bought their album and a shirt.
Leaves’ Eyes had a mountainous task after Enemy Of Reality had performed but as I expected they doused the audience with a master class performance that started with an intro piece allowing each band member to arrive on stage to a cheer but a roar for Liv Kristine as they launched into “Galswintha”. With unison head banging being undertaken the band took the audience by storm as they followed it with “Take The Devil In Me”. Vocally Liv Kristine has to be one of the best vocalists in this scene, if not the best, as she confidently thrust “Fading Earth” at the crowd and it is here I detected an issue with the sound, with the bass distorting the intricacies of the other instruments and partially dulling the vocals. At this point Alex stated that a new album is in the pipeline for this year with a slated release of September followed by UK tour in November and that the new album will be called “King Of Kings”. A new song was aired from it called “Halvdan The Black” and was received exceptionally well and was a positive sign for the forthcoming album. The audience greeted “My Destiny” with its serene vocal line with total exaltation though I do wish metal bands would stop asking us to jump up and down as it’s not metal. Following the addictive “My Destiny” was the title track of the last album, “Symphony Of The Night”, a personal favourite of mine that sounded glorious. As always their cover of “To France” was delightful, a match for the original, the song was beautifully performed and not having it in their set would be criminal. The audience wave at the start of “Maid Of Lorraine” was cheesy but I loved it as the crowd pumped their horns towards Liv as she sang so exquisitely leading into its dense heart warming finale. A staple of the bands repertoire was “Elegy” whose keyboard intro was instantly recognised by the crowd Liv stated ‘feel free to sing’, which they did of course, joining in with her hand clap above her head. Stylishly sang the tune ended the main part of the set and signalled the first of three encores that started with “Hell To The Heavens” and Alex rejoining the stage. Ever popular with the crowd the tune was sang devotedly by most people as by now I needed a beer only to find out from the bar staff that the shooter and I had cleaned them out of Wychwood’s Piledriver; result indeed. Leaving the stage again they returned to a unison clap for “Norwegian Lovesong” a truly beautiful song with a divine vocal line. Closing the set was the duo of “Frøya’s Theme” and “Mot Fjerne Land” right after a chant of the band’s name by the crowd. Did they top Enemy Of Reality, yes of course they did but only just as the band left the stage. With an expected appearance of Liv and the band anticipated a small throng of ardent fans gathered at their merch area to get their memorabilia signed. The band did take while to come out but it was worth the wait as eager fans giddily got stuff signed and had their photo taken which was done with consummate professionalism and respect. With that facet over Dames Of Darkness 2015 came to an end. As fanatic as any other scene this niche market has become a full blown worldwide phenomenon though I’ll stake a claim as being one of the first to get into it back in the 90s.
(Review Martin Harris Photos © Andy Pountney)