In part thanks to DEADMANSWAKE being the current independent band-of-the-year for this blog, I have been looking forward to DAME-NATION 2011 for months. They returned to this Female-Fronted Metal Fest, along with fellow Dame-Nation veterans Losing Scarlet for a truly memorable show. The show went down at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago's south loop on Friday, July 29th, 2011. This unique festival drew in not only the best female-fronted metal acts of Chicago's local scene and their followers, but also several other like-minded independent bands from across North America.
DAME-NATION is the brain-child of Chicago-area music promoter Eric Sanchez. It was an idea conceived to give female-fronted metal bands a place where they can be in the spotlight, rather than an afterthought in the sub-genres of heavy metal music. The ladies that fronted these bands knew this was their place to shine, and they performed like it!
I made the trip to Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago's south loop by about 5:30 pm, hoping I wasn't running late due to the rush-hour traffic. As it turned out, one band, The Unvoiced, was unable to make it to the show, so the start of the show was delayed a bit anyway. I had a few minutes to browse the venue before things got underway, so I mingled. I got to meet Eric in person, which was a pleasure. Then I began to notice a couple familiar faces as I spotted members of Losing Scarlet and Deadmanswake in the crowd. A few minutes later another friend of mine from the band Sutured Psyche arrived. We spent a few minutes catching up before the first performer went on.
First up was Lindz Riot, from the band Mary and the Black Lamb. She was from Canada, and was performing solo this day since the band couldn't afford visas for everybody to enter the US. So not only did she have the pressure of opening this multi-band show, but she was also on her own. If she felt the pressure, she didn't let it show. She sat behind her electronic keyboard, and let the music do the talking.
What might I have expected from an intro like that? Heavy riffs, check. Catchy chord progressions, check. Shredding guitar solos, check. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, powerful vocal delivery... CHECK! Lead singer Nina Osegueda has a voice that was made to sing power metal. Nina sang with more of a straight-forward hard-rock style vocal, as opposed to operatic. A fitting complement to the band's heavy groove, she packed a lot of power into her voice! Her range, style and delivery may have been quite different from the first two acts, but it was no less entertaining. In fact I was probably enjoying this band the most so far!
A Sound of Thunder kept hitting us with their best, song after song. Then when you think a band might start to tire out, Nina says to the crowd, "Hey! I don't think my band's working hard enough. C'mon, let's hear you guys work it!" As she turned the spotlight over to guitarist Josh Schwartz we soon found out we were in for a killer guitar solo. Josh proved quite skilled with the fret-board, but cleverly kept the crowd into it as he threw in a couple classic metal riffs from the likes of Sabbath and Deep Purple.
After their set, and stage equipment was swapped out for the next band, Lindz came back onstage again (apparently she had been made the M.C. for the evening as well!) This time she was introducing her duet partner's band, Shield of Wings. We had been given a preview of Grace Meridan's voice during that duet, but how would she sound backed by her own band?
Shield of Wings played out the rest of their set with grace (literally!) Hearing a band so accomplished in a metal style that brings such contrasting elements together is always an aspect of metal I've found rewarding. From the Metallica albums of the mid-80's to today's melodic-metalcore bands like All That Remains, I've always enjoyed songs that switch gears somewhere in the middle. I'll be sure to pick of Shield of Wings' CD before long!
Next up was Angelical Tears, all the way from Oklahoma City, OK. They launched into their set with a ton of energy. Again, they brought a mix of heavy riffs and classical-inspired backing elements. Singer Julia Flansburg delivered vocals that show inspiration form classical music, but also had moments where she let loose a bit and sang in a gothic-metal style. Their music had a good ebb and flow to it; thrashy segments mixed with melodic break-downs, and good soloing on lead guitar by Steven Bittle.
After another stage change-over the crowd braced themselves for the next act: Losing Scarlet. Losing Scarlet are a Chicago-area band that I've been following for a couple years already. They were the first band of the evening whose music I was already familiar with, so I was more than psyched up to hear what they had in store for this show.
Right as 'Raining Blood' hit its lull before the lyrics kick in, Losing Scarlet switched gears in a heartbeat, and kicked into 'Learning to Bleed', the title-track from their second CD. Jodi sang with everything she had, and she packed a lot of power into her voice. A perfect voice for melodic metal, with the band keeping it heavy, Losing Scarlet were stealing the show! If their influence from classic thrash metal wasn't apparent from their intro, the riffs their songs were built upon were an easy clue. During the instrumental passages of their songs, Jodi periodically broke into her intense headbanging. Now, I know I call myself 'The Happy Headbanger', but honestly, Jodi brought the art of headbanging to a new level this night!
After a couple songs from their new album, they changed things up a bit as they treated us to a new cover, Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie". The crowd got into the show a little more, as Losing Scarlet added their heavy touch to this song, and made it their own. They followed it with 'Dick, Whiskey', a song that has quickly become a favorite sing-along for their fans. "Hey, now. Who are you to judge me? With my empty bottle of whiskey..." They dedicated their next song to Eric Sanchez, Dame-Nation's organizer. It was 'Call Me', a cover of the Blondie classic. They wrapped up their set soon after that, but they were going to be a tough act to follow. I could hardly believe they were the same band I first saw over a year and a half ago! They've really improved their sound, style and confidence in that time. Jodi Kell in particular has become a confident front-woman for this up-and-coming metal band.
Next came DEADMANSWAKE, current independent-band-of-the-year on this blog, and the penultimate performer of the evening. If they felt any pressure in following such a powerful act as Losing Scarlet, they didn't let it show. If anything they seemed the most cool and collected band yet. DMW kicked off their set with 'Screaming In Silence', a real thrashy yet classic sounding metal song. It's the second time I've heard them play this song, and I must say it's my favorite song in their live set.
For the last band, Lindz returned to the stage and said, "When it comes to Boston, I hate their hockey team. But there is one thing I love about Boston, and that's AVARIEL!!!"
By this point it was close to 2 a.m., and the crowd seemed to be showing signs of fatigue. Just as I thought that Avariel might have a tough duty in being the final act, they unveiled their trump-card that brought the crowd back to life... Towards the end of their set they started a number with a symphonic intro, and as the drummer began to pick up the rhythm, I recognized the song as Metallica's 'No Leaf Clover'! What a perfect song for a symphonic metal band to cover. They did the song justice too. This time guitarist Michael Rosati sang most of the verses, while Shannon sang the choruses. I got back into the throng and pumped my fists in the air, screaming my approval. I wanted the band to know I appreciated them coming from Boston to play this show. Rounding out this collection of talented bands couldn't have been better!
I am now following all of these band's through their various websites. I encourage you to do the same. If you have an appreciation for female-fronted metal, you can't go wrong with this collection of bands! I'll include links to each band's website as I summarize the set-lists below:
-Saturnine (The Gathering cover)
-Haunted (Evanescence- duet w/ Grace Meridan from Shield of Wings)
-Into the Night
(also check out her solo-page: Schoolcraft)
A Sound of Thunder
-Intro: Tubular Bells
-A Sound of Thunder
-Kill That Bitch
-(Josh Schwartz guitar solo)
-Archangel (Wings of Steel) (included Dio tribute/medley)
Shield of Wings
-Essence of the Moon
-War & Rapture
-Tomorrow Happens Now
-Sunrise at Sunset
-With the Shadows
-Pool of Sorrow
-Queen of Hearts
-Raining Blood (Intro- Slayer)
-Learning to Bleed
-Halo of Stone
-Love the Way You Lie (Rihanna cover)
-Call Me (Blondie cover)
-Kiss the Guilt Away
-Shade of Hate
-Screaming in Silence
-Back to Blood
-Flowers (Stand Between Us)
-(If You Need Me) I'll Be Bleeding
-867-5309 (jenny) (Tommy Tutone cover)
-FU (Cee Lo Green)
-No Leaf Clover (Metallica)
I'd like to thank all the bands, and friends new and old, who made this event such a memorable concert: Eric Sanchez (Dame-Nation's organizer/promoter), Ryan Reilly (long-time friend, guitarist for SUTURED PSYCHE, and inside scoop for Chicago's local scene), Lindz Riot and Chee Kam (her manager); from SOLARSPHERE: Rachel Sabine, Brett Zweig, Adam Gordon, and Mike Rutledge; from A SOUND OF THUNDER: Nina Osegueda, Josh Schwartz, Chris Haren, and Jesse Keen; from SHIELD OF WINGS: Grace Meridan, James Gregor, Jeff Olsem, Pat Eulitz; from ANGELICAL TEARS: Glenn and Julia Flansburg, Steve Bittle, and JC; from LOSING SCARLET: Jodi Kell, Scott Haith, Petra Sith, and Shawn Kelly; from DEADMANSWAKE: Kryssie Ridolfi, JP Soule, Josh Barker, Troll, and Brandon Schabell; from AVARIEL: Shannon and Ryan Kelly, Michael Rosati, Jay Narbonne, and Scott McDonald.
I'll be sure to keep up with all your music. Keep an eye out for reviews of your albums here on Heavy Metal 107 in the future!
Until we meet again...