Friday, August 26, 2011

DAME NATION 2011 (Concert review from July 29th, 2011)

Post #157
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.
It was really nice mood-setting music. Many of her songs reminded me of some of Evanescence's ballads. Then, after she'd performed a couple numbers, noting which ones were from her band's CD, and which are from her upcoming solo project, she announced that Grace Meridan from Shield of Wings would join her for a duet. Together they covered Evanescence's 'Haunted'. Very well performed too, as both Lindz and Grace have a similar vocal range, and were both capable of covering Evanescence on their own. Together they brought a new dimension to the song. What's more is they had only rehearsed the song together over the internet!
Lindz ended her set gracefully, and then the stage was prepared for the next act, Solarsphere. Now it was time for fully amped metal! They kicked off the show with heavy guitar-riffs accompanied by keyboards in the background. Then when Rachel Sabine delivered the vocals, they revealed their true genre: symphonic metal. The operatic style vocals brought a nice contrast to the music. They played a good variety of songs, many with prominent melodic sections, others that were quite heavy. Before they were finished, Rachel made a comment on how they came to the last Dame-Nation as fans, and this time they were there as performers. The sincere gratitude for being included was a nice touch. It was just one of many instances throughout the evening that illustrated how strong the camaraderie was among the bands and the promoter.
Next up was A Sound of Thunder, from Washington, D.C. Lindz came back to the stage to introduce them, so she asked us if we were ready for some 'epic, power-metal'. The crowd gave a loud cheer, then the band took the stage...

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.
For their closing number they played 'Archangel (Wings of Steel)' off their self-titled EP. However, before they finished the song, they slipped into Dio's 'Holy Diver', closely followed by Black Sabbath's 'Heaven & Hell' riff. I pumped my fists in the air, and cheered as loud as ever. Then I held my right hand high in the air with Dio's traditional devil-horn/evil-eye salute '\m/'. If any band want's to know how to win me over with a live show, paying tribute to one of metal's legends is always a plus!

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?
The answer: Incredible! Shield of Wings hit us with heavy riffs and symphonic backing elements early and often. Grace's operatic voice elevated the music to a level somewhere in the stratosphere. Then, in places where the songs kicked up in intensity, I couldn't help but notice this blur of blond hair on stage-left. Guitarist James Gregor easily had 4 feet of length to his hair, and when it came to headbanging, it did not go to waste! This band was clicking on all levels. They were heavy, melodic, symphonic, employed good stage-craft, but then they gave us yet another dimension. A couple songs into their set, Gregor was on backing vocals, screaming with a death-metal-esque fervor. It was definitely something new that none of the previous bands had displayed. It was such a contrast to the almost angelic vocals from Grace that you could not help but be captivated by the change-offs between the two.

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.
In some ways Angelical Tears reminded me a bit of the previous performers Solarsphere and A Sound of Thunder, but they had a tight chemistry and confident stage presence all their own. They took a moment near the end of their set to thank the event organizers, and of course the fans for coming out & supporting female-fronted metal. Then they closed their set with the song 'Queen of Hearts'.

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.
The band members took their positions on stage, and a hush fell over the crowd. Then we heard.... thunder? Rainfall? BOOM-BOOM-BOOM! (The triple bass-drum thundered loudly) I cocked my head with wonder and recognition; it was the intro to Slayer's 'Raining Blood'! Sure enough, they launched into the speed-thrash classic, as Jodi Kell ran to center stage and instantly got the crowd into it. "C'mon Chicago, let me hear you!" she yelled, then instantly broke into a furious head-banging fit and the band thrashed on, flawlessly chugging through Slayer's most classic of riffs. Jodi came to the forefront again and urged us the get louder, and we obliged.

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.
Another factor that was playing into their hands was the fact that, like Losing Scarlet, they were local to the Chicago and suburban area. The crowd's enthusiasm may have been a hint that they were a fan favorite, but the most obvious clue was the sea of DMW t-shirts that were present in the audience. The backs of these shirts included the lyric "When I said 'I wanna bury the hatchet...' ...I didn't want it buried in my back!" That was from the song 'Back to Blood', and not one to disappoint, they performed that song as well.
They took a moment between songs to thank Eric again, for organizing the show. Other times they would be goofing around and teasing each other between songs. They had a great sense of humor that was entertaining, and it kept everyone's spirits up. These guys were having fun, and it was contagious. Of course it helped that they also played great metal music too. Kryssie Ridolfi has a smooth, bluesy voice, but she can belt out some angst when she wants to! Their guitar tandem of JP Soule and Josh Barker delivered ripping guitar solos that simply sounded classic. Kryssie kept interacting with her band-mates throughout their set. They delivered a great set, mixing a couple cover tunes into the fray of their best known tracks from 'It Comes to This'. They closed with an unexpected cover of Cee Lo Green's 'FU'.

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!!!"
The final performance of the evening was brought to us by Boston's Avariel. With this band closing out the evening, it seemed to bring the show full circle, as their style was symphonic metal. Lead singer Shannon Kelly delivered a soaring vocal performance of classical inspired tone and pitch. Perhaps not as high in pitch as Soalrsphere or Shield of Wings, but a masterful upper mid-range! The band was quite heavy as well, making for the perfect conclusion of a well-planned, niche oriented concert. A two-guitar attack, with keyboards filling up a wall of sound, not to mention a 6-string bass; this band was top-quality metal! On a couple tracks, one of their guitarists, Scott McDonald, provided death-style backing vocals. Not quite to the degree that we had heard from Shield Of Wings, but enough to add an edge to their sound.

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:

Lindz Riot
-Saturnine (The Gathering cover)
-Haunted (Evanescence- duet w/ Grace Meridan from Shield of Wings)
-Into the Night
(also check out her solo-page: Schoolcraft)

-Inner Demons
-Eternal Hunter
-Sick Pleasure

A Sound of Thunder
-Intro: Tubular Bells
-A Sound of Thunder
-Kill That Bitch
-(Josh Schwartz guitar solo)
-The Beast
-Blood Vomit
-Archangel (Wings of Steel) (included Dio tribute/medley)

Shield of Wings
-Carnival Mirror
-Essence of the Moon
-War & Rapture

Angelical Tears
-Tomorrow Happens Now
-Sunrise at Sunset
-With the Shadows
-Pool of Sorrow
-Queen of Hearts

Losing Scarlet
-Raining Blood (Intro- Slayer)
-Learning to Bleed
-Halo of Stone
-Shameless Prayer
-Love the Way You Lie (Rihanna cover)
-Dick, Whiskey
-Call Me (Blondie cover)
-Kiss the Guilt Away
-Shade of Hate

-Screaming in Silence
-Back to Blood
-Running Behind
-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)
-In Heaven

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...
And as always, Happy Headbanging!


Anonymous said...

Great review Joel!

Anonymous said...

\m/ rock on brotha!

MuchoMetalMan said...

Awesome review. I really felt like I was there with ya!