On August 15th Dame-Nation, Chicago's very own Female-Fronted Heavy Metal Festival made its return to Reggies in Chicago's South Loop. After missing last year's installment, I was all the more excited for this year's line-up. There had always been a good variety of bands at previous Dame-Nation shows, and from previewing several of the bands online in the weeks leading up to the show, this year was looking to live up to that promise. If anything my hopes were even higher, as the format had expanded to encompass both the Rock Club and Music Joint stages at Reggies in Chicago.
The schedule was staggered in such a way that you could bounce back and forth between the 2 sides of the venue, and catch at least some, if not all, of every band on the bill. I did my best to hear as much music form each and every band on the bill and bounced back and forth between the Music Joint Stage to the Rock Club Stage all evening long. There was so much music to take in, but it was well worth it...
The first band that performed, opening the Music Joint Stage was KILLTHEROBOTSDEAD, a Chicago-area band. The started the evening with their own brand of grungy, alternative, hard rock metal. Although I missed most of their set due to traffic, I have added them to my list of independent bands I intend to follow in the years ahead. As with all the other bands I'm reviewing in this post, watch for more content about them on this blog in the future. In the meantime you can check out a couple of their songs streaming online at their Reverbnation Page, like 'Observe the Ghost' and '12 Inch Voices'.
Immediately following KILLTHEROBOTSDEAD, False Hope Fades was set to open the Rock Club Stage. False Hope Fades was a band with power in their riffs and melody in their lyrics. Their music encouraged everyone in the crowd to vent some raw emotions. I would classify them as melodic groove-metal. Their rhythm section maintained a very heavy groove, and singer Rosie belted out some catchy melodies with her clean, yet powerful vocal style. When they played 'Coward' I was reminded of Pantera. They really tore it up! Some of their songs are available on their facebook page. Check them out!
Not a moment to waste, it was now time to move back over to the Music Joint Stage to catch Genotype. This band took the metal up a notch or two, as their style was much more hardcore, or metalcore. A little more blast-beat drumming, and much more screaming from singer Kadie Kirby than either of the previous bands. Kadie may have a petite stature, but deep inside she has a furious hardcore-metal voice! Then, during some of the choruses, she switches things up with some melodic singing, proving her versatility and talent. Genotype also have their music available online at their Facebook and Reverbnation pages, among other outlets.
Next up over at the Rock Club Stage was Plague of Stars, from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. One of the bands I had been looking forward to since hearing some of their songs online, they proved to be worth the anticipation. Although not utilizing a hardcore style as Genotype did, they were arguably the heaviest band so far. Their guitar tones were low and heavy, such as to feel it in your bones. For the most part their songs were mid to low-tempo, making them an easy band to pump your fists to. Contrasting these heavy elements were singer Melissa Ferlaak's operatic vocals. This made for a unique style of metal that was truly captivating. Their songs had won me over as a fan already, but then they had a surprise in store for us. When they announced the song 'In The Pines' (originally by Lead Belly-made popular by Nirvana) they had Grace Meridan join them on stage to sing the song as a duet!
If you've heard Nirvana's cover of this song from their Unplugged CD, then you know the song. However Plague of Stars have practically reinvented it. The arrangements may be true to the original, but how they incorporate their ominous heavy tones enhance the dark undertones of the song in ways I never imagined! You deserve to hear this version too. You can find it on their Reverbnation page.
Next up on the Music Joint Stage was Expired Empire, another Chicago-area band, this time hailing from south suburban Crete. Their style of metal was a straight forward melodic metal. I would describe their vocalist Jessica Lubera's voice as similar to Lacuna Coil's Cristia Scabbia. Catchy melodies sang smoothly in a mid-range alto voice. They kept the energy of Dame-Nation flowing as their music blended heavy guitars, melodic singing and some good guitar solos.
They have plenty of songs available to stream from their Reverbnation and Facebook pages. Or visit their main website at http://expiredempire.com/.
Phosphene were the next band up at the Rock Club Stage. They draw inspiration from a wide variety of metal, ranging from thrash to hair-metal to alternative rock. Their sound and vibe was also easy to get into and good for singing along. If Phosphene could be counted on for one thing it was their ability to deliver a catchy melody. Often their songs would build from a soft, melodic, clean-guitar progression to heavy power chords. They're a perfect fit for mainstream heavy rock, and gave us a couple power ballads too.
One highlight from their set was a good rendition of Journey's classic 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)'. This was a song that everybody was sure to know and it got the crowd involved a little more. One of their original songs I would point out as a personal favorite is 'Break the Silence'. Jeni Imparato's performance was captivating. She put much emotion into her vocal delivery. At moments she seemed to be channeling Pat Benatar or Sharon den Adel (of Within Temptation).Check out their main website: www.rubyoureyes.com (taken from the meaning of the word 'phosphene') where you can stream several of their songs!
The next act up on the Music Joint Stage was a real treat- Eve's Apple, a worldwide collaborative project of female rock and metal musicians and singers. Tonight they were to perform an acoustic set. A few of the lead singers from the other bands from this night's line-up participated in this performance, along with the MC's from each stage- Lindsay Schoolcraft and Grace Meridan. Their set list included a mix of original songs and cover tunes. For the opening number it was just VK Lynne on guitar, and Mary Zimmer doing a duet on vocals for the song 'Tap the Crazy'. VK and Mary were prominent in many varied combinations during Eve's Apple's set, with Mary often playing keyboards.
From one song to the next the Eve's Apple line-up changed, with different duets or trios of singers performing each song. Sometimes accompanied with keyboards, others with VK and her acoustic guitar. At one point of their show, with the combination of Lindz on keyboards, and Grace and Melissa from Plague of Stars on vocals, they did a cover of Evanescence's 'Field of Innocence'.
The best part of their set was definitely the closing number: a cover of Nightwish's 'Nemo' with Mary on keyboards, VK on guitar, and everybody else joining in harmony on vocals! For only rehearsing via skype in many cases, their voices blended in perfect harmony for this classic song of female-fronted symphonic metal! Hearing 'Nemo' in a stripped down acoustic fashion, with so many voices blending together, was a truly special experience.
To keep track of the Eve's Apple project, follow them on facebook!
DEADMANSWAKE have become familiar faces around Dame-Nation. They kept their streak alive again this year as the only band to perform at every installment of Dame-Nation. Their line-up has changed a little since the last time I had seen them, but their set was just as spectacular as in years past. On this occasion they were the penultimate act on the Rock Club Stage, and they made it a special show for those who were there. Of course they played several of their fan-favorite songs from their debut album It Comes to This. But they worked in a few songs from their forthcoming 2nd album and a couple awesome cover tunes.
After mentioning a cancelled Danzig show that would have been on the following day, DEADMANSWAKE gave us a 'Danzig fix' and played a cover of 'Mother'. A couple songs later they played my personal favorite 'Screaming In Silence', which is sure to be included on the previously mentioned 2nd album by these guys. I went nuts for this song, enough to draw a direct comment from singer Kryssie Ridolfi. Then, for their special treat as a closing number, they played their cover of Motley Crue's 'Kickstart My Heart', with special guests Lindz and Grace helping on vocals! To hear their music, and keep updated on the release of their upcoming album, follow them on Facebook!
Unfortunately, I chose to duck out a tad bit early from DMW's set because I heard through the wall the Music Joint Stage closers, Scarlet Canary, had started to play. They had traveled all the way from Denver, Colorado to play this show, and I didn't want to miss them. I made it next door just in time to catch the end of 'Metrognome', one of my favorites I had been listening to on their website. It's a very catchy metal-anthem type of song all about the grueling grind of a mundane 9-5 work-a-holic lifestyle.
delivered an awesome set of their melodic, heavy, alt-rock, metal music. Singer Hannah Haze primarily sang in a powerful, melodic voice, but did whip out a couple hardcore screams just when the music called for it. More favorite songs from their set include 'Distorted Reality' and 'Nightmare'. They also included a cover of Halestorm's 'Love Bites'. You can hear some of these songs for yourself on their facebook page, as well as keeping up-to-date on their releases and tour dates!
After Scarlet Canary wrapped things up I made my way back over to the Rock Club Stage for the final performer of the evening... Luna Mortis! Luna Mortis were the perfect closing act for Dame-Nation, as their style encompassed both ends of the spectrum of music the previous bands had performed throughout the evening. Melodic singing, heavy riffs, soaring guitar solos, hardcore screams and soft melodies, this band had them all. Vocalist Mary Zimmer was in a whole new element compared to her previous appearance in Eve's Apple's acoustic set. With Luna Mortis she was unleashing her inner fury!
This band was constantly changing things up between vocals that were sang melodically, and guttural hardcore screams. It was almost too much for your ear to keep up, but the overall effect was totally enthralling. While most of the previous bands tended to lean more solidly toward either a clean or a hardcore vocal style, Luna Mortis partitioned these contrasting elements practically 50-50.
For the most part, Luna Mortis kept the tempo at full throttle, leaving no argument that they were true American power metal. Guitarists Brian Koenig and Cory Scheider seemed to be constantly ripping some killer guitar solo wherever there was a break in the lyrics. Whether you were here to enjoy the music, bang your head, or mosh it up, Luna Mortis provided every opportunity to get involved in the music. Check out the music they have available on their Facebook page, and download a couple favorites. You'll be glad you did!
Set lists from Dame-Nation V:
-Subtle Creepy Fingers
-Twelve Inch Voices
-Observe the Ghost
False Hope Fades
-Drifting to the End
Plague of Stars
-Succomb to Darkness
-When Morning Came
-In The Pines (w/ Grace Meridan)
-Tighten My Noose
-Rise of the Fall
-In Your Wake
-Don't Give Up
-Break the Silence
-Separate Ways (World's Apart) (Journey cover)
-Lock Me Away
-Let You Go
-On My Own
-Life on Fire
-Tap the Crazy (VK and Mary, Glitter Mortis)
-Familiar Taste of Poison (VK and Lindz, Mary-piano, Halestorm cover)
-Anathema-Parisienne Moonlight (Grace and Kassy, VK guitar, Mary-piano)
-Field of Innocence (Grace, Mel and Lindz, Evanescence cover)
-Mess Like You (Grace and VK)
-Nemo (Mel, VK, Mary, Grace, Kassy, Aziza, Lindz, Nightwish cover)
-The Monster in Me (Intro)
-Save Your Breath
-If You Need Me (I'll Be Bleeding)
-Back to Blood
-Mother (Danzig cover)
-Screaming in Silence
-Kickstart My Heart (Motley Crue cover, with guest vocals by Grace Meridan and Lindz Riot)
-Mark of the Beast
-Let it Go
-Love Bites (Halestorm cover)
-Why the Caged Bird Screams
-Fountain of Youth
-Never Give In
My thanks to all the bands that came out, played their hearts out on stage, and made Dame-Nation V such a memorable experience. I'll be following you all. Until we meet again, happy headbanging to all!