Review and photos by Tony Gaskin
Birmingham Prog/Power Metal Protaganisits launch their epic Opus with all the pomp and bravado it deserves.
When you’ve worked closely with a band from their early days, it’s on nights like this when you feel like a proud parent watching their offspring perform in their first play, or score their first goal. In fact it’s difficult to remain clinical and detached when writing this review because I know personally the trials and tribulations that the band has been through to get to this point, but reading the post gig comments from people that were there, including people who confess to not liking power metal, means that whatever people may think of my review, biased or not, then at least the general concensus was how bloomin’ great it was!
First up though were relative new comers to the local scene, Celestial Wish. A symphonic quartet, who take their inspirations from the likes of Nightwish, Kamelot et al. Some solid musicianship here, particularly from guitarist Daniel Carpenter. Vocals are provided by Saneeta Ram, who has a decent range, but I would like to see a bit more theatrics in her delivery, that’s what the symphonic genre is all about, bombastic and epic! I do think their sound would also benefit with keyboards on stage and give them that extra depth of sound, but certainly ones to look out for over the coming months.
When Dakesis finalised the details for this gig, first band that came to mind for support was always going to be The Mighty Wraith. Both bands have worked together and supported each other over the years, it was a no brainer really.
It was my first time seeing them since the departure of original member Jon Miller, but the re-arrangements were un-noticable. As usual everyones focus is on front man Matt Gore, he really is one of the best on the underground scene and his deliverence is definitely theatrical. They’re busy writing new material at the moment, so it’s old favourites on show tonight and the crowd love it. The pulsing beat of ‘Dragon Heart’ and anthemic climax of ‘Fury Of The Norse’ do an excellent job of working the crowd up into a frenzy, and with the new track ‘Odessy’ we see what the future of this band is heading towards. Another epic concept album perhaps?
But tonight is really just about one band and their tumultuous journey to get to this point, Dakesis. I love these guys, I’ve had the privilege and honour to have worked with them from their early days and seen them develop from a great live band in those early gigs into a polished, professional, class act that they are today. I can attest to the blood sweat and tears that has gone into this album, it has pretty much consumed their life, money and sanity this past couple of years. I dragged my ass out of my sick bed yesterday, there was no way I was going to miss this.
The lights dim, and a shiver runs down my back as the first strains of ‘The Darkest Hour’ creep over us. I’ve been listening to the album for weeks now, but to finally hear it live was going to be something special and as the band walk on to stage and the first song off the album, ‘The New Dawn’ breaks over us, all the anxiety and anticipation is swept away.
This is a band who have planned everything down to the last detail, from the little flags adorning their cupcakes to the costumes and stage set up, but all that planning comes to nothing if you don’t deliver, and boy did they deliver. Gemma’s vocals were as strong and powerful as I’ve ever heard them, driven no doubt by a huge outpouring of emotion and satisfaction. This was just the first song, we had 90 minutes of this to come!
Second track on the album,’Betrayal’ features guest vocals by Matt Gore, so of course he had to join them on stage, and what great fun it was to see the duelling duet of Gemma and Matt, it really brought that song to life. And so on it went, ‘Destined For The Flames’ is probably the closest you’ll get to Dakesis Mk1, an out and out power metal track, with ‘To Conquer Or Die’ destined to become the new ‘Valhalla’, but it’s in the second half of the set where we see the greatest changes and sublime performances. From here on in we go into full on prog mode.
‘Judgement Day’ starts off gentle, building up to a crescendo of sound that fills the hall and the heart, before heading into the 9 minute long ‘The Sacrifice’, soaring harmonies, changing time signatures, so many layers of epicness going on with this track, fast becoming my personal favoutite off the album. Then another suprise for the majority of the crowd, drummer Adam Harris steps out from behind his impressive setup and stands alongside Gemma, whilst another great friend of the band, James “Mez” Merricks (Captain Horizon) sits behind the skins and what follows is a revelation to many, Adam has a great voice and his duet with Gemma on ‘Autumn’ is something special.
Now who in their right mind would play an eighteen minute long track at their album launch! Well Dakesis would, probably for the first and last time, but they promised to play the album in full, and to be honest the track is in three distinct parts so it doesn’t seem that long, and at the end of the day, this is the pinnacle of the story and needed to be told. Where do you go after that then, well in good old Dakesis style they give us a rip roaring anthem in ‘Call To Freedom’. Flags flying, crowd chanting, this will be a regular on the live set for a while to come!
And so to the end, a twelve minute long finale, ‘By The Fading Light’ is a roller coaster ride of chugging guitars and soaring vocals that finishes in a flourish with a magnificent guitar solo from Matt Jones. I’ve not said much about Matt up to this point, but simply put everything revolves around his masterful skills, the kid is incredibly talented and it is mezmerizing to watch his fingers dance over the frets. I must also mention Amie on bass, again an integral part of the band, but quietly plucks out her intricate bass lines with aplomb, tonight with the poor lighting on offer, she was in the shadows but that belies the huge part she plays in the band. Adding to the sound on stage they’ve drafted in Jacob on keyboards for live shows, and it gives life to the songs much better than a backing track, and of course last but not least, Adam Harris on drums, not only the driving force on stage with his meticulous timing and skill, but the man who began this epic journey in to a prog epic.
And to cap it all they treat their fans to the classic ‘Valhalla’ to round things off. There were tears at the end and a huge outpouring of love and emotion for a band that I’ve not witnessed before anywhere, I was running on empty, I was ready to drop but I had a huge grin on my face which I could see mirrored in the faces around me, now thats how to do an album launch.