||KINGFISHER SKY SHINE BRIGHTEST AS FEMALE FRONTED BANDS ROCK BIRMINGHAM'S QUINPHONIC FESTIVAL
Quinphonic Festival 3: The Roadhouse, Birmingham
Ian Sutherland: Photos by David Sarah - Official Photographer for The Quinphonic Festival
The female fronted Metal scene has been an accepted part of the mainstream Metal movement for many years but has taken a lot longer to gain a foothold in the UK in any meaningful sense.
However with Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica now all well established in the UK, plus a solid underground hardcore of fans who seem to spend most of their weekends in Europe attending gigs, there is enthusiasm enough for promoters to put on events like the Quinphonic festval.
Today's show was the third event in the festival's short history and followed the premise of inviting some European bands, some UK acts and letting them all have one hour sets. Anyone who travelled to the show (and there were people here from all over the UK and even the Netherlands) therefore wouldn't be stuck with only thirty minutes or whatever of their favourite band which has to be a good thing.
First up today were local band Dakesis who are absolutely committed to the traditional symphonic power Metal associated with a swathe of female fronted bands. They have all the double bass drum attack and symphonic flourishes you would expect. Guitarist Matt Jones has a nice touch and while he shows he can throw in plenty of fancy licks when the mood takes him, he manages to always keep the song as the main focus and only go for some histrionics when it fits in.
Colourful Gemma Lawler takes on the all important frontlady role and she has the kind of strong melodic voice needed to carry this sort of material. Chatty and down to earth between songs she is engaging and likeable and hits every note put in front of her spot on.
All the right boxes are being ticked then but while Dakesis are certainly enjoyable they are treading some very well known waters and I was wondering whether they had anything that really had their own stamp on it to set them apart. It turned out they did with their ten minute epic 'By The Fading Light' which let them settle down a bit and really inhabit the song.
That would have been a terrific way to end their set but they actually ended with a power Metal cover of Bonnie Tyler's 'Holding Out For A Hero'. Top marks for aiming for the fun factor but I preferred them in epic Metal mode personally. A strong performance to start the day though.
Suddenlash from Barcelona introduced themselves as a symphonic Metal band but for me they had more of a gothic tinge to their sound which came across as really understated and lacking power, whether by design or due to sound issues I wasn't sure.
Their music is very technical and full of complexities and I have to say that they weren't as tight as I would expect a band to be in the company they were keeping today. Singer Lidia Guglieri is very likeable but is still working out how to be a frontlady of a Metal band and never really took charge of the stage. She is charming though and her vocals weren't the strongest of the day but seemed to suit the dark sound they have.
When she left the stage to the band their instrumental version of 'Ride Of The Valkyries' sounded awkward and uneven. Wagner would not have been proud.
Some of the audience seemed to enjoy Suddenlash but for me this gig has come way too early for them and they need to work hard on their craft so that they can take their potential and compete with the other bands here.
How far they have to go is immediately apparent as soon as Kingfisher Sky from Den Haag get on the stage, even during their soundcheck which is in full view of the audience. Celebrating their tenth year together they have been there, seen that and done it very well and seem to have decided to make the most of their short road trip to the UK.
Sharing beers and having fun with the audience and the venue's soundman they are totally relaxed and enjoying themselves yet when it is time to play they are immediately a tight and impressive outfit.
Style wise these guys have never been Metal, more a progressive rock band with folk and heavy rock influences but because of the power of the music and that they have a superb singer in Judith Rijnveld plus everyone's favourite cello player in Maaike Peterse they often get to play in FFM style events. They are the biggest name here today and the organisers made a smart move making them the middle band of the day as the biggest crowd for any of the bands just lapped up everything that came their way.
Laughing and joking with the audience and each other between songs there are smiles everywhere on and off stage as we get an eclectic selection of songs from their three albums to date. There are a few sound issues but these are taken in their stride like veterans do and everyone just enjoys the excellent musicianship, well crafted songs and that lovely melodic voice which hangs emotionally in the air.
Superb stuff which got a huge ovation from the faithful gathered here today. I really hope they venture out of their home country more often.
A difficult act to to follow then but the UK's Winter In Eden gave it a good shot. One of the mainstays of the UK female fronted scene, they have a melodic symphonic style with a peculiarly British tinge to it. When they go into some of their more commercial sounding tunes I hear a wee tinge of Magnum sometimes in the way the chorus' are full of memorable melody.
They have plenty of power too though, courtesy of drummer Steve Hauxwell who manages to combine a bit of Metal showboating along with some fine technique which drives everything along nicely.
Singer Vicky Johnson doesn't have the biggest voice in the FFM world but her soothing tones, confident manner and friendly between song manner are a vital part of what makes Winter In Eden who they are.
We get a few songs tonight from third album 'Court Of Conscience' produced by Ruud Jolie of Within Temptation which was a real step forward for the band and the enthusiastic audience cheer at hearing there will by a follow up next year.
Overall a really enjoyable show from a band who have huge promise but maybe don't manage to play enough gigs to fulfill it yet. A favourite among the faithful here though for sure.
It's a Sunday night so the crowd has thinned somewhat as Wedingoth from France took the stage to close the show. Starting a few minutes early they caught many by surprise (it's very rare for a band to start early at a UK festival!) but everyone came into the main hall to see the band's first UK appearance.
I hadn't met anyone all day who knew much about them but as is the way with these things they turned out to be a very nice surprise. Featuring a full, quite heavy sound from Steve Segarra's guitar and Manon Fortin's impressive and highly accomplished bass playing with samples supplying some symphonic twists and turns they have some unusual song structures and engaging riffs which capture the audience.
This is singer Celine Staquet's first ever live show with the band and she is a little hesitant to take command of the stage but she has a strong vocal and plays her full part in their sound.
There is some self deprecating gallic charm to go along with some fine music which manages to be a step away from any of the usual genre cliches and Wedingoth make a lot of new friends tonight. As they finished early enough and there was great appreciation for their efforts they even managed to be the only band of the day to do an encore.
This was a really nice event in a small and pretty basic venue although I liked the separate bar and performance areas set up. The audience loved the bands and there were several shout outs from the stage to the promoters so they must be doing something right.
A good day for the hardcore in what is still an underground scene in the UK and I hope that with more quality performers like Kingfisher Sky and the others playing here that events like this grow into bigger, higher profile festivals.
Quinphonic Festival 4 takes place on April 16th 2017.