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Dakesis is a name that I became familiar with last summer after hearing a copy of their demo Valhalla. Between this, Dark Forest, Neonfly, and a couple of others that I’m doubtlessly forgetting, Britain has really ramped up its production of power metal this year. Trial By Fire takes the four songs of the Valhalla demo and adds an additional seven songs for a relatively speedy and keyboard-augmented journey into fairly familiar power metal territory.
Self produced and sounding none the worse for it, Dakesis has turned out a fairly original, if rough-edged, debut of well-composed tunes that manage to sound relatively fresh throughout the duration of the album. The guitar work on Trial By Fire is well up to par, with a good mixture of strong riffs, driving leads, neo-classically tinged solos, and precise rhythm lines. Also outstanding in this work is the keyboard contribution, which regularly adds a necessary shine to make adequate music into some very catchy power metal.
While the opener (two minute instrumental notwithstanding) “Trial By Fire” shakes the listener immediately with energy, the undeniable favorite here is “On Wings Of Steel”, during which the listener is treated to some of the best vocal performances, blistering guitar leads, and a chorus that will stand the test of time. “Broken”, while doing little for me lyrically, is quite a lovely little power ballad that showcases the vocal flexibility of female lead Gemma Lawler. “To The End” is another favorite of mine, and another new track for the album, featuring the keyboard more prominently, as well as an excellent solo section (the bass is audible and decidedly awesome just after the solo and before the next iteration of the chorus).
Dakesis certainly deserves a paragraph dedicated specifically to vocals. More so than most power metal bands, this group excels at utilizing both male and female lead vocals, with both singers regularly appearing alone and as a team. As someone who is quite picky about my female vocalists (especially in power metal), I’m pleased to say that Lawler has a very full and attractive voice that is tuneful, while also achieving both power and a soft gracefulness. Guitarist and male lead vocalist Wayne Dorman is a bit of different story, however. While his voice bears considerable energy, he is often yelling as much as he singing, and his diction leaves me wanting. Some may find his style to have a certain rough charm, but being the picky sort that I am, it tends to sometimes blunder somewhat clumsily through an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Aside from this and the occasionally noticeable gaps in the mix (understandable, for a self-released album), Trial By Fire is a varied and enjoyable work. Some might object to its less professional-sounding nature (relative to the big names), but I’ve found it to be a grower that just doesn’t repeat itself enough to make any serious mistakes. Maybe that voice will even grow on me.
Original review written for Black Wind Metal
Dakesis is an English progressive power band with more power tendencies than progressive. The band has managed to establish a cult following in their native country, thanks to playing numerous shows and festivals. In the relatively male dominated genre of metal, Dakesis sticks out like a sore thumb, sporting not one, but two female members (keyboards and bass) who both have outlandishly colored hair by the way. “Trial By Fire” is the first full length effort from this up and coming band.
The music is grandiose, epic and driving. It is decidedly power metal with a bit of progressive flair at some moments. At times, the music reminds me of Iron Maiden with the galloping drums and chunky power muted guitars. Other times the band goes into a more of an AOR or hard rock style with melodic guitars, soaring vocals (both male and female) and epic Rhapsody-like keyboards. The majority of this release takes the galloping Maiden-isms and puts it through a filter of Stratovarius-ish keyboard laden power metal.
Production wise everything is just right in the mix. The guitars and vocals are at the forefront, but not to the point of drowning everything out. The keyboards are drums are perfect in the mix, never taking away from the guitar driven feel of the album.
The vocals are rather varied on this album. There's a solid mix of male and female vocals. The male vocalist sounds like a typical euro power metal singer, mid range with a crystal clear delivery. The vocals are a little easier to swallow than most power metal singers, maybe because they are less whiney and pompous than most. They kind of put me in mind of Black Majesty's vocals. There are times where the delivery changes up a bit, like a few sections where there's an almost Megadeth like growl to them and there's a few times where there are Halford-like wails.. The female vocalist is pretty standard as far as female vocals go. The vocals definitely work best when the singers are doing a duet or alternating lines, which occurs a good bit through the album.
The guitars really are the highlight here. The riffing isn't anything groundbreaking or super spectacular, but have a nice air of familiarity without sounding ripped off or forced. The leads dominate a lot of the album, as the lead guitarist rarely stops wailing away. The leads are tasteful and fit the tempo and flow of each song very nicely, rather than an all out noodling fest. The guitarists show some nice chops on the solos and lead parts. Again, the Maiden-isms shine through with the guitar lines. The rhythm guitar has that galloping, choppy feel to it that Maiden is all about.
The keyboards are grandiose and really sound like Rhapsody at times or even like the symphonic, gothic, whatever you want to call it bands that dominate Finland. The keys add a nice epic flair to the music and are actually tastefully performed. There are a couple Warmen like solos here and there. The keyboards really shine during the dueling guitar / keyboard solos (think Finnish keyboard driven melo-death style). The keyboardist also performs some nice piano pieces during the slower moments, such as the token ballad on the album, “Broken”.
You can tell the drummer has spent some time in bands outside of the power metal realm. The drummer runs the gamut from standard running on the double bass to some pretty powerful galloping sections. The fills are definitely above average and give the band a little more identity in a field of watered down Hello-weenie clones.
There just isn't too much negative on this album. The moments where both singers duet does not happen as often as I would like, but that is a relatively minor qualm. The lead guitarist could slow down a bit and allow a little more breathing room for the excellent rhythm lines to shine through a little brighter. And lastly, the rhythm guitars could be a little sharper or edgier. There are some great, well thought out riffs, that would get some heads banging at increased levels.
Overall, Dakesis has a real winner on their hands with “Trial By Fire”. If you are a power metal fan, you owe it to yourself to find this. Dakesis has a bright future on their hands if they continue putting out quality music like this. For fans of any bands mentioned in this review and to metal heads in general.