Only half way through 2016 and it is turning out to be a good year for UK power metal, with the return of Power Quest, Farseer releasing debut album ‘Fall Before The Dawn’, and of course, Dakesis’ second album ‘The New Dawn’, which was released earlier this year a whole 5 years after debut album ‘Trial By Fire’.
Formed in Birmingham, UK, in 2008, the band has seen a significant shift in style between the two albums that they have released so far, introducing a more progressive take on the genre.
With Gemma Lawler stepping out from behind the keyboards to front Dakesis after the departure of former vocalist and guitarist Wayne Dorman, the slight line up shift has had a profound effect on the band’s sound overall.
It seems that the chosen title for the album ‘The New Dawn’ perfectly describes where the band are at right now, creating music that pushes the boundaries of the prog-power genre. Representing this new forward-thinking sound is a new logo, and epic artwork designed by Barnaby Oakley of Crossfade Productions.
The album itself greets the listener with a fantastic introductory track entitled ‘Overture: The Darkest Hour’ which perfectly sets the scene for the upcoming 13- track, 77 minute-long concept album that you are about to experience. It then throws you straight into the title track, ‘The New Dawn’, with classic double kick pedals typical of the genre from drummer Adam Harris. The song is more symphonic than I expected, and is fairly upbeat with fantastic vocals from Gemma that I have not heard anything like before. Its like straight up powerful and melodic vocals that you would hear from the likes of Tony Kakko or James LaBrie, but with all the charm of Simone Simons.
Something else I like about this album is the inclusion of guest vocalist Matt Gore of The Mighty Wraith on the track ‘Betrayal’. The fellow Brummie joins Gemma in some great vocal harmonies, showcasing the talent that the city has to offer in the melodic metal scene.
The pace is picked up with the next two tracks ‘Destined for the Flames’ and ‘The Great Insurrection’ (music video below), which highlight the fantastic guitar work of Matt Jones, with many lead guitar passages and solos demonstrating fantastic sweep picking and fast finger work. It genuinely astounds me that such a massive sound is produced only by four people, with Amie Chatterley providing the bass to really make the songs come across heavier.
After these faster tempo songs, we hear the contributions to the album from The Birmingham Rockschool Choir, providing excellent vocals during the intro of ‘To Conquer or Die’. This song has a particularly catchy chorus with rhythmic guitars and drums giving a bouncy feel to the track. The melody that they sing seems a little familiar and I realise it almost echoes the tune of the intro track at the beginning of the album. I wasn’t sure if this was intentional or not until later on in the album.
A fairytale-like interlude ‘Intermezzo: Meridian’ breaks up the album a little and has a very dramatic symphonic element driving it forward and painting a vivid picture of what the album is conveying.
Until this point, ‘The New Dawn’ has been more power metal than it has been prog metal. This changes when we reach ‘Judgement Day’ which has more in common with Dream Theater than Stratovarius. Amy’s bass playing begins to stand out during this section of the album.
‘The Sacrifice’, although opening with some nice piano, then begins to sound a little too much like Evanescence’s ‘My Immortal’. This slight similarity is unpleasant each listen, but is soon rectified with the brilliantly haunting chorus that follows. This chorus is one of m favourite parts of the album and sends chills down my spine every time.
After the beautiful ballad ‘Autumn’, the power metal elements of the album take a back seat for a while during the last segment of The New Dawn, in favour of two beastly long songs: ‘The Seventh Sky’ at nearly 18 minutes long, and ‘By the Fading Light’ at just under 12 minutes, as well as one of the best tracks on the album ‘Call to Freedom’.
Unbelievable guitar work and progressive riffing introduce ‘The Seventh Sky’, leading into an awesome chugging section with Gemma’s vocals soaring over the top. Another change as Adam brings back the double kick pedals for a short time, and then some electronic keyboards add to the absolutely massive song. Constantly changing, the epic keeps you on your toes, never knowing what is to come next. The track is truly on par with prog-power masterpieces such as ‘The Odyssey’ by Symphony X or ‘Metrpolis – Part 1’ by Dream Theater, especially with the hugely impressive mid-section where the guitars and keyboards begin to duel with one another. Even the breakdown in this song is done right, with some fuzzy keyboard tones over the top of the rhythmic chugging guitars creating a great sense of anticipation. And then it bursts into that familiar tune from earlier, giving me goosebumps as everything seems to come together. The tune of the intro, the introduction of ‘To Conquer or Die’ and this section of the best song on the album are all the same tune; allowing me to understand the conceptual aspect of the album all the more.
As I force my jaw to once again return to the closed position, the brilliantly catchy ‘Call To Freedom’ begins playing before I can process the experience I just had. This song slips just in between the two giant songs breaking up the progressive onslaught and offers a much more easy going approach. The power metal elements return here and the song has a very positive vibe. I already love to sing along to this one!
There are more recurrences in final track ‘By the Fading Light’ in the form of a darker version of the chorus from ‘The Seventh Sky’ which introduces the song. Although this song isn’t as technical or epic as its counterpart ‘The Seventh Sky’, it brings the album to a conclusion beautifully, with an overall more melancholic feel, particularly during the piano section midway through the song. A gorgeous guitar solo escorts you to the end of the album where you hear that familiar melody one last time before the very end.
I have not heard something this exciting from a melodic metal band in the UK. Not once. This album is absolutely huge and unbelievably ambitious. Their are genuine masterpieces on this album that need the recognition they deserve. It’s bands like Dakesis producing genuinely exciting albums like this that make me overwhelmingly proud to be part of the UK’s underground and up and coming metal scene.