So, I used to listen to a lot of Dragonforce. I mean a lot. I mean more than I would probably care to admit in casual conversation, but it was middle school and I was just getting into metal. I rarely listen to them these days, but The Power Within was a refreshing change in song dynamics, so while I don't usually listen to many power metal bands, Dragonforce is still an important band to me with some of my favorite songs. I had been waiting to see them for a few years at this point and nothing short of being set on fire was going keep me from getting to this show.
My friend and I arrived just as Huntress was finishing their last song, leaving Holy Grail the final (and for myself, only) opener of the evening. I have never been huge on Holy Grail's music but their shows always get me in the right mood. I have nothing against Holy Grail but they typically serve as little more than filler for me during live shows, a fun way to spend about forty minutes in the pit.
The evening's set list focused on new material and fan favorites, with a few older tracks thrown in and only one song from Ultra Beatdown (which I am certainly not complaining about). Dragonforce started off with Die by the Sword, an offering off of their most recent album The Power Within, that Sam, Herman, and new vocalist Marc Hudson jumped into really well, showcasing what they've got to offer on their new material.
Herman Li and Sam Totman pulled off their solos without any issue, demonstrating fantastic guitar work on everything up to and including the notorious mid-section of Through the Fire and Flames. I spent a decent amount of time just watching the both of them play, focusing on their finger work, but that's probably part of what they intend for their fans to do to begin with.
Marc Hudson performed each ZP-era piece faithfully, doing impressive renditions of Dragonforce songs written before his arrival to the band. I thought his strongest performance was during Valley of the Damned, one of the group's oldest songs. Though despite Marc's largely fantastic performance, there was one thing that had me furrowing my brow. During Operation Ground and Pound's chorus lines the microphone was deferred to bassist Frédéric Leclercq who performed them with a very contrasting black metal shriek. I believe rough vocals were in the background of the original album mix, but seeing as ex-front man ZP Theart used to perform said chorus with a very high voice it made me wonder if Marc was doing it because he was unable to hit that high of a range. I give Marc the benefit of the doubt but doing it for the duration of the song made it rather noticeable.
Aside from that one detail, Dragonforce played their songs wonderfully, shattering any previous notions that they might not have been able to perform their material in a live setting. Each band member looked like they were in a good mood and this positive energy was well reflected in their music. It was a joy for me to hear them play the songs that got me into metal. For instance I was ecstatic when they began to play the nearly ten-minute long Soldiers of the Wasteland, a personal favorite from Sonic Firestorm I didn't think they would put play due to its length.
The most memorable and amusingly ridiculous of the night's stage-antics was inarguably the sort of guitar-circle formed by Sam, Herman, Frédéric, and Vadim (guitarists, bassist, and keytarist respectively). I've seen people play each other's guitars on stage before by fretting strings but I've never seen a four-way guitar/bass/keytar circle of everyone playing each other's instruments for a brief period. The act was as musically sound as it was novel; I don't remember which song it was during but there was no sacrifice in how that particular section was played.
So, final word(s)! I enjoyed this show immensely from the first note to the encore and am excited to see Dragonforce back with fresher material. I can't imagine they will ever return to the spotlight they had briefly during their Inhuman Rampage days, but they are likely to maintain a loyal fan base and I am unashamedly a part of it.