Absurd, silly, unbelievable, outrageous, drunk – these are but a few ways to describe one of the most polarizing and mesmerizing metal bands of the last eighteen years. Since 1999, Dragonforce have been pushing the boundaries of tasteful musicianship and fun, but it was the 2006 release of the aptly named Inhuman Rampage which heralded their meteoric rise to stardom. Their legacy was indelibly etched after the release of the “Through The Fire And The Flames” video, showcasing the band’s over-the-top take on the power metal genre, while guitarist Herman Li and Sam Totman became guitar gods seemingly overnight for their light speed guitar wizardry.
Though indelible, their reputation suffered through countless accusations of sloppy live shows, failing to live up to a seemingly impossible standard set on their CDs. Admittedly, this is something which affected even me, stopping me from attending shows for a few years. Time heals all wounds though, and the call to brilliantly cheesy metal proved too strong to ignore forever. With a new album (Reaching Into Infinity) on hand and a not-so-new singer, Mark Hudson, whom I had yet to see live, why not give these British blokes another chance to inappropriately touch me for the first time once again!
In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, the night’s entertainment was more concise than usual, as the tour itself only featured our fearless headliners and progressive nu-death metallers Once Human. I had unfortunately missed an opportunity to see them open for Xandria a few months back, however word around the campfire after their set was more than glowing, which peaked my interest in seeing them.
Right off the bat the band had my attention with their captivating stage energy. Musically, they gave me a Meshuggah-meets-Soulfly sort of vibe (guitarist Logan Mader was actually an ex-guitarist of Soulfly and Machine Head), loaded with brutal groove. Their close to 45 min set was unlaboured and entertaining. In fact, I have seldom seen an opener, even a high profile one like this, get such a great crowd response right from the start of a show. Singer Lauren Hart gave an engaging performance as well, her raucous roars reminding me of Crowbar singer Kirk Windstein. Their set peaked when Dragonforce bassist Fred Leclercq joined the band on vocals for a rousing Machine Head cover.
In another tale of regretful absences, I was deeply upset that I missed both Dragonforce sets two years ago on the 70,000Tons of Metal Cruise. Word around the cruise’s casino bar was that they were easily the highlights of the whole festival. Needless to say, both I and the very full Corona Theater weren’t going to be missing a note of this show.
Like fire and thunder from so far away, the band stormed the stage and set a breakneck pace, opening with “Ashes of the Dawn,” the lead single from Reaching Into Infinity. Immediately following came “Operation Ground and Pound” from Inhuman Rampage, and with that, any lingering trepidation was gone and all past grievances were forgiven. This Dragonforce was as tight and surgically precise as any fan could hope for, without sacrificing almost any of their signature charm. In addition to playing four new tracks, the band treated the audience to fan favourites from their first two albums Valley Of The Damned and Sonic Firestorm. The expected mid-show solo break featured a pleasing video game guitar medley by bassist Fred Leclercq, and was even joined by singer Mark on bass.
I need to deviate from riding the band’s dick for just a moment to express some feeling about just one aspect of their show…… HOLY FUCK, DO YOU REALLY NEED TO DO A CROWD SING-ALONG BREAK FOR TWENTY FUCKING MINUTES?!?! IF I HEAR THE WORDS “CRY THUNDER” ONE MORE TIME, I WILL COMMIT YOU ALL TO A.A!!!!!!
Anyway, the band rather predictably ended with “Through The Fire And The Flame,” finally shooting their guitar loads in the faces of an elated and exhausted crowd.
There’s something about watching a band have as much fun onstage as you’d imagine yourself having if you were in their shoes. This was one of those great synergistic moments where it wasn’t just crowd watching a band perform, but a crowd and band creating the show in beautiful synthesis….. But seriously, fuck that long-ass singalong shit.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson