DragonForce – Reaching Into Infinity

It is a decade since DragonForce had the world at their feet: ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’ was the flagship track of the Guitar Hero series, and third album Inhuman Rampage had perfected their unique maelstrom of breakneck melody. The band was tipped to smash the glass ceiling to ultra-mega-rock-stardom. Continue reading

DragonForce – Neonfly: Live at Colchester Arts Centre, UK

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More bands should take the same “back to basics” approach that DragonForce are applying to the UK leg of the Maximum Overload world tour. Rather than taking in the usual 5 shows in the same 5 major cities, this time around the sextet are taking in  20 smaller venues in 20 towns that don’t get to see many non-local bands.

And the people of Colchester, saved the £30 fare and hour journey to London to take in a show, have responded enthusiastically. The Arts Centre, a converted church that is actually a rather fine venue, is absolutely rammed, and the opening band aren’t even on.

Neonfly, a badly named band who thus far have flown under the radar, take to the stage and are greeted enthusiastically and respond as if they’ve just strolled out as a festival headliner. And it’s lapped up as they run through a selection of AOR influenced widdly Power Metal that veers between Sonata Arctica and UFO. They have all the poses (including some classic Priest choreography), all the solos and in Willy Norton, all the voice with his excellent Michael Kiske meets Tony Martin delivery, and a stage patter that’s part children’s entertainer and part Danny Bowes on happy pills. It’s 1988 again, and no one is complaining as single ‘Gift To Remember’ is met by a healthy number of hands in the air to its rocking riff and massive chorus. While closer ‘Morning Star’ may be a slightly disappointing end to a very enjoyable set, no damage is done as Neonfly have made a lot of new friends tonight, as songs aired from their upcoming new album Strangers In Paradise (Inner Wound) touch on Avantasia. And they have a guitarist called Fred Thunder.

DragonForce have quite the mixed live reputation, but since the arrival of vocalist Marc Hudson they seem to be a different beast these days. Hudson’s first album with the band, The Power Within (Essential/Roadrunner) was their best since debut Valley Of The Damned (Noise/Sanctuary) and the strength and reputation of their live show has grown since his arrival. Heading out on the road with a new album, Maximum Overload (earMUSIC), that picks up where Power… left off, could they continue the upward live curve?

Absolutely. In spades. From the rapid fire power metal, to the guitar duelling of Sam Totman and Hermann Li, who both make the fastest and most complex of guitar techniques seem effortless, to bassist Frédéric Leclercq’s facial comedy show and underpinning rumble and Hudson’s near flawless vocal performance, the ‘Force are on it.

Everything about DragonForce on this tour elicits grins and a feeling of joy, and it’s clear this comes from the stage, aided by Totman’s understated self-deprecation and ongoing banter with Leclercq, the two of them mocking Li, each other, the lyrics (the sword motions in ‘Black Winter Night’ were childishly brilliant), the crowd and themselves throughout while still delivering. It’s great to see. Li, on the other hand, is pulling every Guitar-God shape, including pick-sliding with his tongue, while in between Hudson, the bastard love-child of Chris Jericho and Sebastian Bach, has learnt the master of ceremonies role, padding and filling well in the longer than usual gaps between songs caused by technical issues to Vadim Pruzhanov’s keytar.

Highlights are hard to choose, but a mid-set ‘Seasons’ goes down a storm, a thrashy ‘The Game’ opens up a pit, and ‘Three Hammers’ is a colossal slice of One Direction meets ManOweeN, before all too soon it’s time for the bands best song, ‘Cry Thunder’ which concludes the set proper to rapturous cheers.

Immediate a holler rises for an encore, and the band oblige, camping through their dreadful version of ‘Ring of Fire’, before a vibrant ‘Through The Fire And Flames’ (I’m sure some guy near me was actual air Guitar Hero-ing) and a triumphant ‘Valley Of The Damned’ wrap things up to send a happy crowd spilling out, talking nearly as quickly as the flurrying fingers of Totman and Li about how much they enjoyed the show.

This is what a Power Metal gig should be about, a packed crowd singing along to hymns of cheese and metal with a band turning in a great performance, all creating a symbiotic exuberance. Simply great fun.

And I was sober…

 

DragonForce Set list

Defenders

Fury Of The Storm

Three Hammers

Black Winter Night

Seasons

Tomorrow’s Kings

Symphony Of The Night

The Game

Heroes Of Our Time

Cry Thunder

 

Ring Of Fire

Through The Fire And The Flames

Valley Of The Damned

 

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STEVE TOVEY

Dragonforce – Maximum Overload

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Let’s be honest here, you already know whether you’re willing or able to like a Dragonforce album or not. It is fine if you’re not, musical taste is subjective and blahblahblah, but you might as well save yourself (and everyone else) a lot of trouble and just pretend that Maximum Overload (earMUSIC) doesn’t exist, rather than explaining again how shit you think they are.

If you are one of the ten people reading this who actually likes them, chances are that you either think 2012’s The Power Within (Essential/Roadrunner) was a glorious return to form and a reclaiming of their song-writing and catchiness after two albums of pointless indulgence, or a generic Pop Metal album that saw the band leaving behind everything that made them special. If you’re in the latter camp, I’m afraid you might as well go and join the others – it seems that their seventy-three-riffs-a-second Guitar Hero days are firmly behind them.

Maximum Overload takes its cues from the chorus-heavy Pop Metal approach of The Power Within, but expands its musical vocabulary to give each song its own “flavour”. Some of these flavours can be quite superficial – ‘The Game’ has chunky riffing and growled backing vocals (courtesy of Matt Heafy from Trivium) and ‘Extraction Zone’ has Nintendo noises – but fun, though elsewhere they do succeed in taking their shimmering, high-adrenaline Pop Metal into different territories. ‘Three Hammers’ continues the epic diet Blind Guardian Fantasy Metal of ‘Cry Thunder’, ‘Symphony Of The Night’ adds operatic flourishes and anime-gothic romanticism and ‘The Sun Is Dead’ offers a surprisingly effective blend of sugary melancholy.  A cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ rounds it off, achieving the impressive feat of being the silliest thing they’ve ever recorded.

Maximum Overload is a catchy collection of high-energy Pop Metal songs with ambition, a sharp ear for melody and an absolute refusal to feel any shame. Fans who want them to return to the ten minute guitar solos and unstoppable riff-salad of Inhuman Rampage (Noise/Sanctuary) and Ultra Beatdown (Spinefarm) will be disappointed. While it perhaps outstays its’ welcome a little in the second half, it will put an enormous grin on your face if you’ll let it.

 

8.0/10.0

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RICHIE H-R