DragonForce comes to my area every 2-3 years and when it was announced they would play a small St. Louis club, I was immediately interested. The ticket prices were so low that I actually did some research to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. St. Louis is about a 4-hour round-trip for me and making the four-hour round trip on a Friday night when I work every Saturday (car sales) is a risky move. I have maybe one other friend who is into DragonForce but he is more into ZP Theart than he is Marc Hudson. Also, I backed out of a DF concert with him about a decade ago and I think he’s still a little bitter from that–but I digress!
I started listening to their most recent album, Reaching Into Infinity and immediately noticed that some things were different. The whole vibe was kind of eerie and unlike the power metal fanfare of DragonForce records in the past. The whole album has a different sound than what long time DragonForce fans would be accustomed to. This is probably due to the fact that DragonForce’s bassist, Frédéric Leclercq had a heavy influence in the songwriting for this album. Looking at the associated tags, we have Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Thrash Metal, Blackened Death Metal, and Heavy Metal.
Admittingly, I don’t listen to a wide variety of metal. Some of my favorites include Night of The Stormrider by Iced Earth and Hunter by A Life Once Lost. Sprinkle in the hits by Iron Maiden along with almost anything Dio and that pretty much sums up the kind of metal I’m interested in.
Fast forward to the night of the show. I got off of work at 5 and went home to shower and take a nap. I should have been on the road by 6 but I was in and out of consciousness until about 7:50. The show was set to start at 8:30 but I was still a good 90 minutes away. At that moment, I decided to get in the fucking car and start driving. Things went smoothly until I actually hit the city and ran right into night time construction. To top things off, I received a phone call as I approached the city which disabled my audio navigation so I was nervous about being any later to the show. I eventually made it to the venue and struggled to find a place to park. After a few laps around the block, I decided to park in the lot across the street from the venue. I met a super cool attendant named Terry who allowed me to park in the lot and pay after the show. Super cool!
Upon walking into the venue, I noticed people going in and out of the performance hall. I noticed that everyone was facing my direction when the doors would open briefly. This started my whole “What the fuck??” narrative for the rest of the evening and as I walked in, DragonForce was on stage about 12 feet from where I stood. I couldn’t believe it. After years of watching YouTube videos and countless plays on their cd’s, then mp3s, I was there. In a tiny room about the size of a Jimmy Johns. WITH DRAGONFORCE ON STAGE–HOLY SHIT!
They were in the middle of an awesome track from their most recent release called “Curse of Darkness” (a reference to Castlevania). To be honest, that song didn’t jump out at me until it came to the guitar solos and ballad-like vocals. Marc Hudson has an incredible vocal range. There is really no debate to be had. He is able to sing the songs in the original key and tempo. He is also an incredible frontman.
Now, one of the things I have heard literally dozens of times is “DragonForce is a gimmicky studio band who have to speed their songs up. They cannot play them live!” Stop. Just stop, dude. I’ve always known that argument to be bullshit and seeing them live drove a nail in the coffin of that argument.
Herman Li is an amazing showman and produces some pretty wicked sounds with his guitar. It was great to finally be in the same room to experience all of the truly true shit he can do. That being said, Sam Totman was an absolute beast! I’m not sure if it was just my particular vantage point, but he sounded louder and crisper when it came time to solo. Their new drummer, Gee Anzalone, did not miss a beat. At one point during the show, the band left the stage but Fred came back out with a guitar that had Sonic the Hedgehog on it and played a little something special for the crowd. Gee then took over with a drum solo. They were incredibly fun!
At the end of their set, Marc Hudson asked who in the crowd was there just to hear “Through the Fire and the Flames” and a few hands went up. He asked “Who is going to leave right after we play ‘Through the Fire and the Flames?'” and an equal number of hands raised. Marc then says, “Well, this one is for you–you miserable cunts!” Fuck yes! Hermans guitar lit up and everyone went nuts. It was truly an amazing time.
DragonForce is totally worth seeing live and I would especially recommend making your way out to one of their shows. They have four shows left in the U.S. for their current world tour. I honestly can’t wait until their next tour cycle. I am a fan for life.