Venue: Club Avalon (New York, NY)
Opener: Sanctity, Protest The Hero
Label: Roadrunner Records
Testing the limits of super-sonic Power Metal comes the one and only Dragonforce! The band was set to perform in New York late last in 2005 at the legendary Punk club C.B.G.B.’s but that set of US appearances was cancelled. At the time, Homeland Security had discovered that guitarist Herman Li was on their most wanted list. This would of course be a case of badly mistaken identity but it is nice to know that the agency is checking into traveling musicians a lot more than those that would really bring the Country harm (thanks people…..sigh). Barring that dilemma, I have to be honest about the venue of choice. The club while considered legendary and lamented by many in its pending closure is really too small for a band that is getting the attention that Dragonforce has been finding. When it was announced that the new location for their US invasion would be the Club Avalon (the former Limelight to all you old schoolers) tickets sold out almost immediately. I found this to be fantastic because while Dragonforce is a Melodic Power Metal band they perform with such a blinding speed and skill that it offers fans of the genre a very different dynamic to enjoy. The evening would be kicked off by Roadrunner Records own Sanctity and they were not too bad. I was not crazy about their sound that night and felt it was over loud and a little muddy in the mix. Musically there seemed to be potential so I look forward to seeing them another time. There was also a Dillinger Escape Plan type of Math meets Metal Core band called Protest The Hero. I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of stuff but I gave them credit for trying to show the audience a different aspect of Metal. Dragonforce falls more into the Melodic Power genre, so that was what a large part of the audience was interested in – so being won over to something like this is often an uphill climb.
Dragonforce took a little long to hit the stage and given this was a Tuesday night I was finding myself a little on the impatient side. The feeling soon turned to exhilaration when I saw the musicians heading to the stage from the top balcony shadows and from that moment it was the equivalent of a Metal hurricane coming through the venue. The group would be supporting their newest release entitled “Inhuman Rampage” which will come from Roadrunner Records in the US (despite it being already released by Sanctuary Records in Europe). Those who have heard samples of the album already can attest to this group’s level of energy being over the top. The guys plays fast, and that alone is an understatement for “fast” as you might know it translates to “blinding speed” for the members of Dragonforce. Lead singer ZP Theart is the traditional iron-lunged vocalist capable of belting out the notes at ranges that notable predecessors have done before him. I found Theart to be very charismatic as well, which is always a welcome sight in a lead person for it’s their task to work the crowd into a frenzy. All through the performance ZP certainly managed to make this the case. Guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman gave dueling axe work a new definition with levels of speed and technical display that I have never seen before. I felt a little more intensity was coming from Li who now with his good name cleared was able to add to his initial level of excitement. Steering the course from the far sides of the stage was keyboardist Fred LeClercq and drummer Dave Mackintosh who both proved that the speed was not limited to the guitar players in the group. If double bass drum kicks could be measured in feet-per-hit one would think that Mackintosh traveled to Europe and back during the set. LeClercq on the other hand was bringing some really intense sounds from his boards and did the oddest solo I have seen from this particular instrument yet. Vadim Pruzhanov handles the bass and between the running around of all the guitar players and singer ZP, one easily gets dizzy during a performance. I laughed when I was trying to snare photos of these literal Metal gymnasts as they played their hearts out. The set list was loaded with intense numbers and while it might seem short based on only twelve songs being played; the novice should be aware that some of their songs are over 8 minutes long. My favorites from the night would be “Through The Fire And The Flames” as well as “My Spirit Will Go On”; the latter being my own introduction to their music so its held in higher regard.
What surprised me was the level of moshing towards the end of the set because it is another one of those bands that do not strike me as Moshable. After he stressed his appreciation about New York giving the band a sold-out show, Theart made the audience split down the center. Oddly enough, the crowd complied and while I thought it was done for him to come down among us it was instead to do a yelling contest. He then ordered everyone to mix it up and then even those that were not slamming about decided to do so. I guess age is finally making me not enjoy that aspect so much at shows these days; or perhaps it is just my dislike of those that do it with reckless abandon like some form of “seizure riddled kung-fu practice”. Moshing for the sake of the band is one thing, but mixing it up looking to hurt people makes you deserving of a beat down. Nonetheless, I was happy to see Dragonforce after listening to the CD’s for a couple of years and hearing the name from endless Metal boards. It’s nice to have it happen and not to need to add their name to a list of bands I will never get to see because of travel difficulties. They are a recommendation and if you are unsure of what to expect just open their website and hang on to something that’s secure. It’s a Metal thrill ride.
Editor’s Note: Not long after this appearance, Dragonforce was added to the main stage roster of Ozzfest 2006. This will allow them to reach far more fans than they would reach on their own. Make sure to see them should you be attending this festival.
1. Black Fire
4. Black Winter
5. Body Breakdown
6. Dawn Over A New World
7. Keyboard Solo
9. My Spirit Will Go On
10. Through The Fire And The Flames
11. Heart Of A Dragon
12. Valley Of The Damned
Official Web site: www.dragonforce.com