11/5/2007

Dragonforce Review

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:53 pm

When my friend Cam (best mate since Year 9, so for over a quarter century now) suggested that Dragonforce were coming to town and we should go to the show together, a couple of months ago, I initially wasn’t keen. I ‘get’ what the band does, but I used to find that if I played one of their songs on my show (or had it on my mp3 player) I tended to be bored with the extreme and often unvarying speed of the music after about a minute… and since it’s epic power metal, that usually meant I had another 7 minutes to get through in the song. But Cam is a good friend, and I don’t really have anyone to go to gigs with here, so I decided to check it out anyway.

Australian support band ‘Vanishing Point’ were enthusiastic and played well, and I enjoyed their set, but they were a little bit AOR for me and a bit smooth, and I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to pick up the CD any time soon.

Dragonforce hit the stage with speed and energy, and played a whirlwind set, only pausing for one slow song. They did do something I haven’t really seen a band do before – leave the stage halfway through the concert for an intermission. After a minute or two Ukrainian-born keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov came out and, on his keyboards and ‘keytar’, played a bunch of wild stuff until the rest of the band returned. During the whole concert he was bouncing around wearing shorts and a tie – and the bouncing as well as the clothes suggested Angus Young at his most manic. Not bad for the guy stuck behind the keys.

Drummer Dave Mackintosh is from the UK, and plays very well, but I didn’t see a lot of him behind the kit. I do wish he’d chill with the double kick sometimes, though… it does get a bit repetitive.

Vocalist Z P Theart is from South Africa and has the looks, charisma and singing chops to make an excellent frontman for the band. It was an all ages show and Cam and I wouldn’t have minded taking my daughter and his son along, but Theart’s rather obscene stage banter (“OK, on the count of three, everyone say ‘Sam is a c%$&'”) and oral sex/masturbation mimes made us kind of glad we hadn’t.

Herman Li is a guitar wizard from Hong Kong with butt-length hair who is insanely fast and talented, playing over the top of the neck, or with his tongue or mic stand, or doing whammy bar bombs, or tapping across multiple strings, all the while spinning and leaping and racing around the stage.

We’d actually taken our kids to the Art Gallery earlier in the day, and I’d mentioned to Cam that I liked art that I couldn’t take in at a gulp, that was beyond me, where there was so much going on that I had to spend time understanding, and that there was the feeling that there would always be more to discover. The band onstage had something of that about them: everyone was doing something, everywhere, all the time. The two guitarists would be at the front of the stage ripping off lightning speed harmonising runs, and the bass player would be sprinting from side to side of the stage, the keyboard player pogoing on the spot and the singer making play with water bottles and the crowd. It could have been annoyingly chaotic, but last night at least I found it exhilaratingly so.

French bass player Frederic Leclercq is a phenom: apparently he speaks 8 languages, but it doesn’t stop there. He plays bass in this band but plays guitar and sings in another band. He played some guitar last night, and kept up with Li on some soloing, which is pretty impressive. He sang ‘clean’ backing vocals on most tracks, and when they kicked in a bar or two of death metal growling on a couple of songs he sang that too. Oh, and his bass playing for Dragonforce was pretty good too (in fact excellent).

Sam Totman, the English-born, New Zealand-raised other guitarist and main songwriter for the band, tends to play the drunken goof on stage, and be the butt of the band’s jokes. He has a beer holder on his mic stand and is the only muso I’ve seen with a ‘beer roadie’ to replace the plastic pint mugs of beer fairly frequently. He also does his share of spinning jumps off amp stacks and so on, but whether he’s very drunk or just feigning some of it, he’s still playing at a million miles an hour, note-perfect. He also disarmed the fairly obvious critique people could make of the band: on the second encore he said “Now you’re in for a real treat: this one sounds exactly the same as all the others!”

Plenty of stunt moves, including a point at which the two guitars, bass and keyboard axe were in a circle, all playing the left hand of each other’s instruments and the right hand of their own.

I’m not a convert – I still find their songs too monochromatic (all speed, no dynamics) and just a little cheesy in the lyrics and melodies department, but I had a great time seeing them live, just for the energy and obvious enjoyment they all get out of playing live. Even if you think you don’t like Dragonforce, you could definitely do worse than go to a show…

2 responses to “Dragonforce Review”

  1. Cam says:

    cool review, it’s almost like being there… It was a brilliant concert – wouldn’t have missed it for quids – but after three hours of ones eardrums valve-bouncing, it all started to sound the same.

    Still, after comparing their average tempo with that of most death metal bands, I can see that they are so named due to their dirge-ish lack of speed…

  2. Cam says:

    p.s.
    if you look up ‘dirge’ in Wikipedia you will find Opeth honored right up there along side Bob Dylan… 🙂

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