20 Jul 2019

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Gig Review: Dragonforce @ The Kings Arms, Auckland - 01/07/2017

04 Jul 2017 // A review by butch181
Sitting in the car in the car park, the clouds had let loose a torrent of rain, with 10 minutes until doors open, already there was a line of at least 60 people standing out in the rain waiting to get inside and stake their position up front of the stage.

Not long after the crowd has started to filter in, the first opening band takes to the stage, Stormforge. Vocalist Courtney O’Leary takes to the centre stage wearing some form of leather armour, that gives him the appearance of a hybrid Dwarven-Viking ready to battle for Middle Earth, or pillage some villages, depending on his mood. With no expectations at all, I was pleasantly surprised. Introducing the first track Madness, O’Leary immediately releases an almost operatic vocal style that clearly impressed the audience. Stormforge didn’t mess around, with some solid power metal compositions from Fredriksson and Singarajah, and a varied vocal style that had the crowds’ fists in the air within the first three songs. By the end of their set, the crowd had already started headbanging, and the long hair was flying everywhere. The crowd was sufficiently warmed up.

Up next, was Wellington-based metal outfit, Bulletbelt. With the guitarists sporting dark beards and shaved heads, the focus naturally fell to the heavily tattooed, leather bound, reptilian contact wearing vocalist Jolene Tempest, who also sports a head of powerfully red hair.  With a heavy thrash metal sound, that maintains a high tempo throughout, we are given a feast of impressive, albeit abrasive shrieks and growls from Tempest. Steve Francis is a monster on drums, and keeps the bass consistently thumping deep into the pit of your stomach. While I remember being impressed with the growls of Jennie Skulander from Devilskin when I first saw them live, Bulletbelt’s Temple is in a completely different league; while I found most of the lyrics unintelligible, and lacking in melodic variety at times, the dependability of Jolene's voice was astounding, given the detrimental effect that it clearly had on her normal speaking tone as the set progressed. Instrumentally, their sound is solid and has a great maturity to it, and while Stormforge certainly felt a better fit with Dragonforce genre-wise, Bulletbelt gave their all, and the crowd followed suit.

Waiting for the stage to be set for Dragonforce, the monitors are removed and replaced with some additional raised surfaces at the front of stage. As the anticipation began to build it was obvious that the guitars would be in your face, both literally and metaphorically.

Dragonforce finally emerge onto the stage to the backing track of Reaching Into Infinity, before charging into Ashes of the Dawn. Within seconds the crowd is jumping as high as they can, as if they can’t see the guitar legends standing before them. Vocalist Marc Hudson, is clearly hindered by a sling on his right arm, but continues to throw his arm in the air, encouraging fist pumps from the crowd as he blasts out the vocals.

Greeting the crowd, Hudson takes the opportunity to address the injury that he acquired while in Australia, when the tour van he was in began to unexpectedly roll down a hill and he was forced to jump from a moving vehicle. But Dragonforce never cancel a show, so they continued on. Hudson’s vocals were powerful in the highs, and melodic in the lows, but the focus always stayed on Sam Totman and Herman Li, who were constantly jumping up to the front of stage to outperform each other. Totman and Li are clearly incredibly talented individuals on the guitar, but even they are able make their own songs look simple. Whether it’s playing the guitar one-handed, kicking the guitar in the air mid-song, or just fake yawning and eye-rolling while they play, they make it look easy. Amongst the smoke, lights, and hair flying about on stage, was an amazing spectacle of instrumental prowess. It is no surprise that Dragonforce are a big name in the power metal genre.

Their set consisted of 12 tracks, with at least one track from each album, and a quarter of the setlist from their recently released Reaching Into Infinity. Two-thirds of the way through their set they stop for a break, allowing bassist Frédéric Leclercq an opportunity to pick up the guitars and showcase his own talent. Coming into the final portion of their set, Dragonforce played their new marathon of a track, Edge Of The World, topping over 11 minutes in length, before getting the crowd to help out on vocals with Cry Thunder, from 2011’s The Power Within, and re-emerging for an encore performance of their most well-known track (of Guitar Hero III fame), Through the Fire and Flames.

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