There are those who write off Power Metal. They do so at their peril. For all the sneers, all the wee digs, power metal keeps going, and power metal masters Dragonforce are not the ‘Dragonfarce’ the metal snobs dub them: they are an outfit that keeps on going, and keeps on selling shows and albums.
The elaborate showmanship and extremes of virtuosity are showboating indeed, but part of metal can also be the show. On Saturday (September 20th) in a Shine/Limelight promotion it was clear that Dragonforce and Conjuring Fate were determined to lay down a show packed with poise and showing the right measure of exuberance.
Conjuring Fate have risen up with each of their recent shows, and now sharing a stage with Dragonforce they came out with a purpose, to show that they are worthy of being on the same bill.
The preponderance of Fate t-shirts showed the extent of the growth of the fanbase; and judging by the reaction of others in a packed Limelight2 they have gained many new fans.
Tommy was assured running point for the band; vocals coming through clear, bantering between songs and headbanging in all the right places.
Interchanging solos from Karl and Phil rolled the sound across the stage – with Phil so enthused he want for a walkabout through the crowd, his flying V almost literally cutting a path.
The half hour set flew by, ‘House On Haunted Hill’, ‘Backwoods Witch’ and ‘Apocalypse’ standing out.
The band are on a roll at the minute, and on Saturday as Boggy (drums) and Steve (bass) kept the set steady the glorious metal madness Conjuring Fate lay down a challenge to the headliners with Tommy even deliberately pulling a ‘Force trick by pointing out the trade off solos from Phil and Karl.
Dragonforce billed this tour as ‘This Time It’s Personal’ and Marc Hudson declared they wanted to be as close to the audience as possible, but in such an intimate setting as the Limelight2 the very stage can be a hindrance for a band used to running around and usually packing props and risers.
They managed; and tracks from Maximum Overload were familiar to many in attendance as was the codology in the band’s show between Herman and Sam. Totman in particular seems a trimmer, more content player than in the past, while Frédéric must have cramp of the face given the grin glued to his gub.
Vadim – despite seemingly have some problems in his sound when on ‘keytar’ (finger straying to his ear monitor several times) – is often the unsung hero in the band; his textures are as important as his finger flaying keyboard runs.
As usual the stage set-up saw the drums to the right , but this time a new face was behind the kit as Gee Anzalone harnessed himself in for the high tempo rhythms – especially for the furious ‘The Game’.
Crowd sing-alongs and spontaneous headbanging and mini-pits broke out as favourites such as ‘Fury Of The Storm’ and ‘Cry Thunder’ were welcomed as old friends, but ‘Seasons’ – the first song Freddy wrote for the band – stood out as something unique in the set. The harmonising guitars matched by vocal dexterity across the band makes this track a singular, enjoyable performance.
The encore brought what was a novelty track on the album to life as the crowd rose at one to ‘The Ring of Fire’ . The earth’s tilt moved slightly as Johnny Cash spun in his grave to match the speed of the cover. All we lacked were scarves to twirl above our heads á la football fans.
Closer, ‘Through The Fire and Flames’ has all the usual trade offs between Herman and Sam, but what shone was how much Hudson is now a fixture, placing his own stamp at the front. This, his third appearance on a Belfast stage, showed he is the right person for the right band at the right time.
But, the measurement has to be made. The assurance, musicianship, the happy-go-lucky appearance, the rehearsed solo match-ups – do they deserve the adulation of the many there; or is this power metal by numbers.
It’s a hard equation to solve. At the heart of it is the suspicion some have that it is all too rehearsed. But those same people must surely realise that every band in every genre and sub-culture rehearse or fail in the live arena.
The reality is that despite the cheesiness and despite the practiced moves Dragonforce are a hugely enjoyable band to watch; that cheesiness – and infuriatingly catchy songs and song structures – mean that unlike some other po-faced metal acts there is no need for a suspension of disbelief. There’s just the need to enjoy the show.
A super night in a sweaty swathe of metal that saw Conjuring Fate caress the crowd into near ecstasy and Dragonforce help us all Cry Thunder in a climax of metallic mental madness. As to the haters – fuck off.