DragonForce aren’t a band I’ve got on regular rotation but whenever a new album arrives, I give it a spin, enjoy it for what it is and continue on, knowing the same thing will happen in a couple of years. That said, their latest effort, Extreme Power Metal, was an enjoyable romp and a half. Whilst their last couple of albums weren’t bad by any stretch, this one has just stuck with me and made more of an impression. So, it was about time, that I finally got to see them in a live setting, invariably missing past tours.
By the time I’m at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms, there’s already a sizeable queue and with three bands on the line-up and a curfew of ten, I was expecting doors to be brought forward to six as has been the case before and seeing me caught out and completely missing the first band. Not tonight. So after an hour of waiting, it was finally into the venue and with doors barely open, McRocklin & Hutch step onto the stage. And throughout their set, people continue to pour in and the two-piece make the most of their captive audience.
Knowing how to work the crowd, the prog-flavoured instrumental guitar and synth combination is an interesting choice. It certainly fits within the realms of what you would expect from a band supporting DragonForce but after the first song, the appeal quickly wears and the songs feel rather samey. What they do have going for them is they’re great players on their respective instruments of choice and they have that vital chemistry needed to fuel a two-piece akin to acts like The Hyena Kill. What is apparent is the pair of them are unfazed coming on-stage to a relatively empty room and as the crowd grew, one which was largely disinterested. So it seems strange when their set ends abruptly, people are vocally disappointed. But even that seems strange for the performance and it’s unclear if the plug was pulled because they hit their time limit or there was a technical fault as the PA springs back into life after an awkward lull but the two-some have already cut their losses by that point.
Working with a slightly less cramped stage than their predecessors, Lovebites hit the stage with an incredible force. The quintet of girls make their presence known immediately and by the time the first song over, people are visibly and audibly impressed. Blending a range of sub-genres into one neat metal package, it comes across as pure, unadulterated heavy metal. The fact the five of them are all highly proficient musicians pinned together with powerhouse vocals has their set fly by in an instant. With basslines which could have been taken from the golden era of Iron Maiden and given Steve Harris a run for his money. Combine that with incredible blast beats and twin guitars which work in perfect tandem and you’re onto a winner. And as the set continues, the crowd just love it even more.
They know how to work the crowd with ease, hyping them up for the main event whilst making sure everyone’s enjoying their own wares. Having heard great things about them from Bloodstock 2018, they look like the type of band who would be as comfortable on that main stage as they are in tonight’s club surroundings. And when they’re done, people are baying for more. I’ve never seen people so impressed by a support act in all my time. Definitely a band to keep an eye on when the new album is released next year!
Now that the stage has been cleared and looking far more Spartan, DragonForce make their own assault as vocalist Marc Hudson leads the charge, to be followed by the rest of the band as they launch into “Highway to Oblivion” from Extreme Power Metal. And they played a dozen songs in total and was a thoroughly boring evening. Wait, that’s not what happened. Somehow, DragonForce managed to bring an arena-sized production into a club in Edinburgh. And it was fucking awesome. An LED screen acting as the backdrop (which the supports also took advantage of with their logos), constantly changing to match each song, dry ice – so much dry ice, complete with a dry ice gun for Hudson to fire at the crowd and enough confetti to make a small forest weep. However, if none of that was there, it still would have been an awesome show.
Each member of the band ensured they played to as much of the crowd as possible, whether they were on the main floor or up in the balcony, they made everyone feel involved. Whilst the new album literally made up half the setlist, it never felt heavy handed and every introduction of new material was met with enthusiasm, sung as faithfully by the crowd as their older numbers. A special mention does have to go to a couple of the new tracks. Introduced due to their love of video games, “The Last Dragonborn” is their ode to Skyrim, and as someone who liberated the realm from Alduin, it never clicked, even though the lyrics are literally about the game and The Elder Scrolls franchise. Then there was “My Heart Will Go On”. Is it the most slushiest ballad ever? Possibly. But was their interpretation of it genius? Yes. So to see several hundred metal enthusiasts sing their hearts out to the Celine Dion song was quite something.
But, of course, the finale of the night is brought with “Through the Fire and Flames” and credit to the band, they acknowledged where it came from and how many people were there just for that. Arguably, they didn’t quite save the best for last as frankly, I’d say there’s better DragonForce songs, most of which are on Sonic Firestorm, but it’s the song they have to play.
With this kind of metal, everything is hammed up without becoming cliché, mainly because you have to. But it works. They’re a great live band and especially from a guitar standpoint, it shows that you can play fast and play well. Nothing ever became too overbearing and or overlong. It was simply done for the love of a genre and the people knew what they were letting themselves in for. As the first night of the tour, it set an incredibly high bar and left me wishing I hadn’t missed them as often as I had.
Photos by Coops Gig Photography