It’s been four long years since I last saw Dragonforce. Back in 2008 they were still riding the wave of success that being featured on Guitar Hero bought them. Many had written them off as one hit wonders (despite having been a band for nine years at that point) and waited for them to fade from the publics eye. Four years, two albums and one vocalist later the London six piece are still drawing in impressive crowds and touring the world.
Despite missing Cavorts set due a late opening and a queue longer than Herman Li’s guitar solos I manage to enter the venue before The Defiled begin. It’s clear that a good percentage of the crowd had come tonight to support the groove metal five piece as they roar their approval as the band take to the stage. Whilst Dragonforce are the easily the fastest band on tonights bill, The Defiled are clearly the heaviest. The band don’t disappoint, playing up to the crowd at every opportunity (or the cameras in The Avd’s case, further cementing his reputation as one of the most photographic men in metal) whilst working themselves into a sweat. This may be the last night of the tour but if a life on the road had got to them then they are rather good at hiding it. Stitch D’s alcohol soaked entrance sets the tone for the rest of the night – welcome to the party. (4/5)
It isn’t long before Alestorm take to the stage. Tonight they’re flanked by a pair of banners, each featuring a tape and crossbones over their own pixelated album art. Pirating music may be killing the record industry but it hasn’t taken the fire from the fans it seems. “We’re Alestorm, and I’m pissed” growls frontman/captain Christopher Bowes, keytar firmly in hand. They are clearly in the mood for celebrating and, suitably, much rum is consumed alongside a indistinguishable takeaway. The fans are treated to a ‘best of’ set including ‘Shipwrecked’, ‘Keelhauled’, ‘Captain Morgans Revenge’ and ‘Wenches And Meads’ as well as a handful of career spanning album tracks. It’s all over a little too soon though and the stagehands swiftly move in to clear the stage for Dragonforce. (4/5)
The risers are in place. The fan is switched on. The backdrop falls. The lights dim. It’s time for the headliner. Tonight is a testament to Dragonforce’s ability to create power metal with choruses as catchy as any pop rock song, a trait which is never more apparent then it is when they play live. Many doubted Marc Hudson when he replaced ZP Theart as Dragonforce’s vocalist back in 2010 but it’s hard to imagine anyone else fronting them now as he dominates the stage, posing at every opportunity. Founding members Herman Li and Sam Totman are clearly at home on the stage, refusing to stay still any longer than necessary and playing up to the cameras whenever possible.
This may sound a little lighthearted but that’s because there is very little serious about tonight. After thirteen years of being a band Dragonforce have nothing to prove and their devil may care attitude is never more apparent then when keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov adopts a keytar during ‘Die By The Sword’ and begins aping The Avd who watches from the crowd. Their set ends with the breakthrough single ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’, ‘Cry Thunder’ and the fan favourite ‘Valley Of The Damned’. It’s quite clear that, in Pompey at least, metal is far from dead. (5/5)
Words by Richard Heaven.