What happens when you take a rapid-fire solo of 16th notes up and down a fretboard, then stretch that solo out into an entire set and throw in a 25-minute encore? You get a DragonForce show. The six-piece U.K. band brought their lightning fast fantasy metal to the Knitting Factory on April 17.
With waist-length hair blowing in the breeze (thanks to a well-placed fan) DragonForce took the stage in unabashed theatric grandeur, taking poses you might expect for heroes going into battle in an old school Nintendo game. It's no coincidence either, when the music brings to mind a metal rendering of a Zelda/Final Fantasy soundtrack, since the band cites '80s and '90s video games as a source of inspiration. When founder and vocalist ZP Theart held the mic, his high-pitched vocal stylings told tales of epic journeys, grand battles and magical forces. At times guitarists Sam Totman and Herman Li traded solos, frequently dueling for minutes at a time. The dueling crossed instruments as well when, at intermission, keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov, armed with a Roland keytar, went through a bizarre mime show with Totman, trading solos back and forth. Apart from the traditional rock-'n-roll elements, a theramin even made an appearance as well.
While a lesser band would not be able to pull it off, at the heart of this metal fantasy is a foundation of stellar musicians and solid music theory that gives DragonForce an undertone of seriousness. As musicians find a way to express their world views, maybe its not surprising that generations raised on video games and pop fantasy manifest this in their music. The next day my ears were still ringing and I had a Tolkienesque calling to go on adventure, or at least maybe to see if my Super Nintendo still works.