I went into battle with my old musical nemesis, Power Metal, last night at the Croatian Cultural Centre. Not just any variety of Power Metal, but DragonForce, the mightiest, speediest, floofiest, most flighty, nonsensical power metal band in creation. DragonForce have become a big deal in the last few months, and the show was sold out. Amazing what a few YouTube videos and strategically placed MP3s can do for a band's notoriety.
I was expecting the two opening bands to provide the evening's musical highlights, and they did. Horse the Band are a strange outfit, given to rhythmic fits and starts and odd keyboard sounds. They were breaking in a new drummer, who took a lot of teasing on his fourth show as a Horseman. Although I heard a couple "You fucking suck"s from the crowd, the band were well received, with comments from the lead singer like "This song's about stabbing your best friend with scissors in the eyeball" getting some laughs.
All That Remains augment their American deathcore with a lot of twin-guitar flash. My heart sank during the first song when the singer did the standard gruff verse/melodic chorus trick (repeated on many of their subsequent songs), but he did it without sapping any intensity, and the rest of the band ensured that the bottom didn't completely drop out of the songs when the transition occurred. Their set was gritty and impressive, and even had room for a solo spot for guitarist Oli Herbert.
The crowd was pumped for the headliners, with "DragonForce! DragonForce!" chants erupting every few minutes, as the temperature inside the venue rose to sweaty new highs. The lights went down and Slayer's "Reign In Blood" began playing at full PA volume as an onstage timer began counting down the four minutes to the gig's proper start. Unfortunately, that was the last good song I'd hear all night. It quickly became apparent that their high-speed barrage was on the sloppy side. Their drummer in particular had a hard time sustaining a blast beat for any length of time. By the fourth song, after a dozen whammy bar pulls, liberal exchanges of shredding, and heroically melodic choruses, their bag of tricks was just about empty. I even counted a couple truck driver's gear changes in there (a device I can't really fault any band for using, seeing as my favourite modern-day power metal album, Falconer's Grime vs. Grandeur is littered with them).
No denying that DF do their best to make sure everyone has a good time, and expend superhuman amounts of energy doing what they do. I had sweat running down my back just watching them in that giant sauna. I only wish the songs were as impressive as the band's energy and the audience's adulation. When the band left the stage to take a breather before the inevitable encore with inevitably another soundalike song, I took off to get some fresh air myself.