Dragonforce / Crimson Shadows @ The Opera House, Toronto ON, October 20, 2011

By Natalie Zed, Dragonforce photo by Sam Stewart-Panko

Arriving at the Opera House bright and early (I thought), I just managed to miss Aetherborn‘s set. They must have gone on just as the doors were opening, as I was there before eight p.m. and their scheduled start time was 7:45. I caught all of Crimson Shadows and I was impressed; they rose to the occasion of this high-profile show. They’ve clearly put in a great deal of rehearsal time and were tight, full of energy and obviously overjoyed at being onstage. The room was packed throughout their set, and they responded by giving their all, thanking the audience repeatedly for their support. They clearly got through to the Dragonforce-hungry crowd, and fists were pumped enthusiastically during “Kingdom of Ale.” There’s just enough of a power metal tinge in their thrash-y folk metal to make them a strong opener for this show, and I’m looking forward to seeing them play again.

There was a brief break, during which the club filled even more, making walking across the room an iffy, elbow-y proposition. Finally, in front of a packed house, Dragonforce walked onstage, rather stiffly, and after waving briefly at the rabid audience, made up primarily of 17- to 20-year-old Guitar Hero fanatics, started to play. The main issue with Dragonforce live is that their music bleeds together; it’s extremely difficult to tell their songs apart, and with very minimal stage banter, it’s very easy to let the night bleed together into one big, Drangonforce-y lump. I did pick out “Heroes of Our Time,” their opening song, and “The Last Journey Home.” And, of course, inevitable as the tides, they played “Through The Fire and Flames” as an encore.

The proficiency level when it comes to the guitars and the sheer speed at which the band play is staggering — these guys have skills, there’s no question. Marc Hudson is also a very fine replacement for recently departed vocalist Z.P. Thart (with a name like that, he should be an old-timey villain). His voice is sweet and clear, with enough power, and his tone matches well. He’s a bit stiff still, and clearly nervous, but he’ll relax into the role with time. He also looks clean and pure enough to have been grown in a tank specifically to be the Dragonforce vocalist.

For all the impeccable skill, speed and flourish there was nothing hook-y or spellbinding about the performance. This was an incredibly safe show that felt more like a press conference combined with a a technical exercise — less about showmanship and more about showing off. If you’ve dumped countless hours into mastering “Through the Fire and Flames” on expert in Guitar Hero, it could be kind of neat to see the music performed in an actual concert setting. But in the end, Dragonforce’s music is uninspiring.

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.