The British power metal band, DragonForce is out on tour in support of their recent September release, Extreme Power Metal, and on this leg of their tour they brought along Dance With The Dead and Starkill to Vinyl Las Vegas inside the Hard Rock Hotel, and I had the pleasure of covering the show.
As I entered Vinyl Las Vegas it was obvious that this crowd was here to see the headliner. The line at their merch table held a steady flow throughout the night, hardly slowing down during the openers’ performance. Looking around at the people rolling into the club it is hard to believe that DragonForce has been around for twenty years. That’s longer than a lot of these people have been alive! There is a simple explanation for this fact, and it has to do with video games. One of DF’s most popular songs, "Through The Fire And Flames", has been used in video games such as the massively popular Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero Smash Hits, and Brutal Legend. DF has always had a connection with video games and gamers, using retro gaming sounds in a lot of their music and deriving inspiration from video game themes, especially those in the fantasy realm. Looking around the crowd it looked more like a gaming convention than a heavy metal concert, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the majority were wearing DragonForce t-shirts, I would have thought I was in the wrong place.
American melodic death metal band, Starkill, had the honor of being first to take the stage and warming up the crowd. Out of Chicago, Starkill released their first studio album in 2013, Fires of Life, and has since released three more including their 2019 release, Gravity. Starkill is Parker Jameson on lead vocals, lead guitar, keyboards, and programming, Tony Keathley on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Shaun Andruchuk on bass, Sarah Lynn Collier on vocals, and touring member John Terry on drums. In all honesty I had never heard of Starkill before they showed up on a list of shows that my editor was interested in covering, and I’m always one for checking out a new (to me) band so I pulled up their music on Spotify while reading up on their FaceBook and Wikipedia pages, and in no time at all I was very interested. Their set, understandably, leaned heavily on their new album with four of their seven songs from Gravity. Their newer music has evolved from their first album, Fires of Life (2013), to a more melodic sound with their addition of a female vocalist, Sarah, as well as more clean vocals from Parker. On their first album Parker stuck to growling vocals with the occasional spoken word (still growling) and their drums were ridiculously fast with then drummer, Spencer Weidner, sounding like a machine-gunner. I couldn’t believe how fast he played and thought, for sure, that his beats were sped up in studio, but I watched a drum play-through for "Whispers of Heresy" on YouTube and he definitely hits (and kicks) like a machine. Spencer has stepped back to focus on writing and other aspects of the business while JT handles the touring duties. Starkill put on an energetic and powerful performance, amping up the packed house and getting everyone in the mood for some fast-paced screaming metal with shrieking guitars and hard-hitting drums. It seemed like the crowd really connected with them from the start, and I can tell you personally that they made a fan out of me.
Next was Dance With The Dead, who I had seen recently perform with Devin Townsend and Avatar. Dance With The Dead is Tony Kim and Justin Pointer, a musical duo from Orange County. They both start off the performance playing guitars, but occasionally Justin steps back to play keyboard and Tony has a DJ turntable where he freestyles to metal tracks. They are heavy on the electronic synth sounds and both play a mean guitar. It’s a really cool sound and very entertaining but I really felt they would have been better suited to start the show rather than follow Starkill. Not that the crowd seemed to mind as they would cheer loudly from time to time when a notable tune, like "Master of Puppets", was used. These two are outstanding at what they do, and I think their music would be great for a poolside day club here in Vegas. Something the metal crowd could enjoy. They have over 400k monthly listeners on Spotify so they are obviously onto something!
The last act of the evening took to the stage, as DragonForce guitar duo Herman Li and Sam Totman walked out to a room full of cheering Guitar Hero fans! These two have a reputation for being the fastest guitarists in the metal world and while some may question that, there is no denying that they are the stars of this show. Drummer Gee Anzalone and vocalist Marc Hudson as well as fill-in bassist Damian Rainaud joined them, and the power metal performance began. From Sam’s “Macho Man” Randy Savage t-shirt to Herman’s calculator watch, it is obvious these guys love retro. Their guitars are tuned to mimic old school video game sounds and they execute them perfectly. Throughout the performance they take turns on pedestals to show off their flying-finger skills and occasionally perform back-to-back on them. Sam is obviously the jokester and is constantly making funny faces and goofing around, at one point messing with Herman’s tuning knobs on his guitar while he’s mid-solo, and another time making a stink-face and giving Herman a thumbs-down. Marc is the consummate metal front man, pumping up the crowd and encouraging everyone to sing along, not that he needed to - this crowd knew the music and sang along loudly.
DragonForce packed as much punch into their production as they could in such an intimate venue. They had CO2, and confetti cannons surrounded the front of the stage, and Marc had a portable CO2 gun he would break out on occasion to spray over the crowd. They did a drum and guitar solo mid-show while playing a medley of video game clips, from Pac-Man to Final Fantasy on the giant video screen behind the drum kit. It’s easy to see why their music has created such a loyal following, they put on quite the show. They wrapped up their set with a very odd two-song encore that included a cover of Celine Dion’s hit "My Heart Will Go On", the theme song from the movie Titanic. The finale being, of course, "Through The Fire And Flames".
Highway To Oblivion
Fury Of The Storm
The Last Dragonborn
Ashes Of The Dawn
Guitar Solo/Drum Solo
Valley Of The Damned
My Heart Will Go On
Through The Fire And Flames
DragonForce photos from Randy Udell / R U Rocking' Photos
Dance With The Dead photos from Randy Udell / R U Rocking' Photos
Starkill photos from Randy Udell / R U Rocking' Photos