Review by Mick Birchall
So, this was a gig I wasn’t expecting to go to. In all honesty, I have not listened to Dragonforce in a long time. They’re a super-nostalgic act for me. I listened to them a lot in high-school and into my early 20’s. Yet, somewhere along the way, I stopped listening to them I couldn’t say why. I just stopped getting their stuff. So, this was a great opportunity to get back into their music and hear them in a new light. This year they dropped their new album “Extreme Power Metal” and I have to say I really like this album. This album really feels like a new chapter for the band. Yes, this album comes with their standard fare of blisteringly fast power metal on the record but also there are a few really powerfully emotional songs as well. With this new album under their belt, I feel this is a cool jumping on point to get back into the band. Also, opening the show for them were Electro-rockers, McRocklin and Hutch and the Japanese powerhouse that is Lovebites.
Walking into the venue a little late, I caught the tail-end of McRocklin and Hutch’s set. This was pretty interesting. How do I describe this band? They’re an instrumental, electro, EDM, prog-rock act that is heavily influenced by 80’s classic rock. I think that about sums them up. Their music was quite interesting to listen to and even if they’re not really my sort of thing, I can still hear the appeal that they might have. It was a slick mix of guitar solos and electronic dance-beats. It was all a good fusion of the genres. I was impressed with the guitar-skill, lots of interesting dynamics in their sound. They were pretty good at hyping the crowd and they got a decent response from the Manchester audience. There were moments where this felt like a prog-rock project from the ’80s and It was not bad. In all honesty, when it comes to EDM and Rock music fusions I prefer a band with more energy and intensity whereas this was a little too slow for my liking but like I said I can definitely hear the appeal. They were a solid opener and if you’re into this sort of thing then I can imagine this would be more interesting to you.
Next up on stage was the Japanese power-metal act, Lovebites. I have been listening to them for a long time and this night was my first time watching them live. I have to say I was really impressed. I mean, I really liked this set. Their music is incredibly intense with a tight rhythm, an awesome groove and an in your face attitude. It was just simple basic power metal done really well and sometimes that is better than any gimmick or style that you can think of. I really loved the guitar-work in this set, the twin-guitar work of Miyako and Midori really sound amazing. As the bass guitar groove locked into the drums and it all just sounded so great. Vocalist, Asami, was an amazing presence.
Her voice sounded awesome and she was really great at hyping up the crowd. The atmosphere in the venue was excellent with everyone in the room screaming and shouting for more. They even managed to bust out a new song in their set, getting everyone hyped for their album Electric Pentagram, which is due to drop next year. Their set was extremely tight with excellent songs. Every moment of their set filled to the brim with intensity and excitement. I very much highly recommend getting to see them as soon as possible.
Finally, the time had come to watch Dragonforce again. The last time I saw them was in 2012 and I was quite excited a getting giddy. The lights went out and a laser light show started as a massive overture stated. The stage was decorated with lights, a massive screen at the back and two arcade machine platforms either side of the stage. The band burst on to the stage with confetti and CO2 machines. They just know how to put on a show make the crowd get lost in the spectacle of it all.
They made Manchester Academy 2 feel like an arena and the crowd returned that love for them. The band is just such a presence to behold on stage. Frontman, Marc Hudson’s vocals just soared over the production and you could hear every note. All the while the band just went nuts in that classic Dragonforce way. Herman Li and Sam Totman are madmen of the guitars with solos and riffs for days. I mean I know how to play the guitar but I am always in awe watching them just play. The crowd roared to life and was singing along to all of the songs. The music was fast and furious, and the set was a well-chosen mix of old songs and new material which was great for someone like me because I found familiarity in the classics like “Fury of the Storm” “Cry Thunder” and “Valley of the Damned” whilst discovering the newer songs such as “Highway to Oblivion” and “Heart Demolition”. The set was also intercut with Sega Genesis/Mega Drive adverts from the ‘90s which was entertaining and gave everyone a moment to catch their breath. My favourite song of the set was actually one off of the new album called “The Last Dragonborn” because, of course, Dragonforce wrote a song about Skyrim and it sounds absolutely epic.
The band closed out the set with two songs. The first was a cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” done in their signature style and I have to be honest, it’s a good version and they have managed to make a great power metal version of the song. Finally finishing on the all-time classic hit “Through The Fire And Flames” which is such a nostalgic song for me personally. Genuinely a great set, I really couldn’t tell you the reason why they dropped off my radar but this night put them firmly back on my playlists.