Photos by Kevin Eisenlord
As an ardent fan of the most glorious genre known to mankind – that’s power metal, obviously – I am usually disappointed by the lack of live power metal acts that end up in the cold rainy city of Vancouver.
In a short span that all has changed, however. We were gifted the bards known as Blind Guardian in mid-November, and two short weeks later we’ve been allowed to witness the mighty warriors known as DragonForce, as well as the American power metal band Kamelot. With no local openers, each band is given a lot of time to do their thing; Dragonforce play for an hour, and Kamelot for two.
DragonForce are one of the best live acts I have ever seen; dear gods do they ever put on a hell of a show. I’ve been a fan on and off for nearly ten years, though it has been “on” pretty much since their 2012 album The Power Within, an album that made up for the mistakes of the previous record and saw them focus more on writing actual songs instead of all-out rampaging shred-fest power metal.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, as their signature song “Through The Fire And The Flames” draws an insane reaction when they close the set with it, and songs like their riotous opener “Fury of the Storm” and “Operation Ground And Pound” are just as insanely glorious.
However, it’s during the “Cry Thunder” where I find myself being lifted from Earth into a realm far away beyond the horizon where no darkness lies and only glory is found. It’s one of their more mid-paced numbers, and it absolutely rips, elevating all around it; even “Heroes of Our Time” from the maligned Ultra Beatdown has utter magic all over it tonight.
I expected brilliance in the music, but I absolutely did not expect the gigantic stage presence the band exude. Every single member that isn’t tied down by a drum kit is all over the stage, engaging the crowd and having a ton of fun. There’s a moment in “Three Hammers” where both guitarists, the bassist, and the keyboardist carrying a keytar all line up centre stage to do some mugging and pull off some great musical moments – and then you have guitarists Sam Totman and Herman Li executing twin 360 spin jumps while performing nonsensically complex shredding parts. There was a time when they were criticised for not being able to play their parts live, but that time is long gone and now they can play them while doing all sorts of crazy things.
DragonForce are easily one of the most awe-inspiring live bands I have ever seen; truly a sonic experience everyone should witness in their lives.
Despite ostensibly being of the same genre, Kamelot are an entirely different band from DragonForce. Whereas the latter is over-the-top, fixated on tales of battlefield glory and making gratuitous use of harmonised twin guitar passages, Kamelot take a darker, more lyrical approach. There certainly was room for Kamelot to be a let-down after the spectacle that the first band offered, but they offer up an equally brilliant set, albeit with less choreographed theatrics.
Their set is largely focused on more recent albums – a bit of a let down seeing as I’ve been a fan for ten years and would have preferred more material from Epica and The Black Halo, and anything at all from The Fourth Legacy. Regardless, they put on a great show. Opener “Veil of Elysium” is a near carbon copy of their closing song “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” but at least they’re enjoyable songs.
It’s a nice surprise comes when they break out the title track of Karma and that, along with fellow album track “Forever” prove to be as far back in their discography that they go. Token ballad “Here’s to the Fall”, from their newest album Haven, is dedicated to new singer Tommy Karevik’s grandfather.
And then break out the huge guns: the song that got me into the band in the first place; the crushing riff fest that is “March of Mephisto”, which is followed by the terrific swaggering romp “Rule the World”.
The band have back-up singer Kobra Paige of Kobra and the Lotus helping out with additional vocals on some songs, including the classic “Center of the Universe” as well as “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)”; the latter of which originally featured Arch Enemy’s Alissa Gluz.
A short drum solo courtesy of long-time rhythm-master Casey Grillo is followed by a keyboard solo that leads wonderfully into the most straight power metal song in their set, “Forever” – but it’s Kamelot’s bassist Sean Tibbetts who is a real pleasure to watch, bouncing all over the stage and sporting a pair of goggles to introduce the encore. Tommy Karevik is everywhere as well; every part the theatrical actor in the drama that takes places in their lyrics. Main songwriter Thomas Youngblood is fun to watch as well, and as the sole guitarist he has to work a bit harder to keep the rhythm tight.
There’s a bit of disappointment when backing tracks are used for growled vocals in places where they appear in “March of Mephisto” or “Revolution”, but other than that the set is entirely enjoyable. I would have preferred to see them with iconic singer Roy Khan on vocals, but the circumstances around his leaving the band mean that will likely never happen. Karevik is a vocalist I love in his other band Seventh Wonder, so I felt he suited the band just fine.
This is just another chapter in a year of mind-alteringly good shows. Both are bands I have wanted to see for quite a long time, and getting two of them at once was a special treat. DragonForce are the better live show, but that does not mean Kamelot are by any means unenjoyable. Both put on their absolute best and the crowd gave them its best right back. This was one hell of a show.