Dragonforce / Heavenly
13 February 2004
Camden Underworld

Firstly apologies to Herman for being too pissed to be able to operate his video camera and cheers to Johan for taking charge. Fortunately I wasn't too pissed to enjoy a great night of metal, which saw Dragonforce really stepping up a level.

Just waiting in the Worlds End pub beforehand you just knew this was going to be a special night for Dragonforce. Speaking to Adrian & Vadim beforehand, the recent tour of Japan had been a resounding success and there was a real feeling of excitement about the gig tonight.

The fans had come out in force and earlier that day the venue had sold out, leaving quite a few people outside desperately trying to get tickets. Everyone seemed keen to get in early and the venue was packed out very quickly, to the benefit of support act Heavenly.

I had caught these French guys previously at the very same venue on a multi band-bill supporting Gamma Ray. Having heard nothing by them, I was completely blown away that night and quickly obtained then current album Sign Of The Winner. As admitted by the band in a few interviews I had read, that album was heavily influenced by Helloween and Gamma Ray, however new album Dust To Dust sees them find their own niche.

Dust To Dust is a truly ambitious concept album, which takes a number of spins to get your head round and I had wondered how it would translate live. The album is the story of a man who becomes a vampire, his life and finally his return to humanity and ultimately his death. Live the band wisely chose the best cuts from the album, interspersed with a choice song from each of their two previous albums.

Vocalist Ben Sotto is the main songwriter of the band and has really raised his game with material such as Evil or the stomping Lust For Life which had the crowd punch the air. Heavenly possess a solid band however to deliver this material and have a great guitar partnership in Frederic Leclercq and Charley Corbiaux.

Obviously I wasn`t the only person to have picked up their previous album as a great number sing a long to Sign Of The Winner, much to the bands delight and surprise.

Heavenly were given a real opportunity to prove themselves to a packed London crowd and grasped it with both hands and here`s hoping they`ll continue to hop across the Channel to entertain us.

Heavenly set list:
Intro / Evil / Lust For Life / Riding Through Hell / Victory / Sign Of The Winner / Kingdom Come

This gig was officially Dragonforce`s last gig of the Valley Of The Damned tour and also a one-off album pre-release party. It was therefore appropriate that having now obtained a stable line-up the band perform Valley Of The Damned in it`s entirety tonight.

It was apparent that the tour had really solidified the line-up, playing probably the tightest I`ve ever seen, whilst retaining that element of fun which is sometimes missing in the world of power metal.

As is expected, Sam Totman and Herman Li amazed with their guitar playing, at times actually playing each others guitars. Z.P. Theart was in fine voice and whipped the crowd into frenzy. Vadim Pruzhanov keyboards could clearly be heard which was a great relief and as usual he grinned from start to finish. New drummer Dave Mackintosh, also of Bal-Sagoth, deserves plenty of credit and has formed a fearsome partnership with bassist Adrian Lambert.

Often crowds can tire of the same material repeatedly at gigs and although Dragonforce only aired one track from new album Sonic Firestorm tonight, there was no let-up from the audience tonight. The new song played tonight was My Spirit Will Go On, which holds true to the Dragonforce style, whilst continuing to push the envelope of guitar histrionics. It's not all about guitar trickery however as the song possess one hell of a catch chorus refrain and certainly wetted the crowds appetite for the new album due in April.

It`s difficult to pick stand-out moments as the whole gig was that good. Starfire provided a nice breather in terms of pace but not in terms of singing along and Disciples Of Babylon remains one of my personal favourites. Japanese bonus track Where Dragons Rule made a welcome appearance and of course the band wrap things up with Valley Of The Damned itself.

There`s almost a sense of hysteria afterwards, with complimentary comments about the gig from everyone I spoke to. With the new album Sonic Firestorm due for release in April, 2004 is gearing up to be a very big year for Dragonforce and here`s hoping that the record label get behind them and give them the push they deserve. With the resurgence in traditional metal the timing is just right and momentum is building for a great future.

Dragonforce set list:
Black Fire / Revelations / Black Winter Night / Starfire / My Spirit Will Go On / Disciples Of Babylon /Where Dragons Rule / Evening Star / Heart Of The Dragon / Valley Of The Damned