DragonForce brings fantasy metal flair

After depleting my cache of Loretta Lynn, Third Eye Blind and Of Montreal, I thought I had run out of ways to be ironic with my musical tastes, but my fears have been answered by the theatrical antics of DragonForce, a British fantasy metal band.

At this point, you might be asking yourself what fantasy metal actually is. I had to consult a friend for a layman’s description of the specific electric genre. It usually features lengthy, soaring guitar leads, uplifting Iron Maiden-esque vocals and mythical lyrics. With lines like “Fighting hard, fighting on for the steel through the wastelands evermore/ The scattered souls will feel the hell bodies wasted on the shores,” DragonForce fits the fantasy metal description perfectly.

They broke onto the international metal scene about the same time as All That Remains, who debuted in 2004 with the album “The Darkened Heart.” Formed as a side project in 1998, All That Remains have toured with popular metal bands like Gwar, Arch Enemy and The Crown, and are now traveling the U.S. with DragonForce.

In a pre-show interview, I asked All that Remains drummer Shannon Lucas if he had noticed DragonForce’s growing hipster following. He says, “I guess that’s kind of expected when a band is from the U.K. and they are getting a lot of press with their new album (“Inhumane Rage”).”

Lucas went on to name the best cities the band had played in their busy 2006 schedule, including San Antonio, Chicago and Seattle. Last Friday they had a show at D.C.’s 9:30 Club, and I luckily got a chance to check it out.

I entered the concert area and in front of me was a scene straight out of a VH1 Classic music video. The lead singer of DragonForce appeared onstage shirtless with fringed leather pants and a flowing mane of hair, which tossed in the breeze provided by a strategically placed wind machine. The other members were dressed slightly less -extravagantly, but made up for their threads with waist long hair that, in true heavy metal style, they trashed around to the beat of each song.

I stood in the balcony area of the 9:30 Club to get a better view of the spectacle, and below me were a couple hundred skinny, awkward teenaged boys all dressed in baggy, black t-shirts, moshing around to the heavy guitar riffs and lead singer ZP Theart yelling, “This is going to be a fucking abortion!” During every song, the crowd loyally sang along, which was an admirable feat when I could barely understand what the singer was crooning about.

The oddest moment was probably when the crowd started chanting “Hey! Hey!” to the beat while pumping their fists in the air in a Third Reich-esque unison, or alternatively when the band pulled a kid out of the audience and made him dance around to their next song with a huge rubber lizard mask on, much to his and the audience’s excitement. Or when Theart stuck his microphone down his pants and sprayed water all over the crowd. I can’t decide.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing DragonForce live. Listening to fantasy metal with crappy iPod earphones hardly does justice to the experience of being at a live show. Seeing the guitarists keep up with the fast pace of the songs and being with a fanatic crowd who chanted “DragonForce!” every second the band wasn’t playing isn’t something you experience at a lot of shows. Most hilariously, the night culminated in the post-show dispersal of the crowd, flowing onto the mean streets of D.C. and being greeted by sensible parents waiting to take their satisfied kids home.

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