Words by Samantha Buckman and Jonathan Smith
Roughly two years to the day that the world stopped turning in response to Covid, many heroes have risen to beat back the beast that stole the concert-going experience from the masses. The analogy of a small band of heroes standing against a seemingly insurmountable juggernaut is a fitting one in depicting the night of sonic inspiration and splendor that would come to pass at the Revolution Live on April 13th, as four elite mainstays of the symphonic and power metal world would proceed to punch a hole into the venue’s roof and even that of the sky draped above it. Though the set lists and the stage would prove to be small, the potency of what would be unleashed would rival that of those cherished arena events that typified the bygone era of the 1980s, matched by an unrelenting enthusiasm for the art that would transport the audience to various other realms known only to the imagination.
Dragonforce may have been able to carry on through the fire and the flames, but they have finally been able to grace North America with their presence, filling out the bill with tour companions Firewind, Visions of Atlantis, and Seven Spires. By the time the group reached Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the tour had more than passed the halfway mark. Those unable to attend in person had been treated to Dragonforce streaming many of their live sets on Twitch, but testimonies from concertgoers made one thing clear: this was not a show to be missed.
The first mighty assault would be waged by Boston-born symphonic crusaders Seven Spires, admittedly the youngest battalion of enlisted warriors and the only American representatives of the genre, but a more than compelling one in setting the tone for the evening. Led by the dual vocal persona of Adrienne Cowan, whose mixture of extreme screams and shouts with a soaring angelic soprano might be likened to former The Agonist and current Arch Enemy front-woman Alissa White-Gluz, this quartet would barrel through a concise selection of powerful anthems that straddle the stylistic divide between Kamelot and Epica with a brilliant mixture of infectious hooks and wild virtuosic displays.
Seven Spires came to this tour hungry to show off new material, notably from their most recent album “Gods of Debauchery.” Cowan had the crowd rapt with her showmanship, paired with the noodling complexity of bassist Peter Albert de Reyna, who seemed all too willing to steal the show from the rest of the arrangement to show with his impressive chops, though the collective thunder produced by the whole band made the speed and lofty melodies of “Oceans Of Time” and the dark and menacing air of “Drowner Of Worlds” standouts of the whole evening, while Cowan’s witty remarks between songs reminded the crowd that the ones producing this music actually are human, if not demigods with an occasional sense of humor.
Other highlights of the opening set included both the driven “Dare to Live” and fiery “Lightbringer,” both taken from “Gods of Debauchery.” Magic was truly in the air for the band’s recitation of “Succumb,” taking the already evocative track to the next level with warm lighting and Jack Kosto’s committed musicianship on guitar. This act was more than just a sonic delight, but a visual feast: elaborate costuming made each musician all the more alluring to observe as they demonstrated their craft. While the set may have been painfully short for such a force of nature, it was a great taste of just what Seven Spires is capable of.
Though the aforementioned opening act proved to be no slouches in the theatricality department, the ante would definitely be upped in said department when Austian-based symphonic mainstays Visions Of Atlantis took the stage in full pirate attire. Hearkening closer to the measured and mid-paced character of Nightwish, this quintet would dial back the instrumental intrigue a bit in order to give their two vocal attractions the lion’s share of the spotlight. As one ode to swashbuckling adventure on the high seas bled into another, the haunting operatic display of Clementine Delauney would find a veritable romantic foil in the gritty tenor with a buccaneer twist provided by Michele Guaitoli, personifying the very concept of on-stage chemistry. This dynamic approach truly shone during their newest single “Legion of the Seas,” which brought an already inspired crowd to even greater elation. Guitarist Christian Douscha showed off his precision during “Nothing Lasts Forever,” as close to the crowd as he could manage while shredding his way through a compact set.
It was very much a visual display of artistry, yet when juxtaposed with the elaborate blend of metallic, folksy and classical elements that culminated in lofty epics like “Master The Hurricane” and densely sculpted bangers like “A Journey To Remember”, it left plenty up to the audience’s imagination and gave a glowing endorsement of this quintet’s latest album and the one due to hit the shelves in May. There was much fun to be had as the audience was fully submerged in the party-pirate fantasy Visions of Atlantis brought with them from across the ocean.
If the two previously noted acts could be seen as the visually geared warriors at the army’s right and left flank, then Greek power metal extraordinaire outfit Firewind would be the cavalry at the center. Driven less by expansive symphonic sounds and vocal backing tracks, theirs would be a display of raw metallic fervor, spearheaded by the gravely shouts and snarls of Teutonic titan and former Sinbreed helmsman Herbie Langhans and the mad-shredding of virtuoso axe-slinger Gus G. Their set was full of energy and passion, packed to the brim with rapid-fire solos, and made for a rip-roaring thrill from start to finish. An active stage presence and guitars soaking up the spotlight made for a breathtaking performance. Further establishing this point of contrast, they’d take a slightly larger share of the event’s time and utilize it to reach back a bit further than their two latest albums, with Gus himself rivaling Vai and Malmsteen as he dusted off an old instrumental classic from 2003 in “The Fire and The Fury”.
Along for the ride were some other surprising entries such as the power anthem “Ode To Leonidas” off the “Immortals” album and the quasi-thrashing beast “World On Fire” off 2010’s “Days Of Defiance” that allowed Langhans to show his impressive range of vocal expressions while taking on material original handled by such elite vocalists as Apollo Papathanasio and Henning Basse, though bangers off the 2020 eponymous album like “Welcome To The Empire” and “Break Away” would make an equally impressive ruckus. One would be remiss to fail in dwelling upon the comradery displayed by Herbie Langhans and Adrienne Cowan as they made surprise appearances in the other’s sets, particularly the show-stealing rendition of the Flashdance soundtrack favorite “Maniac” at the end of Firewind’s performance. There’s little question that this outfit was born to perform, and they stoked a renewed fire in a crowd that was already riled up.
The main event that would conclude this sea of sonic triumph, provided by the band that has elevated the concept of technical and melodic excess to an art form no less, would combine all of the prior elements of the event and merge them with their unapologetically campy character. Dragonforce throws a party each time they take to the stage, and this tour was certainly no exception. To celebrate their latest album “Extreme Power Metal,” Dragonforce brought with them bright lights, confetti, pyro, neon guitars, and decorative sunglasses to boot. Drummer Gee Anzalone sat high atop a steel dragon riser with glistening red eyes, and below were a series of arcade machines to bring on a flood of nostalgia. The eclectic lighting complimented the atmosphere of unrestrained excitement and thrills, and pure power metal collided with pure joy as legendary guitarist Herman Li whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
Blurring genres while simultaneously blurring streams of notes, Dragonforce introduced their power metal extravaganza with a synth-steeped cover of Yanni’s “Point Of Origin”. After launching into “Highway to Oblivion” before segueing into “Fury of the Storm,” it was clear that Dragonforce was intent on giving this performance their all. Old and new material alike had fists raised to the sky, but all eyes were glued to the stage for two particularly special performances in the middle of the set: a video game medley followed up by a striking banjo solo. It seemed these veteran performers were prepared to elicit just as much laughter as they were raucous cheers.
The set appeared to balance thoughtful choreography and spontaneity in equal measure, as confetti and smoke piqued fiery choruses and Li engaged with the crowd pressed closest to the stage. The bulk of the original studio material would split evenly between shred-happy bangers off their latest album “Extreme Power Metal” (which sadly didn’t receive much tour support due to the scourge of Covid) and older material, with obvious apex points being the vintage epic thunder of “Black Fire” and “Valley Of The Damned”, to speak nothing for a riveting encore performance of the 2006 smash hit that made this outfit darlings of the Guitar Hero craze “Through The Fire And Flames”. For his part, vocalist Marc Hudson did a commendable job of emulating the inhuman range of original vocalist ZP Theart and even expanded upon it at times, but the audience was clearly present for the unrelenting shred battles waged by Herman Li and Sam Totman, and they got it with a vengeance.
It seemed impossible to overcome the excitement spurred by Firewind’s cover of “Maniac,” but Dragonforce managed to one-up the novelty by bringing a bright splash of power metal to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” And of course, it wouldn’t be a Dragonforce show if the titans didn’t close out the night with “Through the Fire and the Flames.” The rumors are true: this is Dragonforce at their very best.
If nothing else, the sonically starved masses would come away from this occasion fed, fattened and filled with a four-course feast that not only resuscitated them, but will keep them nourished for weeks to come. The union of mainland Europe, the British Isles and North America in energy-driven power metal is once more alive and kicking, undaunted by roughly 104 weeks of coerced hibernation. Not a dull moment was experienced in what could be best described as metal’s answer to the concept of a variety show, and every band from start to finish would function as their own zenith point for a night of metal magic that is continuing to roar its way across the southern United States. True to the name of the venue that held it, it was a live revolution against the stagnation that had gripped the world, and yet another in a long line of continuing victories for a scene that refuses to die.