By Jason McIver
Date / Venue: Thursday February 19th, Kings Arms, Auckland
When I heard that one of the world's most well known power metal bands was playing at the Kings Arms I will be completely honest and say that I figured they must have started sucking, surely the Kings Arms is a bit small? While it is a bit small I guess you could say the power metal movement in NZ isn't exactly a huge one, and it turned out to be a great night and I left the venue with a huge smile.
There is something about masculine men, wearing leather and screaming higher than most females that makes me grin and clap... so long as it is done well... and so the night begins with Auckland based 5 piece metallers Stormforge.
Stormforge were a really entertaining act to watch and the vocalist was great, he has a very theatrical stage presence and connected with the audience really well though by the end of the night I could tell his voice was tiring. His pitch and range were really remarkable. The only weak side came due to perhaps the lack of sound check as there seemed to be some timing issues between guitarists at times which I found a little distracting but none the less it was a decent set.
Following Stormforge were Red Dawn from Wellington, they had been supporting Dragonforce at all 3 of their NZ shows. Red Dawn are much in the same vein, though the singer has a lower range. I think by the end of Stormforge's set the mix had been ironed out a bit and Red Dawn used that to their advantage. The guitarists had obviously been rehearsing together a lot as their dual harmonies were really on form and the backing vocals sat really well. The highlight of their set for me was a mix of the lead guitarists facials and lead breaks, it's great to hear tasteful and melodic soloing come through like that. I was surprised by the vocalist as he was singing in a much lower range than I was thinking he would but would momentarily show that he could belt out some pretty epic power wailing, which as I said, I love, it's a guilty pleasure... I hide my face.
By the time Dragonforce came on I thought I might had been power metalled out but the energy in the band is too huge to ignore, they came to entertain and to melt faces with sweet sweet guitar wizardry and man, they delivered!
Everybody used every bit of space the Kings Arms stage had to offer and it was great to see the key boardist switching to keytar to get up front with the guitarists; there were just no weak links.
I have worked in a guitar shop for a few years and seen Herman Li Ibanez guitar posters around, I often wondered if like the posters he would have wind blowing through his hair and if he could really play as fast as they say... well I hadn't bothered checking but now I know the answer is yes to both of those questions which is awesome!
Everyone in the band can sing well and everyone is amazingly proficient musicians, the bassist could even skull Jack Daniels from the bottle while playing - where I would have coughed and spat on myself he was kicking rock'n'roll ass, it was very cool to watch as NZ is a very NON rock'n'roll country, and people that come across as rock'n'roll often look contrived but this wasn't the case.
I want to give all the singers a huge round of applause, I go back to the vocals mostly due to being a singer myself but not having the range to hit those notes, it really is impressive when grown men sing that high with so much conviction and I mean no insult by saying that - it really is impressive!
So for those that don't know about power metal... it is drinking, wearing leather and denim, singing about drinking in your leather and denim as well as healthy doses of valhalla, vikings, steel, true metal, being metal and plenty of guitar solos... it's a lot of fun and easy to get caught up in.
Europe has been embracing this sub genre for a long time and it's great to see that there is support for it in little ole New Zealand too.