Bands: Dragonforce, Neonfly & Death Valley Knights

Venue: The Empire, Middlesborough

Date: 24 September 2014



A short 40 minute journey down to Middlesborough was on the cards after an invite to catch some of this countries premium metal bands was an offer, an offer you simply couldn’t refuse.  So down the A19 we sped to see if Dragonforce were still a force to be reckoned with, without frontman ZP at the helm.  

But before the headliners we were treat to two other British metal bands who showed the diversity of talent that the British metal scene has to offer.

Opening up tonight's proceedings were London based, Death Valley Riders, led by founder and Lone Star state native Jake Thorsen and former I Am I member (but more on these links and more later) on guitars/vocals, aided by Stephen Brill on drums, Nik Talwar on guitars and Elliott Hall on bass, who delivers a set of pure old school Metal that really got the night off to a great start, with some massive slabs of guitar fuelled metal which included 'Tongue of Fire’, 'Nothing Left To Steal’ and the excellent ‘DVK’, before rounding off their set with a storming version of Motorheads ‘Iron Fist’.   

Next up it was fellow Londoners Neonfly, a band who I’ve grown to like after seeing them on various occasions.  Their mix of Metal with a slight Progressive edge is fuelled by frontman Willy Norton, who's voice can easily fill any venue with or without a mike.  

Recently the band announced that guitarist Patrick Harrington wouldn’t be part of this tour and in his place would be taken up by the six string wizard Andy Midgley, formerly of Powerquest and I Am I (another off those links).

The dynamics between Andy and stalwart guitarist Thunder was instant, as the band opened up their set with ‘Ship With No Sails’, with Norton's vocals instantly filling the venue, before really going for the jugular with ‘The Enemy’.

The tempo was brought down a touch by the power infused ‘A Gift To Remember’, which was where Midgley really came into his own, as he showed what a phenomenal talent his is, as he laid down a great solo on this one.  

Anyone who has seen the band perform live before knows that they have party piece where they play three songs in a row as if all seamlessly linked and tonight was no different, as they threaded ‘The Revenant’, 'The Ornament’ and ’Spitting Blood’ together, like musical surgeons leaving not a scar in sight.

The band have a new album due for release later this year and to give us taste of what’s to come, we were treat with the new songs 'Where the Fires' are 'Burning and Heart of the Sun’, before rounding off another sterling set with what else but the wonderful ‘Morning Star’. 

Now to the headliners Dragonforce, a band that I first caught many moons ago when they were in their infancy when they supported W.A.S.P., this is one band that I have a love/hate relationship with, after seeing the band on various occasions after the W.A.S.P. show, the whole shredding for shredding sake quickly became less appealing.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those early days though, so has a lot of band members, most notably in 2010 when the band announced the departure of vocalist ZP Theart (now of I AM I  - link), who was replaced in 2011 by Marc Hudson, and it was his vocals on 'Cry Thunder' that has drawn me back to Dragonforce tonight.

The band opened up 'Defenders' from their recent album 'Maximum Overload' and I thought yes, this is new Dragonforce I could connect with, the rampaging riffs from Li and Totem were still there, but more melody rich, not just the six string masturbation I normally associated with Dragonforce.

But this was a short reprise as Li and stood centre-stage and unleashed pure hell with ‘Fury of the Storm’, which even saw the keyboard player Vadim Pruzhoanov armed with a Keytar to join them at the front, as all three had a pissing contest to see who could play the fastest.

It was back to new album for ‘3 Hammers’, again featuring a more melodic guitar approach, yes the speed was there, but there was also the melody, and this gave Hudson a real chance to shine, rather than be standing in the wings watching the guitar solo’s.

The years were rolled back once more to the 'Valley of the Damned' for ‘Black Winter Night’, which at times Hudson’s vocals seemed lost in the flailing guitars, powerhouse drumming and high energy bass lines.

It was then a return to new album for the massive ‘The Game’, this one was all about the rolling thunder drums, as new drummer Gee Anzalone put on a display of metal drumming second to none.

It was then to 'Power Within', the first album to feature Hudson’s vocals, again the speed solo’s were thrown away for the power-metal guitars and again I loved this one, although this was again short lived as it was back to the Li and Totem trading licks on 'Heroes of Our Time', as again Hudson looking on from the wings.

The new album was featured again as the saviour of the set for me with ‘The Sun Is Dead’ and 'Tomorrows Kings’, before rounding things off with the song that tempted me back to see another Dragonforce show, ‘Cry Thunder’ .

The band left the stage to cheers for more and were back shortly to round off the night with the Johnny Cash cover ‘Ring Of Fire’, before the capping the night off with probably the bands finest hour 'Through The Fire And Flames’.

Like I said before, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since my last Dragonforce show and to be honest, the verdict still remains the same.  Yes Hudson has a great voice and the new songs really sound great, but has this Dragon lost its fire and would I go to another Dragonforce show?  Well the jury is still out on that one! I would however go to another Death Valley Knights and Neonfly show in a heart beat.

Review by: Barry McMinn




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