January 19, 2015

Baby DragonForce

When it comes to hard rock and metal, I really like about 10 percent of it 10 percent of the time. AXS shows Def Leppard Viva Hysteria Live on a regular basis. I think I've seen the whole thing by now, though not at one sitting. It's an experience best taken episodically. And some of those episodes are pretty good.

I place DragonForce in the same category. Fine fare in small doses.

Forging close ties to the video gaming universe, DragonForce consciously fashioned itself into the soundtrack of pop SF&F: pure pulp delivered in a hyper-digital medium. They're the 21st century version of Boston, doing with software what Boston founder (and MIT grad) Tom Scholz did with analog electronics in the late 1970s.

I respect talented artists who hone their craft while resisting the siren call of solemnity. DragonForce features dual lead guitarists with extraordinary skills. They take themselves seriously enough to create the best product they're capable of, but not so seriously they spoil the effort in the name of "art."

As far as I can tell, DragonForce aspires to be the musical equivalent of the syndicated science fiction franchises that pack 'em in at conventions, conventions that no high-brow critic would dare set foot in. Good for them: we need more producers of high-quality camp.

Consider the Castle episode in which an actor who owes her fame to a schlocky SF series now wants to (literally) kill her past. The Oscar-nominated Birdman has Michael Keaton essentially playing himself as Hollywood action hero trying to reclaim his "art" on Broadway. Moral of both stories: no good comes from angsty artists.

On the other hand, we have wonderful nostalgia of Galaxy Quest. Being a pop-culture star is a literal adventure! As Leonard Nimoy discovered, there's nothing wrong with being Spock.

DragonForce came to my attention because guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totem cut a track with with Japanese metal-band-slash-idol-group Babymetal. It's hard to take seriously a metal band whose members aren't old enough to drive. But true artists can do silly stuff just because it's a hoot and everybody goes away smiling.

"Heroes of Our Time" is quintessential Dragonforce, hitting every tried and true meme right on the head, and doing it with exquisite skill. Like I said, it's the kind of thing that just makes me grin.

Power anthems don't get any more power anthemy than "A Flame for Freedom": the chords alone practically write the script for the next big-budget space opera, with Will Smith saving the world in the final reel.

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# posted by Blogger Katherine Woodbury
1/21/2015 3:16 PM   
Slight tangent: that Castle episode is one of their best! I love that Jonathan Frakes directed it and appears as Castle's "greatest fan" ("How far they fall," Castle mutters when the t-shirted Frakes rushes off). I love Armin Shimerman for reprising his role of, well, Quark (without the make-up). And what can beat William Shatner's awesome musical send-off in the closing credits? Absolute pop culture perfection!