Gig review: DragonForce at Fibbers, York

DragonForce
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It may be a fair assessment to say there is no fringe band as culturally ubiquitous as DragonForce.

The London sextet’s brand of quasi-operatic, triple-time power metal was a barely known lunacy until their inclusion on the third Guitar Hero video game in 2007 retroactively broke them on both sides of the Atlantic, putting bombastic speed-shredding on the commercial rock map for the first time.

A decade on from their nadir, their hyper-speed histrionics still drive genre purists to high umbrage – but their preposterously euphoric anthems make for defiant, fantastical escapism.

Very much returned to the niche of cult artist, their appearance at the relatively intimate Fibbers venue in York comes on a UK tour behind seventh studio album Reaching Into Infinity, released earlier this spring. Crammed onto a cosy stage, replete with pillars of dry ice and a luminescent hi-definition screen at the rear, the five-piece outfit – minus keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov, on sabbatical from live duties – bludgeon their audience with an arsenal of crazy, catchy riffs, played out in gloriously self-aware fashion; a full-throttle, if swampy wall-of-sound walloping that is infectious and ridiculous in equal measure

The new numbers reflect the most eclectically nuanced work of their career, primarily penned by bassist Frédéric Leclercq, though shorn of their synths, they do lose some of their lustre; Judgement Day clocks in with a clubby, faux-orchestral intro before blowing out into a billowing Nintendocore barnstormer, whilst The Edge of the World swaps mosh-heavy madness for peak nineties thrash-balladry, replete with prog-rock codas. Singer Marc Hudson acquits himself well too; now three records into his tenure as frontman, he is truly settled, ripping through a full-blooded Fury of the Storm with jovial alacrity and mugging for the crowd whenever he can.

Elsewhere though, it’s business as usual; widdly-widdly soloing at lightning pace punctured with tounge-in-cheek goofing around. Operation Ground and Pound blends a retrowave breakdown in amongst its hammer-and-tongs approach; Leclercq takes guitar duties from Sam Totman and Herman Li on a solo break, and proceeds to churn soundtrack bites from Street Fighter and Sonic the Hedgehog; Hudson introduces their encore cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire as “one we’ve spectacularly gone and f***** up”. When signature song Through the Fire and Flames is finally unleashed, in all its bonkers brilliance, the feelgood cheer through Fibbers is a tangibly physical force. Stix-string silliness has never been so daftly fun.