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Dragonforce/ Sonata Arctica/ Taking Dawn

Venue: The Fillmore, Irving Plaza in NYC
Date: 10/6/09
Reviewed By: Kevin Alba

On a cool October evening in NYC two the world’s most popular power metal bands rolled into town alongside newcomers Taking Dawn for an evening of great melodic metal music.

Taking Dawn is Roadrunner Records newest band, a group of youngsters hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada. Their style is mostly traditional metal with some thrashy arrangements. Musically they are very on point and I can see them growing into something bigger down the line (much like what I saw early on with Trivium before they blew up). Vocally, I think singer Chris Babbitt has room for improvement and can see him getting better as time goes on as his pitch wasn’t always 100% consistent with the music. Still, I was rather impressed with the youngster. Guitarist Mikey Cross is a maniac and at one point during the set climbed atop a huge speaker platform off to the side of the stage and after a minute or two of playing made a huge leap from the platform to the stage as if he were David Lee Roth in his prime. Taking Down made a good enough impression that I will be looking forward to their debut LP which I believe is set to come out in January.


Sonata Arctica was up next and probably had just as many fans as Dragonforce. The audience went nuts for them. It’s amazing what Guitar Hero can do for a band like Dragonforce because without that kind of exposure the order of bands would have been reversed and Sonata would be a headliner on a tour like this. The Finns opened up with ‘In Black and White’ which saw the audience singing along with vocalist Tony Kakko. ‘Flag in the Ground’ was up next which is the first single off the band’s new album “The Days of Grays”. ‘Flag’ fit in the set well as it was one of the bands more traditional sounding off an album that is probably their most experimental yet. The audience didn’t know all of the words yet but gave it a warm reception. 8th Commandment’ (off the excellent debut "Ecliptica" from a decade ago) got a great response even causing a pit to break out. Tony being the jokester that he is, started singing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ while keyboards opened ‘Fullmoon’ which got a rousing crowd response. Their set ended with the very popular ‘Don’t Say a Word’ followed of course by ‘Vodka’. Tony said that the band will be back headlining sometime next spring.


Sonata Arctica Setlist:

In Black And White
Flag In The Ground
8th Commandment
Last Drop Falls
Don’t Say a Word


After a great warm up from Sonata Arctica, the now packed Fillmore was anxiously awaiting Dragonforce. The culturally diverse Force hit the stage firing on all cylinders and with this being my third time seeing them this was by far the tightest the band have ever sounded. Opening with ‘Fury of the Storm’ the venue was going completely wild and the momentum continued into ‘Heroes of our Time’ from their latest release "Ultra Beatdown". ‘Reasons to Live’ followed and I was very impressed with how well this translated live. If you read my review for "Ultra Beatdown" from last year, I mentioned how certain songs stood out from just being supersonic fast speed metal and ‘Reasons’ was one of them. ‘Reasons’, while still a heavy track added a nice tempo change to the set following the first two blazers. ‘Starfire’ brought things down a notch further as the band played the first ballad of the night receiving great audience participation.

"Valley of the Damned" was represented by the title track and sadly ‘Disciples of Babylon’ was supposed to be in the set but was dropped. ‘The Last Journey Home’ was just excellent and by far the standout track off of their latest album in my opinion, another one that adds great variety in arrangement to their traditional style.

Halfway through the set was a showdown between keyboardists Vadim Pruzhanov and Sonata Arctica’s Henrik Klingenberg seeing the two going back and forth trying to top the other. The audience loved this and ate it right up. What blew me away the most tonight was the first song in the encore, ‘Strike of the Ninja’ (which was a bonus track on the deluxe edition of “Ultra Beatdown”). I had never heard it before and was blown away the structure and great chorus. Once again it was different and not super speedy. ‘Through The Fire and Flames’ of course ended their set which caused an insane pit from the opening second to the very end.

Dragonforce was very tight and I think a lot of it had to do with their focus on playing and not jumping around like lunatics. The biggest change from last November was keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov looking less like Richard Simmons doing aerobics, being more focused on his playing. Vocalist ZP Theart kept the audience going all night soaking them with bottles of Poland Springs water and interacting with as many people as possible while on stage even yelling at those just standing around. I was extremely impressed and look forward to seeing the Force again.

Hey Dragonforce, on your next U.S. tour how about helping out a band like Edguy, Firewind or Angra? They could surely benefit by being exposed to your fans.


Dragonforce Setlist:

Fury of the Storm
Heroes of Our Time
Reasons To Live
Keyboard Showdown between Vadim and Henrik
Operation Ground and Pound
Fields of Despair
Where Dragons Rule
The Last Journey Home
Valley of the Damned
Strike of the Ninja
Through the Fire and Flames

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