Before their recent show in New York, I was up to my elbows in DragonForce albums and hating every minute of it until I realized that the problem lay with my expectations, not with their material. Specifically, I was expecting it to be real. But what kind of Serious Artist gives The Art a name like Ultra Beatdown? What kind of nimrod expects to be taken seriously with a neon camouflage keytar? Could the electric fan positioned just so to blow guitarist Herman Li’s hair back every time he stepped to the edge of the stage to play a guitar solo have been any more obvious? As the most outlandish example of everything-to-excess metal, DragonForce simply has to be intended as parody, in which case it’s absolute genius; rarely does a lampoon simultaneously become the champion of that which it mocks. After this realization, I actually had the time of my life at the show, mostly because I spent the whole time giggling like a schoolgirl on Nitrous. Here, then, is a helpful tentative to-do list from a recently-converted now-adoring fan who can’t bear to see anything about these brilliant satirists taken seriously.
Facial hair: Inconveniently placed hair is a hallmark of testosterone overproduction, and heavy metal would be nothing without hormonal malfunctions. This one is obvious, guys, and it’s a travesty that the band is 66%-babyfaced. Luckily, making up for lost time will only require applying the band’s existing manifesto (“Overdo everything,” if I’m not mistaken), but since nu-metal ate the goatee sometime around 1998, you may have to get creative here. Fu Manchu? Civil war general? Even a substantial enough set of mutton chops would be sufficient.
24 Nov 2008: Roseland Ballroom New York NY
Additional drummers: Dave Mackintosh has already abandoned all semblance of phrasing and finesse in an apparent attempt to hit every drum on every beat—makes perfect sense, since it’s heavier that way, right? But with only the standard-issue allotment of human limbs, there’s no way he’ll ever be able to reach them all no matter how hard he practices. Why not take the logical leap into Allman Brothers territory and find him a friend? Just imagine how much more blasty those blastbeats could be. Downsizing the drum set is not a suitable alternative.
Leather: To be fair, the point here is not to actually coat yourselves in the remains of an expired cow, but rather to build up the sort of intimidating outlandish visual presence that launched the careers of the Hell’s Angels and Mario Lopez. Which is to say, anything that’s black and socially awkward will do: pleather, vinyl, and even spandex are suitable options, though the details of execution are particularly important with the latter.
Spikes: It goes without saying that said leather accoutrements should be festooned at every turn with all manner of chrome ornaments, but don’t stop there. For the truly dedicated, the logical conclusion is implantation of menacing jewelry directly into the face; rhinoplasty is heavy metal’s last frontier. Less-convenient bodily regions are optional but encouraged.
Concept albums: The existing songs are very long and all sound alike, so all you have to do is drop terms like “narrative” and “song cycle” into every third interview or so and people will start to give you credit for large-scale albumcraft even if you never pass through basic songcraft along the way. What I’m trying to say is… everyone thinks you’re doing this already.
Dungeons, dragons, etc: Actually, let’s expand on the above for a moment. Look, the band’s name is DragonForce and you already play overblown epics composed solely of orcs-storming-castle riffs, so it’s time to just give in all the way and indulge the repressed id that has been scrunched up inside a Rubbermaid bin in your mental attic ever since your homeroom teacher banned Magic: The Gathering cards in sixth grade. Just write songs that are explicitly about potions and paladins already, instead of cloaking your lyrics in generic catch-all pronouns that can be misconstrued as human. Where be the dragons? And where the wizards at?
Bravo, boys, on having executed a prank of Herculean proportions on the metal world; you deserve to buy yourselves something pretty with the heaps of money you’ve made selling ridiculous music to teenagers who prefer plastic toy guitars to real ones. Now, all that remains is ensuring longevity, and though the jury is still out on whether Ozzy will be joining you, taking any combination of the above steps will ensure that everyone continues to file DragonForce next to Ween instead of Black Sabbath.
Unless you’re serious, that is, in which case God help us all.