Anyone who's ever played "Guitar Hero" knows full well that one of the game's most challenging tracks belongs to DragonForce, the British power-metal outfit that sounds — as someone famously (and accurately) said — like a "cross between Journey and Slayer." And the reason "Through the Fire and Flames" is such a thorny tune to master is Herman Li, the band's virtuoso shredder, who can produce sounds with a guitar that would make even Tom Morello scratch his chrome-dome.
Li's mastery of the guitar is nothing short of mind-blowing — so long as you're not ZP Theart, DragonForce's poodle-haired lead singer.
When asked how imposing Li's playing is on the band's forthcoming, still-untitled LP — which they're still six weeks away from finishing and is already scheduled for release on August 26 — Theart was nonchalant. Perhaps he was just kidding (something tells us he was). "Actually, I think sometimes it could be better," he confessed. "Some people have a knack for making freaky noises that other people like. I'm not a guitarist, so he doesn't really impress me, no."
Perhaps Theart is just used to Li's manic guitar abuse, but Herman certainly dazzled audiences during 2006's Ozzfest, which was basically DragonForce's formal introduction to American metalheads. And Li's playing will certainly captivate this summer when the band heads out on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, which kicks off July 9 in Auburn, Washington, with a bill that includes Slipknot, Disturbed, Mastodon, Airborne, Five Finger Death Punch, 36 Crazyfists, Machine Head, Black Tide, Suicide Silence, the Red Chord and Walls of Jericho.
"I am so, so looking forward to that," Theart said. "It's incredible. It's basically the festival that killed off Ozzfest, isn't it? It's such a big idea and such a cool thing they are doing. ... I hope it lasts as long as Ozzfest, if not longer. In a way, it's the same thing, only with a different name. We know Disturbed from Ozzfest, and I hear Slipknot's a party bunch, so, should be fun."
In addition to their reputation for playing intricate and machine-gun-paced metal, DragonForce are one of those bands who are known for their excessive merrymaking, which Theart defends as just part and parcel of being a metal band: "We are just f---ing playing metal — and we do what metal is all about, which is having a good time and partying your f---ing ass off," he said, before launching into a tour story.
"Last year, on our first tour of the year, we were in Russia," he recounted. "We had a gig in St. Petersburg, and then we took the overnight train to Moscow, and I bumped into a few Russians and got horribly pissed on some proper Russian vodka. In the middle of the night, I got up and took a piss all over [drummer] Dave [Mackintosh's] bunk — with him in it. When I woke up the next morning, everyone was laughing at me, and I didn't know what was going on. Later, I went to apologize, 'cause I felt like a f---ing t--, and he goes, 'Dude, that's so rock and roll.' I thought he would have been pissed, but it was a big rock and roll moment for him."
After this summer's Mayhem Fest, DragonForce will likely head over to the U.K. for a quick tour before heading back to the States for a coast-to-coast headlining run.
According to Theart, DragonForce have been working on the follow-up to 2006's Inhuman Rampage for nearly seven months now, and they've come up with a total of 10 songs. Only nine will likely appear on the record, with the extra one being saved as a bonus track.
"Everyone's going nuts on this one," the singer said. "This is the next step up from Inhuman Rampage, and everyone is going completely hard on this one. We're producing it ourselves, because we know exactly how we sound and what we want to sound like. Once you let a third-party interest in, that all changes.
"We've got a bit of a varied sound thing going on with this album, that I think we wanted to do," he continued. "There's a bit more of a variation in sort of, well, not styles, but we've encompassed a lot more sounds and elements than I think we had on the previous ones. It's the DragonForce formula — we don't mess with that."
The rest of the week's metal news:
It's official! The Deftones are back in recording mode and have begun tracking their next one, the tentatively titled Eros. Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera) has signed on to produce the effort. ... Having run out of studio time due to touring commitments, New Jersey's God Forbid have announced that their next album won't be finished anytime soon. Instead, they'll be returning to the studio after the tour to pick up where they'd left off. What this means is, we'll have to wait until the fall to hear some fresh GF. In the meantime, the band's live DVD, "Beneath the Scars of Glory and Progression," will land in stores June 10. ...
Metal File's good pal Phil Labonte and the rest of All That Remains have started preproduction on their next studio offering, which will be helmed by producer Jason Suecof (Chimaira, God Forbid). The band hopes to record 11 tracks for the effort, which could be in stores as early as late August. ... Horse the Band are in the market for a permanent replacement drummer for Chris Prophet, who bailed back in February. The Number Twelve Looks Like You's Jon Karel has been filling in but must return to New Jersey to rejoin his own band. Anyone familiar with the Nintendo-core act's sound knows that it takes a special kind of person to be in Horse the Band. "You have to have touring experience in really horrible conditions (picking up skin diseases from sleeping on floors, being rejected by ugly chicks, not sleeping for 60 hours or more), not think you are cool, not be way into sitting on your laptop in the 'green room,' and be a really good drummer," the band said in a statement. You can contact the band via their MySpace page if you'd like to audition. ...
Sad news to report this week, as Tripp Joye, the drummer for North Carolina's Anything on Fire, was killed in a car accident on May 2 in Winston-Salem. He was only 25 years old. ... Clutch have been on more record labels than, well, anyone we know — and it appears they took good notes. The band has decided to launch its own label, called Weathermaker Music. Clutch will issue all of their future releases through the label, and this summer, they plan to release a live DVD with a companion CD. ... Progressive jazz-leaning death-metallers Cynic have inked a deal with Season of Mist Records. According to frontman Paul Masvidal, "We're deep in the preproduction album process now and will be headed into the studio in a couple weeks to dive even deeper and start the recordings." The band's forthcoming, yet-untitled LP is due to hit stores this fall. ...
Death-metal innovators Cannibal Corpse have already begun work on the follow-up to 2006's Kill, but don't expect the record to be finished until the winter. So in the meantime, they've assembled their first-ever career retrospective. In July, the band will issue a three-disc DVD set called Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years. It will feature live and rare footage, plus interviews with the band. ... Cattle Decapitation spent the last few months writing new songs for an album they hope to have recorded in time for an early 2009 release. So far, they've written four complete songs, which they hope to preview at some of their upcoming West Coast gigs later next month. ... Veil of Maya, the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, With Dead Hands Rising, and Brother Von Doom will join forces for a spate of shows next month. The first is set for June 8 in Elk Grove, Illinois, and the trek expires June 21 in Louisville, Kentucky.