DRAGONFORCE, Neonfly @Institute Temple, Birmingham 27/9/14

Power metal heroes bring their Maximum Overload tour to heavy rock’s birthplace

Neonfly must love playing live. Certainly over the three years since they released their brilliant “Outshine The Sun” debut, they’ve criss-crossed Europe at various speeds. In so doing they have built up a decent following for themselves, and richly deserved it is too. A real United Nations of an outfit, their different backgrounds are reflected with a sound that straddles many different places – sometimes in the same song. Tracks like “Morning Star” veer from AOR to metal with ease, “The Enemy” seems to have got heavier with repeated road testing and is a powerful affair, while “A Gift To Remember” sounds as huge as ever.

Singer Willy Norton remains an engaging frontman, confident enough to win over other bands audiences with ease, while the band behind him are happy enough to headbang in unison like the Scorpions.

Thankfully their long promised second album is due for release this year and they play two new songs from it. “Fierce Battalions” is an appreciable notch up in heaviness – and actually shows why Neonfly are equally adept at opening for Magnum as well as Dragonforce, as it rattles along like a real old skool heavy metal song with it’s Dio starting point. The other as yet unreleased tune, “The Heart Of The Sun” according to Norton, “gets to heart of what we are trying to do on the new record” and is suitably impressive. Neonfly are already one of Britain’s best underground metal bands – it’s time for that to change.

From one of Britain’s best underground bands to arguably the biggest. In certain circles Dragonforce are a huge deal and in front of their own fans they are basically unstoppable. Power metal is a genre you either get or you don’t, the people in here – both on stage and in the crowd get it. The tour that the six piece (including new drummer Gee Anzalone) are currently on, which takes in towns more conventional treks miss, has sold out venues up and down the land and the group has a rabid following all over the world.

One of the main reasons for this is Dragonforce have always been a superb live band – and although their records are excellent perhaps playing live is what they are best suited to. The shows have changed in the last couple of years. Gone is the overt clowning of before where you weren’t quite sure whether you were watching a serious outfit or Billy Sharp’s Circus. This is largely because of the bands much-publicised change of singer, ZP Theart left to be replaced by Marc Hudson and the sound became slightly less theatrical too.

Hudson is now on his second record with the band. And “Maximum Overload” carries on the good work of “The Power Within.” It is with “Defenders” a track from “….Overload” that they begin tonight and the 80 minute show is largely focussed on newer material, including a brilliant “Cry Thunder” which was the key song on “….Within” and closes the main set. “…..Overload’s” tracks have seamlessly been included, “Three Hammers” is already a live favourite and new single “The Game” fair old slams it’s way home.

Elsewhere all is still present and correct. Sam Trotman and Herman Li are still one of the finest guitar duos this sues of Smith and Murray (yes, they are that good) and the band as a collective sound in a good place.

There’s a suitably histrionic cover of “Ring Of Fire” before “Through The Fire And Flames” ends things in the way that only it can.

There might be bands selling more tickets, possibly, but there are few better than Dragonforce at what they do. If you want pomposity at a million miles an hour they remain the fire-breathing kings. And they proved it tonight.