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We all knew what we were in for as the line started to grow outside the historic Hawthorne Theatre in SouthEast Portland. References to Nakatomi Plaza and Nintendo blended in seamlessly with the dragons on the shirts of the audience eagerly awaiting for the doors to open. Tonight, being a self-described geek would be a strength.

Everyone's favorite, over-the-top, guitar-driven, nostalgic trip through memory lane, Dragonforce were amidst a tour to promote their latest album, Extreme Power Metal. Along for the 90's flashback; Horror-themed, Dark Synthwave masters, Dance with the Dead were also out promoting their latest release, Loved to Death as well as the brutal Chicago-based, Metal amalgamation, Starkill currently touring their latest album, Gravity, as well.

Starkill, a band who were a brutal concoction formed of equal parts Melodic Death, Symphonic, and Power Metal didn't waste any time making a name for themselves to their fans in the audience. The quintet was certainly not one to skip on the thematic either; adorning themselves in black paint and music just as merciless as a fight to the death in the Thunderdome. Founding member and guitarist/vocalist, Parker Jameson and the newest inclusion to the band, Sarah Lynn Collier played off each other's vocals with an equal amount of intensity and raw power perfectly complimenting the force of their instrumental counterparts.

By the look on the confused faces around the venue, who were primed for a night of fret wizardry and 90's nostalgia, no one was expecting the next act who, based on their early albums lived somewhere between synth-infused Electronica and a neon-lit, industrial dance party. Dance with the Dead, one of the prominent leaders of the newly established, Electronic-based genre, Synthwave had arrived and were here to make a bold statement.

Two guitar-wielding silhouettes appeared out of the neon smoke. Justin Pointer and Tony Kim stood on opposite sides of the stage with two ominous towering stacks of electronic audio equipment behind them. A pounding drum beat had the walls reverberating inside the sold out venue. Pointer and Kim smashed riffs on their guitars and violently banged their heads along with the intensity of the music that played behind them, creating a far more abrasive sound than any of their studio albums led us to believe. Dance with the Dead have grown more aggressive on their most recent albums and played tracks off of their latest release, Loved to Death; their iconic 90's horror-influenced, masterpiece, The Shape and even a few of their more ferocious, Industrial tracks off their B-Sides: Vol. 1. Toward the second half of their set they set their guitars to the side and manned the keyboards, thrashing uncontrollably to the violent dance music they performed live. Dance with the Dead drilled a hole straight through the skulls of the stunned audience sending even the most hardened metal fan into a frenzied madness.

The lights dimmed and suddenly I was 10 years old all over again; walking into an arcade with a pocket full of loose change and only the flickering of neon lights and the beeps of a wall of arcade games to comfort me. An orchestrated laser light show began to dance in unison to the intro of "Highway to Oblivion" the first track off of Dragonforce's latest album, Extreme Power Metal and we knew it was time to go full-geek. Marc Hudson, the aviator-wearing, frontman let out a soaring scream channeling the greats of Operatic Metal that came before him. Herman Li and Sam Totman, the band's founders, led a otherworldly, twin guitar attack and after seven studio albums, haven't lost any of their gusto or precision since the last time seeing them perform over a decade ago. Hudson asked with a show of hands, who were fans of RPG's (role playing Fantasy games), specifically Skyrim die-hards, before introducing the song, "The Last Dragonborn" off of their latest release.

During the break before their encore, guitarist Herman Li, ever the performer, snuck into the audience behind me until the spotlight was on the two of us. Li told the remaining band on the stage, "I wanted to join the party!" He shook my hand, grabbed his Ibanez, and climbed onto Starkill's merch table and hopped across each table, shredding a cover of Celine Dion's Titanic-hit, "My Heart Will Go On." They ended the night with a laugh, announcing their encore as "that damn song that won't die from a game that shall remain nameless." Confetti exploded in front of the audience and Dragonforce pounded through their most celebrated hit, "Through the Fire and Flames", off the album, Inhuman Rampage.

Grab your Powerglove, pull that battered copy of Nintendo Power out of storage and get yourself on board to experience a night of Extreme Power Metal with Dragonforce, Dance with the Dead and Starkill before you miss your chance to merge your childhood with the proud Metal geek you've become today.

Raul Soria Jr.

Photojournalist - Portland

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