British metal band DragonForce’s first visit to the U.S. was a success even though the group didn’t play a single show.

The band sold out a November date at New York City’s CBGB within minutes but was unable to perform when guitarist Herman Li was denied a visa.

However, the massive demand for the show convinced agents Josh Kline and Tim Borror of The Agency Group that DragonForce had a strong future.

“We needed to see exactly what was out there for the band and wanted to get a gauge on how they would fare in the market. It gave us a pretty good perspective on what the band was worth,” Kline told Pollstar.

DragonForce has focused on forging what it calls “extreme power metal” – a combination of epic vocal melodies, wild dueling solos and a rhythm section that could intimidate any thrash or death metal outfit.

The band’s influences include heavy hitters like Megadeth and Pantera as well as Steve Vai and Dream Theater. The video game melodies that the members grew up with are another oft-cited inspiration.

The six-piece comprises ZP Theart on lead vocals, Li and Sam Totman on guitars, Vadim Pruzhanov on keyboards, Dave Mackintosh on drums and Fr‚d‚ric Leclercq on bass. All five instrumentalists contribute backing vocals, helping to fill out the group’s dramatic, powerful sound.

Theart, Li and Totman founded DragonForce in London in 1999. By the end of the following year, the band was touring the U.K. as the opening act for Halford. The group almost immediately began building a following as a headlining act, even before landing a record deal.

DragonForce made a major impact when it returned to the U.S., visas in hand, selling out venues like Philadelphia’s 1,200-seat Trocadero Theatre in May. Those concerts took place more than a month before its first U.S. album hit stores, but Kline and Borror were confident that the group’s buzz warranted a tour of sizable venues.

“It was a bit of a test drive to see what they were made of,” Borror told Pollstar of the spring trek. “We expected it to do well, but it was well beyond what any of the band’s peers in the metal world might do.”

The success of the tour enabled the agents to squeeze the band into Ozzfest even after all slots for the traveling festival were ostensibly filled.

“Some of the places we played on our last tour sold out so quickly that a lot of fans didn’t see us,” Li told Pollstar in the middle of the group’s Ozzfest jaunt. “So now the album is out and we’re going to do more and more shows.”


Since its inception, DragonForce has marketed itself heavily on the Internet. The band began posting demos on its Web site in 2000, quickly attracting half a million downloads and the attention of Sanctuary / Noise Records, which released the group’s first two albums in the U.K.

Roadrunner signed the band last year and released its U.S. debut, Inhuman Rampage, this past June.

Li credits the Web with helping the group build a solid overseas fanbase from the start.

“I think in the early days people heard the music but they just couldn’t buy it easily in the shops. We always had people writing in from MySpace and our Web site about doing a tour,” he said.

Kline and Borror agreed.

“The Internet was definitely a huge catalyst,” Borror said. “This spring in Cleveland, there were 1,700 people and everyone there knew the lyrics to the songs from an album that wasn’t even out yet.”

DragonForce’s current headlining tour, which launched September 8th at The Wiltern LG in Los Angeles, will take the group through major clubs and theatres including Philadelphia’s Electric Factory and New York City’s Nokia Theatre Times Square. The first five shows of the trek sold out and many more packed houses are expected, Kline and Borror said.

After finishing up in North America in early October, DragonForce will embark on major tours of Europe and the U.K., keeping the band on the road through mid-December. A Japanese visit is also in the works.

“It’s pretty much nonstop,” Li said.

DragonForce has been a full-time job for its members for several years now, but if playing shows starts to feel like punching the clock, don’t expect Li and his partners to keep going through the motions.

“We always say, if we’re not going to make any good albums, if we’re going to be bored and be boring, we’ll just call it a day. We’re not going to keep pumping it for no reason, forcing something that’s not real anymore,” Li said.

“Right now, we’re having fun. We’re having a great time, and when people come to see the show, they can see it – it reflects back. And when you see bands that don’t really want to be there, that reflects back as well.”