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When Heavy Magazine catches up with Herman Li, one of the brilliant guitarists from British power metal outfit, DragonForce, he is beside himself with excitement because he had just discovered that we had given their brand new album Reaching Into Infinity five stars… something that doesn’t happen very often with music reviewing in 2017.

“Wow… five stars. I can’t believe it!” Li yells before I even get a chance to ask a question. “The process for doing this album was a little different this time because we were touring at the same time. We would do these big shows in Europe, these big festival shows, and then we would go back and do a week of recording and then head back out on tour so that probably added some kind of energy to the recording. It probably sounds a lot more like we’re live rather than we’re stuck in a recording studio.”

As we read through the Heavy review, Li picks up on the part where we mention that DragonForce have taken the guitars up another level and he says he believes that the extra oompf with the guitars did come from the fact that they were touring at the same time. “I think so,” he exclaims. “With all the previous albums we would just be sitting in a studio all locked up, we’d all be unshaven and not looking very good, and we’d just keep recording and recording… and that would all drive us a bit crazy, but that is how you make an album. But this time, we were at these massive festivals and doing shows in front of ten or twenty-thousand people and then we would go back and record. That makes you feel pretty good about yourself.”

So was that something the band were aware of while they were actually recording the album. “Yeah, we were more relaxed,” he agrees. “I haven’t felt that with the other albums. This time there was no stress, everything was done on time. It was easy going and because we saw each other all the time we could communicate and talk about it – things like, ‘Oh, maybe we should do this here’ or ‘what about these lyrics’ or ‘can we do this in production here’, so I think in the end that really helped. We didn’t realise that in the beginning but now I look back and realise that I saw these guys more than I usually do when I am recording, because normally when you are recording an album you don’t have all the band members around you – are just there by yourself.”

Li says one of the things that fans will notice about this album is that the lyrics are a lot more personal. “They are very personal,” he says. “The song “Silence”, that is one of the slower songs, and that is actually about one of Fred’s friends. It’s a much darker song because it is about suicide, so there are the darker lyrics. And then you have “Judgement Day”, which is more uplifting and more fantasy based. There is also more serious stuff like “WAR!” and “Edge Of The World”, and there are some story-based lyrics, as well.”

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With everybody talking about the fact that this album is one of the best guitar albums of all time, Li tells us a little bit about his history as a musician. “I first picked up a guitar when I was about sixteen,” he explains. “I would say that I am always developing, so to play like this the way I do now is because of touring a lot, and making albums and working with people. I always practice, that is a continuous motion that just never stops, and if you don’t get better at one thing, you get better at another thing. Last night, I was actually practising for the tour and last night the type of practising that I was doing was something that I used to do when I was sixteen. I was so tired that I couldn’t learn any more music in my head so I just switched the lights off and sat in the dark and played some improvised music to some music I like. I switched the light off because then I am no longer looking at the guitar, I’m not looking at the fretboard, I can just play and feel the music. You can learn a song pretty quickly, but when you’re preparing for a tour you’ve got to learn a song to the point that it is part of you… you no longer have to think about it. First, I learn the song by sitting down and just concentrating on the individual parts, practising them, and then I stand up and play it like I would on stage. I will be walking around my house doing it… and kinda doing weird things to the guitar. To prepare for a DragonForce show, you have to be in shape. We jump off rises, we’ve had trampolines on stage before (although we won’t be bringing the trampolines on tour this time)… but it will be full of energy and fast. Think about the kind of music that we play and it would be pretty disappointing if you came to see us and we just stood still. Expect another full energy DragonForce show.”

Li says because DragonForce haven’t been to Australia for a while they are planning on giving fans a real treat. “We haven’t headlined in Australia since 2009, so we’re going to bring back some old favourite songs and we’ve been listening to fans as they say what they want to hear off the new album, so we have been practicing a lot of new songs, so we will be making a long setlist – a very long setlist.”

DragonForce’s Reaching Into Infinity is out now and the band hits Australian shores on the 21st June.


Written by Dave Griffiths

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