Herman Li Reflects How Guitar Hero Affected DragonForce, Reacts to Band’s Boom in Popular Culture

Power metal guitar virtuoso Herman Li reflected on how his band DragonForce got more popular after their hit song “Through the Fire and Flames” was featured in the “Guitar Hero” game series.

Of course, it’s not like rock and metal fans weren’t familiar with the piece after it came out in 2005. But it pretty much exploded when it got featured in “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock,” becoming widely known as the most difficult one in the game, so much so that it got its Guinness World Record category for the highest score in the game.

DragonForce - Through the Fire and Flames (Official Video)

Be it a “meme” or just an awesome power metal song with catchy elements, “Through the Fire and Flames” put DragonForce on the map. Appearing on the Everblack Podcast, Herman Li was asked about how this song affected the band financially since it appeared in the “Guitar Hero” game, as well as other media. He replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“It definitely helped us so much to have that song, and people get to hear it. The hardest thing for any artist is to get people to hear their music, and ‘Guitar Hero III’ definitely made a huge difference.”

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Going more into the song’s impact, Li also pointed out how “Through the Fire and Flames” achieved other things as well, namely bringing in more fans and inspiring whole new generations of music listeners. He continued:

“And now after so many years — that was 2007 — I meet people, and they tell me things like, ‘That song, I remember playing it with my dad.’ Or someone says, ‘I remember playing it with my brother’ — it was an incredible time of their life, and it really brings great memories for them in all ages.”

The song might have felt a little divisive for metal fans. However, it found its way into popular culture. And recently, it turns out that it’s gotten even more attention by being featured in the “Despicable Me 4” ad. Reflecting on this and the song’s commercial appeal, Herman added:

“And now, funnily enough — it just happened a couple of days ago — ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ was on the ‘Despicable Me 4’ television ad on the NFL playoff game — like the semi-final for American football — so that was huge.”

“My phone was just blowing up. People couldn’t believe the song was on television during the prime-time slot, so hopefully, more people will discover DragonForce and say, ‘Guitar music is pretty cool. Heavy Metal is pretty cool. Come and check it out!'”

With this mainstream appeal stemming from the band’s success in the “Guitar Hero” franchise, it’s only expected that the new generations of guitar players would be inspired by Herman Li’s playing. When asked about how he feels about younger guitar players crediting him as a major influence, Herman replied:

“It’s definitely cool to hear it, and I’ve met professional musicians of the new generation — like Tim Henson of Polyphia and Cole Rolland, who’s huge on YouTube — that tell me, ‘We grew up hearing the song, learning the song.'”

Despicable Me 4 | Poppy Spot | Fire & Flames

At the same time, Herman also admits that this makes him “feel old.” However, on the other hand, he adds that, despite getting inspired by their older colleagues, “it’s great to see these musicians doing their own thing.”

“They’re not trying to copy it,” he added. “It just inspires them to be themselves, and that’s very important. I always tell people, ‘Don’t worry about trying to play it fast like me. Be yourself. Do you.’ It’s more important than anything else.”

Despite being a blend of power metal and speed metal, “Through the Fire and Flames” proved to be more than just another 2000s metal piece intended to impress guitar nerds.

The song appeared on Billboard Hot 100 list, where it peaked at No. 86. Obviously, it’s not on par with mainstream pop songs, but it’s still an incredible success for something that’s remotely labeled as “speed metal.”

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In an interview last year, Herman pointed out that the reason for the song’s success in the 2000s was due to the overall lack of guitar solos in music at the time. He also stated that the song doesn’t really stand out from their other works and is just a very DragonForce-style piece.

“To be honest, that song is not really much better than our other songs,” he said. “It’s a typical DragonForce-style song. But it’s about, I think, the time the place, we were at in life. Guitar in metal music, at least in the mainstream — there weren’t many guitar solos.”

“And I think at that point, the explosion of [‘Through the Fire and Flames’], people were looking for something more. They heard more stuff beyond the mainstream and [went], ‘I want to get a bit more interested in that kind of guitar stuff.'”

Photos: Michael Stollmann (Herman Li – Dragonforce – Foto by Michael Stollmann – fotoglut), Public domain (Guitar Hero III Logo)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.