Dedicated Guitar Hero players and power metal shredders rejoice! British band DragonForce has a new album out! Often described as Bon Jovi on speed and Journey meets Slayer, DragonForce are legends on the power metal scene. The Power Within is their fifth full length album and the first with new singer Marc Hudson. It was released on Roadrunner Records earlier in 2012.
Anyone familiar with the band will know what to expect. Blurry-fingered guitar solos, epic vocals and hilarious dungeons-and-dragons lyrical themes. If these things are what turn you on musically, then this album will emphatically throw the switch and smash the lever off! These guys are extremely impressive musicians, the speed and precision of the guitars and drums is something to behold! As is the comically, heartfelt passion with which they throw themselves into their performances. The fantasy themed vocals in particular are delivered with hand-over-heart sincerity and produced tears of laughter from this reviewer! And so much of the material sounds so epically joyful that you can’t help but smile and nod with sympathetic approval. I don’t know if “feel good metal” is a genre yet, but Dragonforce may have just created it!
Much of the material is frenetically paced, with the band, at times, employing blast beats and the odd death growl, but there are also some weepy ballad moments reminiscent of Rush. Most of it however is fast paced thrash, rhythmically, with some unbelievable double kick playing from David Mackintosh. The dual guitar attack of Herman Li and Sam Totman is ridiculously precise, both melodically and harmonically, taking the double lead approaches of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to amazing heights. The rhythm playing is equally impressive and tight, although the guitarists are almost perpetually soloing!
Vocalist Marc Hudson is an extremely competent singer and hits some soaring high notes and is ably supported by some nicely harmonized backing vocals from the rest of the band. Frederic Leclercq’s bass playing is also virtuosic at times, although it’s not utilized in a solo format all that often. Vadim Pruzhanov’s keyboards are great and it is this element that separates DragonForce from many of their power metal contempories. They add a real atmosphere and video-game novelty to the overall sound.
Standout tracks are “Fallen World” which is tantamount to listening to Napalm Death and the Final Fantasy soundtrack at the same time! “Last Man Stands” probably features the best guitar and keyboard soloing on the album. Most of the tracks however are rhythmically and sonically similar and follow identical lyrical paths. Were this not the case, however, it just wouldn’t be DragonForce!
The production is good, but there is a lack of thumping bottom end from the bass guitar and kick/toms which a lot of metal albums suffer from. On the subject of drums, they are obviously triggered or sound-replaced, giving them an unneeded clinical sound. A drummer of Mackintosh’s talent doesn’t need a producer to use this production tool and it has resulted in the drums sounding tappy and brittle.
This album is noteworthy just for the mind blowing instrumental performances alone, but is also recommended because it will make you cry with laughter at the sheer enthusiasm with which the band throw themselves into the performances! The vocals and lyrics on their own have a comical, passionate over-zealousness that you just can’t help but admire on some level. This album will be a sensory overload for a lot of people, but I liked it in a tongue in cheek way, and if you dig over the top virtuosity, you’ll love this album.