Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review: DragonForce - The Power Within

 From the distance of which I've happily been able to keep from this band, the main conclusions that London-based power metallers DragonForce are the most lame metal band in existence. Their over-use of widdly guitar solos and fantasy based lyrics and constant creation of fast songs that last over seven minutes, mixed with an inability to unleash a fully heavy sound and instead add a water-downed sound to their music has never convinced me to try and get into them. To me, this style of playing plays out to the more pre-teen listeners who can listen to their songs and feel epic and from there move onto better bands, but I couldn't imagine anyone from that age and onward wanting to listen to them. But hey, I want to make myself seem relevant by covering the biggest of rock and metal releases so today I've found myself with the joys of listening to their fifth release The Power Within and have discovered that I still can't find myself warming towards their sound.

 But, before elaborating on that, I will say that if you have been into DragonForce in the past, this album is an absolute treat. Many fans will have been left unsure about the band's future following the departure of founding member ZP Theart in 2010 and I can only imagine that like myself many fans will have found the simple hiring of new vocalist Marc Hudson simply by watching him doing some vocal covers of DragonForce songs on YouTube to be a dubious action that really questions just how big the band's levels of devotion and proper care for their music is. However, the elevated wailing that opens up the album on Holding On from Hudson suggests the complete opposite. The result of Hudson's recruitment is very much that of a band re-charged and ready to dominate, as his vocals pierce their way through the likes of Cry Thunder and Die By the Sword which every now and then top the performance of Theart by some distance. Hudson's vocals are definitely the most gripping feature of the album and it fits in with the sound of DragonForce perfectly.
 Of course, the sound of DragonForce itself is far from perfect. There is definitely a definitive structure to many DragonForce songs and it's always a groan-inducing sound of clattering drums and widdling solos and rushed chugging from pre-teen guitar icons Herman Li and Sam Totman. While the performance of the album's big hit Cry Thunder and Seasons does divert a little from this continuous structure, the overall thought when hearing the battle metal marching is that there isn't really much on offer that couldn't be heard from Turisas and Sabaton. (Even if the lineup for the latter has been totally re-vamped.) Furthermore, there's little on The Power Within to suggest their music is being aimed for more sophisticated ears and there are a lot of moments where the maturity and sophistication levels of DragonForce make listening to Black Veil Brides feel like listening to Gojira.
 It's obvious that DragonForce have gained a considerable fan base over their thirteen year career and certainly if you are a fan, then this is a crucial album to purchase, showing another step up being brought to their sound to further hone it to perfection. But if you're a major cynic that dislikes them like myself, it's just another album of similar sounding songs by that band that are well known for having that song on Guitar Hero III. Honestly, they're well known because Through the Fire and Flames has been called the hardest songs to play on any Guitar Hero game. I'd love to see some Necrophagist songs making an appearance in those games. Then where would DragonForce be?

 DragonForce's The Power Within is out now via Essential Music. The band will tour the UK in September with Alestorm, The Defiled and Cavorts.

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