Thursday, April 11, 2013

Metal Review: Dragonforce - "The Power Within"

There's little to dispute the notion that "Through The Fire And Flames" is a modern day metal classic. But you could easily be forgiven for not caring about the rest of Dragonforce's output. Until now. If you have even the slightest appreciation for melodic metal then run, do not walk, to your nearest record shop (okay, fine, go to iTunes) and pick up their newest album, "The Power Within". Right now. Just go.

Now that you've returned with this smoking platter of digital bits let's bask in its glory. This is a creative rebirth for Dragonforce, which was already a force to be reckoned with. They've long been one of the tightest power metal bands on the planet, with Herman Li and Samuel Totman a formidable shredding duo. Their biggest weakness has been their unwillingness to write more than one song. While "Inhuman Rampage" is still a fun listen, Dragonforce's follow-up album "Ultra Beatdown" made it clear that Totman and Co. wanted to break out of the formula but just couldn't manage it.

Perhaps ex-vocalist ZP Theart was holding them back. Then again maybe the band just felt they had something to prove after such a major line-up change. Theart was a fine singer. His replacement Marc Hudson is incredible. He announces his presence with a full on power metal scream at the start of "Holding On" that Theart could only dream of. For the first time the vocal melodies are the main attraction, rather than just a thing you wade through to get to the guitar solo.

It's refreshing to realize that you can write songs shorter than eight minutes. This stuff is really efficiently written with little wasted time. Even cooler than that, most of these songs are actually about something, not just random gibberish strung into sentences. True, the band's themes haven't changed: it's mostly inspirational stuff about standing strong through adversity. "Fallen World" and "Last Man Stands" both sing the praises of humanity struggling to survive after an apocalypse, and have the most clearly "Dragonforcy" lyrics on the album.

Meanwhile, "Seasons" is slightly melancholy, with a gentle vocal line reflecting on the passage of time. "Cry Freedom" is a Manowar-esque anthem sure to get drunken crowds swaying. "Die by the Sword" even edges towards thrash metal with an aggressive stance I haven't heard from these guys before. That's probably the most impressively structured track on the record, with more ideas crammed into four minutes than in any of the band's other songs.

This new-found songwriting ability, combined with the more accomplished, emotive vocals have elevated Dragonforce to the top of my power metal pantheon. I've been listening to this record for about a month now and it only gets better. And until Lost Horizon manages to reunite, I think Dragonforce's title will be a hard one for anyone to reclaim.


  1. I actually can't remember if I've listened to this yet or not. I used to live for Dragonforce but I kinda wandered away from them after Inhuman Rampage, even though I still think they're good. Certainly Marc Hudson mops the floor with ZP Theart, and I didn't even dislike Theart.

    As regards power metal more generally: have you heard Hibria's first two records? If not, holy shit man, hear them. Like, immediately. I want Lost Horizon back as much as the next guy, but they'll remain a solid number 2 for me for as long as Hibria maintain their average level of quality.

  2. Thanks for adding another power metal band to my rotation! Hibria are a solid band, especially their guitarwork. Definitely my kind of fun. If anything they might be a little too Maiden-ish for me (I don't dig Maiden... blasphemy right?) But it's always nice to have more good metal in my rhapsody playlist ^_^. I always appreciate recommendations.