Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Record label: Metal Blade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal, Neo-Classical Metal, Power Metal
Fans of musical subtlety and cerebral introspection may struggle with DragonForce's remorselessly preposterous, high-velocity take on traditional heavy metal. In fact, plenty of metal fans – let alone anyone predisposed to disliking something that sounds like Eurovision: the crystal meth years – struggle with their sound. To embrace the band's startling blend of ultra-cheesy melody, fret-melting technical lunacy and quasi-futuristic, videogame bleeps requires an insatiable appetite for self-indulgent, bombastic silliness.
Review Summary: Not reinventing the wheel, but certainly reinventing their reputation.In a way, I've felt a little bad for Dragonforce in recent years. Sure, they should have to earn their status in the music world like any other band. But when the band were thrust into the spotlight with their 2006 tune "Through the Fire and Flames" and how it became synonymous with Guitar Hero, polarization within the metal community became the ultimate result.
While the bulk of heavy metal experimentation is down to make the genre heavier and darker, power metal's unquenchable desire to drive the sound to soaring new heights has made it a glorious outlier of the musical dark arts. The problem is, in a genre where everything is epic, how does a band make its music seem bigger? Continually trying to answer that eternal question, DragonForce return with their driving sixth album, Maximum Overload, an album that pushes the limits of technicality with its blistering pace and seemingly nonstop virtuosity. Looking to change up the formula, the album finds guitar hero Sam Totman sharing the songwriting duties with bassist Frédéric Leclercq.
So many technical metal bands seem to forget that metal was originally prefaced by "heavy" and play music that is anything but. They get lost focusing on playing ability and it becomes more a vessel for showing off than a natural consequence of the songwriting.DragonForce were victims of this self-inflicted problem for much of their career, but the loss of vocalist ZP Theart mandated a switch in focus. While Marc Hudson's first effort on the mic, 2012's The Power Within, showed growing pains with the constrained vocals leading to constrained leads, the band turn that curse into a blessing on Maximum Overload.
There’s a moment in the video for “Through the Fire and Flames”, the 2006 Guitar Hero-fueled hit from English power metal group DragonForce, that broadcasts loud and clear what this band will never be. As guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman trade laser-perfect guitar solos, complete with a pop-up window that gives us close-ups of their acrobatic fretwork, Totman uses his downtime to methodically chug a beer. It’s an attempt to ground the band in the same punk-influenced, lunchpail ethos as its heroes in Iron Maiden.