Friday, April 20, 2012

Dragonforce - The Power Within

For some strange reason, Dragonforce is one of the most polarizing bands in all of metal. They took a subgenre that was already disliked by quite a few metal fans, and used every cliché they could find in order to make the music as over the top as possible. Tales of warriors, battles, and epic journeys were accompanied by hyper-fast music, soaring vocals, and needlessly complex guitar solos. After four albums with vocalist Z.P. Theart, Dragonforce was in need of a major change. This isn’t a knock against Z.P.; after all, he’s one of the greatest singers in all of power metal, but the songwriting had become stale, with each album being worse than the one that preceded it. It was not until Ultra Beatdown that Dragonforce created a bad album. Now, with new singer Marc Hudson, the band managed to get back on track.

Stylistically, this album is very similar to the other four. Everything I mentioned about those four albums still rings true for "The Power Within", but this is definitely a different beast. For one thing, the songs aren’t anywhere near as long. This is Dragonforce’s shortest album yet, despite having more songs than all of their other records. For most people, this will definitely be a breath of fresh air, as the guitar solos were the only part of the music trimmed. Personally, I loved the 3-4 minutes of pure guitar insanity, so this wasn’t great for me, but the solos that are there are still good. The other major change on this record is, obviously, the new singer. There’s no way to properly replace Z.P., but it’s fair to say that the band did as good of a job as they could have. Hudson’s vocals are clean, melodic, and of course, very high-pitched. The opening track, “Holding On”, features an amazing scream, which was no doubt included to introduce fans to the new singer.  Overall, he puts in a fantastic performance.

There are a few tracks on this album that stand out above the others: “Fallen World”, “Heart of the Storm” (not to be confused with “Fury of the Storm, from Sonic Firestorm), and “Die By the Sword”. The first of these tracks is just a natural single, much like “Heroes of Our Time” was the clear standout track from Ultra Beatdown. The other two songs were the ones that sounded like they were written during the Sonic Firestorm sessions. It was pretty easy to imagine Z.P.’s voice instead of Hudson’s, and they were the catchiest songs as well. “Cry Thunder”, the actual single, is another strong track. Dragonforce don’t really do mid-paced songs very often, so it was a welcome surprise. The only major disappointment was the lack of a true ballad. “Wings of Liberty” started off like most other Dragonforce ballads, but quickly went into their more typical, frenetic sound. The only song that could really be called a ballad is the acoustic version of “Seasons”, but it didn’t have the same effect as their other ballads because there’s also a full-speed, heavy version of “Seasons”.

If you weren’t a Dragonforce fan before this album, it’s still worth giving this a shot. The new vocals and succinct songs are likely to appeal to many of their previous critics. My complaints seem a bit extreme, but that’s only because of how much I love the first three albums. This is a great record; it’s just not the same Dragonforce that put out tracks like “Disciples of Babylon”, “Fields of Despair”, and even the mighty “Through the Fire and Flames”. It doesn’t seem like Dragonforce is going to re-ascend to their former greatness, but "The Power Within" should definitely appeal to all old fans, and hopefully will bring in a few new ones.

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“Fallen World”
“Heart of the Storm”
“Die By the Sword”

Final Rating:
4.4/5 or 88%

Written by Scott