Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dragonforce – Maximum Overload

Dragonforce is back after 2 years with their second album to feature new vocalist Marc Hudson. The last album was a pleasant surprise after the disappointing “Ultra Beatdown”. Although “Maximum Overload” is very much in line with the sound the band has crafted over the years, it doesn’t feel like a continuation after “The Power Within”. The band has added some new elements to their sound to keep things fresh, although the old Dragonforce charm is certainly the most prevalent element of this album.

Maximum Overload” begins with the most hyperspeed song on the album: “The Game”. The opening riff on this song is absolutely burning. This track shows the first somewhat new development for Dragonforce: harsh vocals. While the band has used them in the past (most notably at live shows), “The Game” is the first song where they are on record. At first, they are definitely jarring, and it feels a bit off. After a few listens, however, things click. Aside from this oddity, the rest of the song is pure old-school Dragonforce. It’s incredibly fast, the guitar solos display obscene amounts of technical wizardry, and it’s all topped off by a soaring vocalist.

Despite having such a great opener, the band doesn’t let up. The next three tracks are all just as potent. “Tomorrow’s Kings” and “No More” follow a similar format to “The Game”, but sans the harsh vocals. These two songs represent the core of the band’s sound, and don’t particularly throw in any twists or turns. The latter track is one of the band’s catchiest songs to date, and Hudson’s cries of “No More” are incredible. After these songs, “Three Hammers” brings in some clean guitars. This probably the slowest song on the album, but only before the electric guitars kick in. After that point, it becomes a mid-paced pounding anthem, not unlike “Cry Thunder” from the last album. This record never really lets up. “The Sun Is Dead” has a slower chorus, but it remains equally effective as any other on the album. “Defenders” was the first song released from the album, and is another strong cut.

Detractors of the band often complain about the video game sounds that Dragonforce uses. I’ve always thought this claim was completely overblown; they do have some unique whammy bar abuse that can lead to strange sounds, but in general, the band just played really fast solos. With that said, the song “Extraction Zone” makes my former thoughts irrelevant, as this song has a full on video game sound emulation section. The rhythm sections backs off as much as it can, and lets Sam Totman and Herman Li get to work. It actually is pretty entertaining, but I could see it wearing thin on people who are already on the fence about Dragonforce.

One of the other bizarre moments on this album is the cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. The band makes it their own, as the classic Dragonforce sound kicks in immediately as soon as the song starts. In fact, this is one thing the band has done really well with the cover. Unfortunately, there is no saving some of the vocal melodies that were written. They don’t particularly fit with what Dragonforce has done to the song, nor are they particularly pleasant for people who aren’t fans of Johnny Cash. The song is certainly bearable, but it’s definitely a weak spot on an otherwise strong record.

Maximum Overload” will likely not win over any new fans for Dragonforce. Although there are some tweaks to the typical sound, this album is still rife with absurdly fast and long guitar solos and cheesy melodies. As a long-time fan of the band, I’m happy they’re still going strong. Time will tell if this album stands up to be better than “The Power Within”, but either way, the band is two for two since getting a new vocalist and becoming a bit less one-dimensional.

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"The Game"
"No More"
"The Sun Is Dead"

Final Rating
4.75/5 or 95%. 

Written by Scott

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