Artist: Dragonforce (http://www.dragonforce.com)
Album: Sonic Firestorm
Release Date: May 11th, 2004
Label: Noise Records
Recommended Tracks: My Spirit Will Go On (download here), Fury Of The Storm, Prepare For War
Power Metal. What comes to mind when I say that? For most people it means long hair, high-pitched clean vocals that can shatter glass, screaming lead guitar solos, and the cheesiest lyrical content this side of a Velveeta commercial. A few bands tower above the genre, such as current power metal heavyweights Iced Earth and Hammerfall, but for every good power metal band there are about a thousand cliche-ridden clones who are just flat-out awful. At first glance, London, England's DragonForce look like another cookie-cuttter power metal band, possessing the pre-requisite tight pants and long hair look as well as taking it a step further by actually putting "Dragon" in their band name. That just screams POWER METAAAAAAAAAL! in a nutsack-in-a-vise-grip operatic falsetto squeal doesn't it? However, upon actually hearing the first notes of this album blast through your speakers it becomes quite clear that DragonForce aren't just another power metal band - this is some of the fastest music you will ever hear in your life.
Did I mention this album is fast? I swear these guys come close to setting some kind of land-speed record while playing this album. Lead guitarist Herman Li throws some incredible solos down on this album that will leave you in awe of his skills if you know anything about guitar playing, and will still leave you in awe even if you don't. The rest of the band are able to more than admirably keep up with the frenetic pace established by the first song "My Spirit Will Go On", and if your ears aren't smoking by the time the last note hits on the closer "Once In A Lifetime" it's probably because your head blew up from metal overload, and you're having to have someone tap out the words to this review on your forearm in Morse code
But enough about the speed - how does the album actually sound? Well, as mentioned several times already this album falls squarely into the power metal genre, so you should at least have an idea of what you're getting. Clean vocals abound throughout the album (no death growls in sight), tons of over-the-top guitar shredding, and much to my surprise the drumming features not only wave after wave of double-kick bass drumming, but several songs incorporate black metal-style blastbeats into the mix. Now before you run off to your nearest Hot Topic to beat up some 15 year old kid in a Cradle Of Filth T-Shirt to protest this, let me stress that the blastbeats on this album fit perfectly with the overall frenzied pace of the album, rather than just being there for show. Imagine a group of hummingbirds flapping their wings along the strings of a guitar while a bunch of woodpeckers peck away on the bass and snare drums behind them, and you have the Animal Planet version of what's going on here.
But, of course, DragonForce do find ways to slip in some things that ultimately just kills power metal for me. Besides the same lyrical re-treads of uplifting positivity amongst the battling of demons and dragons on several tracks, the chief offender is the awful ballad in the middle of the album, entitled "Dawn Over A New World". This song sounds like the stuff they play in your dentist's office waiting room, and is just as painful as the whirring of a dentist's drill to hear. The only reasons I can think of why this song is on this album are either it acts as a cue for the girls in their audiences to throw their panties on stage when they play live, or for you to rest your neck after whiplashing it through the first four songs. Guys, if I wanted to hear Bon Jovi play I'd quit WREKage and go get an intern job at the local easy listening station. Then I'd probably kill myself, and wind up in hell. Now let me describe hell for you if you haven't been yet - you'll be strapped down to a chair while this song plays on repeat for all eternity, then a thousand ears will grow out of your back forcing you to hear even more of this song.
The one terrible, terrible song aside though, you owe it to yourself to at least download the mp3 linked above and hear just how awesomely fast these guys play on the rest of the album, or you can see videos of them playing on their website also linked above. You may even be inspired to check out other bands in the scene who have influenced these guys, or you may just be inspired to dust of your air guitar and go solo crazy (just try and keep up!). This album will make you want to hitch up your buffalo skin loin cloth, strap your broadsword onto your back, pray to Odin and Thor's Hammer for a blood-soaked victory, and go charging headlong down the mountain into the musical battlefield at sunrise with the blazing winds of the Sonic Firestorm flaring at your back!
(...and in fine power metal tradition, that's the cheesiest possible way I could think of to end this review.)
Artist: Dragonforce (http://www.dragonforce.com)