Dragonforce – Maximum Overload (Metal Blade)Tuesday, 5th August 2014
Speaking from personal experience, Dragonforce are a band whose reputation definitely preceeds them. Meaning, through all of my wanderings into the lands of power metal, Dragonforce were a band from whom I steered clear, based mainly on image (silly, I know). I knew they were technically impeccable and lauded for their (Herman Li’s) guitar abilities. I also knew that they were popular with the kids and not so much with the veterans, so my interest was tepid at best. When asked to review their sixth album, and second with lead singer Marc Hudson, I said sure why not, and you know what? The kids are right! This is a pretty damn good band. More specifically, Maximum Overload is a very good album.
Right out of the gate, with “The Game”, Dragonforce rip into a fast and heavy scorcher, not far removed from Swedish Melodeath a la Soilwork, but with only a dusting of harsh vocals. The main vocals here and throughout are certainly clean and well sung, in true power metal style. As with every track, it features impressive guitar work, great structure, memorable chorus and tons of melody. A great opening track, it sets a high bar, which the rest of the album rises to and exceeds consistently.
Things reach a zenith in the middle of the album, starting with standout track “Three Hammers”, a triumphant epic with all of the trimmings, sure to be a fan favorite from here on out. Great power metal continues on “Symphony of the Night”, featuring harpsichord and Baroque vibes with (duh) more rippin’ axework and hooks. Dragonforce never takes the foot off the pedal on Maximum Overload – nary a stinker in the bunch. That said, it’s not without its faults.
Perhaps people’s main beef with the band is Li’s particular style. He’s a player of virtuoso caliber, but he can also be kind of annoying. Maybe this is why the kids like it…sometimes it’s hard to tell guitar + effects from keyboards. Silly pitch shifts and E-garbage unfortunately are a part of his shredding sound, and thankfully not polluting too much, it’s definitely there, and it could be a fly in the ointment. That said, all fans of the genre should a least give this one a shot. I’m glad that I did. Includes a fun cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.