Released by: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: May 19th, 2017
Genre: Power Metal
Marc Hudson – Vocals
Herman Li – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Sam Totman – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Frédéric Leclercq – Bass, Backing Vocals
Vadim Pruzhanov – Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals
Gee Anzalone – Drums, Backing Vocals
1. Reaching Into Infinity
2. Ashes of the Dawn
3. Judgement Day
4. Astral Empire
5. Curse of Darkness
7. Midnight Madness
9. Land of Shattered Dreams
10. The Edge of the World
11. Our Final Stand
12. Hatred and Revenge (Bonus Track)
13. Evil Dead (Bonus Track)
There are many ways for bands to evolve their sound over a long career. Some bands change their sound up a lot from album to album, always keeping their fans guessing, while others follow along a predictable path for a while, then suddenly decide to move in a completely different direction after a few albums. Still, others prefer to stick to an established sound while adding minor tweaks from album to album, which is where British power metal band Dragonforce currently stands. After their first four albums were all fairly similar and each had their share of highlights and low points, “The Power Within” and “Maximum Overload” both showed them streamlining their sound a bit and adding in some new elements, while still keeping all their trademarks and their overall sound in full force (no pun intended.) Now with their seventh full-length release, Reaching Into Infinity, it feels like the band is looking to push their sound even further than before, providing listeners with quite a few surprises, while still delivering many tracks filled with their unique brand of super speedy, hard hitting power metal with extremely epic choruses and guitar solos.
Longtime fans of the band should know what to expect from them at this point, as their brand of over the top, super fast power metal is still as much intact as ever, and the blistering duo guitar leads from Herman Li and Sam Totman are still very much the main focus, while Vadim Pruzhanov’s keyboards are impressive sounding as well and still play a big role at points, often sounding rather cheesy and giving the music a retro, sometimes slight pop feel as usual. The faster tracks on this release very much follow in line with the band’s past two releases, as they’re still as over the top and fun as ever, but they aren’t stretched out quite as much as most songs on the first four albums, and there are some heavier riffs at times, sometimes giving the music a slight thrash feel. Obviously, though, the huge choruses, epic melodies, and impressive extended solo sections are still present and as impressive as ever, and for the most part, the speedy songs on this album continue to feel like classic Dragonforce, except streamlined just a little bit. However, there are a few tracks where the band experiments more than ever before, and while I’ll go into full detail later in the review, there are at least three songs here that may surprise listeners, bringing in unexpected elements and sometimes going in directions fans probably wouldn’t expect from the band, so it’s definitely an even more varied and interesting release than Maximum Overload was in the songwriting department.
In the vocals department, Marc Hudson remains as strong a vocalist as he was on the previous two albums, and if anything he sounds even more in his element on this release than ever before. He has a fairly high pitched voice that fits the genre well, and he does an excellent job during the very melodic choruses, but he can also sing with a deeper voice at times and with a bit more grit and power than before. On a couple tracks, he even adds in some thrash style vocals as well as some pretty solid harsh vocals. This is most definitely the most varied Dragonforce ever when it comes to vocals, and everything works very well.
When it comes to songwriting, fans know what to expect from the band, and for the most part Reaching Into Infinity does deliver more of the same. The title track is a typical intro, with some nice keyboard sections and some very nice guitar melodies, and then “Ashes of the Dawn” starts out with some heavy guitar riffs and slight symphonic elements before picking up the pace and turning into the kind of high-flying opener fans would expect from the band. Right out of the gate, it has some excellent guitar leads, as expected, and it’s a very fast paced track with a super catchy chorus and fun instrumental sections, enhanced even further by having more of a symphonic presence than their songs usually do. It’s definitely a perfect example of the more simplified take on their classic songwriting that their recent albums have been delivering. Other speedy tracks on the album follow suit, including “Judgement Day”, which has a very cheesy, pop-styled keyboard intro before speeding up and turning into a classic Dragonforce song, with a super fun chorus, “Astral Empire”, which has a cool intro that showcases new drummer Gee Anzalone’s skills, before turning into a very straight-forward and fun power metal track, “Curse of Darkness”, which has a nice slower section in the middle, but mostly follows the band’s formula neatly and is another excellent example of their modern sound, “Midnight Madness”, which may actually be the most traditional Dragonforce song on the entire album, with no real gimmicks, but instead just being awesome all around, “Land of Shattered Dreams”, which is slightly darker and harder-hitting, and the closing track “Our Final Stand”, which has an amazing chorus and one of the best guitar solos on the album, making it a perfect closer. All these tracks are excellent, fast paced and have a nice balance between catchy vocal sections and impressive instrumental work, giving listeners everything they could ask for from the band. Bonus track “Hatred and Revenge” very much fits in line with all these tracks, and is another instant winner, with some of the best guitar work on the album and an absolutely incredible chorus.
Mixed in with all those tracks are a few surprises, the first of which is the ballad “Silence”. They have done one ballad before, that being the awesome yet super cheesy “Trail of Broken Hearts”, but this one feels much more serious and more sincere than that one did, using some nice acoustic guitars during tits verses and allowing Marc to really showcase his talents during the chorus. The solo section is also very nice and features an absolutely beautiful guitar solo at one point. A very surprising but excellent track. Another surprise is “WAR!”, a speedy but surprisingly hard hitting track which very much has a thrash feel the whole way through, especially during its verses and its chorus, with some aggressive riffs, thrashy vocals from Marc and some pretty angry lyrics. The pre-chorus section is nice and brings in some melody, but otherwise, it’s a surprisingly hard hitting track coming from Dragonforce. On the one hand, I think they did a great job with it and pulled it off very well, but on the other hand, because I listen to these guys to have a good time and enjoy the happy sounding melodies, this track does stick out a bit. Still, I can appreciate them trying something different and while it’s not one of my favorite tracks here, I do think they pulled off what they were trying to do with it.
Also on the thrashier side, the band included a cover of the classic Death track “Evil Dead”, where the guitars feel surprisingly close to the original and Marc’s vocals are great, while the keyboards are mostly used to add in a bit of atmosphere and are pretty interesting. It’s actually a really good cover, and the only part that feels a bit out of place, but still awesome, is the classic Nintendo style keyboard outro. Lastly, “The Edge of the World” is the band’s longest and most ambitious track to date at just over 11 minutes. The track is mostly mid-paced and has a very prog feel to it, with some epic sounding guitar work and the verses feel more calm and relaxed compared to most of their tracks. The chorus is impressive as always and there’s a very nice solo section, but musically I have to say the band didn’t really throw in as many tempo changes as I would have expected and the lack of any real speedy sections is a bit surprising. Still, it’s a great track and one section that really stands out comes a little more than halfway through, where the guitars get heavier and we get some pretty cool death growls. Overall, the track isn’t what I would have expected from Dragonforce and is quite interesting in that they went for more of a prog sound, which I feel they pulled off quite well. I think one or two speedier sections would have really pushed it over the top, but I guess they wanted to make it a fully experimental and different sounding track, so it still works great as it is.
Overall, Reaching Into Infinity is another excellent album that shows Dragonforce continuing to deliver a more streamlined version of their classic sound, while also throwing in some surprises, with two of their most experimental tracks to date. I think I still slightly prefer Maximum Overload, but it’s definitely an excellent album which is sure to please longtime fans of the band, and any power metal fans who doesn’t mind a bit of cheesiness, is highly recommended to give this one a listen.
Reviewer: Travis Green