Released by: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: September 27th, 2019
Genre: Power Metal
Marc Hudson – Vocals
Herman Li – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Sam Totman – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Frédéric Leclercq – Bass, Backing Vocals
Gee Anzalone – Drums, Backing Vocals
Coen Jannsen – Session Keyboards
1. Highway to Oblivion
2. Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine
3. The Last Dragonborn
4. Heart Demolition
5. Troopers of the Stars
6. Razorblade Meltdown
8. In a Skyforged Dream
9. Remembrance Day
10. My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion Cover)
“Extreme” and “Power Metal” generally aren’t words one would expect to see placed together, as the genre is generally known to be on the light, catchy and fun side of things, as far as metal goes, and yet one band has deemed themselves as being so daring, so adventurous and so far ahead of the pack, that their music is worthy of being called “Extreme Power Metal.” That band is, of course, British band Dragonforce, who has always been a very divisive band, most notably for the fact that their first big success came when their song “Through the Fire and the Flames” was included in Guitar Hero III. Jokes aside, though, while the band is certainly an acquired taste, they picked up a rather large fan base over the years, releasing seven albums to date, with each of them being highly enjoyable. While I’ve always struggled with some of the band’s earlier works, I’ve been very pleased with their past three releases, especially Maximum Overload, and so I always look forward to hearing more from them. Their eighth full-length release, the indeed boldly titled “Extreme Power Metal”, is almost upon us, and it sure lives up its name, as it’s equal parts extremely fun, extremely fast, extremely catchy, extremely melodic and extremely cheesy, in all the best ways possible!
For better or worse, Extreme Power Metal represents everything Dragonforce stands for, while at the same time allowing a bit of room for experimentation, so listeners can certainly expect a ton of very high speed, high energy power metal, with some heavy riffs, some insanely upbeat melodies, some excellent choruses, some occasional cheesy moments, some very retro sounding keyboards, and of course some very lengthy, technically impressive instrumental sections. There has been one lineup change since the release of Reaching Into Infinity, that being the departure of longtime keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov, and while he hasn’t been officially replaced yet, the band brought in Epica’s Coen Janssen to record the keyboards for this release, and obviously his contributions are excellent, and very much up to par with what fans would expect. If anything, he at times give the music even more of a cheesy, 80’s feel than ever before, which fits in perfectly with the overall direction of the album.
All musicians are in top form, with dual guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman delivering the same blistering leads, glorious melodies and insanely impressive solos they have always been known for, while the keyboards are cheesy but very effective, and everything sounds perfect, as always. Vocalist Marc Hudson is also in top form, at this point proving himself to an excellent power metal vocalist, being equal parts intense and epic at times, while also being able to sing very smoothly during some surprisingly soft tracks. In fact, contrary to what the name might suggest, this album is actually fairly tame at points, with some slower than average Dragonforce tracks, including a couple of ballads, both of which are excellent, emotional and driven by incredible performances, both from the musicians and from Marc, who just sounds incredible on both songs. Otherwise, fans can still expect plenty of high octane power metal moments, as well as some rather surprising moments on a couple of tracks, which help bring the “Extreme” part of the name back into focus. Overall, the songwriting isn’t quite perfect, but there’s certainly a lot of variety, compared to some Dragonforce albums, and the band has struck a nice balance between the overall simplified, more melodic approach of their first two albums with Marc, and the more extreme, adventurous sound of their first four albums. I’d say this album is slightly more accessible and less complex than Reaching Into Infinity, but it still has a ton of stuff going on, and there are quite a few fresh ideas here, while still giving longtime fans everything they want to hear.
Songwriting is an area where the band has greatly improved over the years, managing to make their last three albums more varied than their first four, while still providing a ton of fun, speedy power metal, and this latest release is no exception. Starting things off is lead single “Highway to Oblivion”, which starts off with a very light, keyboard-driven vocal section, before the guitars kick in and the track quickly speeds up and turns into a very classic Dragonforce sounding song, except with a much stronger chorus than most of their earlier songs had, while also having the kind of frantic, super intense verses fans are used to. It’s a very speedy, very melodic track, and while it’s fairly straight-forward overall, it does have a rather lengthy instrumental section in the middle, where the two guitarists show off their skills. Overall, it’s exactly what fans of the band would expect, and it opens the album up with a huge bang! Next is “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shredding Machine”, which opens up with a nice guitar melody, as well as some rather cheesy retro sounding keys. The track has a slight symphonic influence, while still being another blazing fast power metal track, with more heavy riffs, fun verses and one of the best choruses on the entire album, where Marc shines, especially near the end, where he hits some very impressive high notes. The instrumental section in the middle is unsurprisingly amazing and has some very retro sounding keys, that almost sound like they came from an NES videogame, which is pretty neat. It’s another excellent track, overall, and one of my personal favorites.
Another personal favorite is “The Last Dragonborn”, the first of two ballads on the album. One would expect a band like Dragonforce to shy away from ballads, but they’ve proven themselves to be pretty good at them, with the likes of “Trail of Broken Hearts” from Inhuman Rampage and “Silence” from Reaching Into Infinity. However, this track is a big step above those two, as it’s a surprisingly beautiful track, with some wonderful melodic guitar work (including the expected excellent instrumental section), as well as some epic symphonic elements, but the two biggest highlights of the track are the unbelievably epic chorus, which Marc absolutely slays, and the overall feel of the track, which has some nice Japanese folk melodies. It’s certainly not something I ever expected to hear from the band, but they nailed it, as the Japanese melodies sound incredible and help give the track a distinct feel, while everything else is executed to perfection. Over the years, I’ve heard some very weak ballads, some solid ballads, and even some great ballads, but I rarely hear a ballad I’d consider my favorite track on an album, which makes “The Last Dragonborn” a rare exception, as it’s just such an absolute masterpiece of a track, I can’t help but wanna listen to it over and over again, sometimes even repeating it while listening to the album.
Following up that impossibly good track, second single “Heart Demolition” is perhaps my least favorite on the album, though it’s still an excellent track, with a few rather surprising moments (plus the video for it is absolutely hilarious and totally worth looking up on Youtube!) The track moves at more of a moderate pace, and the guitar tone during the verses actually reminds me a bit of some Dream Theater tracks, though this quickly changes, as the pace picks up and the riffs become more intense in the second half of the verses.
The one part of the track I don’t love is the build-up to the chorus, which has a bit of a classic hard rock feel to it, and I find this rather annoying. The chorus is excellent, though, with a bit of an upbeat 80’s pop feel to it, and Marc, of course, nails the vocals. Overall, the track is a lot of fun and feels fresh, while still having that distinct Dragonforce sound, so even though it’s not one of my favorites, I’m still glad the band made it. Next is “Troopers of the Stars”, which opens up with a rather surprising sequence, with some screams, some thrashy guitar work, and some intense blast beats, which do feel a bit “Extreme”. Following that, the band uses some epic keys and an incredibly epic, upbeat vocal section, which quickly launches into the opening verse, where the band goes full speed ahead, with more heavy riffs, uplifting melodies, and some intense drumming. The chorus is the kind of super cheesy, upbeat and just pure fun the band is known for, and while the track is full of cheese, it always puts a smile on my face, and is probably my favorite of the speedier songs on the album, with the instrumental section in the second half, in particular, feeling like one of the most inspired sequences on the album.
The momentum keeps up with “Razorblade Meltdown” and “In a Skyforged Dream”, which are two more super speedy, hard-hitting tracks, filled with epic melodies, impressive guitar work, and super fun, catchy choruses. They’re pretty much exactly what Dragonforce fans would expect, and are both excellent tracks. In between those is “Strangers”, a bit of an oddball track, in that it’s fairly slow-paced and very keyboard-driven, with modern electronic keys dominating throughout, while the guitars generally provide rhythm and not much else, aside from the usual instrumental section. I find the verses a tad boring, though they get the job done fine enough, while the chorus starts slow, but speeds up a bit as it goes along, becoming extremely epic in the process. The track has a strong 80’s pop feel to it and feels like one of the more adventurous tracks on the album, and while it’s not exactly what I was expecting, it’s a lot of fun.
Coming towards the end of the album, “Remembrance Day” is the second ballad, which starts with some very epic bagpipes. The track has a pretty epic feel to it, overall, with some awesome melodies throughout, and while it lacks the unique feel of “The Last Dragonborn”, it makes up for it with some very impressive guitar work, some strong symphonic elements, and another awe-inspiring chorus, where Marc really shines, as he pours a ton of emotion into the track. For a band not known for ballads, this album sees them going 2 for 2, not just for making “good” ballads, but for making amazing ones, so that’s quite a pleasant surprise! Speaking of ballads, the band chose to close the album out with a cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic, and while the opening teases at a soft, keyboard-driven track, the pace rapidly increases in a hurry, and it turns into the kind of super fun cover they did with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” in 2014, taking a song from a totally different genre, and expertly turning it into one of their own tracks, managing to nail the overall melody of the track, while putting their unique touches on it, and flawlessly executing it within their own style. It’s certainly an impressive cover, as well as an extremely fun way to end the album.
In spite of its rather comical name, Extreme Power Metal is yet another excellent Dragonforce album, and one which at times feels like a victory lap, with the band fully demonstrating everything their fans have come to expect from them, while at other times it takes some chances, going in some rather surprising directions, with almost everything working out very well. Obviously, I expect to see a lot of people poking fun at that name (and the band in general), but while the album really doesn’t feel all that “Extreme”, it is an excellent, surprisingly varied album, with a tons of speedy, hard-hitting power metal, as well as some lighter, more melodic tracks and two amazing ballads, and of course everything is brought together by the usual mix of excellent musicianship and fantastic vocals. Fans of the band should be most pleased with this release, and I think it would make a great starting point for newcomers, as it showcases everything the band is great at, while also having some surprises. I think Maximum Overload is still my favorite Dragonforce album, just for how consistently perfect it is, but this release isn’t too far behind, and it continues the band’s winning streak, which started with The Power Within.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms