DRAGONFORCE - The Power Within [Review]

Release date: April 15th 2012
Genre: Power Metal
Record Label: Roadrunner Records (USA)
Reviewer: Tristan French

After the departure of singer ZP Theart, DragonForce entered a bit of a reclusive grey area. Nobody, aside from the band themselves knew what was really going on, until they announced open auditions for a new vocalist. Months later, this new master of the pipes was revealed to be the relatively unknown, Marc Hudson. Having revealed that he’d never really sung professionally before, we were shocked as anyone to see his demoing tapes...suffice it to say, I was blown away by the notes that this guy was hitting, and was eager to hear more from the newly armoured DragonForce, and almost a year later, we’ve arrived at Marc’s first album with the band. Having toured with them prior to the release (including an opening show for Iron Maiden), its clear that live shows only increase his ability to pull down the rafters. That’s not to say that the rest of the band haven’t undergone a transformation as well. There’s a clear difference/alteration in songwriting. It seems that DragonForce have done away with the 7/8 minute tracks of old, and adopted a much more shortened approach. Believing that they have absolutely nothing to prove, this record comes across as DragonForce making a record for fun and of course the love of heavy metal, and it’s worked!

Opening track “Holding On” pull no punches in establishing this record’s direction. Opening with great falsetto’s from Hudson (those who saw the demo tapes will recognise these), DF show us that they’re going to be playing faster, heavier and harder than ever before. I’m going to be honest, if this song were any more positively reinforcing, it’d be about as cute as a panda bear. This song brings the tough, but with a clearly positive message, especially highlighted by the chorus of “woah’s” upon the outro and of course the chorus lyric “Promises of Yesterday, we’ll keep holding on!”, this is clearly a song to listen when you need to be cheered up. Of course, axemasters Herman Li and Sam Totman bring the intensity with their lightning fast soloing, whilst including some great prominent melodies that can really stick. Bottom line, this opening is catchy as hell and it only gets better!

Following is “Fallen World” , the first track released from the album. Quoted by the band as the “fastest, most intense DragonForce song ever” , it does just that. After a great and resonating melody the song bursts into a maelstrom of guitar parts, in what can only be described as a flurry of fingers. Apparently, DF decided that they wanted to take a song and compress it, and it’s so adrenaline inducing I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a future pit starter. Of course more high notes from Hudson as well as some furious drumming! This is not a song that gives you time to think, it just pushes on ahead, and does so very well!

Another prominent track is so far my favourite from the album and the current video single for the album, “Cry Thunder”. Opening with a melody that’s strangely reminiscent of the Skyrim theme song. This, unlike the other two tracks goes into a steady gallop, keeping with the true ethos of the song, to serve as a warmarch. Clearly synonymous with the feel of the song, the newly crowned frontman brings out his commanding aura, “Night after night, for the glory we fight, in a kingdom of madness and the tales of the old” (at least I think that’s what the lyrics are). This song is clearly going to have fists pumping and “Heys” resounding throughout venues. The incredible pitch hit on the emphatic “CRY THUNDER!”, has an almost battle cry like quality, and really lifts you up in preparation for any sort of assault.

Two other tracks worth mentioning are “Seasons” and “Heart of the Storm”. “Seasons” has an almost classic feel to it, slowing down to a rocky mid tempo, that is almost reminiscent of older glam rock songs. The track also displays Hudson’s ability to reach lower ranges, next to his higher pitched vocals. Li and Totman provide great stocatto melodies at the intervals between verses, and the solos are smoother than ZZ Top’s suits! “Heart of the Storm” completely contrasts this. In short its a bit like “Through the Fire and Flames” on speed. This is easily one of DF’s fastest songs yet, and honestly lead me to question just how much energy that drummer Dave Mackintosh has. Either that or he’s secretly an octopus, its just insane. As the only song on the album that’s over four minutes, this is probably the only track where you’ll find the long solo break and build ups of old. Of course the distinction between Li’s technicality and Totman’s awesome melodies synthesise greatly! It truly is one of the catchiest songs on the album.

Overall, I think this record is probably one of DragonForce’s best to date. I do understand that DF aren’t everyone’s cup’o’tea, but they do what they do well, and they’re a great pick-me-up during dark times. I’ll admit a few songs on this record are repetitive, but with the addition of a new singer to their arsenal, and a cutting down of song lengths (some of the shortest that the band have ever written) I certainly think it’s a step in the right direction. I’m giving The Power Within a 7.5/10 and I seriously look forward to their upcoming live shows!

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