posted on 7/2006 By:
I’d heard a lot about Dragonforce before I arrived in London with my brother on a recent European vacation, but nothing prepared my eyes for how hard these guys are pimped in the U.K. My brother and I scoured through nearly every record store near our hotel, and there were many because we were but a few blocks away from SoHo, and nearly everywhere we went, there was Inhuman Rampage staring at us right in the face. Virgin Records? Big poster. HMV? Same story. Every independent record store on Berwick Ave? At least 10 CDs in stock. Needless to say, it became impossible to ignore Dragonforce. What’s the big fucking deal, I asked myself. Dragonforce? The name alone puts me off. Curiosity killed the cat though, and it just might have killed me had I not decided to pay 8 pounds and dive into this speedy sucker.
Dragonforce’s website claims, “Against all the odds, Dragonforce have single-handedly revitalized power metal in their homeland of the UK, awarding credibility to a genre that till their arrival was regarded as little more than a joke.” A joke to whom? Before Inhuman Rampage I had barely heard a word about this band. Apparently, the joke's on me, because I was listening to and enjoying power metal far before I had encountered these Brits. Hype forgiven, the sextet does makes its own personal stamp on a genre that many have argued needs a serious kick in the ass, so there might be an ounce of truth in the website’s bold statement for some.
The first thought I had was, “Holy hell this is fast!” “Through the Fire and Flames”? Couldn’t have arrived at a more apt introductory track title myself. The second thought? “Wow, this vocalist is pretty badass.” After hearing the speed of the riffs, it’s almost impossible to imagine a vocalist gelling with the music, but ZP Theart does an incredible job handling vocal duties on a frenetically paced album. Dragonforce calls it extreme power metal, but the title poses a few problems because extreme doesn’t necessarily refer to the heaviness so much as the speed of the band’s definitive sound. Already, I was enjoying this somewhat refreshing take on European power metal.
Unfortunately, “Through the Fire and Flames” is the peak of the mountain for me. It’s melodic, catchy, and pre-approved for severe fist pumping. To further contribute to my landlord’s suffering, I will undoubtedly find myself singing its chorus every morning for at least a few more months before something else grabs my ears. Guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman play so well together it’s hard to imagine that the two aren’t attached at the hip. I could praise this song to death before I got to the rest of the album, but there are only so many words one can attribute to such a sonic slice of heaven.
What can one attribute to the slight decline in quality through the rest of Inhuman Rampage’s eight tracks? Well, for one, the riffs are a little less catchy and a little more masturbatory. One can only take so much “extreme power metal” before one demands tighter songwriting. “Through the Fire and Flames” worked because Theart was allowed to carry the band through its more meandering passages and command the listener’s attention. Li and Totman assume more responsibility elsewhere and while those looking merely for technical prowess will probably jizz their jeans in record time, the rest of us, unfortunately, will yawn. There are far too many times when I found myself thinking about chores left to do throughout the day instead of focusing on the music. I got lost somewhere after the fourth track, “Operation Ground Pound,” and after listening to the album ten times through and hearing the following track, “Body Breakdown,” in full, I am happy that I got lost the first time just before that atrocity via keyboard hit my eardrums. Fortunately, things return to riffier territory on the two tracks following “Body Breakdown,” and the spirit of “Through the Fire and Flames” returns intact.
With such an intense pace, Inhuman Rampage can be draining. The speed doesn’t let up until “Trail of Broken Hearts,” the album’s final track., which will remind some of Sonic Firestorm’s “Dawn Over a New World.” This will be a good thing for some and others will be left wishing for an extra ballad or two. Personally, I’d hate to see these guys compromise their sound, because speedy songs like “Cry for Eternity” and “Through the Fire and Flames” work so well in defining Dragonforce as a band. The “extreme power metal” tag probably works in their favor, and I can only imagine it produces a lot of positive PR and makes advertising all the easier given the genre’s limited appeal to younger audiences. There were moments, like halfway through the excellent eight-minute “Cry for Eternity,” when I almost forgot that actual humans were behind these riffs because I was so immersed and acculturated to Dragonforce’s hyper-speed aesthetic. The problem is that I became so immersed in the hyper-speed sound that I forgot sometimes that these were eight individual songs and not one frenetic 60-minute track.
If you’re a loyal fan and enjoyed Sonic Firestorm and Valley of the Damned, fear not, this is the same Dragonforce you sing to in the shower and I am sure you will have no trouble in distinguishing these eight tracks from the rest of the band’s catalogue. Some newcomers who arrive with little to no experience in power metal might lose themselves in the frenetic pace, but most listeners will enjoy Dragonforce’s self-described “extreme power metal.” At the very least, they won’t forget the time they first listened to Inhuman Rampage and it gave ‘em a big ole kick in the pasty ass.
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