DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown (2008, Roadrunner)
- Heroes Of Our Time
- The Fire Still Burns
- Reasons To Live
- Heartbreak Armageddon
- The Last Journey Home
- A Flame For Freedom
- Inside The Winter Storm
- The Warrior Inside
- Strike Of The Ninja (bonus track on special edition CD)
- Scars Of Yesterday (bonus track on special edition CD)
ZP Theart – Lead & Backing Vocals
Herman Li – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Sam Totman – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Frédéric Leclerq – Bass, Backing Vocals & additional Rhythm/Acoustic Guitars
Vadim Pruzhanov – Keyboards, Theremin, Kaoss Pad & Backing Vocals
Dave Mackintosh – Drums & Backing Vocals
Producers: Karl Groom, Herman Li, Sam Totman
Total Time = 1:09:55
Like many true Metal fans, my first DragonForce experience came in 2003 when this acclaimed new Power Metal band released their debut record VALLEY OF THE DAMNED. I had read enough articles and reviews online of how Dragonforce was the next big Metal band so I figured I’d give them a try. Then I forgot about them.
My next DragonForce experience was when I beat the Playstation 2 version (my wife won’t let me buy a PS3….yet!) of Guitar Hero III medium, the bonus song was ‘Through the Fire And Flames’ from the band’s third album INHUMAN RAMPAGE. I didn’t realize it at the time but DragonForce hysteria was about to infiltrate both the Metal, and Gaming, cultures. In a matter of months, the band exploded and they were one of the most talked about bands in Metal. Their second and third albums were re-released as deluxe editions, the band toured the U.S., and the video game industry adopted the band as their Heavy Metal ambassador. Everyone was talking DragonForce, people were posting YouTube videos of 10 year olds playing Guitar Hero III on the expert level, and the Metal media was giving the band tons of praise. I forgot about them again.
I picked up ULTRA BEATDOWN when it came out and I have been listening to it regularly, all I hear is very fast Power Metal. Or can this be a version of Speed Metal? The music is played at high speed: frantic dual guitars, pounding bass and speedy double bass drumming mixed with an extremely melodic lead singer. The problem comes when the keyboards sound like and old Nintendo game and the lyrics seem more a cliché than anything else. We’ve heard it all before from the likes of Helloween, Gamma Ray, Grave Digger, Hammerfall and Primal Fear…..there is only so far that ultra fast Power Metal can go.
The band are very accomplished players and they do create some really good fast songs but there are just too many of them. Is it possible to be too extreme? Too fast? The first song on the album is the lead single ‘Heroes Of Our Time’ and it’s a really good track full duelling guitars, a powerful rhythm section, and vocal harmonies that play to the band’s strengths. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and it’s definitely one of the fastest on the record.
‘Heroes Of Our Time’
Lead singer ZP Theart has a great voice for this kind of music but I think he gets drowned out by the pace on half the album. Some of the best moments of the album are when the band takes their foot off the gas pedal for a second and slow down to a normal pace (‘The Last Journey Home’). When the band slows things down a little they prove that they have more to their overall style than just pure speed, they are also very melodic. Listen to the almost ballad like ‘A Flame For Freedom’ and you can hear more power in the bands delivery than in some of the speed tracks. I know that this flys in the face of the bands calling card but it shows a diversity that DragonForce will need as their career continues. An interesting song to listen to is the second track ‘The Fire Still Burns’. This song is speedy but has an element of melodic AOR to it. Listen for Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ melody throughout the song, it’s obvious. As is Toto’s ‘Africa’ although that’s a little harder to detect.
When I picked ULTRA BEATDOWN up, I decided to get the full DragonForce experience and I bought the special edition with two bonus tracks: ‘Strike Of The Ninja’ and ‘Scars Of Yesterday’. ’Strike Of The Ninja’ sounds like Hammerfall with it’s fast guitars and melodic vocals. It’s a more controlled DragonForce rather then the “pedal to the metal” band that is on the bulk of the record, this is how I envision the band evolving their sound on records to come. The second song, ‘Scars Of Yesterday’, is 8 minutes of lightning fast playing but there are enough slower parts to show off the melodic flash. I like both songs a lot, good thing I paid the extra few bucks, but the video game style keyboards have to go.
Speed. Speed. More speed.
These four words can sum up the latest DragonForce record, ULTRA BEATDOWN, very easily. The band’s trademark is their ability to play incredibly fast but it’s their melodic undertones that are one of their real strengths. I liked most of the songs on this album but it all got a little repetitive after a while, there are only so many speed demon songs I can take before I want something different. There are flashes of an expanding sound when the band slows things down a little but the band remains true to their main ideal…..speed. Overall, a good record, enough to get me to check out the band’s second and third albums and keep an eye on their future output. There is a ton of potential that just needs to tapped.
Favorite Songs: ‘Heroes Of Our Time’, ‘The Last Journey Home’, ‘A Flame For Freedom’, ‘Strike Of The Ninja’, ‘Scars Of Yesterday’