FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 58: DragonForce – Inhuman Rampage

Posted: August 7, 2013 by kingcrimsonprog in First Impressions Articles

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 58: DragonForce – Inhuman Rampage

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 58: DragonForce – Inhuman Rampage

Welcome to my Blog. KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog. I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog) on most websites and forums, you see. This name is chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact the name my parents gave me, like the unfortunate children of some celebrities, hippies, or celebrity-hippies.

I am an internet user like you (the “official” being sarcastic, you see), who has chosen to pass the time writing about both his own life and things in the media that he enjoys, most often this is Heavy Metal music, most often through the medium of Blog. Music is my main hobby, the thing I spend most of my free time spending money on, thinking about, talking about, writing about and occasionally… listening to.

I’ve been obsessively into music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else, and I’ve watched about a billion (exaggeration) music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free CDs, websites and whatever else, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

A nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Star Wars or Spiderman, its Music. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about reality TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated Dr. Who fan’s knowledge of that subject.

But I don’t like Football or Reality TV or Trams or Dr. Who. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

For 99% of entries, or I guess I should say the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject as Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres (although I will write one for an interesting new album upon request, as happened in the past with Gold Cobra and Frequency Unknown). They are articles about Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my best efforts and gradually-becoming-official-intention over the last decade-and-a-bit to listen to every single bloody album ever flipping recorded (only slight exaggeration).

You know the type of albums I mean; the kind of albums that would appear in a book like “The 500 Most Important Heavy Metal Albums” or “1,000 Rock Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.”

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a shot.

This entry, the fifty-eighth in the series, will be about the UK Power Metal band Dragonforce’s breakthrough third full-length studio album, 2006’s Inhuman Rampage. Its quite a modern album to be considered a classic, but much like Slipknot’s debut, Avenged Sevenfold’s City Of Evil and Bullet For My Valentine’s The Poison, it has definitely joined the ranks of albums that will be considered classics by future generations. I’m sure more than a few Saxon and Riot fans were scratching their heads when Vulgar Display Of Power, Chaos AD, Demanufacture and Burn My Eyes went from talked about as new kids stuff to being talked about as Metal-Classics, but they all did.

[Another entry so soon after the last one? Well, I’ve got X-rays tomorrow and all sorts of blood tests the day after, so writing about music is as good a way to take my mind off it as anything, plus, today is when the album arrived in the post]

OK. So you know how these First Impression articles work by now don’t you? An intro; then some facts, memories & perceptions, and then the genre exploration followed by the actual listen-though.

Genre exploration ey? – Pretty easy this time around. Sometimes I have to figure out what genre one of these albums even is, and sometimes I have to wish a genre for them even existed (“why aren’t their 50 albums like Vulgar Display?” etc). This time around its pretty straight-forward. DragonForce play melodic, European-sounding Power Metal, with all the blazing double-kickdrums, Maiden and Priest influences, and additional keyboards you could ever hope for

So where does Power Metal fit in with my musical history and listening agenda?

Well, when I first started this series, about a year-and-a-half ago, (on the suggestion of my good buddy Magnum Valentino) I hadn’t heard a single Power Metal album all the way through, ever, in my whole life.

In fact, as far as I can remember I’d barely heard a single Power Metal song all the way through. I think I heard maybe one Nevermore song on MTV2 a couple of times, but that’s USPM, and atypical USPM at that.

Power Metal isn’t really something that gets its due exposure in the UK & Ireland, as far as I’ve ever noticed. I mean, I remember seeing one or two Edguy reviews in Metalhammer back when I still read it, and maybe one advertisement for Rabbit Don’t Come Easy, but the music channels I could watch here like MTV2, Kerrang, Scuzz, P-Rock TV (While that existed) didn’t really show that kind of music. You were well served for Indie, Britpop, Pop Punk, Classic Rock, Hair Metal, Grunge, Nu Metal (when it was big anyway), Emo, Screamo and Metalcore, but Power Metal was in very short supply in all the time I ever watched it.

Even extreme stuff, like Death Metal, Melodeath and the acceptable face of Black Metal (Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth) got a way bigger look in, usually on shows after midnight, but still. You were never short of an Obituary or Napalm Death video mixed in with the Slayer and Anthrax classics on an after-midnight Metal special, but I never caught a whiff of any Italians with keyboard players singing about swords and sorcery.

Then, when I started writing these articles, discovering Metal Classics with the combined aim of blogging and having good music to listen to, I discovered Helloween’s Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Parts 1 & 2. I don’t know how much I sell it in the article, but over time, this became one (or I should say two) of my absolute favourite albums that I’ve ever heard in my whole life. Its flawless, packed full of amazingly inventive and intensely enjoyable, brilliantly exciting, happy, melodic, slightly Progressive and always instant Metal music. The two albums have some of the best Metal songs ever written, in my opinion, and I listen to them all the time.

Unfortunately for me, and my new found intense love for the Keepers sound, Helloween apparently never surpassed or even matched it in terms of quality, according to the internet, and apparently did their very best not to even match it for musical direction either. Immediately after these two brilliant records, the band’s primary songwriter Kai Hansen quit and the band changed their direction. They supposedly did two more Blues Rock albums filled with comedy lyrics, then lost their singer Michael Kiske, replaced him with Sleaze Rock singer Andy Deris, and have had a string of albums that as far as I can see online, there is absolutely no consensus about. Everyone thinks every single possible thing about every individual track and even section of each track, and for the new fan, wanting to find the next Keeper album, the message the internet seems to spit back at you is “there isn’t one. Helloween moved on.”

There isn’t one, EXCEPT, that is, for Gamma Ray’s Land Of The Free album. Luckily for me, Kai Hansen started the band Gamma Ray (think of Sepultura’s Max and his Soulfly or Cavelera Conspiracy bands), and after their first three albums, which were a bit Keepers-esque, Gamma Ray decided to write music more or less exclusively in the direction of the Keepers. Hooray. What could be better? Once I discovered Gamma Ray, I became a huge fan. I’ve listened to them even more than Helloween due to the size of their discography, and they’ve written some of my favourite songs too (‘Man On A Mission,’ ‘Men Martians & Machines,’ ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy,’ ‘Dethrone Tyranny’ etc.). Although as great as they are, nothing quite matches the sheer perfection of the Keeper Records. I picked up their Blu Ray, and its one of my favourite concert Blu Rays that I own, great concert, great songs, great performance, great sound and visuals.

My next step on the Power Metal discovery stage was Stratovarius, who I quite enjoy (Even if one of the riffs to ‘Legions’ is a MASSIVE rip off of ‘Queen Of The Reich’). I like the happier, more direct side of the band (‘Eagleheart,’ ‘Hunting High And Low,’ ‘Millenium,’ etc.) than the more pompous, Prog side (‘Mother Gia,’ ‘Elements’ etc.) but to be fair I’m new to the band and haven’t even checked out some of their supposedly best records, like Episode, yet. I bought their Blu Ray too though, and it is really good fun.

After that, I moved on to Hammerfall, and so far I’ve only picked up their Gates Of Dalhalla Blu Ray, but it is pretty amazing and visually beautiful. I only recieved it in the post the day I had to move house, so I haven’t checked it out enough yet to know where I stand on the band though. I love their singer’s stage presence though, fun guy!

At this point I’ve kind of made the decision to add Power Metal to the list of “Kingcrimsonprog-approved-subgenres” and tick the mental Power Metal box so to speak. I then did a thing I thought I wouldn’t do. I started exploring the Deris era of Helloween.

It turns out there’s a heck of a lot of merit there. Sometimes you wouldn’t think that if you read the internet. [Common internet opinion: Kiske + Hansen together = Gold; Helloween – Kiske OR Hansen = Poo] I think its just because I read British and American sites though, because I know Helloween, with Deris, are one of the strongest, biggest and most important Power Metal units in Europe, and I think if I could read German, then I’d see the reviews to back that up. I mean you do get reviews saying Deris era stuff is good, but every one is described as their first good album in ages, implying every one except the newest at the time is crap by extension. Every one is also described as the last good one before the decline. No consensus, confusing stuff!

I picked up Master Of The Rings and Time Of The Oath for myself anyway, and let me tell you, there is some brilliant material on there. Check out ‘Soul Survivor’ for some amazingly happy sounding Power Metal, and ‘Before The War’ for some savage, powerful Power Metal.

Admittedly, there is some stuff on there that I don’t like, such as the overlong ‘Mr. Ego’ and un-Power Metal sounding ‘Perfect Gentleman,’ but that’s more a case of not like than dislike. There’s a song that by that logic, I shouldn’t like, the silly ‘Anything My Mamma Don’t Like’ …but its actually cracking fun.

Yeah, it turns out Deris-Helloween is worth your time after all. His voice was a bit of an acquired taste, I’ll be honest, but I did end up acquiring it. I had a little look around Youtube and fell in love with their single ‘Just A Little Time’ too, and discovered a sort of consensus (rare with Helloween) that their album Better Than Raw is great. I’ve ordered that online now too, although it hasn’t been delivered yet at time of writing.

I’ve also been enjoying a hell of a lot of Children Of Bodom lately, they aren’t specifically Power Metal per-say, more Melodeath, but they are really close in sound to a lot of Power Metal and that’s the part of their sound I enjoy the most. To be honest the sound a lot more like Helloween than At The Gates.

I’ve had a good little exploration online of the genre now, looking into the likes of Angra, Sonatica Arctica, Rhapsody (Of Fire), Edguy, Metallium, Iron Saviour, Freedom Call, Primal Fear, Manowar, Blind Guardian, Grave Digger, Sabbaton, Firewind, Falconer and Iced Earth, on a few-tracks-each sort of basis, and found myself quite liking almost everything I hear. I definitely like the idea of Power Metal anyway; the basic sound of hints of Thrash, tonnes of Judas Priest, occasional Prog moments and very happy choruses. They all seem to write frightfully cheesy ballads though. And I don’t really care for their sort of slower, darker sides – for those that have them.

Anyway. I’m by no means any sort of an expert on the Power Metal subject, but I am fast becoming an enthusiastic beginner. I’m just looking for more things that sound like Keepers, Land Of The Free and the best moments from Stratovarius.

OK. That’s the genre sorted, but what about the band?

I remember when I was in College, many moons ago, ‘Through The Fire And Flames’ broke and I remember the music video with the almost instructional emphasis on their guitar solos. I remember an acquaintance in College saying he saw them live and they were OK. Not the flashiest memory, but it exists nonetheless.

I also remember a few years back as well, a band, that my band at the time gigged with, were very into DragonForce, although I don’t remember if they actually covered them or not (excluding the Power Rangers theme tune that they said DragonForce wrote, but which predates the band’s existence, so may only be partially true ((Perhaps a future member of the band maybe wrote it?)) if true at all).

Other than that, DragonForce, I’m not too familiar with to be honest. I’ve only ever heard their big hit, ‘Through The Fire And Flames.’ Well, Apart from one, one-off evening a few months back where my Girlfriend wanted to stay in bed all evening and just listen to every single DragonForce song on Spotify, because in her mind, children would respect Remembrance Day more if it had a DragonForce soundtrack. Odd reason for a multi-hour DragonForce marathon, but there you go. That evening I also heard all sorts of piano interpretations and string-quartet-tributes to TTFAF, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I wasn’t in a DragonForce mood yet.

Curious, but excluding that one-night DragonForce extravaganza, I’ve never heard another one of their songs anywhere, never seen another one of their videos anywhere, and never seen them live or on any TV special.

I did hear them in Guitar Hero 3, which I bought in the middle of the night on a whim once (and walked home with, for about 2 miles in the dark), despite having almost complete contempt for the very idea of Guitar Hero at the time (I was just snobby but its since died out), but that was just ‘Trough The Fire And Flames’ again. I remember that for years afterward I was kind of snobby and suspicious of DragonForce, because of their gimmicky seeming nature, and their fans who in my mind weren’t real fans. I had the same problem with Alestorm and Turisas at some stage as well. Ah well, we grow up, we stop being such judgmental pricks. Just because a person I don’t like enjoys something doesn’t necessarily mean that thing is bad, and just because someone likes things that are fun or gimmicky doesn’t mean I should dislike them. We all have our preferences for tone.

Its funny; but I’ve known absolutely loads of people who like DragonForce, and even more who have heard of them, and I’ve never seen a HMV since their breakthrough that didn’t stock their albums, but for some reason, despite their fame, mind-share and increasing legitimacy as not-just-a-one-hit-wonder according to the online Metal Press, I’ve never heard much of their music at all. Where are all the OTHER DragonForce songs? They aren’t ever being played anytime I’ve been paying attention. In fact, despite them having five albums and a decade long career I couldn’t name you a single one of their songs except for TTFAF.

Well, now is as good a time as any to turn that around (and actually pay attention this time).

[Play]

Hey; just to ease me into things, the album opens up with the aforementioned hit single TTFAF, so I don’t have to stretch my brain too far right from the get go. It opens: A big stab, some super fast sounds that sound like Keys but are actually Spanish-style classical guitars. Then there’s some obscenely fast stuff. Then the break with the signature staccato key bit, and the opening lines about “cold winds of morning.” Then it flies between sections, from the pre-chorus that is so chorus-esque it could be the chorus, then the actual chorus, which feels like three choruses all at once, then guitar solos so impressive they are almost filtered out by a brain that is struggling to keep up. Its like a street Magician who’s slight of hand is quicker than the eye.

Its kind of a shame that this song is so famous, and so famous among people who metal elitists hold in complete disregard (You know, like I used to before I stopped being such a jerk), because its actually a great song, with a load of great little touches, like the two-toms-at-a-time little drop fill, or the way he sings “day after day this misery can’t go on.” They pack so many little touches in on everything within just the first three-minutes that it would be one of the most fun songs I’ve ever heard, but all the band are recognized for by most of the people are “lol, guitar = fast” “lol, videogame sound” and “lol, cheesy.” [Ok, maybe I’m still judging those types of people a little.]

It fake ends, but then it starts again, its only the halfway point. There’s an interesting slow bit full of ‘Wow-oh-ooh’s. Then the song takes a stylistic shift from its usual sound, into a stream of a million different types of guitar solos. Its not actually cheesy or funny or crazy [lol, talent], its just damn entertaining, damn varied and damn impressive. Damn. Just this section alone is like all the best bits on a whole Helloween album. There’s so much to it, and all of it is good. Its got that whole “Glorius Victorius” Power Metal vibe down, the sort of sound that wouldn’t feel out of place over sped-up footage of all the battles in the Lord Of The Rings movies, but it still manages to conjure up different moods with different parts, and occasionally the rhythm guitar will just throw out a neat little touch, chug or flourish that adds more than the sum of its parts. Around the six-minute mark, there’s a new section, similar to the previous slow parts, its very mountain-top – then it morphs into that triple-barrelled chorus, and the brilliant lead line of the postchorus that sounds like robot bumble bees defeating mecha-satan. On top of that, the multifaceted ending is enjoyable, bright and entertaining as hell.

Ok. That’s just the one song I’d already heard, but I’ve never paid so much attention to it before (as I’ve usually been distracted by the video, or by playing guitar hero, or whatever else). This time around, I’ve heard tonnes and tonnes of parts of it that I’ve never noticed before, and to be fair, they’re coming in so thick and fast I haven’t had time to describe even a tenth of them.

I could see how that song could have became a big hit, even without all the drooling extra fans, who I still feel unduly snobby about and shouldn’t. [I’m working on it]. I could see it becoming a hit, just off word of mouth saying: “check out this thing, because its very good.”

I think that’s the key, I can accept people liking things because they are good. Its when people like things because its funny or random that I start turning into a bit of a sourpuss. Something to work on in the future then. [Buy NEW DE-SNOBBING LESSONS, WITH KCP!]

Ok. Anyway, that’s the one familiar song dealt with. Now into the deep end…

‘Revolution Deathsquuad’ follows, it bursts right into a riff that could easily fit on a Keepers record, then that changes into a happy Gamma Ray type riff, then it starts showing off. Then it starts proper with a verse. A sort of toned down verse (by their standards, I mean, Its still over the top for normal people). I like his vocals, Mr. ZP Theart, a bit deeper and more traditional than the famous bits of TTFAF. It does one of those things I like when the singer sings but the band stops briefly. The chorus isn’t as good, but everything else is good. There’s some brief blast-beats, and a few too many “funny effects” from the guitars, sounding like Dj scratching and such, but the song itself is good. There’s a brief autotuner section that fits surprisingly well.

At times, this stuff is so fast that its almost a barrier. How can you enjoy it if you can’t even keep up with it. Its running bloody laps around you. There’s a really cool bit at about 3.20 with a chunky Metallic chug, with some 80s sound effects [“lol, videogame sounds” check] that is actually tasteful, in context. There’s guitar breaks that don’t seem physically possible to actually play with human hands, like some of Petruci’s sweep picked stuff. What I enjoy though, is the sheer variety of the types of solo. I love guitar solos; they’re one of my favourite things in all of music, and any direction your could possibly take a solo, these guys pull off for at least a second, in a stream of different playing styles.

There’s a cool mid-paced breakdown, but it doesn’t last long, Oh well. At least its followed by a very pleasant happy sounding bit. Then they throw out a very nice thrash riff, then some more blast beats that sound less heavy than they could (or would in a Death Metal band) because the guitar is distracting you. To be honest, if I have to listen to blast beats, here or in Slipknot is the ideal place for them.

There’s a bit where all the rhythm guitar and keys cut out except for stabs, that adds some nice dynamics to the otherwise overwhelming barrage of speed. Hmmm. This song is almost eight minutes long too. Opening the album with two seven minute tracks is a bit hard going. It feels like I’ve heard a full half of an album already.

I notice that with this album, the band changed their style of artwork, from traditional, D&D looking paintings like GloryHammer and Hammerfall would have, to the more computerized look. I wonder if their previous two albums were more like normal German/Finnish/Italian Power Metal? Were the videogame noises, autotuners and other types of unusual-sound based showing-off always a part of their sound? or was it their addition that made the first few people start the word of mouth tidal-wave that came with this third record? …Or did they always sound exactly the same in every way and it just took a while to catch on with the public?

The third song opens up with more blasts and solos, more of the same really, then more of the same from the “normal” bit of the song. The prechorus has a fun medieval vibe that adds a bit of variety, but then the chorus brings it back to what has already came before. That may be seen as a bad thing in one way, but I suppose if the usual is good, why not play more of the usual?

Hey! A nice big influx of variety around 2.50 with a series of breakdowns and an Annihilator-style burst of flicking between different sections and tempos. There are parts that sound like an Ice-level in Donkey Kong Country and bits that sound a bit like a Metalcore-breakdown, and bits like their usual speedy Power Metal business all interwoven together in one shapeshifting block.

Then a tonne more solos, and then another “wooh-oh-ah-oh” slow bit, which makes the unusual step of playing the intro drums to GnR’s ‘Paradise City’ [“Bum. tah. Bum-tah. Bum. tah. Bum-tah”] in the middle of a bit that sounds like the ethereal bit in Rush’s ‘Cygnus X1 Book 2 Hemispheres’ [“I have memory and awareness but I have no shape or form”] only sped-up a million times.

Then the chorus kicks back in and all is well, then another bombastic ending.

‘Operation Ground Pound’ follows that up, with some nice tom rolls, and a folky violin/flute sounding lead. I can’t tell if its the guitars or the keys playing it. It’s a nice little change of pace. Then there’s a snare only roll section, and the usual DragonForce style erupts, but especially well. I really like this one.

The traditional “more tasteful normal part” follows, and its catchier than usual. Then the traditional “prechorus good enough to be a chorus” comes in. Then the traditional multipart chorus. Only THAT was also a trick, as there’s an even more grandiose chorus on top of that! Then a Queen inspired post chorus comes in briefly, followed by some technical bits to show off how talented they are and in keeping with the “display of talent” theme, another guitar solo section good enough to fill a full album erupts. My fingers are getting cramps just listening to it.

I’m sounding a bit jaded and overfamiliar with the formula here, but to fair, this is one of the best examples of it so far, and a little more tasteful (for them). If you wanted to hear a good DragonForce song, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.

When the normal bit comes in, there’s some out of place, goblin-sounding backing vocals though. What’s that about?

At about 4.20 they drop a really great, heavy, thrashy riff that sounds like something off Accept’s reunion albums. Then a synth solo that sounds like an 80s Miami nightclub and a wood-elf at the same time. – Strange combo; do elves like doing cocaine to the sound of The Village People? – Then possibly the best bit on the album so far, when they mix that with a sort of biker evoking Metal riff.

Then the traditional solo made out of 9,000 little solos. Then a “who-ah-oh” in a fast bit for a change. This one’s almost eight minutes too. Its like someone asked Helloween to write a Keepers album were every song was their album closer. Its a bit overwhelming, this constant stream of seven minute long, furiosuly detailed songs. How about one or two three minute radio singles to let-up the steamroller effect? Maybe they just want the reviews to say that it smashes you into the ground and never lets-up.

The next song, ‘Bodybreakdown,’ seems like its going to be a time-sig messing, Dream Theater influenced, waltzy-section-including breath of fresh air. And it is, for about twenty seconds, before the mixture of Blast Beats and blistering quick happy sounding guitar solos comes in and NEVER MIND.

I shouldn’t complain though. Its brilliant. And if any fewer than this many songs met my expectation of the formula I wanted after having heard the single, I’d be disappointed. Heck, I’d like Master Of The Rings a lot more if there were a few more ‘Sole Survivors’ on it, I find Statovarius’s Elements a bit of a chore because the easily digestible songs are so far apart (I’ve actually rearranged the tracklisting to that in iTunes now so it flows more like I’d have expected) so, this DragonForce record is giving me exactly what I want. What’s to complain about?

During the traditional “normal bit” the guitar is all cut out so its just drums, vocals, bass, and shimmering harp-sounding keys, that’s a pleasant little touch. Then the fast building “chorus-sounding pre-chorus” brings back exactly what you want.

Oh fuck, double-twist! It actually IS a chorus this time. Sneaky buggers.

Gosh, I love his voice. I think it might be because he doesn’t have a German accent. If he took over Michael Kiske’s vocal position instead of Deris, that would’ve been a better fit. Well, it wouldn’t be a better fit seeing as they are German, but I’d enjoy it more. To be fair though, maybe Deris’ unique voice does them more favours by having its own character, than just having somebody traditional sounding would do (because you’d stand out less).

Oh, there’s a fun Megadeth sounding riff. Then a really Yes sounding Prog bit hidden under some guitar solos. That’s followed by some guitar solos. Jesus-me, if this was food, it would be an entire years worth of calories in one teaspoon serving. And this album isn’t a teaspoon long, its about 10kg.

Then, something new. A Slap bass break. Wow, frig me, the second slap bass break is even more impressive. It far outshines anything I’ve heard from Mudvayne, Exhorder, Korn or Primus on that front. Then it turns into a few very bass-heavy sections. Then business as usual on the fast glorious riff with a jillion frillion types of solos. There’s a nice keys solo. I think this collection of solos is my favourite one on the record so far.

Then more of that staccato keys plus choral backing vocals plus earnest sounding lead vocals thing, like the first instance of vocals on TTFAF. Then a very hair-metal sounding reverse-reverb suck-in to snare in the background. The song is only six minutes this time. Only. There were some brilliant interesting parts in the last minute… they should have based whole songs on those.

They make up for that lost minute next though, with an over eight minute track. It starts off with a powerful, Scottish sounding build up. Then the Metal cuts out to stabs and the leads sound like a jig. Then the usual. Plenty of the usual. The next few minutes sound exactly like what you think they would sound like. And its all brilliant. But redundant to describe. The only noteworthy think to mention is that the Chorus has a bit more of a Helloween vibe to it than usual. Specifically it reminds me of both ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘Eagle Fly Free.’

This song is brilliant fun, his voice is great and even at this ludicrous level of over exposure I do love me a guitar solo. I don’t know how its even possible to still enjoy them here, (I was going to come up with some unpleasant analogy like a porn fan watching every single detail of two different 400-person orgies ((one in each eye)), for 15 solid hours or something, long after it would have become passionless and overwhelming, but I’ve figured out what its actually like…) its like that bit in the Simpsons were Homer is in hell and as a punishment is told to eat all the donuts in the world, but still manages to enjoy himself even at the end.

The bit in the background under the solos around the 4.20 mark is very interesting. It sounds like a benevolent wizard’s funeral.

The next song does that trick of having an intro that suggests some Dream Theatery number for change. Then it pulls out every single DragonForce trope. And you know what? I like it. I CANT HELP MYSELF. Its like in Southpark where Token can’t stop giving Tyler Perry money. Oh Luuurd.

Also it’s the third song (that I noticed, maybe there’s even more) to reference Through The Fire And Flames in the lyrics. Surely they would’ve done that on the follow up album after it became a phenomenon? Not on the same record? Did they plan it to be their biggest hit?

Anyway… there’s some cool Priesty riffs in there. There’s a great bit where they drag the ending of a section out. There’s a great eastern tinged breakdown at about 4.15. But mostly there’s more of the same, all to the same high standard of course.

This one is also one of the more “look what funny sounds we can make on the guitar” ones, but they hide it in the middle of a billion normal solos so its not too unpleasant.

The album ends with “Trail Of Broken Tears” which surprisingly opens up with slow, Elton John-y piano and strings like a ballad on Chinese Democracy. Finally, variety!

Its filled with electronic effects and things, and a mixture of acoustics jangling away underneath electrics making a wall of sound. The vocals are all over the place, sometimes sounding like Bon Jovie, Sebastian Bach, Gary Cherone, James LaBrie, Freddie Mercury and more at different stages. Some of the drums and keys are really reminiscent of Yes.

As hard as this is to believe, the guitar solos are toned down and tasteful. The music under the solo has a bit of a Queen thing going on. You know those tasteful Queen ballads that don’t get played on the radio, and aren’t on most live albums? Its reminiscent of those.

This suits the band remarkably well. I mean, I still would’ve hated it with all my heart if I’d heard it when it was new and I was still all snobby and suspicious of fun, I’ll admit, but yeah, it’s a suitable ending for an album like that.

…When Gamma Ray’s bombastic and ludicrously over the top ‘Welcome’ kicks in next of my iTunes, it seems positively tame in comparison. DragonForce are just about the only band that exist that could ever make Gamma Ray seem tame.

Ok. That was the album. Wow. My brain is out of breath. Its like listening to a band’s five best albums, all at once, with two of their side-project’s albums played at double speed thrown in there too. An absolute assault on the senses, and the most mentally exhausting thing this side of Neurosis.

I loved it, I’ll listen to it again, but that is probably all the DragonForce I’ll ever need. How could you take any more of that?

Interesting the hypocrisies we find ourselves living. Why can’t these guys change their formula? Why can’t those guys retain a winning formula? Why can’t I have more of what I like? I don’t think I can take this much of what I like?

Ah well. I bought this album for 99p. Well worth it. And hey, its made me go back and listen to some of the Stratovarius albums that i hadn’t been getting my money’s worth out of too, so it was even better value for money than it already was.

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