Dragonforce: The Power Within

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Dragonforce: The Power Within
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Dragonforce: The Power Within
Power Metal
Roadrunner Records
April 24th, 2012
Release length: 50:14
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Dragonforce has collected a lot of support, as well as a lot of flack over the years, all for varying and just reasons. But, this hasn’t really stopped the group from marching forward, even when (according to the trusty ol’ interwebs) former lead vocalist ZP Theart and the other members parted ways over an “insurmountable differences of musical opinion” [Metal-Archives.com]. Now, Marc Hudson takes over his duties for the fifth full-length offering, “The Power Within.” But, will this cause any conflict of interest within the fans towards their beloved Power Metal precious?

Well, for one thing, if you haven’t heard the single “Cry Thunder,” you may be worried about Marc’s performance on this recording. While it’s not quite as unique as ZP Theart’s, this feels a lot more natural, less nasal, and well ranged in mid to somewhat higher pitches. Thanks to those reasons, things do more more traditional, but in all the positive ways. The production really pulls the singing forward more than on previous releases, allowing it to be a main focal point instead of the insane guitarwork, which also has been toned down. As far as their sound, they have the traditional heavy, yet somewhat clear effect on them, especially in the solos, which are now natural and not quite as inhumanly technical and precise for no real reason. The bass adds a great impact sometimes as well, greatly anchoring the material when it gets a little heavier like with “Give Me the Night,” as well as giving a nice grounding balance to the higher chords throughout the rest of the release. The drumming sticks out with a slight click to the kicks that is just noticable, thick snares, and a decent cymbal crash. This may not sound like a good idea, but when the music is at full pace, it still comes through well enough to fill the material properly, though are at their best during the restrained songs like “Seasons” and “Die By the Sword.”

With all that said, this is basically just another Dragonforce album, in the same format as previous efforts, but without the ballad piece. The difference here is that, unlike previous recordings, everything feels a lot more natural to the Power Metal style. “Holding On” hammers away with some blistering chords that really do come off inhuman, but this is one of the few songs that will make you suspicious of studio editing for speed. Even with that in mind, it’s a fantastic song, and the less higher pitched vocals sound absolutely fantastic on it, giving more of a masculine edge that otherwise would have been lacking. This energetic definition of the group is carried into “Fallen World,” but it isn’t quite executed as well. While this is still a great song with plenty of adrenaline and attitude behind it, you can’t help but pick up on these short and obvious ticks and shifting in volume on the cymbals. It’s enough to make you assume it’s digital altering, and here it might be, but “Cry Thunder” finds them at work too in a heavily restrained mid-tempo track, so it ends up being the instrument itself, or the production. Either way, it sounds horrible, and is very distracting on that song. However, in slower tracks, it’s far more tolerable. The only track left that carries this sort of speed is “Heart of the Storm,” and it comes off like a mixture of the two. The song is as solid as “Holding On,” but has a darker tone to it with a more emotional push in the music and vocals similar to “Fallen World.” It really stands out as one of the exceptional tracks, especially for the bass-driven segments that support the latter keyboard and guitar solos.

But the faster songs are actually not the spotlight of the album. In fact, it’s the material around the mid-tempo range. “Give Me the Night” is a fantastic offering with a somewhat faster sound, but also has a pretty upbeat, emotional vibe to it that doesn’t sound weak or cheesy, but rather very believable. Prior to the guitar solo, it does get a little deeper, but overall it ends up a fun song with a human pace, solo, and performance that really grabs at the listener. The chorus is catchy as hell and very vibrant, really showing the bands power and newfound edge well. “Seasons” is just an amazing song from start to finish. The calmer, richer guitar work at the mid-tempo pace has a bit of static on the distortion this time, and it just works perfectly for it. The chorus is just beautiful, packing in a little extra emotion behind the vocals to really make it stand out. Unfortunately there’s nothing else as moving as this, other than the acoustic piece at the end of the album, but “Die by the Sword” is a great fantasy based battle song with a more emotional guitar solo very suiting to the quicker pace, and “Wings of Liberty” starts off rather generic and even cheesy, but builds up into a far more aggressive faster offering similar to “Holding On.”

The Power Within is a truly surprising album. Almost all of the release is solid Power Metal that, more times than not, is handled in a restrained manner that lets you soak up what atmospheres exist, as well as the group’s general performance. It makes a lot more sense compared to blistering chords at inhuman speeds like their previous songs. But, the success seems to also be thanks to their new vocalist, really bringing down the higher tones of the release to a more traditional level, and allowing Dragonforce to reclaim their balls while baring their fans, or showing their emotions with select beautiful passages and choruses. If you’re a fan, don’t be worried about the new line-up and if it will negatively impact the group. The Power Within is easily their best recording to date. Why? Because it’s not layers of impossible cheese, but a solid effort that truly shows off the skill of each member without constantly making you constantly wonder what was altered, sped up, or pasted for the final touches in the studio. Sure, some of it probably does exist here outside the obvious such as the explosion audio sample on “Fallen World,” but for at least eight of the songs, skeptics like myself won’t even begin to question it.

01. Holding On – 4:56
02. Fallen World – 4:05
03. Cry Thunder – 5:17
04. Give Me the Night – 4:29
05. Wings of Libery – 7:22
06. Seasons – 5:05
07. Heart of the Storm – 4:44
08. Die By the Sword – 4:38
09. Last Man Stands – 5:12
10. Seasons (Acoustic Version) – 4:26
Overall Score: 9/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Roadrunner Records.