Dragonforce – The Power Within
The Power Within
Like everyone else, I joined in the collective eyeroll that occurred when we heard that power metal’s most kitschy and stereotypically dumb band was coming out with another album. However, my own eyeroll was punctuated by a hopeful half-smile, since I rather enjoyed the absurdly titled Ultra Beatdown of 2008. With ZP Theart dismissed from the band and a new frontman in the form of Marc Hudson, there was no question that some change was going to occur. Given the considerable improvement between Inhuman Rampage and Ultra Beatdown, I was hoping that the band would turn down their song lengths and lay off the elongated guitar solos, instead taking the more compact route.
In this respect at least, I am not disappointed in the least by The Power Within, which features a modest nine tracks, and only a single composition clearing five and a half minutes. What I did not anticipate was the considerable tempo change. While there is still an occasional blazing lead or solo with the typical Dragonforce bending and tremolo picking, all of the music that really stands out on this album is surprisingly down-tempo and, some might say, comparatively “boring”. In addition to the pacing change, Marc Hudson prefers the middling vocal range rather than the more stratospheric strains that were Theart’s domain.
As you might imagine, this can make for a rather different atmosphere than we’re used to hearing from the band. Rather than the ripping tracks of old (though music like “Wings Of Liberty” hearken back in time a bit), Dragonforce leans more heavily on the talents of Hudson, featuring him consistently in more lyrical and easily accessible choruses than the band has ever used before. While the lyrics are, as always, as trite as they come, they are at least more coherent than some of the ridiculous efforts off of Valley Of The Damned or Sonic Firestorm. It is for this reason that I think that the band finally manages to avoid complete and utter dismissal when it comes to their lyricism. In fact, despite the silliness, I think that The Power Within is easily the most uplifting release that I have heard this year.
Which brings us nicely to the punch: The Power Within is a compact slug of an album that is overwhelmingly generic, but we’re no longer listening to a couple of immature guys simply living off of their gimmick of playing as fast as possible. Actually, in a way I feel that The Power Within is as much a step back (in a reflective and collective sense) as it is forward, as it sees the band adopting a more basic, accessible, and less frenzied approach. If it weren’t so polished, I might almost have guessed that it was the band’s debut, before they became speed obsessed. That said, I’m not sorry to see it placed as the most recent entry in their discography. This is still very much a Dragonforce album, and it has their signature melodies all over it- you couldn’t mistake their fairly redundant formulas for anyone else if you tried. However, there are a few exceptions. The victorious stomp of “Cry Thunder” makes it an instant winner with its anthemically rousing chorus. Moving through the album, “Seasons” throws down a surprisingly hooky and subtle chorus (something practically unprecedented in past works), while the closer “Last Man Stands” winds the album up a mountainside and ends, with great finality, alone atop the pinnacle. Without a doubt, this is my favorite Dragonforce closer since “Heart Of A Dragon”, and a very strong finish to a very strong album (Hudson even reaches up for a great scream to finish the song in truly epic fasion).
The Power Within has stirred my hopes for Dragonforce, and while they still lack a great deal in terms of original formula and variety, I feel that they’ve thoroughly proven at this point that they’re more than just a prolonged gimmick. Choruses matter now- they’re not just a platform from which Totman and Li launch their guitar solos. While some of the band’s more ADD fans might decry this album as boring, those fans are probably not real metalheads anyways. To anyone who has dismissed Dragonforce in the past: you should hear this one before passing final judgment. Forget that you’ve heard all the lyrics before and focus on the music, especially in the more varied songs on this album, and you might just find a competent power metal band finally doing power metal really well.
Dan’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5