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DragonForce

Ultra Beatdown

Review by Rick Damigella
The masters of power metal, DragonForce, have unleashed their fourth recorded opus, Ultra Beatdown, upon the world. This latest exercise in ludicrous speed shows the band playing in even better form, their technical chops honed to a razor sharpness, and far from running out of ideas. The riffs are tighter, the melodies brighter and the sheer energy put forth by their relentless sonic assault continues to improve from album to album.

DragonForce is not just a band but a sheer force of nature and Ultra Beatdown is an album that you truly have to experience. Don’t just read this and take my word for it. Wear a good pair of headphones when you spin it and you will be able to appreciate the discretion and care in the mixing of the instruments, assuring the band doesn’t just churn itself into a wall of sound. The result is a disc that is altogether unique, even when put up against the band’s previous releases. Nearly every song features movements that vary in tone, pace and feeling from start to finish. You won’t find seven straight minutes of speed metal riffing, but songs that evolve and grow, sometimes several times, as you hear them.

The group has increased in popularity and grown their loyal following since their last release (Inhuman Rampage in 2006). For those of you who only know DragonForce by clicking on your fake plastic guitars and trying to rack up points, the time has come to listen to one of the most original and musically exciting bands of the 21st century.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Heroes of our Time
BAM! You are awake now aren’t you? The aural overload of twin guitars, double-kick drums and a vocalist who can actually sing grabs you instantly with this hook laden lead song.
The Fire Still Burns
I have always thought a well executed keyboard accents heavy music so well. Deep Purple proved this early on in the pantheon of rock and DragonForce have taken the concept to its hyper-speed extreme. Ivory master Vadim Pruzhanov helps propel this number with his expressive playing.
Reasons to Live
Well ok, yes, that is a rather thunderous assault on the ears to start isn’t it? Among the best songs on the album, this one careens dangerously from full frontal metal assault to melodic riff laden singable choruses and then to a more sedate (by DForce standards) bridge with solos you could air guitar to without fear of snapping off your fingers.
Heartbreak Armageddon
With most of their songs running on the long side, rather than slow things down with a mellower number, the band will juxtapose frantic speed riffs against a vintage style guitar solo to which lighters should be held high.
The Last Journey Home
Majestic comes to mind when hearing the intro to this next number. No less heavy, this cut eases up on the kick drum thunder just slightly, giving Dave Mackintosh’s feet a bit of a break. The acoustic bridge is a nice break but as with many of their songs, it morphs and changes into something completely different yet still maintains and comes back around to the core idea.
A Flame for Freedom
I hesitate to call this one “slow” but you do get a bit of a breather from the infinite BPM attack on this one. Vocalist ZP Theart is never buried in the mix on any song here, but when things are a bit mellower like this, the grandeur of his vocal style gets to take center stage in the performance.
Inside the Winter Storm
Ok, back to the breakneck sounds. If there is one thing these guys know how to do it is keeping the balance between songs. This is another fine example of the guitar wizardry of Herman Li and Sam Totman. 
The Warrior Inside
The J-Pop influences on the opening synth melodies are obvious to those who follow that genre. Indeed, one can find Japanese style pop and rock influences throughout the DForce lexicon. From the grandiose arrangements to the tonal palette painted by the guitars and synths and even in the positive force vocals. Another amazing example of the best parts of DragonForce all coming together to create a mind bogglingly great number.
Strike of the Ninja
Whoa, a short song! Coming in at a shade over three minutes, this is a rare slice of hit single styled material from DragonForce. We are talking intro/verse/chorus/verse/solo/end. The straightforward delivery of this one just screams for heavy rotation (in some fantasy alternate universe where songs like this actually get played over the airwaves for the masses to hear). Oh and ninjas are cool.
Scars of Yesterday
The jammy, prog-metal boogie opening on this one is definitely a departure from the rest of the album. In fact, if you have to throw labels around, this is the progiest number on the album. Shifting from metallic thump to an ethereal bridge and through a myriad of other musical permutations. Take my advice and let the music enter your ear canals directly via headphones, and enjoy the ultra beatdown your brain will receive as you do.
 
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