It is a decade since DragonForce had the world at their feet: ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’ was the flagship track of the Guitar Hero series, and third album Inhuman Rampage had perfected their unique maelstrom of breakneck melody. The band was tipped to smash the glass ceiling to ultra-mega-rock-stardom. Continue reading
Let’s be honest here, you already know whether you’re willing or able to like a Dragonforce album or not. It is fine if you’re not, musical taste is subjective and blahblahblah, but you might as well save yourself (and everyone else) a lot of trouble and just pretend that Maximum Overload (earMUSIC) doesn’t exist, rather than explaining again how shit you think they are.
If you are one of the ten people reading this who actually likes them, chances are that you either think 2012’s The Power Within (Essential/Roadrunner) was a glorious return to form and a reclaiming of their song-writing and catchiness after two albums of pointless indulgence, or a generic Pop Metal album that saw the band leaving behind everything that made them special. If you’re in the latter camp, I’m afraid you might as well go and join the others – it seems that their seventy-three-riffs-a-second Guitar Hero days are firmly behind them.
Maximum Overload takes its cues from the chorus-heavy Pop Metal approach of The Power Within, but expands its musical vocabulary to give each song its own “flavour”. Some of these flavours can be quite superficial – ‘The Game’ has chunky riffing and growled backing vocals (courtesy of Matt Heafy from Trivium) and ‘Extraction Zone’ has Nintendo noises – but fun, though elsewhere they do succeed in taking their shimmering, high-adrenaline Pop Metal into different territories. ‘Three Hammers’ continues the epic diet Blind Guardian Fantasy Metal of ‘Cry Thunder’, ‘Symphony Of The Night’ adds operatic flourishes and anime-gothic romanticism and ‘The Sun Is Dead’ offers a surprisingly effective blend of sugary melancholy. A cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ rounds it off, achieving the impressive feat of being the silliest thing they’ve ever recorded.
Maximum Overload is a catchy collection of high-energy Pop Metal songs with ambition, a sharp ear for melody and an absolute refusal to feel any shame. Fans who want them to return to the ten minute guitar solos and unstoppable riff-salad of Inhuman Rampage (Noise/Sanctuary) and Ultra Beatdown (Spinefarm) will be disappointed. While it perhaps outstays its’ welcome a little in the second half, it will put an enormous grin on your face if you’ll let it.