18 August 2014

Dragonforce - Maximum Overload


I'm not going to beat around the bush here; I am not a Dragonforce fan.  I have always wondered why they use a billion notes and chords when they could do a better job with 1/100th of that amount.  Now don't get me wrong, as musicians the band are blessed with more talent than one million grindcore/indie/pop acts in the world combined; only a fool would deny that they cannot play their instruments to the best of their abilities.  It is just that their songs and album have just been more technical exercises in how many notes they can place on one record before it explodes.  It is almost as if they are not able to pick which parts to leave off their work, so they include everything.....ever.  But now there is a new record and I wonder if my opinion of the band will have changed since I last heard them.  Surprisingly this is the band's sixth album, which is a bit of a shock as I was sure that they had split up.  Now with this record, there are a few formats available, but I am going to look at the basic 10 track release.  It is the first of their albums which has been produced by someone outside of the band and it has also not been recorded in their own studio. Let’s see what influence Jens Borgen has been on the band on this record.

The first song "The Game" is a tour-de-force of their music talents, as I said you cannot deny the talent in this band; it is also most impressive song I have heard from them in any of their albums.  I can also say that as much as it is their most promising number from the band, it still have that whiff of trying to get every instrument in the band to play every note at once.  They must be disappoint when there is a still moments between tracks.  But never the less, this track is much better than everything that the band has done before. "Tomorrow's Kings" then just follows on and there is no difference in tone, drumming or talent.  It might as well be the same song; this is part of the problem with the band.  It is fist pumping and again it is much better than anything else they have released, but it just merges into one.  So far, so predictable it is. "No More" is very Iron Maiden-esque for the first opening bars, then the drumming comes in at a million miles an hour.  It really spoils the numbers to be honest.  I know the drummer has left after the album was recorded, but the rest of the band would have been happy with the performance beforehand.  THERE ARE OTHER SPEEDS APART FROM MANIC!!!!! But that can be levelled at the whole band, but I will get back in a little bit.

"Three Hammers" is the fourth song on this album, this number is slightly slower than the opening barrage of tracks and it feels like a relief to the relentless notes.  It is a sign that at times they know that there are other tones, well....for the most part.  There is still the solo that would make Joe Satriani wonder there some of those notes came from.  It is a sing along metal anthem which is much more interesting that the zillion miles an hour tunes that they prefer.  "Symphony Of The Night" starts off with a keyboard sort of strange fantasy movie sequence, then it is business as usual for the band here.  I find myself being dragged along by the songs, the talent is very evident as I keep saying, but I have heard this done before and done with the correct balance of speed and measure of performance.  Case in point is the middle bridge, it is full of control and anticipation; so when the solo arrives without everything being as fast as light it sounds (for want of a better word) sublime.  But they go back to type in a moment and it is spoilt again.  "The Sun Is Dead" is another song that improves my opinion of the band as it shows a maturity that have been sorely lacking for most of their career.  It is a true highlight that deserves praise, a modern metal classic in every sense of the word.

"Defenders" is the third album on this album that actual contains performances by Matt Heafy from Trivium (the other two being "The Game" and "No More"), just like the other three it is a technical exercise is metal perfection that is ruined by the chasing of that last note to place between the gaps.  As I keep saying, the performance is truly spectacular and just amazing; I just wish there was a level of control exercised at times.  "Extraction Zone" does not really help matters to be honest either.  The technical mountain here is towering, but I have heard a man with an acoustic guitar chill a room with half of this talent and as good as this is played it just feels too much, too full of what is not needed from the band and it just dulls the senses after a while.  "City Of Gold" is the penultimate number of the album and if this was where the album had ended, it would have been in a decent place; yes it has that moment where I am shouting for just a few less notes, yes it has more solos than the whole of a Steve Vai album, yes it is just so over the top that clowns shake their heads, but it is a decent tune (as has much of this album if I am honest).  But again I will get back to this.

Now it is unusual for me to have one song singled out when I do a blog, but I feel compelled to do so here. As with lots of acts, this album has a cover song on it, and this is not an uncommon thing for bands.  Some of my most favourite songs are covers by different artists, it is the way of things and I do love it when a cover is done correctly and is either a) made into a new song with the band taken ownership by remoulding it or b) they don't fuck with the formula.  Dragonforce here cover the Johnny Cash classic "Ring Of Fire".  Before I start on the song, I would like to point out that the best version of this album was actually done by Social Distortion (Frank Zappa had a crack at it, but the Orange County boys nailed it).  But this version.....oh how can I word this without being liable.  In the crimes against music, this is one of the highest I have ever heard.  It is all that is wrong with this band, in a cover version!!!! If there is a deity in charge of cover versions, it must be swimming in wealth for the funds to let this cover on humanity, this is awful, no arguments - it is awful.

So, after that burring piece of turd how do I view the album?  Well, one song does not sink an album but it did lose it a few points. That cover is truly woeful and should be ignored, the rest of the album is actually better than I expected.  However, the album is still flawed as they just cannot help themselves by showing off.  We get it, you can play so well you will make grown men and women weep; but control would make them just so much better.  If this was a talent contest, they would be winning by a country mile and then some.  But it is not - it is just a decent album then lets itself down by not stopping.  Sometimes less is more and this band could be bigger than they are if they just kept it back just slightly.  Very frustrating as I said there is a modern metal classic on the album and just forget the cover.....it lost the album a whole mark.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - The Sun Is Dead


You can buy one of the various versions of Maximum Overload from Amazon here

You can visit the Dragonforce website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you

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