DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal Review

Score8.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryEngland
Runtime52:51
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelMetal Blade

Between relentless speed, over-the-top solos, and enough positivity to make even a reggae guy sick, let me come clean and say that I’m a huge DragonForce fan. After all, ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ was the very first power metal song I ever heard. These guys are single-handedly responsible for planting the seed of undying love of power metal in my soul eleven years ago, as they did for many others, and I still crank out most of their albums on a regular basis. My favourites are the four albums from the ZP era, and I like their 2017 release, Reaching into Infinity, almost as much. The Power Within and Maximum Overload, however, were really hit-and-miss for me, but there are a few killer tracks from both. Fortunately, Extreme Power Metal is a hit for me and, despite having a few imperfections, it’s their best album since Ultra Beatdown.

One thing EPM does better than, well, every album up to Reaching into Infinity is variety. It has your typical, fast-paced power metal bangers like ‘Troopers of the Stars’ and ‘Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred’, as well as a surplus of more commercial, poppy songs. There are a few songs that aren’t driven solely by spine-splitting speed, such ‘Remembrance Day’ and the excellent cover of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but the intense dragon energy is never lost. There are also a lot of instrumental breaks that utilize strings, folk instruments, and the usual videogame SFX that are so characteristic of DragonForce. These video game themes run strong, with most of the songs having retro synth (or outright 8-bit) intros. Unsurprisingly, ‘The Last Dragonborn’ is the most videogame-fueled of them all, albeit more in content and less in sound.

Alongside their trademark speed/positivity/insanely-long-solos combo, there’s also a dose of 80s pop and glam metal influence (which, in all honesty, is far less pronounced than I expected it to be, based on the album cover). There are a lot of cheesy synth tones that highlight the melodies as well as straight-up hair metal choruses, especially in ‘Heart Demolition’ and ‘Strangers’. However, where bands like Beast in Black are full-out 80s melodic metal bands, DragonForce maintains their familiar modern sound while keeping the 80s stuff just at arms length, using it as the spice rather than the steak.

While I really enjoy EPM as a whole, I do have two favourite tracks. I really like ‘Troopers of the Stars’, especially the shredding bass in the intro, which is really cool. However, as is my way, ‘Heart Demolition’ has the most cheesy synths, so it makes it as my favourite song. Just kidding. Kind of. Well, it’s got more going for it than just the synths. It’s just a coincidence, OK?

Many metalheads have said (and will continue to say until the end of fucking time), “So they can play fast. Big deal,” but, to me, that’s just a lazy criticism. After all, couldn’t you criticize any band for having a schtick? Or even, how stupid would it sound if I said, “So you can play aggressively. Big deal,” about metal in general? Well, yeah, that isn’t entirely wrong, and that is a main attribute, but there’s so much more to it than that. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but I don’t need that negativity in my life. DragonForce have released yet another excellent album in Extreme Power Metal, and there’s way more to it than just speed.

*Also, let me just say that I love this music video. It looks like it was made for Newgrounds. Remember when that website was a thing? Me neither.*

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DragonForce Releases Second Single From EPM

With 27 September inching closer and closer, the anticipation for DragonForce’s new album, Extreme Power Metal, grows. The band have released their second single, titled ‘Heart Demolition’, which is drenched in their newfound 80s aesthetic! Check it out in all its over-the-top, synth-heavy glory:

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DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal Artwork Review

Out of my immense excitement upon first seeing it, I’ve decided to do something a bit different; I’ll review the artwork of an album. Why, you may ask? Because this just might be the single greatest image to ever grace the metal world.

Score10/10
Artist(Searching)

Even more than their first single, DragonForce’s Extreme Power Metal cover art has every bone in my body amped to the max for September, when the album finally comes out.

But, before I talk about what I like so much about it, let me first address something. Since DragonForce’s announcement, I’ve seen countless comments and posts from people saying shit like, “DragonForce is just a parody now,” and “This isn’t real DragonForce,” to which I call massive bullshit.

Before the genesis of the band, Sam Totman and Herman Li were in a band called Demoniac. It was a black/power metal band with lyrical themes that are, to say it conservatively, a little bit fucked. The band mostly existed for the purpose of creating shocking and ridiculous music, and, in that, they succeeded. The duo ditched the band in 99 to form DragonForce with the intent to make super-fast power metal the likes have never been seen.

Fast forward to 2006’s Inhuman Rampage, where DragonForce dialed everything their music was famous for in their first two albums way up. The relentless speed and heavy sound were pushed even further, and even their lyrics began to embody a bit more of a tongue-in-cheek power metal approach rather than a thoughtful lyric selection. This lyrical trend spiraled out of control in each consecutive album, with upbeat fantasy lyrics eventually being recycled as if being put into a blender and written down as they were poured out. Their latest album, Reaching into Infinity, embodies this perfectly, with most of its songs being almost-nonsensical (which doesn’t make the music any less serious, by the way).

So, as you can see, the ridiculousness portrayed by Extreme Power Metal‘s artwork is just DragonForce being DragonForce. It might seem like it’s been a slight slope downward into Jokesville since 2006, but let me also remind you that this video existed way back then, and it exceeds the fuckery that is EPM‘s cover:

Yeah. Remember this? This is more bizarre than anything they’ve done since, so fuck off with the “DragonForce used to be serious,” schtick, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Now, carrying on to the album artwork. Where do I even begin? Well, to start, I guess I should point out the obvious: the 80s aesthetic. This artwork perfectly embodies the 80s revival of the past five or so years and the whole TRON/Arcade/Cyberpunk thing really works for the band. Also, that huge explosion adds a ton of action and movement to the piece.

Seeing that flying laser car on the left, I instantly think of Knight Rider and Back to the Future. It’s such a silly touch to an already-silly picture, so bonus points there. Actually, now that I think of it, it also makes me think of that Scarface/GTA Vice City couch gag from The Simpsons.

It’s also really nice to actually have another dragon on a DragonForce cover (because Reaching into Infinity is the only other one to have a dragon, weirdly enough). And then there’s my favourite part, which is how god damn stupid Sam’s face looks.

Herman and Marc are running from the intense explosion of reality with their baddest and raddest faces on, meanwhile Sam is standing there looking like a reject lego piece. Simply wonderful.

In conclusion, this is both the cheesiest and best album cover I’ve ever seen in my entire life, ever. Not only does it capture the DragonForce essence, but it also captures my love of the 80s and the spirit of power metal itself. If this picture is any indication, Extreme Power Metal just might be DragonForce’s best since Valley of the Damned.

Extreme Power Metal comes out on 27 September. Don’t miss it!

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ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit Review

Score9.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime1:05:06
Record LabelIndependent
Release Date12 July 2019

My first taste of power metal ever was when I heard DragonForce’s ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ in my early teens. Aside from my young mind being absolutely fucking blown by how fast they could play (because, when I was eleven, that’s all I gave a shit about), I was entranced by their high vocals, heroic melody, and super long solo section. Ever since then, while I’ve obviously listened to an assload of power metal, there have been very few albums in the genre that have delivered that same intense sense of wonder and excitement.

And, in all honesty, ShadowStrike’s Legends of Human Spirit has come damn close to delivering just that. I came across one of the band’s singles completely by chance a few weeks ago and, I have to say, I am so glad that I found them. Considering that Legends of Human Spirit is their first full-length album, and especially considering that they’re from America of all places, I didn’t expect them to be one of the best Power Quest/DragonForce-styled bands on the scene today, but here we are. While still delivering a powerful onslaught of dragonslaying sixteenth notes and astral vocal lines, they add enough originality, such as more varied song structure and heavy symphonic influence, that they even stand above most of the European bands in the space.

Seriously. Right out of the gate we’re greeted with a flying guitar line and a ridiculous drum fill before venturing across an expansive, fantastical landscape of neoclassical believe-in-yourself anthems and shredding solos (both key and guitar, obviously). On top of that, we’re blindsided every now and then, such as that sick breakdown and more old school solo in ‘Gales of Winter’. Each song is dynamic and has its own little world to offer.

Among my favourite of these glorious songs would have to be ‘A Dream of Stars’ because of that super cheesy synth intro and the ultra-victorious chorus (hey, that rhymes!). And that solo section? Holy fuck. What a song. I know that eleven-year-old-me would have pissed his pants over something like this, because present-day me nearly did.

For those of you who grew up on DragonForce and Stratovarius, this album will be a godsend. And, for those of you who are sick of the same generic power metal album, I promise you that Legends of Human Spirit is something special. I sincerely hope that this debut pushes ShadowStrike to continue developing their metal, because they’re certainly capable of taking the North American metal scene by storm.

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Six Metal Projects You Might Not Know Featuring Artists You Probably Do Know

If you’re anything like me, you want to know everything about your favourite artists.

This list won’t do that for you, but it’ll hopefully give you a few useful nuggets of metal information!

Hell in the Club – Davide Moras (Elvenking)

Elvenking’s Damnagoras (Davide Moras) lends his iconic high voice to the sex-booze-and-rock-and-roll rhythm that is Hell In The Club. The Italian heavy metal/hard rock band saw its genesis in 2009 under the leadership of bassist Andrea Buratto (Secret Sphere), and released its first album, Let The Games Begin, in January 2011.

Relying on heavy classic rock riffs, catchy-as-hell melodies, and colourful arrangements, they have understandably garnered praise and high reviews by everyone who has heard them. The quality of the music has only increased through the years, with their fourth and latest album See You On The Dark Side being even better than the last.

Hell In The Club is currently signed with Frontier Records and they continue to remain very active.

HITC – Shadow Of The Monster (Scarlet Records)

Wardrum – Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast in Black)

Anton Kabanen’s Beast in Black became an instant hit upon its debut album Berserker back in 2017, and with it, incredible lead vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos has produced one of the most iconic voices in recent metal. His origins, however, are far less known.

In fact, mostly unknown outside of Greece, heavy-metal-hardhitters Wardrum are nothing short of fucking awesome. The production quality is fairly lo-fi, but you’ll hardly notice because the music itself is phenomenal. It’s full of technical riffs and mournful choruses. By their most recent album, Awakening, each bandmember makes it known that they don’t screw around.

In their earlier work, the vocals were often dual-part harmonies, but they gradually moved away from that and stuck with Yannis’ voice being the main attraction, with vocal backups being less pronounced. Yannis’ versatility and astounding ability is evident in Wardrum’s second and third albums, but it truly shines in the aforementioned Awakening.

All that being said, don’t let our dear Yannis be the only one put up on a pedestal; drummer Stergios Kourou is insane. His groves are virtually unmatched and his technical ability is nothing short of incredible. Additionally, Kosta Vreto’s finger-styled axemanship makes for some nasty facemelters.

Wardrum – Let The Flames Grow (Steel Gallery Records)

Burning Point – Nitte Valo (Battle Beast)

Nitte Valo (ex-vocalist of Battle Beast(Wow. What a horrible fucking mistake leaving THAT was!)) has only been with Burning point since 2014 to see the release of their two latest albums. It’s no worry, however, because she fits right in. Her epic, robust voice complements the old school riffage of the band.

Coincidentally, Burning Point’s five albums prior to Nitte’s arrival were, well, simply nothing special. It seems as though she brought with her a new energy and finesse that fortified the band and made it into something respectable.

Burning Point – The King Is Dead, Long Live The King (AFM Records)

ReVamp – Floor Jansen (Nightwish)

In between her first band, After Forever, and her entry into Nightwish, Floor Jansen founded ReVamp: a proggy symphonic band with her usual gothic feel.

Both albums feature a slew of feature musicians, such as Mark Jansen (Epica), Devin Townsend, Koen Herfst (I Chaos), and Joost Van der Broek, who was the keyboardist of After Forever. 

Jansen suffered a burnout between the release of ReVamps only two albums. Possibly as a result of her negative emotions, the second and final album, Wild Card, came with a far heavier feel.

ReVamp – The Trial of Monsters (Nuclear Blast)

I Am I – ZP Theart (DragonForce)

Power Metal Vocalist Supreme ZP Theart left DragonForce after seeing the release of four albums in 2010 due to insurmountable musical differences with the band. This decision makes blinding sense when you listen to ZP’s shortlived solo project, I Am I.

I Am I throws the over-the-top hopeful fantasy lyrics of DragonForce into a dark pit of despair and completely abandons the sound and tone that we grew to associate with ZP himself. I Am I’s lone album, Event Horizon, is a deeper, more meaningful, and less entertaining musical journey that delivers a heavier sound (and a total of zero five-minute guitar solos).

I Am I – Silent Genocide

CyHra – Jake E (Amaranthe)

Jake E left Amaranthe in 2017 to pursue music that was truer to himself. It’s easy to see why; compared to Amaranthe’s pop-tinged early work, their latest albums MAXIMALISM and Helix are doused in pop, often losing the essence of the sound that made their first three records so great.

CyHra more than makes up for the inevitability of Amaranthe’s popifying. The debut album, Letters to Myself, was released later in 2017 and was an instant hit with critics and fans alike. It’s grooves are more advanced, the balance of electronic to physical instruments is perfect, and Jake E’s soaring timbre is as strong as ever.

Besides Jake E, CyHra is comprised of ex-In Flames guitarist Jesper Strömblad, drummer Alex Landenburg (Angels Cry, ex-Annihilator), and guitarist Euge Valovirta (ex-Shining ). With dynamic music and a variable setlist, CyHras debut has left everybody eagerly waiting for more.

CyHra – Heartrage (Spinefarm Records)

Bonus!

Here’s some extra cheese from the previously-mentioned

Hell In The Club – I Wanna Swing Like Peter Parker (Frontier Records)

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Eight Fiery Power Metal Songs

In the realm of power metal, fire probably holds equal status to iron and steel in regarding frequency of use, making it one of the go-to draw-it-out-of-a-hat-and-write-that-shit-down lyrics that shoehorns it’s way into virtually every power metal album.

Am I complaining? Hell no. You don’t spend more than ten years loving the genre and then leave because of limited lyrics. That just isn’t the power metal way. Instead, I embrace the unoriginality amongst the lyrics and song names.

Here are ten of my favourite songs that contain ‘fire’ (or some version of it) in the titles!

DragonForce – Through the Fire and the Flames

Let’s begin with the painfully obvious. Aside from probably being the most famous song with ‘fire’ in the title, it’s also easily the most recognizable power metal song, especially by those who don’t delve into the genre.

There isn’t much to say about this song that hasn’t already been said; the intro is awesome. The solo is awesome. The vocals are awesome. Everybody knows that this song is fucking awesome.

DragonForce – Through the Fire and the Flames (Noise Records)

Firewind – World on Fire

‘World on Fire’ brews a gale of infernal glory through Gus G’s mean riffs and facemelting solos. Even though there are probably ten Firewind songs with ‘fire’ in the title, I chose this one because of that nasty fucking synth solo.

Also, look at the video. This shit is hype.

Firewind – World On Fire (Century Media Records)

Powerwolf – Fire & Forgive

The opening track to Powerwolf’s The Sacrament Of Sin begins with a somber string/organ instrumental before unleashing the heathen hellfire that is Powerwolf’s specialty. This song, quite simply, will boil your blood.

Powerwolf – Fire & Forgive (Napalm Records)

Dreamtale – Firestorm

‘Firestorm’ features Dreamtale’s trademark bubblegum-and-candy upbeat tone, high and soaring vocals, feel-good chorus, and synth-heavy backing tracks. Complete with a dual-toned guitar solo and victorius outro, ‘Firestorm’ will ignite your heart into believing in yourself. Or something.

Dreamtale – Firestorm

Burning Point – Queen of Fire

Nitte Valo, the lead vocalist from Battle Beast’s debut album, does a phenomenal job as Burning Point’s leading lady, and adds a certain charisma to the 80’s-influenced ensemble.

‘Queen Of Fire’ begins with a cheesy synthesizer intro that leads us into a song that is just as cheesy. It switches its feel up to a halftime beat for the solo section, backing right off before building into it’s final chorus.

Burning Point – Queen Of Fire (AFM Records)

Heavenly – Spill Blood on Fire

If you’ve never heard Heavenly before, drop everything and go download their album Dust to Dust. Right now. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Did you do it? Probably not. Anyway, they’re fucking incredible, and ‘Spill Blood on Fire’ is no exception. The catchy choruses will draw you in and the tasteful solo section, courtesy of Olivier Lapauze, will make you glad you came.

Heavenly – Spill Blood On Fire (AFM Records)

Wardrum – Baptized in Fire

Before Greek-born Yannis Papadopoulos became an instant icon in Beast in Black’s Berserker, he was the lead vocalist in Wardrum, seeing the release of three albums with them. Every song from Awakening is a showstopper, with Yannis and drummer Stergios Kourou (who easily makes my list as top metal drummers ever. His beats are fucking crazy.) delivering jaw-dropping performances, and featuring shredding guitar solos to ice the flaming cake.

‘Baptised in Fire’ is no exception.

Wardrum – Baptised in Fire (Steel Gallery Records)

Beast in Black – Eternal Fire

Ultimate Supreme Cheeselords Beast in Black (who, by the way, release their sophomore album From Hell With Love in just four days) instantly earned a spot as one of my favourite bands upon their debut (with Battle Beast having an obvious parallel standing). I just can’t get enough of that in-your-face 80’s influence.

So, you can imagine the girly little sounds of unmanageable excitement when I first heard this shameless rendition of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’. It’s cheesy, it’s epic, and I could see myself doing a training montage every time I listen to it.

Beast in Black – Eternal Fire (Nuclear Blast)

BONUS! – Hearts on Fire

Speaking of training montages, I can never talk about the 80’s without thinking about some of my favourite movies. Luckily for me, Rocky IV’s ‘Hearts on Fire’ fits right into this article. Here’s some extra motivational soul food for you. Enjoy!

(HD? HD my ass.)

Rocky IV – Hearts on Fire (Training Montage)

Go check out Eight More Power Metal Songs Born Of Fire!

Stay Metal \m/

Top Eight DragonForce Songs

Since the release of Valley of the Damned in 2003, DragonForce has earned a place among the power metal gods. It’s lengthy solos and overblown fantasy heroism has given them a globally-recognizable sound. Despite the loss of iconic frontman ZP Theart in 2010, the band has managed to maintain its status; the most-recently released Reaching Into Infinity garnered mostly positive reviews, and the band is currently developing an eighth record.

The following are what I believe to be the best of DragonForce’s steaming discography. (Also, I’ll make no mention of guitar solos because it’s pretty much a given that Herman Li blows my face off with every one.)

8. Valley Of The Damned

The titular track to the debut album, ‘Valley Of The Damned’ blew me away the first time I heard it: the beating and chanting of the prechorus, the soaring chorus, the shift from dark to light from the first to second prechorus.

This song bleeds epic victory and adult me rocks just as hard to it as ten-year-old me did.

DragonForce – Valley of the Damned (Spinefarm Records, 2010)

7. Judgement Day – Reaching Into Infinity

I could probably fill this list with songs from the first three albums, but the new material deserves some love, too.

I absolutely love the introduction to this song. The jarring mash of the blast beat and tremolo just seems to stand out from all of their other intros. The rest of the song is great, too, but the intro pushes it a little further up in my books.

DragonForce – Judgement Day (earMUSIC)

6. Land Of Shattered Dreams – Reaching Into Infinity

Honestly, one of my favourite things about Reaching Into Infinity is that they seem to literally recycle entire stanzas from previous releases (I mean, they already basically just throw power metal tropes into a hat and pick them out to make lyrics, but it’s a little more in-your-face in this album). However, ‘Land Of Shattered Dreams’ seems to veer off the path a little bit and produce some (barely) original lyrics!

Despite the lyrics, which nobody really cares about anyway, I simply find myself coming back to this song all the time.

DragonForce – Land Of Shattered Dreams (earMUSIC)

5. Fury Of The Storm

Most of the reason I enjoy this track so much is because of the vocals. For whatever reason, the vocal harmonies ring through this song more than usual. On the same note, the final scream of the song really hits the spot.

The rhythm guitar underneath the first section of the solo sticks out to me, and the modified chord in the last chorus makes the resolve immensely satisfying.

DragonForce – Fury of the Storm (Spinefarm Records, 2010)

4. Heroes Of Our Time – Ultra Beatdown

Ultra Beatdown had a lot of misses for me, but ‘Heroes Of Our Time’ makes up for all of those. The rhythm guitar parts in the chorus are exceedingly on point and the blast beat fill before the first chorus still gives me goosebumps.

DragonForce – Heroes Of Our Time (Spinefarm Records)

3. Through The Fire And The Flames – Inhuman Rampage

Honestly, the top three are a toss up for me. ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’ was both the first DragonForce song and the first power metal song I’d ever heard. I was ten years old and heard it when my brother and his friend were playing Guitar Hero III (which I thought was the coolest shit ever back then).

More than ten years later, I’m still stuck with the insatiable lust for all of the tempo-destroying power metal cheese I can get my hands on.

DragonForce – Through The Fire And The Flames (Noise Records)

2. My Spirit Will Go On – Inhuman Rampage

I like this one because it sounds distinct from almost every other DragonForce track. The ominous intro is the perfect buildup to the rest of the song. I also can’t get enough of the drum fill before the final chorus.

DragonForce – My Spirit Will Go On (Noise Records)

1. Land Where Dragons Rule – Valley of The Damned

My all-time favourite DragonForce song is the bonus track of the debut album, ‘Land Where Dragons Rule’. Like most of the other song on this list, the intro just does it for me. Likewise, the ending is addictingly bittersweet.

The chorus is foreboding, yes not without hope, and the final moments before the piano outro is incredible.

DragonForce – Land Where Dragons Rule (Spinefarm Records, 2010)