DragonForce – Maximum Overload
Release Date: August 19, 2014
There really isn’t a better known name in power metal than the England-based six-piece, DragonForce. After dominating the frat boy scene for quite a while thanks to the popularity of their challenging song in Guitar Hero, “Through the Fire and the Flames”, DragonForce went through a rather dramatic line-up change in 2011. Their original vocalist ZP Theart left the band, being replaced by a relatively new name to the power metal world, Marc Hudson. Marc fronted one of the band’s strongest releases in years, The Power Within in 2012, proving he was a powerful asset to the future of the band. Easily being one of my favorite albums of that year, I was very excited to see how Marc’s style could further refresh the almost stale sound that DragonForce had turned into.
Currently, the band is preparing to release their latest endeavor, Maximum Overload, to a very eager and excited audience. I have been asked many times if Maximum Overload is better than The Power Within. I of course, will not answer this question with a short answer… just yet.
One of my favorite songs on the album, “The Game”, kicks off the record with a bang. The song features Matt Heafy (Trivium) on back-up vocals, and though I am not personally a fan, they work very well to emphasize the frustration behind the song. The shining moment is the powerful, emotionally driven lyrics through the chorus. Upon first listen, I was blown away at the strong, sad emotion behind this song, so much so that it brought a tear to my eye. Of course those of you that know me, know this isn’t a rare occurrence, but I can safely say it’s never happened in a DragonForce song.
Instantly picking the album up into the DragonForce we all know and love is the following inspirational track, “Tomorrow’s Kings”, which begins with great keyboard and lead guitar work. The main melody and the galloping drum and bass behind it create quite the buildup before the vocals enter. ‘No regrets, just one shot at glory is all we’ve got before we die’ is the message behind the song, and the songwriting is just as strong as those lyrics.
“Symphony of the Night” and “The Sun is Dead” are both very strong songs, showing off the speed metal guitar riffs and amazing keyboard fills. Then we have the cover song that still has me scratching my head. I never thought I would hear DragonForce covering Johnny Cash, but they managed a cover of “Ring of Fire”. It’s a decent cover, and given a few of the other songs hinting at someone maybe having relationship troubles while writing the album, it makes sense.
If you can get your hands on the special edition copy of the album, with the five bonus tracks, I highly recommend it. One of the best songs on the release is “You’re Not Alone” which is another somber and emotional track, but it is perfectly beautiful. As someone who has recently gone through some health concerns and in turn, frustrations with life, this song is so touching. The keyboard work is quite different, and behind classic riffs and basic drumming, this is an easy listen that will absolutely stick with you. This song also features one of my favorite guitar solos bouncing between Sam Totman and Herman Li as they tone down the tempo and truly play with feeling. This is one of those songs that can make an album great on its own but luckily for us, it is supported by equally amazing tracks throughout.
However, if you were to ask me now if I felt like Maximum Overload is better than their last album, I would say no. Not because it doesn’t have impressive songs, and absolutely amazing songwriting, because it’s full of that. It’s simply because the album is a step in a new direction that I personally feel works for the band, but not as well as their previous path. Realistic songs and lyrics are natural to write, and how many songs do we need about hammers, battles, and dragons anyway? (Don’t answer that). The only downside I see to this record is it causes DragonForce to lose their epic, fantasy vibe that they once had, and take on a more generic role. The band, however, will never lose its epic sound, so the clash of both worlds is causing quite a stir in the fan base. A lot of power metal fans want to hear larger-than-life songs about the things they dream about, not the things that they could live through every day like sadness, heartbreak, and loss.
While it’s no question that Maximum Overload is a contender for one of my favorite albums this year, I can already hear the stir in the fan base full of negative thoughts towards the realistic lyrics and it’s not even released yet. If you can try to separate your thematic expectations, and thoughts of songs about battles and warriors (and get off that magical dragon you rode in on), give this album a shot. The songs are strong, catchy, and so full of speed metal it almost hurts.