December 8, 2005

CD Review: Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage

Not what I expected. I mean that in a good way. I see a band called Dragonforce and I think of heavy, pummeling music, quite possibly into tome form of black or death metal. I continue reading and come to the album title, Inhuman Rampage. My suspicions appear to be confirmed, sounds like a death metal album title to me. Those are the expectations I went into this experience with. Needless to say, those expectations were low. There are some very good death and black metal acts out there, but at the same time, there are literal hordes of soundalikes and knock offs that do absolutely nothing to get me excited to listen to them.

With those thoughts of generic guitars and nonsensical screaming swirling in my head, I placed Dragonforce's American debut into the CD player. I reached over and pressed play, and what is that coming to my ears? It certainly wasn't death metal. The nearest comparison that came to mind was Dream Theater on fast forward. It was amazing, this album floored me! The lightning fast leads, the trade offs between guitar and keyboard, the perfectly timed drums, the clear powerful voice leading the instruments off into a glorious medieval battle. It was like Dream Theater's technical prowess combined with the mythical fantasy lyricism of 3 Inches of Blood.

This album made me think about something that has attracted me to certain styles of music over others. At some point I have grown to put a high priority on precision. I seem to gravitate towards bands that display this trait in their music. Over the years this has led me to bands like the aforementioned Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Primus, Metallica, and Megadeth, and more recently acts like Symphony X, Disturbed, Mudvayne, and Fear Factory. Now you can add Dragonforce to that list. For this reason, I never really warmed up to jam bands or punk. There are exceptions to that, but that is for another time.

I have always loved music that is structured, with performances that are tight. Dragonforce delivers that, and more. Their performance is jaw droppingly, mind numbingly fast. But it is not just the speed that is so impressive, there is melody and balance to the music, plus it just flows so well. They also give their songs time to grow and develop, with an average length in the area of 7 minutes. Solos are thrown out left and right, and they also seem to fit, all while the vocals come and soar over the virtuosos. Lyrically, they fall the way of epic battles and legendary journeys, not unlike Blind Guardian.

Leading this rampage of musical fury is Herman Li, founder and lead guitar player. Teaming up with Li to create this wall of precise guitar work is Sam Totman, who more than holds his own. Creating the low end is the now departed bass player, Adrian Lambert, whose work here is very impressive (he left the band in October of 2005). Filling out the sound, and contributing some amazing solos is keyboardist Vadim, that's it, just Vadim. Keeping the pace fast and furious is drummer Dave Mackintosh. Taking control and performing the role of MC for our musical journey is vocalist ZP Theart, who doesn't have the range of a James Labrie, yet more than holds his own and is a perfect fit for Dragonforce.

Highlights of the album include the ferocious opener "Through the Fire and Flames", "Body Breakdown". But all of the tracks include great solos, heavy riffing, strong singing, and a large dose of just flat out rock attitude. Every band has their softer side, and Dragonforce is no different, they close the album with a light ballad, that still features their tight precision, an excellent song called "Trail of Broken Hearts".

Bottomline. This is an excellent entry in the extreme power metal genre, and definitely a band to keep an eye on. There are big things ahead for Dragonforce. It is all about the music, and this one really opened my eyes to a new force to be reckoned with. Now, hopefully they will tour the States soon, so I can get sample of the live show!

Highly Recommended.


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