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This album is a lot like candy, in a lot of ways. You know how you can just sit there and eat candy all afternoon when you’re not paying attention, and then you feel guilty about it afterwards because you’re bloated as hell? It’s a real big tradeoff, and one that many people won’t be willing to undertake. But Dragonforce are basically the metal equivalent of eating candy – too much and you feel fat and lazy, but damn is it good in small doses. This is Twilight Dementia, the, uh, “live album.”
I put that last bit in quotes because this doesn’t even sound live, with the whole thing pro-tooled to oblivion and the crowd almost muted out entirely. It’s practically a Best Of compilation, for fuck’s sake. Marketing it as a live album is almost false advertising altogether. I have to laugh even thinking about the creative process that went into making this. What happened? I think this is how they think they always sound live, more than anything; like the microphone was inside Herman Li’s over-ego-infatuated head instead of outside at the show.
But aside from that, this really is a great sounding record, with lush guitars, melodious keys and soaring vocals. It’s not as overproduced as their last two studio albums by miles, and ZP’s voice is usually left alone, leaving a much rawer emotive quality than the studio albums usually have, vocal inconsistencies and all, and I like that. These songs are played well and are still fast, fun and furious. Is it plastic and gimmicky? Yes. But the hooks are ironclad and will stick with you for days, and the songs truly are really enjoyable from time to time. My favorites are probably “The Last Journey Home,” “Reasons to Live” and the inimitable classic “My Spirit Will Go On,” which is pretty much their best track ever. This is cheap and shallow and what have you, but I like it and will probably play some tracks off it every now and again. The people who hate this band will hate this, but it’s pretty much what everyone expected.
Across history it is well-known that huge representative characters have been thrown off-board by some small figures, take Julius Caesar as an example and Cassius, Brutus and certain other figures to be the ones killing him. The comparison is only set to say the following: Dragonforce is underrated. Of course, they did screw up at these infamous dates that came to be the most known out of all of the shows, but what next? And before? Would you, by instance, give a chance to "Twilight Dementia" to show you the true power of what Dragonforce can be live?
First of all, I must say the mix is incredible. As a huge Dragonforce fan, I've seen dozens of live performances by them and probably the mixing has not been appropriate; setting important elements down can be a huge flaw... Not in here. Apparently, Mr. Li noticed what he had to do and he did it just right. The drums are set to really high volumes, so high you won't miss even one beat on the double bass. Speaking about bass, you can also listen to it, having this as a huge difference even with the studio albums. The keyboard have a great balance, not overshadowing the guitars but still being in there to encase all those riffs and power chords. Vadim also decided to use a different patch than the one on the albums to play the solos. Good choice, I must say. Guitars, as you may know, are a really important element on Dragonforce, basically the main element. They are not over volumed in here, you can listen to them, but they don't go off limits to totally blocking the sound of the other instruments. And the vocals... Well, I'd rather talk about those later on.
Herman Li and Sam Totman have gained popularity because of their "insanely fast guitar shredding" (even though other guitar players are faster than them) and hate because of not being able to shred the strings up when live. I thought that "Twilight Dementia" couldn't be too good, as Herman and Sam are, at times, out of synchronization or what not. Definitely they have been doing their homework. Both of them do an awesome job adding flavor to the music with their riffs, which add mostly all that "extreme" touch to their power metal. At the solos, mostly they nailed them perfectly. Mostly, yes. They did changes on the solo of "Operation Ground and Pound" and ruined what could be a more-than-perfect performance. Bad kids. To make up for this, they played the famous to fans solo below ZP's vocals on Valley of the Damned.
One subject to talk about is ZP Theart. ZP sang the first shows of the tour insanely well and, as always, he went downhill for the last shows. Personally, I like the way he sang for this show, as it makes it sound raw and live, and he isn't too strained at certain songs, in fact, he sang splendidly on "Fields of Despair", "Starfire" and "Operation Ground and Pound". Regardless of this, he did have his flaws. First of all, he says "fuck", "motherfucker" or "assholes" at twelve times every 2 songs. Yes, it is somehow cool when the singers says "fuck" every now and then, but crap, he sounds like every other rapper. Second, interrupting the solos with some "Ay! Ay! Ay!" to cheer up the crowd makes the truly important thing (the solo) be inaudible. When ZP sings falsettos, his voice goes on a lower volume, I say this confession to highlight that his voice does sound loud when in the falsetto, apparently done by studio mixing. He also gets the blame for making the instruments go half-step down, as he couldn't sing as sharp as before. Well, he sang fairly right on most of the songs. I could say the album wasn't perfect because of him. Hopefully some better singer will come.
Let's go on with the keyboards. Vadim Pruzhanov is just as Dragonforce: underrated. Possibly, Herman has not noticed the skillful kid that he has behind the keys, as he gets really blacked out on the studio. Anyways, its "Twilight Dementia" now, and the story is different. Vadim mostly proceeds to keep behind with the strings or choirs to help the guitars, or he keeps at his KAOSS Pad to add those effects that are regularly found in the studio. When he jumps out to the solos, he grabs his keytars and shreds it up. He did some improvised bits on "Fields of Despair". At first, they seemed somewhat unnecessary to me, but after a few listens they were ok. He used a different patch as the one he always uses, having this one to have more standing out tapping and a small bend when the keys are played, as well as it is more clean and focused than the one of the studio. He has never missed a note on the live stands I've seen, so as good as always in there.
Fred Leclerq isn't the most talented bass player out there, but he dares to play and at least does it right. While most of the time in the studio he is pretty absent, you can find him easily in here in every guitar unison or if you look carefully for him. Despite all of this, his job isn't big, so don't pay too much attention to him.
The drums are one of the main highlights for this live masterpiece. Dave keeps some steady and really fast double bass, he does some cymbal-snare changes and cool fills for changing tempo and rhythms. And, of course, the blast beats. He goes full out on his whole body on such sections as "Reasons to Live"' intro or some blast beats for parts of "Fury of the Storm" and others. He keeps full stamina all along the gig, which is also pretty impressive, considering that Dragonforce never quit to their 200bpm tempo.
The songs picked were mostly the favorites. Dragonforce kept several years without playing many of their (considered by many) best songs, say, “Stafire”, “Fields of Despair” or “Where Dragons Rule”. I think the songs chosen were quite good, as they could stand to play them properly and the crowd liked the choices (more noise for the audience!), even thought certain songs didn’t truly deserve to be in the track list, I’m talking about “Strike of the Ninja” mainly. This song is a bonus track from their latest album, “Ultra Beatdown”, and it is a remake from the side-project/joke band Shadow Warriors. From here, you can infer that the song is not like the standard Dragonforce song. Its tempo is pretty slow, there are more synths supporting instead of strings, and the song lasts about 4:20. Not nice. On the other hand, they played “Soldiers of the Wasteland”, considered by many fans their best song. Fast tempo, almost 10 minutes long, and full power thrown out by every member; blast beats, fast solos, loud bass, high pitched vocals and, of course, the magnificent keyboard solo. Nothing more could be asked from this. “Operation Ground and Pound” got certain modifications (for good). At parts, Fred took over ZP’s place with growls and hell, it sounded damn good. Keyboards were also in there, louder than in the album. Pretty well done.
I believe Dragonforce did a great job with this live album; they will be able to show properly how they actually play live to haters and even better, they gave the fans what they wanted. Great choices with the songs, nice job by every one of the musicians and a really loud audience. ZP, even though I criticized him, is really good singing in here and he didn’t ruin the album. I think it deserves to be given a try, as their best songs (mostly) are compiled in here and played nicely live
Highlights: All but “Strike of the Ninja” .