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To crush and cause disaster. - 25%

Diamhea, February 21st, 2014

This is an offense against man and beast alike. While modern Dragonforce is lauded for their upbeat and optimistic lyrical themes along with their spirited leadwork, the band only appears to be able to pull half of said formula off as Demoniac. Totman and Li's performances still shine like a collective supernova, even with the pluggy, compressed production job and overall dearth of polish dragging the proceedings downward.

To be honest, The Fire and the Wind occupies an area so far under the belt that it can't be dragged much lower. The band tries so hard at being offensive and vulgar in a GG Allin sort of vein, but they obviously lack the lyrical vitriol, or hell -anything- that helped make Allin such a great anti-establishment figure. He may not have had much credibility as a musician, but he was eclectic in his output and completely devoted to the purity of the scene he occupied. Demoniac comes off as a parody of GG Allin's worst qualities, magnified by several orders of magnitude and pockmarked by subtle attempts at selling out.

On a strictly instrumental level, much of The Fire and the Wind falls in line with early Dragonforce material. The melodic flare is unmistakably here, and keen ears will recognize a number of familiar tails and hooks that have since become hallmarks of the Totman/Li duo. In fact, the higher level of restraint compared to the band's more recent odes-to-excess helps accentuate some of the more potent melodies and note progressions when they do finally come along. The hyperactive nature of modern Dragonforce demands that all ideas -good or bad- be scrapped immediately upon introduction lest the band exhibit anything approaching coherency. That abstruse rule hadn't been totally applied at this point, so there is a decent balancing act going on between the scattershot leadwork and thrashy rhythm section, forming a solid power metal foundation that just needs a set of throaty pipes to elevate everything to the next level.

So what does Demoniac do? Hire the worst vocalist for the job in Lindsay Dawson. Not only are his inert black metal croaks ill-fitting on a melodic level, his lyrics are infantile, puerile, and at times unabashedly offensive. "Myths of Metal" attempts at introducing the new, arcane subgenre of "Hitler Metal". Yes, that is right, you have a band that includes an Asian male standing over you shouting the refrain of "Sieg Heil!" over an animated, bouncy riff set that sounds far too uplifting for the subject matter. New lows are reached near the end of the song, as Dawson shifts into a multi-layered guttural croak (it still sounds inert for some reason) and pleads "Baby come on, I want to make your body hot. Please let me nut, in the middle of the night!". Those last lyrics were not included in the booklet for some reason that totally eludes me, but the damage is still done. "Demoniac Spell" features some fresh and piping verses alongside a searing opening solo, but Dawson shows up just in time to spoil the whole batch yet again. The jejune lyrics in the verses sound so forced and insincere, almost like the band is sacrificing what little consistency is left in the subject matter in order to shoehorn in words that sound similar on a petty level like "lightning" and "fighting". It's almost as if Dawson wrote his lyrics using a children's picture book called Words That Rhyme but found the freebie nature of using gimme words like these was too addicting to control. "Demoniac Spell" rips off nearly every Motörhead trademark, but it seems like no band is truly safe, as Overkill's "Wrecking Crew" takes a kick to the gut in the form of "Wrecking Team" here. This song reminds me of those cheap bootleg action figures that call Transformers lame knock-off monikers like Robot Troop.

Demoniac can be extremely frustrating to listen to, as the skill of the musicians manages to surface no matter how tepid the surrounding performances are. The title track is a protracted bore on the most part, but the wah pedal-infused solo near the end almost salvages the entire song on it's own. "Demons of the Night" features a great lead during the chorus, but Dawson imperially croaking "We are the leaders of the Reich" neuters the potency of the entire ordeal. "Sons of the Master" is passable at first, but the heavy echo effect utilized on Dawson makes his blurting out of words like black, gas, and death all come off as faceless barking. Well faceless barking through fifty feet of drainage tube once the effects are accounted for, at least.

What humors me the most out of the entire Demoniac debacle is the fact that Dragonforce never really changed the core of their compositional style throughout the last eighteen or-so years. They may have played up the satanic slant here, or the power metal gimmick with the band as we know it, but the nature of Totman and Li's playing has never diverted much from it's initial point of impact. Ever notice how the band comes off as near-caricatures of the modern power metal scene? That is no mistake, nor were the vulgar antics being showcased here on The Fire and the Void. It is a strategic move on the band's part to divert attention away from the fact that they haven't evolved musically since their inception. Dragonforce just happened to be in the right place at the right time and hit it big, but no amount of money can make bad memories like this album ever truly go away.