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DragonForce > Doomsday Party > Reviews > Mr Matt
DragonForce - Doomsday Party

Napalm Records Ruins Yet Another Great Band - 53%

Mr Matt, September 18th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2023, Digital, Napalm Records

I was delighted to see Hammerfall leave Napalm Records, but my joy was short-lived when I later saw that Dragonforce had signed onto it. For the sake of set-up and for those who may not know, Napalm Records is responsible for much of the bland/mediocre, overly goofy, borderline farce that passes for power metal today. They seem to think that power metal is just some dumb joke and all you need to make it is some juggling of cliches and your last DnD session and as a result, most of what they put out just isn't good, even if they're working with otherwise incredible bands. If all you know about the sub-genre comes from humorous "How to make power metal" videos (not that I'm against those, see my disclaimer later on), then I guess you would think that's all you need, and it would seem someone over at Napalm has done just that (either that or they found out it makes for a good money tree). If you think it's just a stupid thing, I can't stop you. But forgive me for caring about something I've been invested in my whole life and have dedicated countless, often painful hours to learn how to play. It takes more than cliches, memes, and ironic self-deprecating humor to make good music, let alone good metal music. Normally I would say, "Looking at you, Sabaton." but now, in light of this new single, I must say that also to my all-time favorite metal band: Dragonforce.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going here. And so, before I go on, allow me to give a massive disclaimer: I am not against humor in metal music. I think it's good to lighten the mood, especially on-stage, and to not take yourself too seriously. There's plenty of good jokes to be made and I would be a liar if I said I don't enjoy them. Problems arise in my eyes, however, when the jokes are at the forefront and when elements of metal music are sacrificed to make way for pop-music influences in order to appeal to 'the masses'. They're far from the only or worst offender but it's still sad, nonetheless.

The fact is that "Doomsday Party" is not the Dragonforce we all know. No, it's not because it's a slower song compared to what they're mostly known for. It's just the next generic power metal song made with the Napalm Records formula: dumbed down, clad in annoying and overwhelming 80's synth riffs and endless triplets in order to appeal to casual listeners and non-metal fans. For any non-musicians that may be reading this, it's that rhythm that goes, "dun-dugga-dun-dugga-dun-", etc. (sorry Samus, I know it's called a herta but everyone still calls and knows them 'triplets'). Make no mistake, this was a song Dragonforce was pressured by Napalm to make, and I mostly blame the label. I have a hard time believing Dragonforce would make a song like "Doomsday Party" on their own accord. It comes off as very disingenuous. This, along with the latest releases from the likes of Sabaton, Beast In Black, Nightwish, Brothers of Metal, Gloryhammer, and Powerwolf is less heavy metal with pop influences (which can be done right, I would argue) and more of pop music with distorted guitars. (I know not all of those bands are signed to Napalm, but they're doing the same thing.) It's clearly a profit-over-art approach and people can notice that, especially here in heavy metal where one of the biggest selling points has always been that we always strive to stay 'true' and a step-up from whatever else is out there.

This same thing happened with Hammerfall, another one of my favorite power metal bands, who I mentioned at the beginning, while they were signed to Napalm. The title track of their latest album, "Hammer of Dawn", a song Napalm pressured them to do no doubt, is put to the same formula, dumbed down, made up of mostly triplets (hertas) featuring the most mindless jumbling of Hammerfall jargon which had to have come from AI. Except in this case, I suspect Hammerfall was having no more of it because the rest of the album is actually really good and a great contrast compared to the title track and they left Napalm Records and re-signed with their long-time label, Nuclear Blast, earlier this year. (Not that they're angels but they are a step up from Napalm.) Let us hope Dragonforce will have the same sense.

For all my criticisms of Dragonforce's new release, I really don't like being critical. I don't want them to make bad music and I certainly don't want them to be disliked. They've expressed in a comment section on their new single (paraphrasing) that they could never win, that if they release a song similar to what they've always done they'll get, "It just sounds the same" and if they do something different they'll get, "How dare they do something different!" I'm sure that's always frustrating, but I would point out that those who say everything sounds the same are those who don't listen to Dragonforce, but instead heard them once and decided it wasn't their cup of tea, whereas people who do like it, such as myself, will see all their songs as distinct. Some have said for a long time that all AC/DC songs sound the same, but in the minds of those who do like them they know the distinctions. Those who don't like seeing the direction Dragonforce is going, however, ARE those who listen to Dragonforce and the fact is the opinion(s) of the fans matter because they write the band's paycheck. I don't listen to metal to laugh or to shock all my non-metalhead friends, I listen to it to... well... listen. It's not so much about whether you're funny or serious, but whether you have passion. And as much as it pains me to say, I do not feel the passion in "Doomsday Party" as I have felt in their previous works. I personally hope that the rest of the album isn't like this, like "Hammer of Dawn".

Overall, if metal is not what you listen to most of the time, then you'll probably like this. However, if metal is your thing, especially if you have strong preferences for the likes of Helloween, Twilightning, early Dark Moor, Gamma Ray, Rhapsody, etc., then you will probably not like it very much and be very sad.