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Very good, but very tiring - 80%

gasmask_colostomy, May 12th, 2015

Now, Dragonforce have been put through the mill a bit on the Metal Archives and I have no intention of retreading old ground in this review. There are two camps thus far: the first, who say that Dragonforce are tremendously skilled and inventive musicians taking power metal further than ever before, are marginally in the majority; the second camp think that, since the release of this album, Dragonforce have merely been purveyors of wank-heavy, blast-infested singalongs with no real merit apart from the songs' impressive speed. I don't fall especially into either camp, though I would align my views more closely with the first.

These guys are no doubt skilled at what they do and what they do is for the most part very exciting and gloriously metal. My problem is not the quality of the music on offer, nor do I have a huge gripe with the songwriting, though I'll come to that in a minute. I have a big issue with the length of this album, the length of the songs individually, and also with a lack of diversity, mostly in the drum parts. I have a lot of respect for Hells Unicorn, who reviewed this album when it was still fresh, and I understand his point about music of this complexity needing attention and time to fully process and appreciate the changes going on within the songs. On this point, I absolutely agree with him. However, I just don't have the attention span to listen to 56 minutes of hyper-fast music played in this style, even with the many shifts thrown into each song. There's a reason why all of Children of Bodom's albums clock in at under 40 minutes and that's precisely what this band should have realised when they made something this intense and detailed - it must be about quality over quantity. I would like to listen to a Dragonforce EP very much, yet there's nothing of the sort on offer, so I'm stuck with an unwieldy album like 'Inhuman Rampage'. Also, the individual song lengths. I understand that this is supposed to be epic power metal, but this is completely exhausting and I can't even concentrate through some whole songs, particularly towards the end of the album. We could happily lose one or two verses and about a minute off the instrumental break without the basic integrity of the songs being compromised; then, with songs about four or five minutes long, eight tracks becomes a feasible proposition, possibly even with space left to include one longer number.

Next, my issue with the diversity of the music on here. We have in Sam Totman and Herman Li two fantastically adept guitarists blazing a trail across the entirety of this album. Along with Vadim Pruzhanov on keyboards, they provide the songs with most of their musical direction and detailing, so they should be the main focus. Unfortunately, Dave Mackintosh is also a very good drummer and is capable of keeping up with warp speed at which the leads generally progress. I say unfortunately because this is a very, very bad idea to use as much as Dragonforce do: barring the closing ballad 'Trail of Broken Hearts' (put a slow ballad at the end of a fast album? Really?), every song has blastbeats obscuring a worryingly large percentage of the shredding, the licks, and the hooks in the riffs. It's really annoying, like trying to eat a variety of delicious foods which each must come with a bite of potato. The drums are too strong and the rhythm guitar too similar in pitch to the drums to make much stand out, apart from the solos of course, on which the tone is actually a little too juicy and outstanding. Maybe this is what makes some people say that the songs sound similar, because the solos stand out and the riffs don't really.

There are, however, many good things about this album, they just take less time to explain. The instrumentalists are all great, of course, just sometimes poorly deployed, and the leads on offer really are of the highest calibre. Li is more inventive than Totman, but they contrast each other nicely and some of their duels and stand-alone parts are jaw-dropping. The keyboards actually give the songs greater focus and definition than you might think: the leads are a little like Children of Bodom, while the more modern sounds (negative reception aside) make a big difference and keep the overlong album becoming too tedious. ZP Theart is pretty inspired on here and is actually the only person I can't really criticize, since he usually produces good vocal melodies and belts out chorus after chorus after chorus (all in one song mostly) in a high and winning key.

'Inhuman Rampage' is probably technically the best Dragonforce album, but I don't base my opinions on the skill of the musicians, just on whether I like the music. I do like it, though I can't stand it all at once and there are some things I would change. The pick of the songs are probably the first two and 'Cry for Eternity', though most songs in edited form would be absolutely brilliant. In short, this is the giant who is too stupid to control his own power.