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Nothing short of amazing. - 98%

hells_unicorn, September 29th, 2006
Written based on this version: 2006, CD, Noise Records

This album has not been as well recieved as the two previous ones because of either the changes, or the lack there of. The important thing to note here is that the common complaint among various listeners whom argue that the same song is played over and over 7 times are putting forth an arguement that doesn't hold up. My first task as a former university student of music and a guitar player is to debunk this rather ridiculous assertion, then to address the changes that occured.

Each one of these songs (save "Trail of Broken Hearts" and "Storming the Burning Fields) clock in at over 6 minutes, and are all loaded with many changes. In such a situation, it requires at least 4 or 5 listens to fully analyze the subtle differences between the tracks. I don't care how much classical music or metal you listen to, your tonal memory can't comprehend all this music completely after only one or two listens, even Mozart would have to hit the rewind button a bunch of times to make sure he fully understood all that was played.

Minus the obligatory ballad, all of these songs are extremely fast, and loaded with many lead fill-ins. Herman Li's soloing is reminiscent of Steve Vai, especially the effects he uses, which at times can make his leads sound like video game music. Sam Totman's solos are highly similar to a bunch of older axemen such as Dave Murray and KK Downing. The drumming is loaded with blast beats, as is the case with most power metal bands. To the ears of someone who is not familiar with the genre and who can't follow all the notes being jammed into short time spans, it's quite natural that alot of the songs sound similar, however, this is due to a lack of comprehension in the listener, not in any lack of variety in the band's music itself.

Vadim Pruzhanov's compositional efforts have increased dramatically on this release. The result, contrary to the opinion of the novice ear, is a more tonally rich set of songs that still possess the catchy and hook filled choruses that make Dragonforce's music so familiar. Furthermore, the level of keyboard presence has further increased, to the point of opening these guys up to the derogatory "Flower-metal" label, one which I personally find idiotic as it is usually leveled towards Power Metal bands with some Prog. influences. Of his work on here, "Body Breakdown" is my personal favorite, due to the dramatic devices at work in the intro as well as the keyboard solo section. This song also possesses one of the most memorable choruses in the Dragonforce catalog, save perhaps "Fields of Despair" off the Sonic Firestorm release.

Sam Totman is still cranking out more classic tracks that will probably hog up most radio play, should this album be so fortunate as to gain widespread play on the airwaves. "Through the Fire and the Flames" has some highly intricant classical guitar lines at the beginning, and musically is a bit similar to "My spirit will go on" off the last studio effort". "Operation Ground and Pound" is another highly catchy track with tons of speed. But Totman's finest musical moment (8 plus to be exact) is "Cry for Eternity", definite fodder for fans of high speed power metal with amazing guitar work.

Herman Li's lone compositional effort on this release is "The Flame of Youth", which sounds a bit similar to Totman's song writing style, but actually has a highly melodic set of lead tracks in it. All in all good song, but it has a hard time separating itself from the mass of Totman toons that just blaze up a storm.

Now to the other bunch of detractors that this album has, the ones who decry the changes made. This complaint is not as widespread, but needs to be addressed as it is in direct contradiction to the first bunch dealt with earlier. As can be observed on "Revolution Deathsquad" and a few other tracks, Dragonforce has incorporated some harsher, black metal vocals into their sound mix. It is utilized sparingly, but it does give a radically more dramatic feel to the album, and obviously a darker one. One could make an arguement that this style of singing clashes with the light lyrics that Dragonforce is still using, but their songs have always been about a struggle between good and evil, and without the evil there is no conflict, hense the album would have no point lyrically.

There is also obviously a further development to the keyboard's role in the music, and this is not always well recieved by the metal faithful. All I can say to this is, if we can't tolerate innovation in our music, we wither and die. There is nothing affeminate about keyboards, most of the best classical pianists in history have been men. Grow up, get a life, and either put up with it or stop listening to it.

On a final note, the ballad on this album is the best one they've done so far. It contains the highly energetic and fluid synth lead style that Vadim first introduced on "Above the Winter Moonlight", as well as some much needed contrast sections that keep it from being boring. ZP Theart gives a great vocal performance here, actually one of the best he's ever given. This is geared towards people who like melody and complexity. If neither one of these fit into one's definition of good music, steer clear of this album. I for one plan to go on another road trip and listen to it again, and I am proud to say that it is now my favorite Dragonforce album. I anxiously await their next release.