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Super fast, super energetic and super fun. - 86%

Empyreal, August 25th, 2008

Ah, here we have one that will reel in a lot of unneeded shit. DragonForce, long having become a joke in the Metal scene - and rightfully so; anyone who takes them seriously is perhaps the real butt of the joke! - have here their fourth long player in what will probably be an extensive career. Fresh off their stint with Guitar Hero and their weakest effort to date, the rather uncatchy Inhuman Rampage, this new album is called Ultra Beatdown. Yes, you may read that again, and then you can look at the ridiculously roguish and gaily colorful album artwork, and while you may snigger or scoff, go ahead and try to tell me with a straight face that DragonForce have not perfectly summed up their music with all of this so-called faggotry. Seriously, isn't that what these things are supposed to do in the first place?

Anyway, the music here is a step up from the rather faceless tunes on the previous album. Here DragonForce embrace a style that is pretty much right in the middle of the styles they've been playing since their inception, with the polished production and Pro Tools-inspired wizardry of Inhuman Rampage and the songwriting dynamic of Sonic Firestorm, which is still their best album to this day. Right from the opening bombast of "Heroes Of Our Time," we know it's DragonForce, and they don't let you forget that with other great songs like "The Fire Still Burns," "Reasons to Live," and especially the 8 minute tour de force of "The Long Journey Home" with its slow stomp and mature vocal performance - their best song in years!

The ballad, "A Flame for Freedom," is a very 80s glam inspired piece, so that means you might want to ready your barf-buckets, but me, I think this is pretty good, if not excessively sappy. Then you get "Inside the Winter Storm," with it's flurry of melodic icicles stabbing at your bare flesh, and it's a good song, if not a bit too hyperactive, with a few slower sections that just don't connect. But damn, just listen to some of those melodies, very frigid and regal. The bonus tracks include the super-catchy "Strike of the Ninja," the pulverizing "Scars of Yesterday" and the fiery, triumphant flair of the intriguingly titled "E.P.M.," all good songs well worthy of being on the final album.

I think people are missing the point when it comes to these guys. They're an enjoyable band. They make fun songs to sing along to and pump your fist along with. They're catchy as fuck, too. That's it. They'll never be a legendary band or an essential one, with their frenetic approach to songwriting, but if they keep making albums this fun and replayable, I'll keep listening to them. Ultra Beatdown is the album DragonForce fans have been waiting for, with every performer giving 110% energy into songs as catchy as they are melodic and powerful. Recommended.

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