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Their Fire Burns Bright - 90%

Khull, August 25th, 2008

I, as well as many others, had formed some pretty terrible conclusions when Ultra Beatdown was announced. If the title and artwork alone filed to wave a big, red flag with bold, black letters saying “Bad!” then the fact that it was the album to follow up Inhuman Rampage certainly did. Moments before listening, I prepared myself to be let down. I hyped myself up for failure, I'll admit it.

So needless to say I was more than pleasantly surprised upon finishing the album. Indeed, Ultra Beatdown allowed Dragonforce to proudly show that one bad album doesn't necessarily mean a decline in future music. If we were to compare Ultra Beatdown to previous albums, it would rank up there between Valley of the Damned and Sonic Firestorm.

When talking about the music, we have to be realistic. Dragonforce sticks to a formula, and rarely, if ever, do they drift away from it. That said, even though the song structure is the same, each individual song is easily unique and distinguished from the other. Catchiness goes miles to cementing a song in your head, and when the first vocal note strikes the ear, there's no doubt you'll know what song is playing.

The musicianship on Ultra Beatdown is another step forward for Dragonforce. Possibly the best aspect of the album is the reduction in solo time. Yes, I love an awesome solo as much as the next person, but not when they are needless and over four minutes long. Solos here average at about two to two-and-a-half minutes long, just perfect. The “video game” noises also see less of a spotlight here, and instead are replaced by more over-the-top, soaring keyboards, which is a definite plus. The drums, while still presented inhumanly fast, also sound more natural, again another plus. And finally, contending with the solo reduction, are the vocals. Yep, ZP Theart demonstrates fantastic singing abilities throughout the album. His booming voice essentially carries the music forward, from the slower parts of Heartbreak Armageddon to the chorus of The Fire Still Burns.

Unfortunately, for all their progress, Ultra Beatdown simply isn't going to shatter your views regarding Dragonforce. Those who loathe their over-the-top cheesiness and the repetitive song structure won't find anything different here. Haters will be haters, but they won't change the fact that Ultra Beatdown is a solid power metal album and a very solid Dragonforce album. If you're a fan of the genre and band, then you won't be doing yourself a disservice by picking this one up.