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Flashes of fun and power in a bog of repetition. - 60%

Satosuke, March 12th, 2012

Dragonforce truly has become the Cannibal Corpse of the power metal genre; pop-culture's ur-example when the layperson wants to pretend he knows what he's talking about in terms of metal music. They've also earned this label in my mind because they're following the exact same path: talented musicians hamstrung by an inability to write interesting or original lyrics, wasting their considerable musical chops on the same concepts over and over and over and over and over again. I love Valley of the Damned and really liked Sonic Firestorm, but Inhuman Rampage was where they lost me; with speed the only upside and the lyrics fully locked into power metal trope parroting. Dragonforce's lyrical vocabulary could fit inside a twitter post, only making the songs even more indistinguishable from each other.

It is with all this in mind that I say that Ultra Beatdown...isn't a bad album. It's actually better than Inhuman Rampage, and actually sounds a little bit like Dragonforce trying to right their own ship after their previous album threw them completely off the rails and into the Valley of speed metal camp. Granted, most of the songs on here are still pretty much the same goddamn thing with the same goddamn fire-of-pain-above-the-skies-of-our-hearts-to-ride-with-the-dragons-to-be-heroes lyrics again and again, and the same sound of Li and Totman furiously masturbating their fretboards. But, I admit, I found myself really digging some of these songs. The Last Journey Home sounds like a speedy prog-fueled Judas Priest (which is AWESOME in my opinion) The Warrior Inside feels like a callback to Valley of the Damned (again, AWESOME), and the special edition has the odd yet pretty funny Strike of the Ninja, possibly a shout-out to Dragonforce's side project Shadow Warriors. Funnily enough, the songs I ended up liking were probably the slowest songs on the album, proof that speed isn't everything, and speed all the way through gets hopelessly boring.

Is this a great album? No. Is it a terrible album? No. But I actually would recommend that people give this one a chance, if only to buy a couple singles from it. This album is proof that Dragonforce is at their best when they restrain themselves for the most part and only let the BPM fly when it really counts. I just REALLY wish they'd find someone with more ideas to write their lyrics.

Is this album a sign that they're getting their act together again and are one Neil Peart-esque lyricist away from restoring their status as a heavy hitter amongst those in the know? Yeah, I don't think so either. But hey, one can dream, no?