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Starchaaaaaaseeer! - 85%

The_Boss, September 1st, 2008

2008 brings another DragonForce album and more metalheads complain about their negative influence on metal, I mean yeah, look at the album artwork and how it reminds you of Samus and the title “Ultra Beatdown”, and the fact they’ve been on Guitar Hero which means they’re automatic sell-outs right? Well while I competely disagree with all the negativity towards DragonForce I can see how some people might think it’s gotten too far. I really love Valley of the Damned and Sonic Firestorm, hearing both of them before Inhuman Rampage was even released and thinking how unique and amazing this way, how fast it all was and oh yeah, the solos. After Inhuman Rampage was released, I worshipped at Through The Fire and Flames’ fee, loving the pure awesome catchiness of the song, but after some time I realized how the rest of the album was quite weak and unworthy; and then the backlash came from them getting popular and such. I had lost a bit of faith in their ability to write memorable and good songs, instead of having just one or two catchy and good songs with the rest falling under filler category, which is basically how Inhuman Rampage was composed.

So with this release, Ultra Beatdown corrects my stance and shows that I can trust DragonForce once again to release a decent power metal album with plenty of catchy songs that are more than just a similar structure as well as having MORE to them, instead of just the chorus and solos and blah blah. Herman Li and Sam Totman are back with a vengeance with ridiculously fast and lead guitar work that is more than just fancy shredding, at least this time creating more riff-wise and adding a bit more to the solos, what can I say, the lead guitar work will always be spectacular with those two. The keyboards are back with more flowing goodiness, adding more atmosphere to the ‘epic’ power metal feel something that Freedom Call and Rhapsody do, but at the same time adding more ‘videogame’ elements as they are known for, with weird noises and such like the opening of Reasons to Live, or maybe that’s the guitar? Drumming with DragonForce and Dave Mackintosh is always very tight and powerful, ranging from hyper fast blast beats something not always familiar with power metal, once again check the opening to Reasons to Live to the more atypical power metal drumming with a constant barrage of double bass, which is always a good thing; but most importantly it’s always solid and competent.

The most improved factor I can tell about DragonForce other than the newer more complex song structures, is ZP Theart and his vocal performance. Heroes of Our Time presents itself as the perfect opener, which is the “Through the Fire and Flames” of this album as someone previously mentioned, having some excellent lead guitar work and especially Theart shining with the chorus and choral arrangements. The choral arrangements and epic nature brings in more for a power metal feel like in the beginning of The Fire Still Burns, something not exactly used a lot in previous DragonForce albums. Inside The Winter Storm is another DragonForce powerhouse with a heavier rhythm section and some great riffs complimented once again with fantastic lead guitar and keyboard melodies. DragonForce also shows a few more times they can slow it down with slower moments like in Inside the Winter Storm, adding elements like slower lead guitar work that works well, but of course it speeds up as usual, I mean it is hyper speed power metal after all.

So Ultra Beatdown is a decent offering in DragonForce’s catalogue, showing they aren’t just a phase or a trend or anything of the like that they can still write good songs and most importantly an album. After the slight misstep of Inhuman Rampage it seems that the boys realized their mistakes, improved on them and worked on making quality songs that are so ridiculously cheesy and so unmistakeably “DragonForce” that it works. This isn’t something you should take totally serious, nor should you take it more than what it is, a decent and fun album plenty of catchy choruses and fast and impressive musicianship. It’s nice to see that they also haven’t fallen into a trap of more mainstream music and such instead coming back to what they should be doing, music in the vein of Sonic Firestorm with a slightly more epic approach with plenty of new ideas. I’ll be listening to this for a while, it’s a step ahead from Inhuman Rampage but not quite back up to the Sonic Firestorm status, but at least the songs on here are more memorable and that’s what they rely on, so good on them.