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I regret purchasing this album. - 50%

karma_sleeper, September 5th, 2008

DragonForce is back with their fourth full length album, Ultra Beatdown, after gaining widespread popularity thanks to Guitar Hero. Not unexpectedly, Ultra Beatdown brings nothing new to the table but will certainly delight those who still find their trademark sound appealing. Making their return are the same formulaic song structures, meaningless yet amusing lyrics, computerized guitars, mute bass, and obnoxious keys.

DragonForce is not without controversy. Many level accusations of speeding up guitars with computers int he studio. After seeing live performances by DragonForce on two occasions, I can say I witnessed a profound inability to replicate their sound live. Li and Totman struggle to keep up with the blistering speed of the solos, and notes are often slurred together or passed over entirely. Similarly, ZP's voice will crack and falter from all the successive high notes. Why bother touring if you can't recreate your sound live? This is not to say DragonForce is without talent, but this talent is blown so far out of proportion it is no longer amusing. Ultra Beatdown displays the same impossibly fast playing with little variety and all the same gimmicks.

But this is an album review, so let's get to it. Quite simply, Ultra Beatdown lacks variety. Portions of some songs may be at a slower and more varied tempo than on previously releases, but this merely creates the illusion of diversity. Listen closely, and the same gimmicks are undeniably there. Here again are the same 'walalalala wooooaaaawww' guitar solos that last over five minutes, the same song structures with nearly identical bridges and chorus lines, and the same single-note riffs. Oh, and the 70s called; they want their keyboards back. Am I listening to the sound track from Space Invaders or a power metal album? I can't tell anymore. Unorthodox usage of keyboard melodies is nothing new to DragonForce, but Ultra Beatdown take it to new heights.

The only redeeming trait of this album is Dave Mackintosh, previously of Bal - Sagoth. It's a shame having to play five black beats a second prevents him from really standing out on this album. His excellent performance fails to make up for the rest of the album's failings. ZP's vocals are pretty good, too, but the constant synthesizing of his voice gets old fast. And it happens on practically every song. If I could hear the bass, I imagine I would enjoy it, too and make an honorable mention here.

Lastly, some will say DragonForce is a joke band similar to Masacration or Austrian Death Machine. This may very well be true. In fact, I sincerely hope this is the case. If DragonForce is a joke band seeking to write consistently repetitive music filled with all kinds of guitar wankery, 70s rock keyboards, and all sorts of electronic flairs with the intention of duping fans into praising otherwise mediocre music as power metal mastery, they have attained a level of comedic genius not seen since Andy Kaufman. The joke would certainly be on me and everyone else who harshly criticizes the band but also on those who bow down before it. The safest way to enjoy this music then is to approach it as entertaining power metal capable of laughing at itself.

That said, I must admit I like DragonForce. Valley of the Damned remains one of my all time favorite albums and to me is the only one worth buying. Once you listen to one DragonForce album, you've heard them all. Ultra Beatdown is no exception. If you're tired of listening to the same song over and over again, nothing here will make you feel refreshed and engaged. Still, this won't stop many from finding a few enjoyable moments, if only briefly and in small doses. Leave this one to the diehards.