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Impeccable and Epic - 95%

Mr Matt, May 16th, 2018

What a stunning debut! Dragonforce has always been known for being wildly technical and fast. To be like that on their debut is pretty much walking into the hall of the greats and sitting at the round table and now you are part of them. Reminds me of a certain photogenic concert-goer. "Valley Of The Damned" is my 2nd favorite Dragonforce album and will always be a go-to album when I don't know what to listen to.

If you know me, I am a guitar shred enthusiast. Dragonforce guitar solos are some of my favorites ever and Herman Li and Sam Totman are my 2nd favorite guitarists ever. I say them both because they are a duo and are equally amazing. The best solo on this album has to be either the 2nd solo (the one around 3:20-ish I think) from "Heart Of A Dragon" or "Evening Star". Something done on "Evening Star" that I absolutely love and is really capturing is when the keyboard does this one neo-classical inspired lick (around 5:00) then the guitar does the exact same thing after it. A very jaw-dropping and in-your-face moment.

One thing Dragonforce does that most metal artists don't is use major keys. Well, I think the majority of "Valley Of The Damned" is in minor keys, but they also use major keys a lot, most notably in "Black Winter Night". It begins with bombastic music in the key of E major, the same key signature used in Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto In E Major, 1st Movement, (also known as "Spring" in a series of concertos called "The Four Seasons") for reference. E major is a very happy sounding key. Despite this, it's still epic and good when Dragonforce does it. I think that is something rarely recognized when talking about Dragonforce.

The drums on "Valley Of The Damned" are also stunning. You might hear the typical drum rhythms of power metal very often in Dragonforce's music such as double bass pedal action and the "Boot-camp boo-ty camp" (as described by YouTube metal guitarist Stevie T.) drum rhythm, the transitions from verse to bridge or any other section of the song or any repeats puts quite some variation. Also, the togetherness of the double bass pedal and guitar trem picking during the verses and/or choruses is impeccable and a shows us how good the band is. To keep double bass pedal and trem picking together exact and in time is quite an impressive feat.

One complaint I have however: the pitch bender pedal. While I absolutely love it, I think it was over-used. The last half of the solo of the song, "Valley Of The Damned" is what comes to mind for me when I think of that. I can't bash the solo too much because it's awesome and I would love to learn how to play it one day, but I think the pitch bender used on it was way too much. Herman Li is the Kirk Hammett of the pitch bender pedal undeniably. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

In closing, "Valley Of The Damned" is certainly a power metal essential and highly recommended for anyone getting in to neo-classical/shred guitar. I wouldn't recommend that you show this to your average non-metal fan though as they might only see the cheesy and nerdy/cringy part of it. As much as "Valley Of The Damned" has cheesiness and cringe (and that's not always a bad thing), it might take an open mind to not pay attention to just that.