Dragonforce – Extreme Power Metal
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 27/09/2019
Running Time: 52:51
Review by ‘Dark Juan’
Greetings and salutations my dark minions, corruptors of nubile virgin flesh and destroyers of the false church of Christ the Deceiver! It is I, the Dark Prince of Heavy Fucking Metal, the Gothfather, the Groove Ipsissimus and the legend in his own head that is Dark Juan, and I am here to impart wisdom, offer sage opinion and to influence you weak minded souls on to the Left Hand Path and to sell your immortal essence to the Evil One. WHAT? NO! I’m not talking about some kind of Satanic sperm bank, so pack your fucking giggling in, you long haired herberts! Well, there’s another high quality, super heavy metal introduction totally ruined by you filthy minded perverts. You all disgust me. Seriously, what would the One Who Walks Backwards want with gallons of metal kid baby gravy? Litres of metal manfat? IN FACT DON’T FUCKING ANSWER THAT EVER AND KEEP IT TO YOURSELVES! LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!
Clearly, I have taught you well.
Anyway, I’m back after a sojourn to jolly old Blighty, by way of Cymru, where a meeting of minds took place with the utterly charming Beth Ever Metal and the truly gentlemanly Rick Ever Metal. We might even have got drunk, howled at Cards Against Humanity (Dark Juan mightily approves of the sheer possible level of sacrilege this game entails) and played guitar till about 3am and were utterly appalled at the level of sheer and uncompromising savagery a teenage girl can attain at said card game. Suffice it to say that I, Dark Juan, well known for my level of silken verbal venom, was very nearly outclassed. Nearly, but not quite! Must try harder, Sian!!!
So, that’s three hundred and thirty four words in and not a damned thing about the record I’m listening to. Are you even interested or have your eyes glazed over yet? Wake up. I’m going to tell you about Dragonforce’s latest album, subtly entitled Extreme Power Metal. Pay attention…
It’s fair to say Dragonforce are something of an acquired taste. And I am yet to work out whether they are a massive joke perpetrated on the metal masses, or whether they are the result of two young men whose parents simply WEREN’T paying sufficient attention to the noises coming out of Messrs Li and Totman’s bedrooms. Imagine the conversation downstairs…
Mrs. Li (or Totman) to Mr. Li (or Totman), “Darling, Herman’s (Sam’s) doing pinch harmonics and two handed tap ons in G Mixolydian again. He’s been at it for hours. Can’t you please have a word?”
Mr. Li (Totman) treads wearily to the foot of the stairs and bellows, “HERMAN! (SAM!) SHUT UP WITH THAT RACKET! WE GAVE YOU GUITAR LESSONS SO YOU COULD PLAY FUCKING CLASSICAL! EVEN TREY FUCKING AZAGTHOTH PLAYS SOME CLASSICAL! WHY CAN’T YOU CONSTANTLY MASTURBATE LIKE A NORMAL TEENAGER?”
“But Dad, I’m moving on to C Ionian! Listen!” (cue a flurry of several million notes delivered in a breathless fashion in less than three seconds.)
Mr. Li (Totman), “There’s no talking to that child. I’m going back to whiskey, guilt ridden wanking and complaining about the neighbours.”
And there we have it. This is a record where songs are just vehicles for Herman and Sam to go absolutely insane on electric guitars and launch with no warning into an extensive, lengthy and ridiculously complex solo complete with pained orgasm faces. Actually, that is far too simplistic a view to take about the music of Dragonforce. Even if it is true as fuck. Dragonforce are capable of writing fine tunes that are so oiled chesty macho that even Manowar would submit before them (if you like that thought, tell me and I’ll write you some stuff that will make your eyes water, kiddo. You’ll never look at Joey DiMaio the same way again. Not sure whether that’s a threat or a promise…)
OK, several minutes later, having finally rid myself of the somewhat uncomfortable images that the idea of Dragonforce/Manowar slash fiction have conjured up in the sewer that passes for my imagination let us discuss the album. Please, for the love of God…
Album opener Highway To Oblivion’s intro sounds so uncomfortably like a poor quality metal Christmas record it actually hurt my ears until there’s some short, glorious two handed tap ons and then it’s blastbeats, double bass drumming, palm muting, whammy bar dives, insanely complex guitar solos and the kind of lyrics that only THE MOST MASCULINE metal bands can write all the way. If there were any justice, Dragonforce would be able to discover the eighth musical note as they are quite, QUITE spectacularly talented musicians. Why they have chosen to almost be a parody of heavy metal eludes me apart from the fact it makes me giggle like a schoolgirl faced with her first picture of Peter Steele in a state of indiscretion…
I do have some problems with Dragonforce and this album. Vocalist Marc Hudson is dreadfully weak and a terrible fit for the musical talent on display here. Coming after Z.P. Theart (who was also terrible as a vocalist) you would have expected Dragonforce to have an absolutely belting singer, but they have appeared to opt for the merely average – perhaps because Sam and Herman are the joint centres of attention? Also, the loss of Vadim Pruzhanov on keyboard is keenly felt (Coen Janssen of Epica performed on this record) as the keys are lacking the coherence and the symbiosis with the arrangement of the music they enjoyed previously. However, polished and crystal clear does not do the production job of this record justice. It is a production masterpiece. Every single sound is rendered with perfect clarity (no mean feat with two virtuoso guitarists jousting with the rest of the band and large and expansive keyboard parts) and there are simply not enough superlatives to describe the joy of it. I could moan about the length of the guitar solos, but let’s face it – everyone knows what they are getting with Dragonforce, don’t they? It would be remarkably churlish to have a bash at them for what they have built their career on, eh?
Now I’ve finished moaning, this record is entertaining as fuck. It’s well known that I am a sucker for theatre and overblown pomposity and the kind of metal that brings back the halcyon days of Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin” and the like. Dragonforce do this, but they do this at hypersonic velocities and with a sense of fun that metal sometimes seems to be lacking. You do get the feeling that Dragonforce are seeing just how far they can push the outrageous pseudo-masculinity, the pomposity and the egregious complexity of their musicianship whilst people still buy and debate their releases. All while they are fucking pissing themselves laughing behind closed doors. I think I might love this record. I know I DO love the ambiguity of Dragonforce’s sense of humour. It does all sound a bit samey, though. Saying that, there are only seven musical notes and Dragonforce use them with such boundless rapidity it’s all bound to sound like that.
So, as a musician and seventh rate guitarist myself, I am utterly compelled by the musicianship on display on this record. As a lyricist (truly terrible but it still counts!) I am amused, shocked, appalled (at the disgraceful banality of the lyrics at some points – Dragonforce can and have done considerably better) and astonished (the backing vocals are sublime, some of the choruses really do evoke memories of the huge sounds of 70s and 80s AOR like Journey and Toto and Boston) all at once. I adore the absolute gung-ho speed, the sheer conviction of the playing and the obvious amusement and enjoyment of the band setting new standards of melodic lightspeed velocity. It should not be possible to solo convincingly and accurately at the speed Dragonforce operate at. Also, they have even managed to shoehorn a fucking bagpipe intro into the song entitled ‘Remembrance Day’.
All of this enthusiasm though, counts for naught when you get to the twisted, fucked up, bizarre, incredible (probably for all the wrong reasons) and utterly insane album closer. This song is NEXT FUCKING LEVEL DRAGONFORCE INSANITY THAT HAS TURNED MY BRAIN INSIDE OUT AND NOW I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF! I have honestly been laughing my arse off for the past twenty minutes, to the point Mrs. Dark Juan has been throwing stuff at me and I have upset the hellhounds and Hodgson Fartpants has been emitting the sort of smells banned by the Geneva Convention. Please, dear friends, allow me to attempt to describe what is possibly the greatest cover version of all time! I’m fucking giggling already…
Picture, if you will, an introduction sounding remarkably like old fashioned 8-bit chiptunes that sound vaguely familiar before Dragonforce launch into the usual hyperspeed riffing they are known for. Then the lyric kicks in. You listen disinterestedly for a moment (because they will inevitably be howling about dragons or swords or some other shit) before you realise that the lyric and the vocal arrangement sounds vaguely familiar. And then it hits you. They have only gone and fucking covered Céline bastard Dion.
Yes, Dragonforce have taken the shittiest wankfest of saccharine pity ballads and turned it into the most balls to the wall, metal anthem I have ever heard. They have managed to take the world’s most obscenely putrid song and turn it into a four minute warp speed guitar solo with occasional vocals. That simply has to be a good thing, right? They have even made it pleasurable to listen to.
Pleasure! Always a good point to finish on!
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Dragonforce 8/10 for their breakneck and inventive approach to metal. Two marks are deducted – one for a poor vocalist and ONE FOR MAKING ME LIKE A CÉLINE DION SONG, YOU BUNCH OF ABSOLUTE TWATS!!!
TRACKLISTING: (I’ll be honest; I’ve been wetting myself at some of these…)
01. Highway To Oblivion (OK, fairly normal metal band fodder)
02. Cosmic Power Of The Infinite Shred Machine (Holy fuck this is off the scale lunacy! I approve.)
03. The Last Dragonborn (Too much Game Of Thrones, perhaps?)
04. Heart Demolition (Jokes aside, we have all been there.)
05. Troopers Of The Stars (Metal word salad for Starship Troopers. Literally a few words away from a Sarah Brightman song!)
06. Razorblade Meltdown (Is this a song about sustainability and metal recycling? One can only encourage this sort of behaviour…)
07. Strangers (Three words away from a Saxon classic.)
08. In A Skyforged Dream (Yeah, if you say so, chaps. I know what skyclad is, not skyforged…)
09. Remembrance Day (OK, there’s a message here. No jokes.)
10. My Heart Will Go On (Holy fuck. Holy fucking fuck. Jesus fucking Christ in chariot driven sidecar. Fuck me crossways and call me Roger the Cabin Boy. This actually might be the greatest thing I have ever heard.)
Herman Li – Guitar
Sam Totman – Guitar
Marc Hudson – Vocals
Gee Anzalone – Drums
(Frederic Leclercq played bass but quit before the album release.)
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.