Ever since the departure of vocalist ZP Theart in March 2010, DragonForce began a worldwide search for their new frontman. The announcement was made in March 2011 that Marc Hudson from Wales would be their new frontman. The band posted a video of him auditioning demos of new songs. I was blown away as soon as I heard his voice. While I still love ZP Theart, I believe that Marc brings a whole new dimension to the band. His voice is almost identical to ZP, but he doesn't try to copycat. DragonForce is known for their long songs, however with the new studio album Power Within, the band went more stripped down and composed some shorter songs and adding a well-balanced mix of both slow, mid-paced and fast tempos. While still containing the video game influenced sound, the main focus is on the musicianship, and it has definitely improved since their last album. The solos from axemen Herman Li and Sam Totman unleash spirits and sound more focused than ever.
The album's opening track "Holding On" has the most epic intro ever where Marc unleashes a powerful early-Judas Priest type scream, which gives the listener a great anticipation of what's to come with the new vocalist and let's you know that DragonForce is BACK! It's a fast track and features guest vocals from Pythia vocalist Emily Ovenden. DragonForce push the throttle some more on the second track "Fallen World". It's the band's fastest track ever with some harsh gang vocals, blistering solos and blast-beat drumming. The blistering guitar solos sound like they could take forever to master.
Track 3 entitled "Cry Thunder" was the first new song to ever be heard with Marc Hudson on vocals. The band debuted the song at two shows in 2011 while supporting Iron Maiden in Ireland and London. It shows a bigger picture of the more creative side of DragonForce, and it gave the song lots of room for the vocals to breathe. The chorus sounds huge and will definitely be a big sing-along moment at DragonForce shows, and is one of my favourite choruses on the album.
Track 5 entitled "Wings Of Liberty" is the only long song on the album reaching over the 7 minute mark. It starts off with a soft piano solo from keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov and Marc delivering some soothing vocals over top right before the song bursts into a insane fast pace. This track has a great balance of slow and fast. Track 6 entitled "Seasons" may quite possibly be the best DragonForce song yet. It's not a fast song, but the slightly dark vocal harmonies in the chorus make you feel relaxed and relieved after a hard day. It's definitely my favourite chorus on the album. The hooky bass fills from bassist Fred Leclercq along with the slightly heavy hooks before the guitar solos come in give the song a slight burst of heaviness.
Track 7 entitled "Heart Of The Storm" sounds like a typical DragonForce title. I refer to it as a sequel to the DragonForce classic Fury Of The Storm from the Sonic Firestorm album because it's blistering right through until the middle section, where it slows down a tad which gives Vadim a chance to shine with a funky blistering keyboard solo before the blistering guitar solos come in. Track 9 "Last Man Stands" features just about everything you can expect from DragonForce at all the different tempos. The vocal solo that starts off the track has a huge soothing feeling. The album's closer is an acoustic version of "Seasons", and it once again features backup vocals from Emily Ovenden. It is just as good as the electric version. The mood of the acoustic version would fit perfectly for a romantic moment, so if you're a metalhead and you want to have a really great romantic moment with the perfect music, put on the acoustic version of "Seasons" and have fun. It can also be a good lullaby. If you want some music to settle you down and put you to sleep, you know which song to put on.
I've always said that the only downside of DragonForce is that some of their lyrics can get too repetative, especially on their previous efforts. With lines such as "carry on" and the big one "so far away". While those may seem minimal on this album, some of the new lyrics sound like the band used them many times before. While DragonForce sings about fantasy, I think Sam Totman needs to work on his lyric writing so he can write a song where the concept is narrated with fresh sounding lyrics. However, his guitar playing on this album is superb. There are some fresh lyrics on this album because he had some assistance from Herman and Fred on a majority of the tracks. The way that he and Herman Li compliment each other on guitar is extrordinary on this album. The only other remaining flaw on this album is drummer Dave Mackintosh's snare drum. The snare sounds a little too buried in the mix and sounds a little too clicky. They could have raised the volume on his snare drum and made it more poundy Aside from those flaws, Power Within is the album that DragonForce fans have been praying for, and we hope they will continue to showcase their skills the same way in future albums to come.
Highs: Holding On, Fallen World, Cry Thunder, Seasons
Lows: Some repetative lyrics and lines. Drummer Dave Mackintosh's snare sounds a little too clicky instead of poundy.
Bottom Line: New vocalist Marc Hudson resurrects DragonForce in a huge way and brings a new level to the band. Musicianship has improved, songwriting has improved. Power Within will definitely be a stand out album for DragonForce fans just like Inhuman Rampage.