Written by Alex Stojanovic
Highway To Oblivion
Cosmic Power Of The Infinite Shred Machine
The Last Dragonborn
Troopers Of The Stars
In A Skyforged Dream
My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion cover)
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Label: Metal Blade Records
Marc Hudson - Vocals / Herman Li - Guitars & backing vocals / Sam Totman - Guitars & backing vocals
Frederic LeClercq - Bass & backing vocals / Gee Anzalone - Drums / Coen Janssen - Keyboards (session)
After listening to Extreme Power Metal, I've come to the conclusion that this is certainly DragonForce's most diverse offering to date. Of course, it features all the familiar elements we've come to expect over the years, like video game sound effects, blazing riffs and solos from Herman Li and Sam Totman, fantasy-themed lyrics, and some pretty high octane vocals, but there's different tempos rather than just fast and mid-paced, a couple of songs that sound like they were written for the radio, and even one song that's devoid of fantasy-based lyrics (we'll get to that later).
The album's opening track "Highway To Oblivion" seems to pay homage to several of the band's old songs. You can hear hints from songs like "Heroes Of Our Time", "Through The Fire & Flames", "Fury Of The Storm" and "Operation Ground & Pound". Despite the synth-pop intro, this track will certainly throw back longtime fans to the good old days. It's also the album's longest track, clocking in at 6:48. Things get slightly heavy when we get to "Troopers Of The Stars". The intro is a blazing distorted bass riff from Leclercq and blast beats from Gee Anzalone, and I really like Marc Hudson's really quick, but awesome thrash-inspired gang vocal moment at the start. I have to say though that with that aggressive intro, I thought we were going to get something a little heavier with this track, but as it goes on, it pretty much stays on the catchy power metal course.
The speed takes a break when we get to "Strangers", which quite honestly has potential to give the band some radio play. It's the most commercial-sounding song on the album, because it's more straightforward, and it sounds like an 80s pop rock anthem. This track might not sit well with longtime fans, but those who are wishing for something different will enjoy this track. Closing out the original music for the album is the ballad-type track "Remembrance Day". Just from the title, you can immediately tell what the lyrics will be about, and that is paying tribute to all soldiers who fought for freedom. The soaring and emotional chorus will make you raise your horns to the sky or put your hand on your heart as you pay your respects to all the fallen soldiers. This is the song that's devoid of the fantasy-type lyrics. I have to say that this is the best melodic DragonForce song since "Seasons". This song, along with "Highway To Oblivion", "Strangers" and "In A Skyforged Dream" are the biggest standouts here.
When it comes to covers, nobody should be surprised by the fact that DragonForce like to choose songs that outside of their wheelhouse. Maximum Overload saw them cover Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire", while Reaching Into Infinity saw them cover Death's "Evil Dead". This album sees them continuing to go into unexpected territory, as they cover Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". It starts off rather quirky with an electro-pop, synth melody, but then gets right into typical DragonForce territory with warp-speed melodic riffing. I'm not too sure how I feel about this track (not that I really care for the original either). However, one thing I would love to see is a reaction video of Celine Dion hearing this cover. I'm sure the look on her face would be priceless.
My only criticism shouldn't really come as a surprise. Herman and Sam are obviously talented players, but when it comes to soloing, after eight albums, it's gotten to the point where all their solos (especially the fast ones) mirror each other. There's certainly moments in the solos that stand out, but as wholes, it feels like they just slapped together a bunch of recycled ideas from previous solos without putting any thought into creating really captivating solos, both in the shred sense and melodic sense. Aside from that flaw, this is DragonForce's finest musical offering since Power Within.
Highs: "Highway To Oblivion", "Strangers", "In A Skyforged Dream" and "Remembrance Day"
Lows: Not much in terms of creativity in the solos.
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