I was so excited to give this album a spin, I planned my day around the experience complete with snacks and refreshing beverages. Yet I left them untouched, even after several listens. My head remained pretty much static, there was no air guitar, not even old school-disco style dancing.
This album has perplexed me. From the almost festive opening of Highway To Oblivion (which is quite frankly how I feel about Yule) to the incomprehensible rendition of THAT song from Titanic via the typically exuberant, almost nonsensically fast guitar wizardry signature style that used to delight me so. There are some quintessentially British touches to Extreme Power Metal: the Genesis influence the Celtic elements, the lack of humour. Or is it all humour? A pastiche?
The mind boggles.
Is something lacking, have I finally dropped the blinkers and now see Dragonforce as a parody of their former glory?
I love power metal, the cheesier the better quite frankly, but this seems overtly sweetened. A swampy cheese fondue, smothered with custard- you expect delicious cheesiness, but it is wrong. Not wrong enough to run away screaming; it’s just not very pleasant to gorge upon.
Dragonforce have been inspiring audiences for two decades. When vocalist ZP Theart departed in 2010 to be replaced by Marc Hudson, I delighted in the expansion of power metal. Powerhouse bassist Frederic Leclerc has since left to join Kreator (but is present on this recording)and long term key wizard Vadim Pruzhanov is not featured. But fear not, the classically 80’s video game style is still inherent thanks to Epica’s Coen Janssen’s quality output. As ever there is tremendous force in the dual guitar attack of Herman Li and Sam Totman kept under the unwavering control of Gee Anzalone on drums.
So what is my problem?
Album opener Highway to Oblivion hits with full-on 80’s rapture, but there’s something amiss. It’s October and I can hear Wizzard’s 1973 hit I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. Now I cannot unhear it. The rapid fire guitars are a soothing balm, but there is still that joyous, bilious, festive element. Vintage Sonic the Hedgehog vibes are up next with the gloriously named Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine. Hints of Eastern promise follow with mid-paced The Last Dragonborn which despite what sounds similar to a buskers penny whistle, it is a palatable bite. Heart Demolition could be a decent Whitesnake 87 era reject, if slowed down slightly. of the more accessible tracks and it has a great chorus and a soaring vocal from frontman Marc Hudson. Troopers of the Stars seems to amalgamate NWOBHM, death metal and ska with the power and the glory of classic European power metal. It’s Dragonforce, but it just doesn’t quite gel. It is very entertaining though, in its frenzied everything and the kitchen sink manner. I do think there was room for more cowbell.
The symphonic Razorblade Meltdown would probably be sublime in isolation but sandwiched with the AOR-esque Strangers its impact is somewhat lost.
In a Skyforged Dream ticks the genre boxes, then it’s the curveball of Remembrance Day. Honouring the fallen of the First World War, with a military style tattoo played on the snare and synthesized bagpipes. I kid you not. Hudson’s vocals remind me more than ever of Peter Gabriel but there is something a bit Chris De Burgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling. This should be an epic, instead I find it nauseating. But there is more.
Dragonforce are not averse to a cover, 2014 gave us the slightly dodgy but delightful Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash) while 2017 brought a risky but valorous interpretation of Death’s Evil Dead. Now we have Celine sodding Dion. On what sounds suspiciously like an 80’s kids keyboard (Bontempi). It’s a step too far for me, I’m sorry. I will definitely be revisiting the album once my horror (and possibly hormones) has dissipated. But for now, I’m back to the back catalogue. 6/10
Extreme Power Metal is available as a CD Digipak, 2LP+DL and digital and can be purchased here
DragonForce UK tour dates
w/ special guests Lovebites + McRocklin & Hutch
Nov. 2 – Liquid Rooms – Edinburgh, UK
Nov. 3 – Welly – Hull, UK
Nov. 4 – Stylus – Leeds, UK
Nov. 5 – Academy 2 – Manchester, UK
Nov. 6 – Institute – Birmingham, UK
Nov. 8 – Forum – London, UK
Nov. 9 – The Waterfront – Norwich, UK
Nov. 11 – Engine Rooms – Southampton, UK
Nov. 12 – Tramshed – Cardiff, UK
Nov. 13 – Roadmember – Northampton, UK
Nov. 14 – Northumbria Institute – Newcastle, UK
1. Highway to Oblivion
2. Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine
3. The Last Dragonborn
4. Heart Demolition
5. Troopers of the Stars
6. Razorblade Meltdown
8. In a Skyforged Dream
9. Remembrance Day
10. My Heart Will Go On
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