Released: 2008, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: The Crimson King
The simplest narcotic known to man. For ages, chocolate, candy, cake, and numerous other delicacies, have been used as a method of delivery of this age old high. Then many moons ago, a man much wiser than me, decided to cut to the chase and just give us what we really want. Thus the giant tube of flavored sugar known the Pixy Stix was born. For the past 5 years, Dragonforce have been using our good friend Willy Wonka’s recipe to serve up their brand of Power Metal to the masses: a true no filler approach to the genre, providing the purest elements in glorious excess.
ULTRA BEATDOWN marks the bands first full length release since 2006 wildly successful INHUMAN RAMPAGE. “Through the Fire and the Flames” became every plastic ax wielder’s obsession, thus producing an exponential growth in the band’s fan base that was left eagerly awaiting their next fix. ULTRA BEATDOWN looks to capitalize on this, and manages to succeed in every way.
All of the expected trappings are present throughout the album:
Blazing twin guitar leads played at supersonic speeds, double bass blast beats that would put the average human into traction if they attempted to play them, soaring vocals, lyrics referencing the fight, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit, and let us not forget the choruses full of ooooh’s aaah’s and woooah’s. Ultra Beatdown delivers all of this in spades. Songs like the lead single “Heroes of Our Time” and “The Fire Still Burns” provide just the right mix of all the above, and just beg for inclusion on the latest edition of Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The interplay between guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman provides for a sound that can be classified as nothing short of a “sonic assault”
But ultimately it is the small departures that the band makes from their staple excess that make this album a great listen. “Heartbreak Armageddon” plays for the first 4 minutes at roughly 9000 RPM and then manages to segue into a majestic mid tempo solo played with the heart reminiscent of Chris DeGarmo from Queensryche, before jumping back into light speed. “The Last Journey Home” transitions from a full blown chorus of woah’s into a section that sounds like it would be at home on a late 70’s Rush Cd. “A Flame for Freedom” may be the closest thing on the album to a “power ballad” and at times sounds like it would fit snugly into a 1989 MTV video rotation. While these moments are brief throughout the album, they are placed perfectly in their respective songs, providing the listener with a brief reprieve and a moment to catch their breath before the next wave of sonic exorbitance washes over them.
The album clocks in at just over 58 minutes for 8 tracks, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with the band’s previous output. For the most part the lengthy track times work in the band’s favor, providing each member ample time to display their chops. That being said there are moments where you feel certain songs could have benefited from a more compact length. Overall the band delivers a worthy follow up to INHUMAN RAMPAGE and an album that securely fits amongst its previous offerings. If you disliked the band’s previous output, there is little on this album to change your opinion. On the other hand if you relish in the pure excess that is Dragonforce, this album should leave you with the same smile on your face that a 3 foot plastic tube of flavored sugar did when you were a kid.