Released: 2014, Metal Blade
Formed in 1999, DragonForce are approaching 15 years together as a band. MAXIMUM OVERLOAD is album number six and second with singer Marc Hudson. This is also the band’s first album on heavyweight label Metal Blade, which no doubt resulted in the label throwing its weight behind the band working with its first outside producer in Jens Bogren. DragonForce clearly has something to prove on MAXIMUM OVERLOAD, since in many people’s opinion their previous offering, THE POWER WITHIN, was one of the weakest of the catalog. On MAXIMUM OVERLORD Dragonforce have stepped up and delivered a return to form type of album that should help ease the minds of more than a few concerned fans.
Let’s face it; DragonForce will never win any awards for innovative album titles, their discography sounding more like terms dropped in your average WWE interview. What they do well though is playing their brand of power metal on steroids, pushing the human limits of technicality and over the top speed and delivering it with a straight face. MAXIMUM OVERLOAD features no stylistic departures but instead the band has reigned in the long and meandering songs for more direct quick hitters. As proof, only one song eclipses the six minute mark. The synths are also less overblown than on previous efforts. “The Game” is the album opener and first single that features Trivium’s Matt Heafy lending a hand on vocals. It is not a great lead-off track, but it does feature a friendly and accessible chorus.
The rest of the albums is characterized by Li and Totman’s superb guitar work with tons of happy Helloweenish melodies and galloping glory. “Three Hammers” changes up the tempo a bit, inserting some variety and acoustic guitars into the mix, while “Defender” has some teeth and snarl, adding a bit of welcome toughness among the saccharine melodies. Curiosity track and album closer, is a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, a pointless adventure that sounds just like any other DragonForce song, only grudgingly revealing that it is a cover tune once the chorus is reached. Apparently this was Totman’s idea, and while it certainly throws a wrinkle into the band’s otherwise predictable output, it also begs the question of why? They could just as easily have added one more DragonForce original here.
Despite the quicker and more concise songs, MAXIMUM OVERLOAD retains DragonForce’s love of bombast and excess. There is nothing on here that will silence the haters or bring in any new converts, but current fans will applaud the band’s continued penchant for writing catchy melodies delivered with virtuosity and precision. Close listens will reveal a heavier and at times almost thrash-like level in many of the riffs and rhythms, which are easy to miss amongst the melodic and bright parts. Ultimately, no band sounds or plays quite like DragonForce, and MAXIMUM OVERLOAD serves as a reminder that the band intends to keep it that way.
Note: The special edition includes a DVD and five bonus tracks tacked on to the 10 songs of MAXIMUM OVERLOAD.