Released: 2012, Roadrunner
Over the past several years there has been a small but elite group of bands who are not afraid to play Metal the way it was intended; super-fast, super bombastic with lots of riffs and solos. Bands like Ancient Bards (Ita.), Pathfinder (Pol.), Reinxeed (Swe) and of course the grand-daddy of them all Dragonforce. It seems a bit odd to call Dragonforce a veteran band but here they are, album number five already, although it doesn’t seem like it has been four years since ULTRA BEATDOWN.
THE POWER WITHIN sees the band return firing on all cylinders. This album is a shade slower, a shade darker and a shade better than the previous. I think Dragonforce felt that they had taken the video-game inspired speed about as far as they could, almost to it’s logical conclusion as a blur of incomprehensible noise… but not quite. Accordingly, THE POWER WITHIN eases of the throttle just ever so slightly and it is a stronger album for it. The band have left behind some of the synthetic squeaks and squeals that were prominent on ULTRA BEATDOWN and have returned to a slightly heavier, more Metal feel. Check out the 2:22 – 3:00 mark of ‘Give Me The Night The Night (just before the solos) for an example of the slower, heavier Dragonforce. The lyrics are essentially unchanged, lots of songs abut ‘hearts’ and ‘storms’, and ‘glory’ but also just a shade darker on cuts like ‘Die By The Sword’ and ‘Last Man Stands’. Dragonforce have broken their pattern of eight songs per album with ten shorter cuts on this album, but it is oddly their shortest album yet. The result is a bit more immediacy to the proceedings, for example some of the songs have a few less solos. There are a few other subtle changes; a bit of a new logo is introduced, THE POWER WITHIN has a darker, simple cover, the keyboards are scaled back ever so slightly but overall the band have not really deviated from their core sound and signature style. It is all delivered on a grand scale, production, vocals, drumming and of course solos!
The most prominent change is of course the new vocalist Mark Hudson. Like many people I was worried about the bands ability to replace such a world-class singer as Theart but our fears were unfounded. Many of us were blown away when the band introduced Mark to the world via a YouTube clip of one of his mighty screams in a short studio report. Hudson is an incredibly singer and his performance immediately vaults him into the realm of one of the top Metal singers of all time. From obscurity to securing a job leading one of Metals best-selling bands is no mean feat, somewhat akin to when a young Tim Owens replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest. It’s on that level. His opening scream on the lead off track ‘Holding On’ at about the 0:35 mark ranks up there as one the best album opening screams of all time. He is not just all about the high-notes, he sings in a lower range as well. He is a real talent to be sure.
THE POWER WITHIN soars with a more dynamic and diverse collection of songs. The uber-catchy ‘Cry Thunder’, the incredibly fast ‘Fallen World’, and an acoustic song to end the album all demonstrate the versatility and range this band possess. I don’t hand out many perfect scores but Dragonforce still sits atop a mountain of bands I adore and THE POWER WITHIN is yet another radiant jewel in their majestic crown.