Dragonforce - _Ultra Breakdown_
(Roadrunner Records, 2008)
by: Paul Williams (4 out of 10)
The rise of power metal titans Dragonforce has been one with relatively few bumps in, and with very few critics deeming the band unworthy of the spotlight they have been given as they have churned out some of the fastest, melodic and technically proficient songs in the last fifteen years. That having been said, there are a few things I would like to make clear before diving into this album, one of them being that _Sonic Firestorm_ was and will continue to be the best album that Dragonforce has produced. This is simply because back then, the release of such an album was unheard of. The over the top guitar solos, hyperactive drumming, heroic vocals and Pacman noises all made _Sonic Firestorm_ a great step up from Dragonforce's debut _The Valley of the Damned_, and it stood out against the down-tuned nu metal scene at the time. _Sonic Firestorm_ may not have had the promotion of _Inhuman Rampage_, but this doesn't make it any less of an album.

Whereas _Inhuman Rampage_ may have lived up to its name with such songs as "Through the Fire and the Flames" and "Operation Ground and Pound", _Ultra Breakdown_ sadly does not, and instead it seems to be heavily laden with a strong keyboard sound more in tune to prog bands on several songs -- for example, on "Reasons to Live" there are long winded keyboard solos. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against keyboards in metal, and Vadim Pruzhanov is an extremely capable key-man, but when I listen to Dragonforce I want to be astounded by the speed and not have to listen to keyboard solos which I feel are just slowing the songs down.

Drummer David Mackintosh supplies the music with his usual style, which is centered on playing fast and then really fast, tending not to change drumming pattern through much of the song -- which is starting to get quite old, as it seems to be the same beat I heard on, well, every song Dragonforce has ever made. Of course vocally and lyrically Dragonforce has stayed pretty much the same, but for some reason there seems to be a bit of a "vibe" around the choruses. I'm not sure what it is, but I've narrowed it down to three things. One: the fact that they are all grown men singing about comradeship and -stars-... yes, stars. Those bright shiny things in the sky. Very romantic, I know. Two: the fact that they are all grown men singing in harmony about -stars-... yes, stars again. Three: this point doesn't really relate to the music, but I have to mention that ZP Theart actually wears eyeliner in the promotional video for "Heroes of Our Time". Do you know what he's doing while wearing eyeliner? Hopefully you guessed rightly, he was singing about -stars-!

By now I'm guessing you're wondering why I haven't said one word about a major part of Dragonforce's musical artillery, the guitar. Well, it's Dragonforce! The guitar work is incredible as usual -- -- but it just sounds way over produced and extremely machine-esque, as though they decided to record it and then add lots of tones and effects to see what funny noises they could make.

Of course this album will probably sell loads across the world and thousands of metal critics will hail it as a great work, buying up what ever the band tells them about how "extreme" it is or how the record label tells them it's the "future" of metal. A few years ago Dragonforce wasn't very big and I enjoyed their music; I enjoyed it because it was bright, fast, melodic, and it took me to another world based around '80s arcade games and "Dungeons and Dragons". This may be a theme still present in their music, and my poor reception of this album may be because I've grown up and indulge myself in other forms of metal, but even so I have an inkling that this isn't the same band that I had such high regard for.

Contact: http://www.dragonforce.com

(article published 10/10/2008)

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