• DragonForce - Maximum Overload (2014) - Self-parody with bulimia, diabetes and headaches - 45% (22/09/14)

    DragonForce - Maximum Overload (2014)

    While "The Power Within“ saw DragonForce’s new line-up going for a calmer and shorter but also more emotionless and pale song writing, the sextet tries to go back to its earlier efforts with the much faster and joyous “Maximum Overload”. While I didn’t like the pale predecessor, I don’t like this nostalgic release either. It feels as if the best times of DragonForce are laying behind. With the departure of ZP Theart, the band seems to have lost a part of its soul even though new singer Marc Hudson isn’t really to blame. He introduced a more grounded and mature approach on the previous release but on this one, he pretty much sounds like an exchangeable clone of his predecessor which comes as a negative surprise to me. Still, the main problem lies in the uninspired song writing and the singer’s job has always been rather secondary in this band.

    While the band’s earlier record included a lot of details and actually a decent musicianship behind its wall of sound, several new tracks sound dated and try to copy the band’s own classic. The new album feels like a half-hearted routine job. There is not one single goosebump moment on the entire release. Both “Defenders” and “Extraction Zone” for example sound like shortened and less enthusiastic versions of past efforts like “Through the Fire and Flames” minus the mind-blowing guitar solos that rather sound like standard European power metal pimped up with a few laughable electronic effects. Most tracks on the new record bore with vapid instrumental sections that one has heard before. 

    Other songs introduce a few interesting ideas that could have rated this release up but they weren’t pushed far enough to convince. The harsh metalcore vocals by Trivium’s Matt Heafy in the opener “The Game” may be controversial but at least the band is trying out something new here. Sadly, the rest of this schizophrenic hyper-speed bummer only consists of nervous instrumental masturbation that tries to be everything at once and therefore goes straight nowhere. “Extraction Zone” has a calmer electronic middle part that comes as a complete surprise but the rest of the song is forgettable and hectic European power metal standard material. A cover version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” may sound interesting to some but in the end, this song sounds like any other technical high-speed European power metal track with happy melodies and annoyingly high pitched vocals. One can say that DragonForce managed to make the song sound like their own but at the same time, it turns out to be just another exchangeable filler that follows the stereotypical signature sound of the band. By the way, don’t expect the limited edition to include some hidden gems, it just doesn’t and happens to be more of the same. By the way, fifteen or sixteen DragonForce songs in a row are not value for money but an intolerable dose of musical diabetes that even pales the few brighter moments on the release. Maybe I have grown too old to be impressed by this kind of music that left me speechless when I was sixteen years old or so.

    That’s regrettable because there are still a few good songs on the record. The melodic mid-tempo anthem with fantasy lyrics entitled “Three Hammers” gives the listener a needed break from the usual hyper-fast song writing. Marc Hudson can in fact show that he can hit the highest notes without sounding too forced or like a faceless Michael Kiske rip-off. It’s a fact that the track somehow sounds like a copy of HammerFall or Stratovarius and won’t win a price for its originality but at least, this track stands out of the rest, has a logical concept and is written with heart and soul. It even includes a few choirs and goes back to grounded European power metal basics. Sometimes more is less. “Symphony of the Night” opens with keyboard sounds and a pumping bass guitar instead of the usual fast guitar riffs. What follows is an averaged power metal song that is saved by a few cinematic choirs and some mid-tempo passages in the middle section that gives the song enough space to breathe. “The Sun Is Dead” is maybe the most original track on the record. First off, the track has a clear guiding line. The vocals are more diversified and liberating than usual. The calmer and more laid back instrumental middle section even builds up some atmosphere. The keyboard work is great and for once on the record, the guitar solos are really performed with passion. Still, three decent tracks out of sixteen forgettable ones aren’t enough to save this record at the end of the day.

    I didn’t expect to appreciate a more classic DragonForce release even less than the faceless “The Power Within” but that’s exactly the case here. Most of the time, this predictable and redundant release is giving me bulimia, diabetes and headaches at the same time. It’s just fast, joyous and repetitive for the sake of being a typical DragonForce album minus the more diversified and epic instrumental sections, the certain degree of fresh originality on the first three or four releases and a certain oomph in the choruses. This album is for absolute DragonForce fan-boys and girls only. Everyone else should skip this vapid rehash of past glory and quite desolate piece of self-parody.

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