Yep, it's that time again kids. Dragonforce are back and more in need of ritalin than ever before. Their new album The Power Within - their first studio outing in four years - is due for release in April, and the first official promo track entitled Fallen World hit the web a few days ago.
I'm the kind of asshole who'll dependably boast that he liked something before it was cool, but it's true that I caught Dragonforce earlier than most people. Back in mid-2005 they were one of the bands that shepherded me out of my crap metal-but-not-really Kerrang! fodder phase and into the world of REAL METAL, where men are hairy and guitar solos are long. Ever since Through the Fire and Flames became famous as the greatest challenge the Guitar Hero franchise had to offer, there's been a considerable amount of backlash against their straight-from-the-adrenal-gland stylings, particularly from power metal purists; to this day, you can't swing a dead cat in a Youtube comments section for a Blind Guardian or Lost Horizon song without hitting someone wishing Dragonforce death by stoning. Well sure, their music is essentially shallow, their songs at once extremely formulaic and suffering from rampant ADHD. However, even though I moved on to greener pastures around the time Ultra Beatdown came out, I've never really stopped liking Dragonforce. They're fun, they're energetic and they bear absolutely no pretensions about what they are.
The new track (embedded below) is an encouraging sign in a few ways. The band's DNA is basically unchanged; Herman Li has apparently claimed that this is their fastest song ever, not that I could really say I noticed, seeing as after a certain point the human ears lose their ability to distinguish between stupidly fast and hyperbolically stupidly fast. What is noticeable is that the songwriting is considerably tighter than usual, which I rate as a positive. I generally like my music epic and sprawling, but it's encouraging that Dragonforce actually do know how to bring a song in under five minutes long (Strike of the Ninja doesn't count). Also graciously absent is the blatant studio artifice that plagued Inhuman Rampage and to a lesser extent Ultra Beatdown; no 8-bit video game sound effects here. I still think Dave Mackintosh's use of blastbeats is a bit excessive, a suffocating drumming technique that should only ever be used advisedly in power metal, but hey, Dragonforce have only ever evolved in baby steps, so I'll take what I can get.
Of course, this is all skirting the one big change, which is the first new song featuring new singer Marc Hudson, replacing Z.P. Theart. A few long-time fans have voiced their displeasure about the change, but personally, I was never really that attached to Theart, and I've been on Hudson's side ever since the video announcing his arrival to the band, in which he lets rip a twelve-second war cry that could just about be described as "Heimanian". On Fallen World, he's mostly content to ape Z.P.'s style, but I'm holding out hope that on the new album he'll distinguish himself with a few good sustained, full-voiced banshee screams like an old-school power metal singer. Time will tell. Either way, Dragonforce have piqued my interest for the first time in quite a while.