Around this time last month, I was lucky enough to watch DragonForce at the Black Heart in London, debuting a few songs from their forthcoming seventhth release; Reaching Into Infinity. The night’s show included “Judgment Day” and the live debut of “Curse Of Darkness” off the new album. The review of the show can be found here.
At the time I was blown away by the musical assault on the senses they delivered that night (imagine an industrial bulldozer taking down a garden shed and you may come close to DragonForce’s absolute overkill they had in a 50-cap venue). So, when Reaching Into Infinity arrived in the mailbox I was keen to see how those songs translated from the live setting to album format.
One thing I really found that bugged me for a while is that vocalist Marc Hudson’s obviously plentifully potent chops didn’t seem to make the same impact as they did at the show. Perhaps it’s a result of the recording technique but I find it doesn’t channel the same weight as it did at that show. Having said that though, there are some moments on this record where Marc absolutely shines.
Another standout aspect of this album is the variety of songs they have included here. Whilst I’m not overly familiar with all of their back-catalogue, it doesn’t take a genius to see the diversity here, especially for a band that is criminally underrated as a one-style group. There’s blastbeats, a metric ton of synths, ballads and solos for days but it remains consistent and coherent all the way through. Quite the feat!
Anyway, onto the songs themselves. By the tracklisting we see this is business as usual for the English power metallers with names like “Land Of Shattered Dreams” and “Curse Of Darkness”. Quite a few of these songs sit at a mid-paced tempo unlike the band’s previous releases. Album opener “Ashes Of The Dawn” begins the record relatively laid back, though it goes on to boast another one of their brilliant singalong choruses that they’ve proven time and time again they are capable of creating. This will be massive live.
Successor “Judgment Day” begins very differently with an ethereal pop vibe not too dissimilar to that of Ellie Goulding. Fear not though, it breaks into blastbeats (thank fuck), showing once of many times in the duration of this album the two sides of DragonForce. The obtusely metallic “Astral Empire” shows off their visceral side as does the crunching riff in “WAR”. Meanwhile, for those into the melodic, measured element of music, DragonForce have got you covered with the likes of the singalongs in “Judgment Day”, the ballad “Silence” and the epic 10-minute “The Edge Of The World”. These two conflicting sides may prove alienating to some metal fans but DragonForce never set out to be an easy listen!
Reaching Into Infinity showcases the brilliance that a lot of people (including myself) often take for granted within DragonForce. However there are a few hitches I find with it. Most importantly, it is unfortunate that Marc’s vocals aren’t shown here to be as fantastic as we all know they are. With the band firing on all cylinders behind him he’s got a tricky job to perform. I said in my review of The Black Heart show that he not only held his own but proved captivating as a frontman, but something about some parts of the record don’t click quite as well as they should do.
In addition, like with their previous releases, I’ve found my concentration occasionally drifting particularly in the instrumental sections. It is important to note however that I do find this with most the band’s music so this is less reflective of the record than their style in general. I hate to rant on because this is by absolutely no means a bad album… another little niggle however that stuck with me when I was going through the record was the length. This is by far the longest album I’ve ever had to review. Unfortunately I don’t think the bonus tracks add a great deal.
The triple punch of the first three songs really capture the ethos of this album for me, there are some other spectacular moments though it can appear to be a tad drawn out by the end of the album. Again I want to emphasise that without these issues, this would likely be a flawless album. Do not get me wrong, the songwriting and musicianship on the record is top form, a few listens may be necessary to fully appreaciate what probably sits as an 8/10 record.
Bassist Frédéric Leclercq had said in a promotional interview for the album a few months back; “I think we have proven that playing fast was something we were good at, so this time I wanted to bring even more diversity into our music”. Listening to it now he’s completely right. When compared to the albums that made their career, namely Inhuman Rampage and Sonic Firestorm, it is certainly less of a million mile per hour whirlwind of notes that the group forged their name from.
This album transcends the one dimensional idea that a lot of people have about DragonForce. That’s not to say that the trademark insanity that is Li and Totman’s fretwork is not blistering as per usual, rather there really is something here for everyone. DragonForce have produced something quite special here in taking their sound to the next logical step.
Reaching Into Infinity is out on May 19th via EarMusic