By now you’ll likely have seen the videos for “Highway to Oblivion” (below) and “Heart Demolition”. Between them they give a very accurate flavour for what to expect across Extreme Power Metal. First and foremost is the huge 80s influence to the sound throughout, mainly due to the keys in the song intros. There’s something else in there that I can’t quite put my finger on, but in many of the tracks it just sounds 80s-ish in the parts that aren’t blisteringly fast.
Talking of blistering speeds, DragonForce have been accused in recent times of going a little “mainstream” and losing that special something that made them special, to whit their stupidly fast solos. I can confirm that they’re present and correct throughout this album! So they reach the catchy heights of “Fire and Flames”? Well, repeated listens may answer that, but they’re there and that’s what counts.
I have to admit that I was grabbed from the off by “Highway to Oblivion” because I’m a child of the 80s. The video sold me, but the song itself was enough to have me bouncing along. Gee Anzalone’s double bass pedalling doesn’t get so much as a moment to cool from meltdown temperatures before it kicks in (literally) throughout “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine”. This is a hair-raising power metal classic, with Marc Hudson’s voice getting a hell of a workout as he hits pretty much every part of his vocal range at some point within it. Oh, and those 80s synths around the 4-minute mark. Love it.
“The Last Dragonborn” opens with an Oriental influence in the music which pops up elsewhere in the song, apt for a track about dragons. Actually, is this the first time that DragonForce have sung about actual dragons? A good song either way, if one of the slower (comparatively speaking) on the album.
After token ballad (and other video) “Heart Demolition”, the tempo is somehow cranked up for “Troopers of the Stars” which absolutely rips through from beginning to end. “Razorblade Meltdown” is sedate by comparison but still rattles the old air guitar something rotten. “Strangers” once again harks back to the pop/rock tunes of our host era and I think would make a great third video if they could find the right cheesy visuals to go with it.
My toe was very much still tapping by the time I got to “In a Skyforged Dream” (though the muscles were tiring), but “Remembrance Day” gave it a rest. A slower number, more focussed on melody and singalong-a-bility, it deserves its place on Extreme Power Metal.
The closing track, though… “My Heart Will Go On”. Yes. It is a cover. Of that song. After 30 seconds of pure chiptune intro, DragonForce take on Celine Dion’s “classic”, and thankfully don’t make Titanic fools of themselves in the process. Oh come on, I’m writing this at half eleven on a Friday night, that’s the best you’re getting. It’s definitely a DragonForce version with the madcap solos plastered all over the schmaltz, but with the original music intact and rendered well on screaming guitar (and screaming vocals).
While DragonForce don’t quite have the impact they may have done back in 2003 – and given that they were pretty much the first band to do what they did at the time, so of course they can’t be that original any more – they’re still producing great music. I really like the period influence through Extreme Power Metal and it adds that little bit extra to what is already a very enjoyable, silly romp. Played at stupid speeds.
Extreme Power Metal is out on September 27th