Sweet Mother of Nintendo, DRAGONFORCE is back!! On August 19 Metal Blade Records will release their sixth album, and second with vocalist Marc Hudson, Maximum Overload, and that title couldn’t be more fitting if it tried. If you, like me, were a fan of 2012’s The Power Within, this one leaves it in the dust. The band decided to work with an outside producer for the first time in their storied history and it paid off in spades. Jens Bogren, who has previously worked with OPETH, KATATONIA, and DEVIN TOWNSEND, among others has taken the familiar DRAGONFORCE sound and upped the ante. And in doing so, this record is experienced more than just listened to. The many layers of music are as crystal clear as tropical waters, and when it is each member’s moment in the sun, their part is amped up just enough to make sure you sit up and take notice. I don’t normally nominate a Producer of the Year, but if I did Bogren would seriously be in the running.
Now, onto the songs. Album opener “The Game”, “No More” and “Defender” are three that feature TRIVIUM main man Matt Heafy and his backup vocals give all three songs a meaty, dirty edge that the band isn’t usually known for. At this stage in the game it’s nice to see the guys trying new things. You will also notice that the guitar team of Herman Li and Sam Totman are playing with a renewed vigor on these and every other song. The result is a heavier and decidedly more thrash-sounding attack on quite a few of them. Don’t look at me like that, it’s true! And on top of that keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov is there every step of the way, never once getting lost in the shuffle or buried in the mix. This is most prevalent on “Tomorrow’s Kings”, and he along with bassist Frédéric Leclercq and drummer Dave Mackintosh (since replaced by Gee Anzalone) put in some serious work. Just listening feels like a cardio workout!
A change of pace comes along in one of the album’s best tracks, “Three Hammers”. This features a chugging riff throughout, and Hudson soars to great heights on the chorus. It kept calling me back for more, as did “City of Gold”, with its vintage HELLOWEEN-isms and catchiest hook this side of the Atlantic. “The Sun is Dead” showcases the dual intro leads I have come to know and love from DRAGONFORCE while at the same time putting on display the gritty attitude found in the songs Heafy helped out on. Listening to “Symphony of the Night” I was transported back to the Inhuman Rampage album that now seems so long ago, but is still a favorite. Everything about it just reminds me of that time, and when everything changed at the three minute mark I was floored. The solos here are among the finest and most melodic I’ve heard from all of them. Now, I have to warn you about the cover they did of “Ring of Fire”: It is not what you’d expect, not at all. You can make up your own minds on it after you listen; me, I dig it.
The special edition of the album has FIVE bonus tracks. Need I say I was in hog heaven? Of those five, “Fight to Be Free” and “Power and Glory” were my favorites. Honestly all of them could have been regular tracks and I would’ve had no problem with it. I actually think one or two of the main songs could have been left off for any of these, but that’s a minor issue. DRAGONFORCE hits a home run with Maximum Overload, now bring on the tour!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Tomorrow’s Kings”, “Three Hammers”, “City of Gold’, “Symphony of the Night”, “Fight to be Free”, “No More”