Released: Apr 15, 2012
Genre: Power Metal, Speed Metal
Label: Essential Music (UK), Roadrunner (US)
Number Of Tracks: 10
"The Power Within" is DragonForce's fifth studio album, and gives you about what you expect from DragonForce - soaring clean vocals and very fast guitar playing.
The Power Within
UG Team, on april 17, 2012 4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: This is the first DragonForce album to feature Marc Hudson as vocalist, who joined the band in early 2011. ZP Theart left in 2010 for creative differences according to online sources. Marc Hudson immediately shows that he is up to the task, however. There are 10 tracks on the album with an approximate run time of 50 minutes. The digital and vinyl versions of the album have 3 bonus tracks, one being an original instrumental piece called "Avant La Tempete" and the other two being a live version of "Cry Thunder" and an alternate chorus version of "Heart Of The Storm". The bonus tracks add about 12 minutes to the run time of the album if you get the digital or vinyl version.
Something that stands out after listening to the album is that the members of DragonForce are really learning to compose with two guitars, keyboard and voice to maximum effect. The songs don't sound as sonically crowded as their previous albums have to me, but instead they manage to let their music breathe just enough so that each element of their music sounds like it belongs. The guitar tones are great with the exception of being slightly too compressed at certain points and the overall mixing is very balanced. No instruments drown out any others and everything sits in its space in the mix comfortably. This is something that DragonForce has been better about with each release, so props go to their producer(s)/engineer(s). // 8
Lyrics: Marc Hudson has really done a great job with his debut with DragonForce. Previous to joining DragonForce in 2011, Marc Hudson had been a member of numerous unsigned rock and metal acts since he began his music career in 2003 as both a guitarist and vocalist. Marc displays an almost operatic control of his voice which is demonstrated to great effect in the context of DragonForce's power/speed metal. There is minimal processing completed on Marc's vocal tracks, with just some minor echo in some places, and what I think is multi-tracking at some places. Marc has already been touring with DragonForce since he joined in 2011 which shows his voice has the needed stamina, and now with the release of "The Power Within" we know he has the range and control needed. I personally like his voice more than I ever liked ZP Theart's voice.
The actual lyrics are very fitting as they really go along with the 'power metal' subject matter. As an example, some of the lyrics from "Cry Thunder" follows: "Time after time/ As we march side by side/ Through the valleys of evil/ And tortured souls/ Night after night/ For glory we fight/ Through the kingdoms of madness/ From tales from the old/ Take now our hand/ With a higher command/ As darkness surrounds us/ Fight as we fall/ Fly by with steel/ The tyrant will kneel/ Our hearts burning stronger/ With the power of soul". So, lyrics about overcoming darkness and unsurmountable odds with heart and soul normal power metal subject matter it seems power metal always either has lyrics about being evil or vanquishing evil. Good stuff, either way. The lyrics absolutely fit the music. // 8
Overall Impression: I really feel like "The Power Within" stands up favorably to DragonForce's previous releases. I'm not saying it is my favorite album, but it isn't out of place in their discography, either. My favorite songs on the album would have to "Holding On", "Cry Thunder", "Seasons" and "Die By The Sword". Of the bonus tracks the only one that seems worthwhile to me is the instrumental piece, "Avant La Tempete". Really I don't dislike any song on this album. I consider myself a part time power metal fan, as I really enjoy it when I'm in the right mood for it, and this album is a winner from beginning to end. While there are some stand out good tracks, none of the tracks are bad. Some of DragonForce's past work has started to all sound the same to me before, but I'm not experiencing this with "The Power Within". I can listen to the album from beginning to end and enjoy the entire experience.
Being just a part time fan of power metal, I would absolutely recommend purchasing this album, and if you are a hardcore power metal fan than this is a must have. The entire album is really well executed, and the mixing is really phenomenal for power metal. Herman and Sam are on top of their game and regardless of if you are even a fan of DragonForce, if you are a fan of the guitar as an instrument than this isn't an album to miss. // 8
The Power Within
Unholy Crusada, on april 17, 2012 2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: In the history of power metal (and perhaps metal in general), there has quite possibly never been a band as polarizing as DragonForce. The now infamous British sextet has in recent years become the pure definition of a love/hate band, in some circles praised as one of the most talented bands in the power metal scene today, and in others demonized as the scum of the Earth, completely incapable of doing anything right. On the latter view, the criticisms of many of the band's haters eventually boil down to two observations:
1. DragonForce are incapable of reproducing what they compose in a live environment.
2. Every song written by DragonForce is a rehash of the same tried and tested formula.
The first of the two ultimately came to be rectified with the release of the band's 2010 live debut, "Twilight Dementia". Although the release proved DragonForce could indeed perform their material on stage, it did very little in regards to their reputation of supposedly writing the same song over and over again. Fast forward to 2012, the multicultural group of extreme metallers have once again returned to the scene, armed with a new vocalist and a slew of new tracks forged with the intention of showcasing everything they can do.
Prior to "The Power Within"'s release, guitarist Herman Li had conducted several interviews in which he repeatedly claimed the new album to be the most musically diverse DragonForce effort to date. After many repeated listens, I can safely say that he was not exaggerating in the slightest. In fact, it is entirely possible he was making an understatement.
The first thing listeners may notice are the song lengths, which prove to be a complete shift from the long-time DF tradition of albums filled with primarily 6-8 minute tracks. In contrast, the vast majority of songs that appear on "The Power Within" span 4-5 minutes on average, with only one track passing the 7 minute mark. As it turns out, this seemingly odd departure from previously established practice works out better for the replay-value of the album in the long run. Whereas earlier DragonForce releases may have given the listener a feeling of "Do I really want to sit through 8 minutes of that again?", "The Power Within" is more likely to have them thinking "Wow, that was a rush. Can't wait to hear that again."
The shorter than average song lengths are only the first of many changes however, for with this album the band has apparently gone back to the drawing board in terms of songwriting, eagerly attempting to perfect their craft while simultaneously venturing into previously unexplored territory. Opening tracks "Holding On" and "Fallen World" do little to deviate from the basic hyperblast-speed trademark DragonForce are known for, with the latter being the fastest song the band has ever recorded at a finger-aching 220 BPM. However, by the third song, the Celtic-influenced Battle-Metal anthem, "Cry Thunder", it quickly becomes apparent that this album is far from "a rehash of the same tried and tested formula". The song's jaunty, Mid-tempo marching and pounding riffs combined with glorious guitar harmonies and soaring vocals make this a standout track for sure, and possibly one of the greatest musical achievements in the band's history.
From this point forward, DragonForce slowly begin to delve into less touched upon regions of their original sound for the remainder of the album. For instance, the album's defining 7-minute epic, "Wings Of Liberty", is perhaps the closest the band has ever come to achieving a progressive metal sound. The track begins with an entirely piano and vocal driven intro, giving the false impression that this may be the album's token ballad, until the distortion kicks in nearly 40 seconds later and a lightning-fast bass fill cues the band to do what they do best. What follows after that is a masterful exercise in the use of dynamics, varying between heavy and soft, fast and slow, happy and somber for the entirety of the song, complete with some excellent keyboard work and a well-executed, emotional, yet surprisingly not at all over-the-top solo taking up the mid-section.
"Die By The Sword" on the other hand is more reminiscent in style to guitarist Sam Totman's early 2000's "Ninja Metal" side project, Shadow Warriors, once again opting for a slower than expected tempo closer to traditional 1980's metal than typical DragonForce speed. The most standout feature of the song (and additionally the most unexpected) would have to be the solo, which sounds well, jazzy believe it or not, and a perfect example of how Li and Totman are not merely the mindless shredders some may label them as.
Seasons may very well be the most radical departure from tradition displayed on "The Power Within", as the riff-heavy, emotionally charged track screams Sonata Arctica or Stratovarius far more than DragonForce. Complete with an unbelievably catchy and well-written chorus, excellent guitar and keys, a very dark bass-driven bridge, and a phenomenal outro solo, it's simply one of the best of the bunch. In fact, the album also features a completely acoustic rendition of the song as a bonus track. Yes, you read that right. DRAGONFORCE wrote an entirely ACOUSTIC song.
Despite the generous amount of experimentation to be found on this album, die-hard fans can rest assured that DragonForce are most certainly not abandoning their Extreme Power Metal roots. This can be evidenced quite clearly from twin shred fests "Give Me The Night" and "Heart Of The Storm". The former of the two appears most akin to a hybrid of Helloween and Symphony X, combining ludicrously fast riffing with powerful vocal delivery and even some slight Neoclassical influence in a couple of lead sections. The latter on the other hand sounds more like a tribute to the band's sophomore effort, "Sonic Firestorm", consisting of the longest solo on the album in addition to sporting a very "Fury Of The Storm" meets "Soldiers Of The Wasteland" feeling.
As far as the production goes, there's not much to complain about. Most noticeable is the presence of bass, which has been all but missing from the majority of DragonForce's last two studio efforts. Furthermore, the keyboard elements have been signficanly scaled back in comparison to "Ultra Beatdown", perhaps aiming for a more raw metal sound less cluttered with electronics. Some may feel the guitars sound too "digital" at times, but that is a total nitpick in what is frankly a very well-produced and packaged product. // 9
Lyrics: While the aforementioned live release Twilight Dementia certainly proved DragonForce were capable musicians who could perform just about anything in their catalogue, former singer ZP Theart was clearly the weakest link in the golden chain based purely on that album. The man with the once magnificent voice that many identified the band by had fallen into a shadow his former self, with excessive smoking and drinking being a primary cause for his lackluster performance. Coupled with differences in musical opinion in the months following the recording, the remaining members of DragonForce soon found themselves searching for a fresh new set of lungs with which to write the next chapter of Extreme Power Metal. After nearly a year of scouring YouTube auditions and approaching professional singers, they finally found the right man for the job.
Enter 24 year-old Marc Hudson, a young, up-and-coming metal singer from the UK, whose list of influences range from Bruce Dickinson, to Michael Kiske, James LaBrie, and Sebastian Bach to name a few. From start to finish, Marc puts on one of the most impressive vocal performances in the history of the band, filled to the brim with impressive metal screams, melodic singing, and even some lower-register vocal work that was noticeably missing from ZP's time with the band. Although vastly different in his vocal approach than his predecessor, Hudson shows everything he has on this album, from the gritty aggressiveness of "Fallen World", to the beautiful falsetto singing of "Seasons"' acoustic counterpart, and of course the earth shattering B5 metal scream on which album-closer "Last Man Stands" ends.
The backing vocals also deserve a shout-out, adding an incredibly epic atmosphere to equally epic music. The very Blind Guardian-esque choir-style support fits perfectly, contributing to many explosive choruses and even verses. Some songs such as "Fallen World", "Heart Of The Storm", and "Die By The Sword" include slight death growls in the background, provided by bassist Frdric Leclercq, while others feature guest female vocals from Pythia vocalist Emily Ovenden.
As far as lyrics are concerned, much of it seems to be the same fantastical nonsense DragonForce have been going on about for the past four albums. However, there is one thing any reader of this review should be completely aware of. You may want to sit down for this. Okay, are you ready?
THERE IS NOT A SINGLE "SO FAR AWAY" ON THIS ENTIRE ALBUM!
Yes, I know. Major shock, isn't it? Aside from an alternate chorus version of "Heart Of The Storm" included on the album's special edition, the infamous lyrics do not once make an appearance on the "main" album. Aside from that, there's still all the "flames", "storm", "warrior" schlock we have all become accustomed to. Despite that, some songs do have some real-world meaning to them in which these words are used in a more metaphorical sense, such as "Holding On" which is about the world's current economic crisis, "Give Me The Night" which speaks about drug addiction, "Last Man Stands" which is written about constant warring in the Middle East and tension over nuclear weapons, and Seasons which is apparently about a bad relationship Leclercq went though some time ago (trust me, the song is much better than that makes it sound!). Despite continuing to recycle similar words from previous albums, it seems that on their latest effort DragonForce have at least made more of a conscious attempt at injecting genuine meaning into their lyrics as opposed to simply stringing together random words that sound cool. // 8
Overall Impression: Despite (or perhaps in spite of) their reputation of supposedly repeating their trademark formula over and over again, "The Power Within" is easily DragonForce's most mature, unique, and well-executed release to date, and an immensely enjoyable serving of power metal at that. Even with the loss of their original singer, the band has managed to compile together a fantastic collection of tracks that should easily satisfy their legions of fans while allowing them to push the boundaries of their style much farther than in the past. After four long years since their last release, DragonForce have returned to prove that no matter what happens, "Through The Fire And Flames" they carry on. // 9
The Power Within
leony03, on april 17, 2012 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: This album has the same recognisable sound of classic DragonForce but also has new elements that make the album a very enjoyable listen.
This album introduces new singer Marc Hudson. I knew he was going to be a good fit for the band after watching a video where he sings a section of one of the songs (now known to be the intro to the first track: "Holding On"). As you listen through the album, you get a nice sense of something new that he delivers. In my personal opinion, he has much more tone and fullness to his voice than ex-singer ZP Theart did. I look forward to hearing him sing the older songs live. I expect he will have no trouble as I believe most of the songs are in the same keys. Included in the CD is a bonus live rehearsal of "Cry Thunder". As I was listening to the album, I didn't even notice this was live as it sounded perfect throughout. If they deliver this standard live on stage, they then are definitely a band on my list to see this year.
In terms of sound, a slower pace of tempo is apparent on songs such as "Seasons" and "Cry Thunder". "Seasons" has an old school heavy metal/hard rock style with drum patterns similar to other power metal bands such as Edguy. It has a very nice rolling bassline and strong palm muted riffs and this all leads into a very catchy, melodic chorus.
The rest of the songs are typical DragonForce. Speed metal drumming, fast alternate picking, catchy vocals and over the top solos. This is never a bad thing as Herman Li and Sam Totman conjure up some tasty leads and harmonies which will play in your head all day. The intro to the first track "Holding On" features a very powerful high-pitched scream by Marc Hudson which is a perfect start for what is to follow.
The sound of the album is as always, a big full barrel of fast solos, turbocharged bass drumming, catchy vocals and a full, fat sound. The only criticism I have is with the rhythm guitar sound. To me, it sounds a tad muddy and digital. I'm quite picky with guitar tone though. This by no means ruins the album for me. Listening to the sound as a whole makes me feel it was worth the wait. // 9
Lyrics: The only thing that DragonForce haven't changed about themselves is their style and theme of their lyrics. "The Power Within" and all albums before it feature songs about Thunder, Storms and fantasy fiction. For example, the album titled song "Valley Of The Damned" from their first release isn't far off the name "Fallen World" from this album.
Their lyrics might be ridiculous but having lyrics about politics wouldn't fit the music at all. Yes they aren't the most creative lyrics in the world but they are powerful and compliment the music well. As I have said before, new singer Marc Hudson was a perfect, if not better, replacement for ZP Theart. He may not go up as high as ZP but because of this, he has more tone and sounds better overall. I very much forward to seeing them live. // 8
Overall Impression: I would say this album is as good as their debut "Valley Of The Damned" which in my opinion, is their best album. If you wanted to hear an album that was miles better than "Ultra Beatdown", then you will be pleased. It has a much more varied sound with different elements of playing and style. People either love or hate DragonForce but they haven't changed since they started. They stick to what they do best. Being faster and louder than others and do so with precision and tightness.
The most impressive songs for me are "Holding On", "Fallen World", "Cry Thunder", "Wings Of Liberty" and "Seasons". The others are good in their own right but these songs, to me, stand out more.
What I love about this album: The playing, collective sound and most of all, hearing Marc Hudson doing his part which brings a nice new shape to the sound.
What I hate about this album: I don't hate anything about this album but they could experiment more with lyrics and the guitar tone (although this is my picky opinion).
If it were stolen or lost and I had not ripped it to my computer, I would buy it again as it is a very good album. Miles better than "Ultra Beatdown". // 9