Maximum Overload review by DragonForce

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Aug 18, 2014
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 5.9 (47 votes)
DragonForce: Maximum Overload
2

Sound — 7
Before I played guitar, I played "Guitar Hero" (you probably knew this was coming). Like many, I was introduced to DragonForce by the last song in the video game, "Through the Fire and Flames." Aside from being the game's most notorious song, on a personal level, it was the first time I heard shredding that did not sound like bees buzzing and the first time I heard fast metal that did not involve ugly growling. While I have now come to appreciate death and thrash metal, the DragonForce revelation (that I could actually enjoy speed metal) was a defining moment in my early life as a music connoisseur. 

Now, years later, tempered by the experience of many more albums and genres as well as by my acquisition of a musician's ear, I can view DragonForce much more critically than I possibly could have back when I sat in awe watching the "Through the Fire and Flames" music video. And after having listened to their new album front to back, twice, I must say, unfortunately, that there is not a song that approaches "Through the Fire and Flames" in terms of melody, skill (from what I can tell), arrangement, or vibe.

Now that I have addressed what I consider the elephant in the room that accompanies any DragonForce album (at least for the layman), I can elaborate further on the quality of this album. For those DragonForce fans who rolled their eyes when they saw "Guitar Hero" in the first sentence, I am sure that this album will not disappoint them. To cover the general DragonForce bases, Herman Li and Sam Totman are still the blazing speed guitar duo that they have always been. Marc Hudson turns in an above average performance on his second album with the band as does drummer Dave Mackintosh, on, conversely, his final album with the band.

While it would be easy enough to mark this album as just another DragonForce release that only fans will appreciate, there is more substance to be found. Let me preface by saying that it actually surprises me how consistent DragonForce sounds from album to album, considering how hard their music is to play and, I would think, to write. However, this album does have a couple of treasures that could initially escape someone attempting to speed through the album. For example, I think that "Ring of Fire," the band's cover of a Johnny Cash tune, is one of the best songs on the album. The bridge of "No More" is definitely worth listening to a couple of times as well. In fact, that bridge is probably the best headbanger moment on the album.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is interesting to note that none of the songs exceed the seven-minute mark. It appears that DragonForce is taking a more minimalist approach (if that is even possible for them) with this album in terms of song structure. Though I imagine that some will label DragonForce as sellouts for this, their more concise songs play right into the lap of vocalist Marc Hudson; his ability to belt out breathtaking choruses is, in my opinion, unmatched by former vocalist ZP Theart. Theart is probably the better storyteller, but that's an argument for another day (or the comments).

Lyrics — 8
To anyone that believes Marc Hudson was not completely comfortable on "The Power Within," he certainly is here. Marc's voice and style is actually so comparable to that of ZP Theart, it is likely that many passing fans of DragonForce may not realize that there even was a changeup last album. The only criticism I have of Hudson is that his voice, when stretched to its limits in the upper registers, can sound whiny and, for lack of a better word, wimpy. 

Nevertheless, Hudson constructs mesmerizing choruses with such strong verses that my previous criticism is insignificant in comparison. As always, DragonForce's lyrics sound like a band named, well, DragonForce. Knights fighting and swords clashing are always expected and the lyrics do not deviate from these themes for the majority of the album.

Here is a sampling of them from "Three Hammers":

"Lost long ago through the ages of time
Once ruled immortal the gardens of lies
Wandering together they stood side by side
Storm winds from darkness the world in decline

Clutch for the hammers to reclaim the throne
Three brought together by warriors unknown
United to vanquish all hell from the earth
Conquering glory, the kingdom's rebirth."

Overall Impression — 7
For the most part, this album is the standard power metal fare we have come to expect from DragonForce. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see the band experiment with new song structures and types of melodies (even if many parts in "Extraction Zone" are taken directly from "Through the Fire and Flames"). The simplistic nature of the Johnny Cash song almost limits DragonForce in what they can do and it is surprisingly satisfactory because of this. It could be my classic rock side talking here, but I think that DragonForce could possibly be much better if they limited themselves in melody to the type in "Ring of Fire."

It appears with the shorter songs, DragonForce is attempting to refine their sound. While, overall, they have not changed much from what most people expect, it will be interesting to watch for their next album to see if they continue further down this minimalist path.

In the meantime, this album will keep you company. If it doesn't, try learning to play it.

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Metallidethium
    The Power Within was the first album to stray from the super long songs and put out a more straightforward power metal album and I feel like this album was the logical next step. I feel like the riffs are more pronounced on this album whereas in the past, it seems as though the riffs would be drowned in the sea of sound. Lyrics are cheesy but this IS power metal afterall and I enjoy Hudson's delivery. I'm just glad they've rebounded so well from the excrement that Ultra Beatdown was.
    D4CE
    Man, I wish they kept out the "10.000 ways to say sorry part". The song didn't need that part, it was pretty badass before they went there.
    haifisch234
    This band is funny. It's actually the first band I have ever seen live (it was in 2005, they were opening a festival headlined by Iron Maiden). I remember having a few years ago Through the Fire and Flames as an alarm clock, very useful indeed. Dragonforce has many haters, but they developed their style and stick to it. And let's be honest, their skills are very high.
    crazysam23_Atax
    "Their skills are very high"...especially when Herman Li uses studio techniques to speed up his licks artificially, right?
    HabsFan4916
    They absolutely butchered Johnny Cash's 'Ring Of Fire'. It's such a classic song that's known everywhere among people. They can make their own shit music, but to ruin a Cash song....
    Metallidethium
    They paid homage to a legendary musician with a catchy and completely new take on one of his classic songs. I don't consider that butchering. Butchering would be what Limp Bizkit did The Who's Behind Blue Eyes.
    Skullivan
    Hopefully the removal of Dave from the band will help make better songs. He used the same blastbeat structure for every single song after Sonic Firestorm. Then when you add on harmonizing guitars that are meant to introduce a melody the blastbeat just doesn't fit. Apparently he's leaving to pursue prog metal, which makes me wonder why he didn't play with any prog style in Dragonforce.
    ironingman41
    havnt listened to this band in like 5 years, whats goin on with the vocals? sounds ok when theres a 5 part harmony layered up but his roar voice is just terrible. not sayin that i can do any better, but the vocals are clearly the weak link now in this band.
    Cavalcade
    DragonForce - 'The Game' (feat. Matt Heafy of Trivium ) That answer your question?
    PRSguitars87
    This band is so terrible. They can't even play the solos live it's been well documented that they polish all that crap in the studio, not that it's any good any way. Their lyrics are so cheesy it sounds like they were written by an 11 year old girl. Who the **** rocks out to a song about unicorns and shit? Kids that have never been laid, that's who. Stop calling it "power metal" and call it what it really is, nerd metal. Ap
    Holoogamooga
    I think you'll find most power metal bands have lyrics like this. Helloween, Blind Guardian, Rhapsody of Fire - that's what the genre is. As for the solos and playing live - before Ultra Beatdown, they didn't have/couldn't afford monitors, and trying to play a song at 160bpm with five guys in sync just doesn't work unless you can hear each other, no matter the skill level.
    LePatCestMoi
    Like always: awesome guitars, especially the solos, but annoying singing and keyboard
    Dynamight
    DragonForce are the Nickleback of metal... all their songs sound the same. That said, I do like Herman Li.
    Metallidethium
    Wow what a shitty comparison. The Nickelback of metal would probably be Disturbed or some hack band with limited talent and an annoying frontman.
    SofaKingMatthew
    This is like Dream Theater mixed with the horrible part of a Rocky sound track, but if Jordan Rudess only had one finger, and James LaBrie got punched in the throat with a dick.
    a drummer
    James LaBrie got punched in the throat with a dick in like the late 80's and never recovered
    markyj666
    Seeing as the song is Feat. Matt Heafy, would have been nice to actually hear a bit more of him.
    telephonebear
    A lot better than i expected to be honest. fury of the storm is my idea of the worst possible metal song, and i assumed this would be similar but i was pleasantly surprised.
    Velcro Man
    The Game was pretty damn good actually,though I haven't listened to much Dragonforce and Matt Heafy was a bit weak.
    Gala-Vine
    Well so many people hate Dragonforce, they must be doing something right!. i don't blame them for changing to the minimalist thrashy kinda sound they have on this new album!, maybe there's one or two songs you can actually headbang too!, rather than just standing there singing along blast beats to the face.
    iommi600
    Sweet Jesus, are they taking the piss with the lyrics? Sounds as if they were just putting random rhymes together. Anyway... awful album, but I should have expected that from DragonForce.
    theogonia777
    Nah. If it was random rhymes, the song would sound like: Love is a burning comb And it makes a fiery gnome Bound by wild weasels I fell into a ring of measles I fell into a burning ring of jokes I went down, down, down and the flames went folks And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of ran The ring of can I fell into a burning ring of cheese I went down, down, down and the flames went please And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of green The ring of seen The taste of love is throwing When hearts like ours rowing I fell for you like a walks Oh, but the fire went hawks Now those are some random rhymes.
    dragonforce2099
    This review is ridiculous the álbum is great and is not their best but it could be , is the best production ever, and the cover of "ring of fire" is incredible, "Symphony of the night" and other songs are great For me this álbum deserves a 9