Dragonforce - Maximum Overload
Metal Blade
Melodic Power Metal
10 songs (49:31)
Release year: 2014
Dragonforce, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Kyle
Major event

Confession time: I really, unironically like Dragonforce. Their brand of power metal has always appealed to me on a very primal level - they play fast and make nice melodies to sing along to, what more do you want? - and while I tend to lean towards music which is slightly more nuanced (okay, more than slightly) these days, Dragonforce has always held a special place in my cynical heart and the band always ends up sneaking into my playlist once every couple of months. The band has been reclaiming the mainstream metal spotlight again for the first time since their Guitar Hero debut thanks to an absolutely ludicrous cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire (and also due to allegations of racism aimed at Herman Li and Sam Totman regarding their old black metal project Demoniac in a recent interview, news which is so old that it’s non-news), but they also deserve attention for another reason entirely: this new album, Maximum Overload, is damn good.

What makes Maximum Overload so good is… well, a lot of things, most notably its song diversity. The band explores elements of melodic death metal (The Game), thrash metal (Defenders), “epic” power metal a la Hammerfall (Three Hammers) and even neo-Baroque (Symphony of the Night). The songs are also shorter, meaning that the listener receives one quick dose of speedy power metal at a time rather than eight solid minutes of eardrum bludgeoning by way of dueling guitars (see: Inhuman Rampage). As always, the musicianship is top notch, with new-ish vocalist Marc Hudson finally proving himself as a worthy fit within the band; the melodies seem perfectly tailored to take advantage of his voice this time around. More impressive still is that Dragonforce seems to have managed a basic level of lyrical consistency within each track with this record, and each song tells a story (The Game is about living up to societal expectations, The Sun is Dead is about the apocalypse by way of, um, the sun being dead, and so on) without losing a shred of the pompousness which helps make Dragonforce, to me, so weirdly charming.

Several tracks on Maximum Overload have become personal favorites in Dragonforce’s catalog because of how much they stand out from the band's previous material. The Game, for instance, showcases the most aggressive riffs of the band’s career while also being emotionally intense. Symphony of the Night is another favorite of mine – on one hand, it appeals to my inner manchild by being a conceptual track about one of my favorite video games (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), while on the other it echoes that game’s music in its neo-Baroque melodies, which basically means that it sounds like it could have belonged on Heavenly’s excellent record Dust to Dust (which DF bassist Frederic Leclercq provided guitar work for… coincidence?). My pick of the album is, without a doubt, Three Hammers; it features a unique fantasy atmosphere, an immensely impressive vocal performance, and one of the more insane solos of the album. It’s basically a vastly improved version of Cry Thunder from Dragonforce’s previous album The Power Within, and it may be the best song the band has recorded to date.

As much as I like the emphasis on shorter songs, part of me does wish that Dragonforce had given us a couple of their trademark seven-to-eight minute epics with this release, especially considering how diverse the songs are on Maximum Overload. This variety combined with a longer song could give the band some serious legs with which to create something special within a more complex structure. As it stands, the longest song on the album, the mid-tempo The Sun is Dead, is not very special at all; where DF found a way to make a slow-to-mid tempo power metal track interesting with Three Hammers, the former fails to excite me as much as its subject matter would suggest. No More and Extraction Zone are fun tracks yet they fail to stand out in any unique way as well, even though the latter does possess some endearingly goofy guitar experimentation. And that Ring of Fire Cover… well, it sounds pretty much exactly how I expected, and what I expected wasn’t anything good. Sure, Maximum Overload is not a perfect album (no surprise there, really), yet the album’s strong points are enough to make it an easy recommendation to almost any power metal fan. This is Dragonforce’s most unique and accessible album thus far, and the band’s core sound is tighter than it has ever been.

Killing Songs :
The Game, Tomorrow's Kings, Three Hammers, Symphony of the Night
Kyle quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Dragonforce that we have reviewed:
Dragonforce - The Power Within reviewed by Chris and quoted 85 / 100
Dragonforce - Twilight Dementia reviewed by Jake and quoted no quote
Dragonforce - Ultra Beatdown reviewed by Ross and quoted 92 / 100
Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage reviewed by Mike and quoted 94 / 100
Dragonforce - Sonic Firestorm reviewed by Mike and quoted 93 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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