After four years and a new vocalist, DragonForce are back with their fifth studio album, THE POWER WITHIN. Despite the loss of frontman ZP Theart – and the subsequent addition of Marc Hudson – almost nothing has changed in the world of DragonForce: they’re the same band that they always were, for better or worse, and if you weren’t a fan before, not much on this latest release is going to change your mind. This is power metal to the nth degree – the second track on the record, which guitarist Herman Li describes as the “fastest, most intense DragonForce track to date”, clocks in at a ridiculous 220 bpm – so unless you’re in the mood for blistering (apparently un-reproducable-in-a-live-setting) guitar solos and drumming, you’ll likely want to steer well clear of this one.
Still, the band’s technical virtuosity can’t be denied, even if it’s debatable as to whether or not what they’re producing is creative or just stilted and masturbatory. The group does occasionally stray from their blistering velocities on rare moments like the intros to “Wings of Liberty” and (apparent) closer, “Last Man Stands”, but they’re always fleeting. In a surprise move, however, the band includes an acoustic rendition of “Seasons” as a bonus track / album closer, and it’s an absolutely fascinating arrangement. Cutting out all of the bullshit that makes DragonForce the band that they are, “Seasons [Acoustic]” is a compelling and legitimately well-constructed song that belies the group’s trademark flamboyance. And without all of the bells, whistles and compression, the track’s guitar solo is a refreshing change of pace. It seems odd to say it, but this acoustic rendition really is a highlight of the record, and the band would be wise to pursue more work in this vein in the future.
But what THE POWER WITHIN represents, in the end, is the dreaded “shadow album”: a release that’s so similar to those that came before it that it suffers from being a pale copy of that which came before it. Regardless of the quality of what’s being produced, it’s just more of the same – it never strives to be anything more than what precedent has dictated, and winds up coming across like an album of b-sides from a previous release as a result. This review becomes something of a moot point, then: if you’ve found yourself enjoying a DragonForce song in the past and felt like you wanted nine more just like it, you’ll like THE POWER WITHIN. If not, then there isn’t much for you to sink your teeth into here.
Nothing new to see here.
Standout tracks: “Wings of Liberty”, “Give Me the Night”, “Seasons [Acoustic]”.