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Dragonforce - Ultra beatdown 4.5/5

Reviewed: 8-8-08


1. Heroes of our times
2. The fire still burns
3. Reasons to live
4. Heartbreak armageddon
5. The last journey home
6. A flame for freedom
7. Inside the winter storm
8. The warrior inside

One of the numerous highly-anticipated releases of 2008 has finally arrived, with those lads from Dragonforce releasing their 4th full-length CD, entitled ‘Ultra beatdown’. It’s time to put your 6-strings into hyper-mode as we prepare for another onslaught of furious speed power metal as only Dragonforce can deliver. With many of us wondering how much faster can they actually play, we were also noticing that their extreme style of uber-fast power metal may be wearing thin on some fans and haters alike.

After 2 CDs of their current musical style, one would not be ridiculed (too much) if they could not separate and tell apart the songs they were hearing. I mean, yeah, some do sound the same as others. Dragonforce has proved to the metal world that they are indeed talented musicians, particularly guitarists’ Herman Li and Sam Totman; who can play at ridiculously fast speeds, but yet remain clear, clean and in sync.

So, would a 3rd CD in a row of the same brutally fast power metal be in the best interests of the band and its fans, and therefore risking negative feedback that this band is completely one dimensional; or will they mix it up a bit and slow down a tad and possibly deliver something of a cross between ‘Valley of the damned’ and ‘Sonic firestorm’?

Well, the answer is... well... both. Dragonforce have still retained their speed, but not from start to finish on every song, like much was the case in their previous 2 CDs. The band has managed to become more melodic in their sound, thereby slowing the tempo down in many parts throughout the entire CD. One standout factor on ‘Ultra beatdown’, is that Dragonforce has achieved giving all of their songs their own identity; something which they have struggled to do in the past. That’s right, you now can tell apart every track on this CD. Dragonforce, in slowing the tempo, are now able to make their songs flow smoother, rather than the calculated, highly strung tracks from before. In a nutshell, the songs are now more relaxed and more creative, but without losing their own identity as a band.

There also has been a significant increase of the use of Vadim Pruzhanov’s keyboards, which (in some parts) do sound quite bizarre. You might say that in some parts, you may use the term “keyboard wankery”; a description usually given to guitarists extending their ego’s on the axe. During one “break” before a verse, the tones from his keyboard sounds like something you’d hear from a video game from the 80s. I guess it’s just the band having fun with their music, as you also hear a guitar “wolf whistle” during one of the songs.

Of course, the extended 2-minute + guitar solos still remain, with Herman and Sam pulling out some brilliant, speedy and creative riffs and licks. The songwriting has improved quite a lot, and their change of tempo is refreshing to hear. More importantly, the slowing of the tempo has now allowed J.P. Theart to really sing with more melody and confidence, rather than quickly getting the words out so to keep up with the music. This level they are on with ‘Ultra beatdown’ is a perfect balance for all involved.

You really need to listen to kick-ass songs like “The fire still burns”, “Reasons to live” and “The last journey home” to hear the differences they have made to their tempo, songwriting, melody and overall creativity. I’ve never heard Dragonforce sound this way before and it’s great to hear. For any of those people who said Dragonforce could never play any other way than the way they did on ‘Sonic firestorm’ and ‘Inhuman rampage’; you just need to give ‘Ultra beatdown’ a listen to make you change your thinking. Hey, it shocked the hell out of me, even I wasn’t expecting such a fantastic auditory experience which Dragonforce has laid upon me.

Anyone who is maybe starting to jump off the Dragonforce bandwagon or were starting to get bored with their style; stop, turn around and go get yourself this CD. You will be surprised. ‘Ultra beatdown’, in my opinion, is the best release so far by this band. It is definitely their boldest release, and their most creative and melodic. So much can come from a tempo change and for Dragonforce, they have really excelled with this change. They have delivered a pure masterpiece, hands down, while silencing their critics at the same time.




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