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DRAGONFORCE Maximum Overload

By Geoff Ketler, Cleveland Contributor
Sunday, August 17, 2014 @ 12:01 AM

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Maximum Overload

Metal Blade Records

DRAGONFORCE is set to release their sixth studio album. Maximum Overload will hit shelves August 19th in the US and marks the final studio album with long-time drummer Dave Mackintosh who was announced to have been replaced by BRAINDAMAGE drummer Gee Anzalone earlier this year. The British power metallers have once again thrown together a dynamic set of songs, the majority of which are done at breakneck speed, all while being highlighted by the twin guitar attack of Herman Li and Sam Totman.

Production on Maximum Overload is fantastic. The album was recorded at Fascination Street Studios in Sweden and produced by Jens Bogren (SOILWORK/KREATOR/JAMES LABRIE to name a few). The synthesizer and keyboards really seemed to be a little buried in the mix and toned down-something that I really liked but others may not appreciate as much. The rhythm section and the scorching guitars are up-front and in your face throughout the album. In comparison with prior albums, I would have to say that Maximum Overload is slightly darker, heavier, and a little less bright than most of DRAGONFORCE’s previous work, but you definitely know that you are listening to a DRAGONFORCE album. There are no real surprises with the exception of a cover of JOHNNY CASH’s “Ring of Fire”, which really was adapted well into a DRAGONFORCE song. The melody is there, but there is no doubt that it is DRAGONFORCE.

I was provided with the ‘Special Edition’ version of Maximum Overload that included five bonus tracks, none of which really did anything for me. I plugged the album into my car for about a week in order to really be engaged by it. I am not going to lie; it took multiple listens in order to really get a feel for the songs as individual compositions. The songs tend to run together when they are all performed at ridiculous speeds, but there are a few that stood out to me. The band hit the ground running with “The Game”. The opening track, though kind of depressing lyrically, is a scorcher but with a very memorable chorus. It really kick starts that darker feel I was talking about. Following “The Game” is “Tomorrow’s Kings”. This track starts with a weird, ‘80’s – esque intro that quickly turns into another blasting tune that has a very alternative-punk feel to it. The fast vocals in the chorus and the drums really make me lean towards that description. Once you hear it you will know what I mean. “Three Hammers” is an extremely dynamic song that begins with a rather slow tempo…yes you read that right, but then takes off for an absolutely insane solo. It really highlights Marc Hudson’s exquisite vocal range and proves that although speed is their shtick, DRAGONFORCE can calm it down once in a while with the best of them. “The Sun Is Dead” is a very well-composed six and half minute track that, once again, shows off the groups dynamic range at all positions. The entire song is played at a very comfortable pace. “Extraction Zone” on the other hand epitomizes DRAGONFORCE as a whole. The beastly fast song has quickly become on of my favorites on the album.

Altogether it is a well-produced DRAGONFORCE album with everything you would expect from a band known for their speed and soloing. DRAGONFORCE fans will love it and the “Ring Of Fire” cover was a nice little surprise. I love the darker feel and the fact that the production highlighted the rhythm and guitars while leaving the keys as nothing more but atmospheric sounds. Maximum Overload is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a little speed and ferocity in your music it is definitely worth picking up.

4.25 Out Of 5.0

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