I don't understand the total praise of this album, at all. Don't get me wrong, I love Dragonforce's studio albums, I really do. I believe Valley of the Damned is one of the best power metal albums of all time. But this album? Not so much.
It's one thing to criticize their overtly fast playing, which I am not doing. This is one talented group of musicians, no doubt about it. Herman and Sam are two of the craziest guitarists I have ever heard, and that is also their downfall. While I love the music that they make, it seems that Sam and Herman are more focused on playing with their guitars than they are on making good music. Like I said before, I love their studio albums, even if Sam and Herman do tend to get a little too self indulged, but it's because of that self indulgence that this live album falls flat. There are times when the two of them are playing the lead at one time and they neglect the rhythm part. They are both playing the harmonics and the riffing seems to fall to the wayside, leaving the live sound feeling somewhat empty. It's nice to hear the band live, and I am a huge fan of live albums, but I am a huge fan of live albums when they sound GOOD. And while this one technically does sound good, it doesn't technically sound good, if that makes any sense. I can't really explain why, but the songs feel a bit empty compared to their studio counterparts, and that has nothing to do with the keyboards or the drums or the bass, which are all spot on. It all has to do with the guitars and the vocals.
Ah, the vocals.
The thing that makes me so sad about this album is the fact that I love ZP Theart as a vocalist. In the studio, the man is a power metal beast. He has one of the best voices for the genre, and in the studio he freaking nails it... Live, however? Well, it's a big hit and miss, to be honest. He doesn't sound that bad on the opening track, 'Heroes Of Our Time', but on a lot of the tracks he sounds like he's really not interested in what is going on, and that really upsets me. I have seen what ZP can do live (just check out the live video of Valley of the Damned on that album's reissue), and here, he doesn't even come close to exhibiting that same energy or desire to put on a good show. While he is one hell of a frontman and is excellent at getting the crowd pumped, he isn't that good at delivering on the quality of the vocals that we expect after hearing how awesome he is one the albums. At his best, he actually sounds like he's trying. At his worst, he sounds like he's just doing it because he has to. If you don't believe me, listen to 'Through The Fire And The Flames', which I believe is the worst track on this album. However, I did enjoy the screaming vocals on 'Operation Ground And Pound', because, frankly, they were awesome.
The thing is is that the tracklisting was evenly spaced out between the four albums. I was happy to see Valley of the Damned, Through The Fire And The Flames, My Spirit Will Go On, and Heroes Of Our Time featured on here, along with several of their counterparts throughout their respective albums. But I would have loved a little bit more effort in the songs. The sad part is is that the band recorded several shows, which means that there are several different cuts of each of these songs, and these are the best ones to put on the album? That doesn't really say a whole lot of good for me, as far as the quality of the album, at least to the band, is concerned... Maybe I am being overly critical, but I know Dragonforce can do a whole lot better than what is presented here, and sadly we'll never know just how good they could have been since the departure of ZP, whom, since his departure, took my love for the band with him. I will never listen to anything Dragonforce releases from henceforth, because it is without ZP.
Now, I am not saying this CD is not worth a purchase if you're a DF fan, as I am. I am just saying, don't get your hopes up, cause if you do, you will be sorely disappointed. If you love DF, buy it. If you're just a casual fan, borrow it from a friend. If you hate DF, well, then there is nothing here that will change your mind, but will probably reinforce your hatred.