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I Know I Shouldn't Like This, But...
on 8 August 2007
I was never a metaller when I was growing up in the 1980s. All my friends were into Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar and so on, but yet I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Said friends went far beyond the call of duty to get me to understand why True Metal was a concept worth fighting for. And they failed miserably. I guess I just wasn't ready or receptive enough to the idea. No matter. Even if it has taken me over twenty years to fully appreciate the Majesty Of Rock and the Mystery Of Roll, I get it now thanks to Dragonforce.
To the uninitiated, the Dragonforce experience will seem daunting. Take a nice, well scrubbed classic rock song with a proper tune and a chorus even the most tone deaf of milkmen could whistle. The kind of tune that would charm the panties off your Fleetwood Mac loving mother and make your dad-rock father suspicious that someone has been performing immoral acts with his Dire Straits CDs. Make sure that the lyrics are meaningless AD&D themed twaddle that Thrudd The Barbarian (yet alone Conan) would dismiss as hackneyed. Get the bastard son of Ronnie James Dio to sing them, ensuring that every lyrical clanger is crystal clear to even the most casual of listeners. Add two guitarists and a keyboardist incapable of playing a simple riff without tweedle-deeing all over it at break-neck speed and alarming precision. Then get a drummer who would certainly fail an Olympic drug test to drum as fast as (in)humanly possible over the resulting confusion. And there might be a bassist there too. Perhaps. Play said song for six or seven minutes at 78rpm with a truck driver gear change for the last chorus, repeat to fade.
None of this should work. These ingredients should result in an unlistenable mess, but somehow they don't. Admittedly the first time you hear Inhuman Rampage you may beg to differ, but give it time. By the third or fourth listen, the solos will start to show their nuances and the drumming, while frenetic, starts to appear, well, oddly sensible. Of course Mr Drummer needs to blast beat for six minutes continuously! How else could he play? By the sixth or seventh listen, it's much, much too late. You see, Dragonforce have three not so secret musical weapons in their armoury.
One, they fully understand the evil concept of earworms. If you make a tune catchy enough the poor unfortunate listener will wander around all day with your tune playing on an infernal internal loop. Given what Dragonforce sound like, that's no mean achievement.
Two, everything sounds bland, boring and slow after Dragonforce. I listen to music on my MP3 player on shuffle and believe me, Dragonforce in the middle of my usual mix of indie, alternative and electronica is the aural equivalent of a pneumatic drill in the nads.
Three - Dragonforce evidently love what they do and their enthusiasm draws in and captivates the listener. Every twiddle, every bomp and every keyboardy flourish has been lovingly crafted, cogitated over, considered and executed with evident care for detail. Their music may be fast to the point of parody, the lyrics stupidly banal tripe and I doubt very much they were wearing trousers when performing these solos, but goddam it, these guys are good. You need one Dragonforce album in your life, so you might as well choose this one. That or Sonic Firestorm.
Finally, a word of warning. Dragonforce are something to be sampled in small doses - a bit like fine Belgian dark chocolate. Listen to 'Operation Pound And Ground' or 'Cry For Eternity' in isolation and afterwards you'll feel ready to knock seven shades of poo out of any marauding orcs that may be lurking outside your suburban semi. Listen to the whole album in one sitting and you'll find yourself cowering like a sissy girl while six hairy men laugh at your inability to handle True Metal.
And don't drive listening to this stuff. Just don't.