I've always had a bit of a thing for Dragonforce. They were actually the first power metal band i really got into, and there's still a bit of a sweet spot for Valley of the Dammned and Sonic Firestorm in me. Their technical wizardry, blitzkreig speeds and unabashed champoinship of cheesy flower-power lyrics along with their wonderful melodies, infectious energy and positive vibe provided a nice respite from the heavier stuff I usually listen to. However, when Inhuman Rampage (basically a faster rehash of Sonic Firestorm) came around the corner, I was craving something with a bit more substance and had already moved onto Sontata Arctica, Blind Guardian, Rhapsody, Heavenly, Dark Moor, Human Fortress and Secret Sphere among others. I couldn't stand Ultra Beatdown - to me it was just a pile of choatic, uncoordianted technicality for technicalities sake mush. But then after hearing Cry Thunder on the ol' Tube, I decided to give The Power Within a try... and I'm glad i did.
The Power Within is instantly recognizable as DragonForce, even with a new singer, and isn't really doing anything wildly revolutionairy in terms of the bands sound. There's no forays into prog rock, no avante grade black metal or anything like that. It's as ot always has been - cheesy power metal with poppy choruses and air-guitar inducing solos. However, Power Within does sees the band moving away from the all out technical, self-indulgent and in my view souless sounds of Ultra Beatdown back to a much more memorable and melodically focused style ala Sonic Firestorm and Valley of the Damned. Don't get me wrong, the band still rip it up with reckless abandon, with some ridiculously fast rumming, face-melting solos and the kind of instrumental skill that gives mere mortals nosebleeds. But the sound of the band just seems a lot more focusd and precises, with stronger melodies and hookier hooks, rather then all out technical ability. As such, thesong structures seem a bit more on the simple side, but i think it works a lot better for the band. The songs stand out a lot more, if that makes any sense, and by taking theirfoot off the gas in places, it makes the crazy widdly widdly sound even better. Cry Thunder is a great example of whatthe band can do when they really knuckle down to write something memorable - even the mighty Maiden would be proud of it.
On the other end of the spectrum, this is simply DragonForce as we've always known them. No new influences or ideas, nothing new and really nothing to brag about. However, theyare getting back on the right track with this album, and I really enjoyed listening to it especially after having written the band of after Ultra Beatdown came out. Also, like every Dragonforce release, the lack of variety can wear on me a bit, with Cry Thunder and Seasons being the only real mould-breakers in there.. I just wish the band could progress a little bit, add some new elements to their sound and, God forbid, takes a risk once in a while.
Despite my criticisms, I did have a bit of a blast with this album. The band have found their style, and they certainly know how make it work. Without dropping any of their signiture musical DNA, DragonForce have, in my view, tightened up their songwriting and compositional skills to make an album that might be a bit simpler than the last two outings, but is certainly a much more memorable and musically rewarding experience. As such, listening to the Power Within was kinda like welcoming back and old friend, and reminded my whyI liked Sonic Firestorm and Valley of the Damned so much. It's not my favourite power metal album of 2012 (that would be Charred Winds of the Damned - Cold Winds on Timeless Days) but it'll probably be in the top 5
If you like this, then you might want to check out Pathfinder's Fifth Element or Beyond the Space, Beyond the Time. Kinda like Dragonforce but with more symphonic power metal elements