As a source of viewpoints and analysis of music, our product is often times opinion and, sadly, bias. Bands that have created a name for themselves soon find that name to be a double-edged sword, no matter how much it was coveted during their early careers. A perfect example of this is DragonForce. Who here among our readers doesn’t already have a pre-conceived notion of what to expect here? This band is known for one thing and one thing only: playing over the top, insanely technical and cheesy power metal. But expecting this album to consist of just that would be a dire mistake. Strangely enough, Maximum Overload is a surprisingly solid album which isn’t afraid to switch up the staple DragonForce sound and allow different types of songs to live side by side.
Admittedly, if you listen to only the first half of the album you’d be none the wiser. Opener ‘The Game’ is nothing more than DragonForce marking territory, reminding anyone who might have forgotten what each and every album they’ve released so far sounded like. However, even here innovation lives: growls are speckled throughout the track and although they get very close to it, they never cross over into the gimmick or cliche. ‘Three Hammers’, the fourth track, starts to hint towards the eventual change. It’s much more Blind Guardian than anything the band has released thus far, focusing on a wholly different style of emotional crescendo.
However, it’s the next track, ‘Symphony of the Night’, which is the real watershed in this album. This track signifies something extraordinary: Edguy has become the major inspiration for the rest of the album. Anyone who would care to challenge this claim would have to contend with the quiet part that lives in the middle of ‘Symphony of Night’ or the extremely characteristic bridge that follows it, with the keyboards taking over the main riff. The next track, ‘The Sun is Dead’, is undoubtedly the best track on the album and also features an amazing keyboard solo near the end.
The usage of 80’s tinged keyboards and their center-stage role, coupled with an approach to guitars and rhythm that is more groove driven than speed, all hint towards major influences from one of the most important power metal acts in history and that is none other than Edguy. The only piece missing is the vocal style and even that is hinted at in ‘The Sun is Dead’. The truly pleasing aspect however is that this transformation works. Once the staple DragonForce style is abandoned at the mid-point of the album, it truly takes off.
Having achieved this chrysalis, DragonForce can turn to closing off the album with a delightful mix of the above injection and their old style. ‘City of Gold’, with its almost-breakdown near the middle, stands out during this movement and pretty much encapsulates for us what it is that makes this album enjoyable and fresh: it’s certainly DragonForce but they’ve reached back into the roots of their own genre rather than their own career in order to extract new sounds. Maximum Overload is what you get when an established band makes a bold move but one which is grounded in what they know and do best. The result is confident without being smug, innovative without being scattered and down right infectious without being simplistic.
DragonForce’s Maximum Overload gets…