Friday, 13 April 2012

Dragonforce - The Power Within (2012) Album Review


In before biased 5 star reviews.

I’ll start by saying that I am a long time Dragonforce fan and that I was really looking forward to this album. I was disappointed to hear ZP Theart had left the band but I was glad that I got to see one of their last live shows before he left and I wasn’t going to be too upset if they split, so I was surprised to see they were looking for a new vocalist and planned to continue on. ZP Theart’s powerful vocals were one of Dragonforce’s stand-out features and I didn’t see how they could find a suitable replacement, but find a replacement they did in Marc Hudson.

The new singer is basically a carbon copy of ZP Theart but without the emotion and power. I won’t deny that he is talented and skilled but his vocals don’t bring anything new or unique to the table and in that respect the album suffers. To be honest I would have been able to enjoy the album with the new vocalist if the rest of the band had kept to the same level of quality as on Ultra Beatdown and before but, in my opinion as a long term fan, they haven’t. 

The trademark Dragonforce guitar work is still here but nothing stands out at all and the guitars are a lot quieter in the mix, with the vocals a lot louder. This is very much a vocal driven album with most of the roaring guitar work on previous albums replaced by forgettable wankery and unimaginative riffing, with a much more polished and less chugging sound. The lyrics are still about the same old nonsense. I think with a new vocalist they should have tried something new instead of the same stuff about Armageddon, eternity and infinity, storms and thunder and hearts of dragons etc etc. It was “cool” to begin with but now it’s just starting to sound a bit lame.

The album has its highlights that break up the seemingly identical sounding tracks but honestly I couldn’t tell when one track ended and another began because I kept zoning out and the album became just background noise. The enjoyable thing about previous Dragonforce albums was that they were so intense most of the time and you WANTED to listen hard to them to make out all the craziness that was going on but in this album the harder you listen the more disappointed you will be. They have cut down on the song lengths and recorded less tracks (acoustic, instrumental and live tracks don't count). Every track has some good ideas in it, Cry Thunder being by far the best track on the album, but they are nowhere near as awesome as their older work and it has 500% less solos.  I’m listening to The Power Within and Ultra Beatdown as I write this and the difference in quality is astonishingly noticeable. The songs on The Power Within all blend together into one indistinguishable 50min track where as Ultra Beatdown is just full of energy.

I really hope this album doesn’t get lauded as some landmark of 2012 because in all honesty it’s a disappointment and any publication that commends the album as anything other than mediocre Dragonforce fare are just sucking up to the mainstream. It’s only good for background music or for the few tracks that they seem to have actually put effort into. They should have tried something new for this album, like a lyrics change or a concept album, but instead they put all the focus on the vocalist by putting him much higher in the mix than anything else and turning the guitars down to a whisper. Stick with everything up to Ultra Beatdown and pretend this doesn’t exist.

For now i'm going to give this album a score of 25%. Ill give it a few more listens and see if anything changes my mind but right now i doubt that will happen.

Out before fanboy rage. 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Blood of Kingu - Sun in the House of the Scorpion Review

De Occulta Philosophia was an excellent piece of Black Metal that provided an excellent atmosphere and imagery. I was looking forward to more of the same when Sun In The House... was released but what I got was so much more. I would first like to mention the cover art used. It’s a creepy piece by Zdzislaw Beksinski (Leviathan has also used some of his artwork) called Wolf Walker and I think it fits the sound of the album perfectly.

As soon as the first full length track starts the first thing you notice is the difference in production. This album has a much cleaner, better produced sound. Much better than any Hate Forest or Drudkh release. The next thing you will notice is the vocals. While De Occulta predominately used shamanic droning vocals, Sun In The House continues with the shamanic vocals but also uses a lot more of the harsh vocals reminiscent of Hate Forest. It makes for a much more varied listening experience and I think the inclusion of his vocal style from Hate Forest and Drudkh was a great move.

The album is overall a more aggressive black metal album than De Occulta was. Where De Occulta had instrumental interludes between most of the songs which gave it a more atmospheric style, this album just has an Intro and an Outro (which are longer than the instrumentals on De Occulta), which I much prefer to the many instrumentals on the previous album. I don’t think that many instrumental interludes wouldn’t have worked well on this album. The songs tend to get straight into the thick of things and that many breaks would have interrupted the excellent flow of the album. The better production on this album gives it a much richer sound (which is very welcome as the thick sound of the previous album made it hard to listen to sometimes) and the guitar and drum work is much more technical than the slightly repetitive and simplistic sound, very like Drudkh, they had on De Occulta. The drums are also much more predominant.

This is one of the best albums of 2010, and one of Roman Saenko’s best pieces of work to date. I hope the new Drudkh will take a lot of the improvements that Blood of Kingu have added to their music. It has an excellent production, rich sound and catchy riffs that aren’t repeated throughout the album. It ends with a really cool cover of Beherits Gate of Nanna. It’s not a song I ever enjoyed before listening to this cover but the inclusion of droning shamanic vocals to the song makes it much more enjoyable. I recommend this album to every fan of black metal as it is an excellent solid album with bags of replay value.

Score: 95%

Drudkh - Handful of Stars Review

As soon as I saw the cover art for this album it became one of my “Most Looked Forward to Albums Of 2010”. The artwork has a really cool astral theme and this coupled with the name “Handful of Stars”, I was expecting something completely different for this album. At the least, I was sure the lyrics would be about space or astronomical themes, or more fantastical because of the Elf/Wizard like character on the cover. This is the main reason I didn’t immediately warm to this album. It was so different to what I was expecting that I was initially disappointed. But like many progressive albums, after 10 listens it grew on me immensely.

The first thing you will notice about the album is that the production is so much better than any other Drudkh release. It is clean and smooth and all the deliberate rawness is gone. The guitars and vocals are clearly audible which is a nice change from previous albums and the guitars are also less aggressive. The second thing you will notice is the music itself. It’s no longer straight up Atmospheric Black Metal. The template that has been used up until now for Drudkh has honestly been used to death by them. The change that subtly began with Microcosmos has come to fruition on Handful of Stars. The sound is a subtle amalgamation of post rock and black metal but it is still very recognisably Drudkh.

The post rock sounds may come as a shock to some but this album really grew on me. Enough to buy the leather book edition and rank it as one of my favourite Drudkh album so far. This is also an excellent album for people trying to get into the band that aren’t big fans of their rawer work. I dropped this album 5 points because the art didn’t match the music so it gave a false first impression and the lyrics also don’t match the art. It’s also a bit short at under 45 minutes although this is standard for a Drudkh album and hopefully the Slavonic Chronicles cd coming with the leather book edition will make up for this. So in conclusion, this album sounds like Drudkh has bought a fancy suit and had sex with post rock.

Score: 95%

Edit: So two years later Drudkh have a new album out and they have gone back to their roots over this fuss this album caused. Now that this album has been out i can see that they wouldnt have been able to take this style any further and that starting Old Silver Key and taking Drudkh back to their roots was the right decision. OSK's debut was interesting at first but it didnt hold much replay value for me. Unfortunately neither does Drudkh's new album Eternal Turn of the Wheel. I can only look forward to a new Blood of Kingu album now. Hopefully that will be his next release and hopefully it will be out before the end of 2012.

Now that I'm a bit older and a lot less enamored by this album (a post rock Drudkh cant ever compete with Alcest) i give this album a much lower score.

Revised Score: 75%.

I still like the album and stand by what i said about it being an excellent gateway album for Drudkh but i find myself only listening to it once every six months at least.