A couple years ago, I was surprised to hear of ZP Theart’s departure from Dragonforce. Apparently the separation was due to “insurmountable differences of musical opinion”. Incredibly vague as this explanation is, I have a nagging feeling that Theart wanted to push the band’s style in a new direction, and that this clashed with the creative forces of the rest of the band. With new singer Marc Hudson on board, the band appears to have found a singer that allows them to stay in their “extreme power metal” comfort zone.
As a way to get myself “in the zone” for this review, I decided I would listen to The Power Within Several times while playing Star Wars: Empire at War. Considering I would already be listening to the nerdiest Metal subgenre in existence, I thought I might as well throw the rest of my senses into the fire as well. I have to say, the combination was incredibly fitting and not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening. All of the Dragonforce trademarks are on display here- songs about fallen warriors, dizzying guitar solos, and of course a “woooohhh” section in the opening track (though they seem to be meticulously avoiding any instance of the phrase “so far away”, I wonder why?). The Power Within starts out with three suitably catchy and glorious songs, but as the album plays on, the power and excitement seems to wane and plateau.
One problem is predictability, as many of the melodies could be made up by the listener as the album goes on. Another is the exhaustion the listener feels by the end of the album. Yes, the guitar riffs and solos are complex and are probably very difficult to play, but this alone doesn’t add anything memorable to the songs. With the constant flashiness of the playing, it feels like there is too much going on at once, like when science fiction directors overload their films with too much CGI (speaking of Star Wars…). Even after listening to the album a few times, I would still not be able to hum any of the riffs if you begged me to. And while his voice certainly meets the required benchmarks for “power metal vocalist”, Hudson’s voice seems to be restrained by a certain nasal quality and lacks some of the blaring power that ZP Theart possessed. And as I was listening I had that thought running through my head “you know, this is good, but I’d rather be listening to Sonic Firestorm or Inhuman Rampage right now”.
Granted, I’ve never seen Dragonforce live, so perhaps after I see some of this material at New England Metal and Hardcore fest I will feel differently. But for now, I would have to regard The Power Within as a fun, enjoyable, but altogether unremarkable listen.
Favorite Songs: Holding On, Fallen World, Cry Thunder