DragonForce
Inhuman Rampage


4.0
excellent

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
February 28th, 2006 | 616 replies | 107,950 views


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist


It�s probably fitting that for all the detractions about �Nintendo� music, DragonForce are actually named after a Sega game. Now, granted, the Super Nintendo (or Super Comboy for the South Koreans among us) had the graphics, but the Mega Drive always had the games. It�s a pretty clear analogy, right? Technicality vs. Substance: the eternal struggle. Sure there were some great games on the Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive had some stinkers, but a rule of thumb is a rule of thumb. More notable were the games which won out on both formats: EA Sports dominated the sports market on both Sega and Nintendo, but the real biggie was Street Fighter 2. Street Fighter had a pretty basic arcade design, actually, but what�s really important is the fact it made it on both Sega and Nintendo system- it satisfied equally the graphics nerds and the more intelligent game-play buffs. Similarly, plenty of bands have in the past bridged the gap between so-called �serious� musicians and those who just enjoy a damn good song: the Beatles and the Beach Boys straddled the worlds of pop and progressive rock in the �60s, as did Pink Floyd the following decade, without losing out in either camp. More recently, and one an infinitely smaller scale, London-based power/speed metal outfit DragonForce have become an unlikely hit with the mainstream masses across Asia, northern Europe and, most pronouncedly, in their native Britain (In fact, like Street Fighter, DragonForce features players from all over the world).

They seem to have the goods to back it up too; as Metal Hammer magazine so emphatically pronounced: "While most bands want to be bigger than Metallica; DragonForce has the capability to be bigger than Star Wars."

DragonForce�s main selling point is their duo of virtuosic guitarists: Herman Li (Chun Li?) and Sam Totman have a long history together, having come together as a pairing in 1998 when Li (then known as �Shred�) joined Totman�s (a.k.a �Heimdall�) speed metal project Demoniac. One could be forgiven for thinking that twice the shred equals twice the noise but in fact the dual-guitar structure, if anything, has a restraining influence. Far from competing for space in the mix, the guitarists� styles have increasingly come to compliment one another- they not only trade lead and rhythm parts (often five or six solos in one sitting) but harmonise a variety of leads and, particularly on Inhuman Rampage, construct beautifully textured melodies: see album kick-off �Through the Fire and Flames� for proof. Combining contrasting backgrounds in death/extreme metal and classical, the pairing instantly bonded over the shared influence of late �80s/early �90s arcade and video game music. Together with drummer Dave Mackintosh, the duo are mostly responsible for DragonForce�s gradual transition from a traditional power metal band with speed metal leanings to a primarily speed metal band or, as the band choose to put it, �extreme power metal.�

Indeed, Li and Mackintosh share a background in the extreme metals: death and black respectibely; the drummer recorded three albums with black metal outfit Bal Sagoth. DragonForce successfully integrated the common extreme metal �blast beat� drum technique- that�s the rapid, pounding bass drum sound you hear throughout the album. Hardly a one-trick pony, Mackintosh manages a litany of interesting fills throughout the album�s fifty-six minutes to guard against any neurological damage which I�m told can result from over-exposure to constant beats (Meg White, anyone?) Bass guitar, on the other hand, is close to non-existant on the album; the only clearly audible example being a couple of slap-bass leads on �Body Breakdown.� With such powerful rhythm emerging from the drumkit, though, it�s hard to imagine the album lacking in the low end but it�s nonetheless a curious fact that a band so built on individual virtuosity lacked a bass player for an entire album.

But enough about what�s missing, let�s talk about what we have! And what would power metal be without keyboards? (Answer: a lot more credible) Much of the aforementioned �texture� relies on the understated and underappreciated work of Ukrainian keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov whose input is more pronounced here than ever before. Vadim�s is the first instrument to be heard on the album (with guitar) and the last- his spacey synth constant throughout much of the album to contrasting effect. Album-opener �Through the Fire and Flames� opens with the dual-sound of droning synthesiser and a light, choppy piano melody, showcasing the group�s prog rock leanings. Conversely, �Operation Ground and Pound� and �Body Breakdown� see synthetic sounds utilised as an electronic counterpoint to rather basic heavy metal structures, finding space between the toned down guitar of the verses.

For all the impressive musicianship on show, it�s South African frontman ZP Theart who in effect elevates the band from �impressive heavy metal act� to �almost-pop sensations� in Britain. Power metal has always, in essence, lumbered close to becoming pop music without�. ever really coming close at all, lacking both the brevity of its glam metal cousin and the appropriate subject matter required to penetrate the collective consciousness. Regardless, DragonForce have made inroads into popular culture with a mix of unashamed gimmickry, semi-serious fantastical lyrical themes and, most importantly, infectious chorus melodies. Theart may not have the greatest range (despite what his website says; unless by �amazing vocal range� they mean he can hit both notes) but he certainly infuses those high-pitched choruses with enough passion and enthusiasm to compensate for his lack of absolute dexterity, which brings me neatly on to my next point: the tunes.

There are just eight tracks on offer here; DragonForce, as usual, choosing quality over quantity- there may only be eight tracks but they each average at an impressive seven minutes. There�s a set formula which pre-destines the direction of seven of them: instrumental buid-up; a trade-off of three or four verses and choruses; before Li and Totman (and occasionally Pruzhanov) let free their creative juices for the second half of the song. A tried and tested formula, the only real criticism which can be made is the repetition which inevitably sets in midway through the album.

Opening track and lead single �Through the Fire and Flames� starts proceedings in sensational fashion, unleashing a stream of rapidfire controlled chaos which doesn�t let up one beat until closing ballad �Trail of Broken Hearts.� Not much can analysis can really be offered of each track- the aforementioned formula is really all there is to it. But the lack of talking points shouldn�t belie the immense amount of creative juice which soaks the pages of this heavy metal fairytale; the always unappreciated job of making impossibly fast guitar passages sound unique isn�t an easy one and, though DragonForce fail to maintain this over the full hour, the sheer amount of unique material on offer from all band members has to be applauded. From the bumbling thrash-metal riffs of �Revolution Deathsquad� to the trance-y synthesised string-and-guitar motif that begins �Trail of Broken Hearts,� there�s plenty of variety to keep even the most discerning listener interested in the short-term, and the textured guitar riffs of �Storming the Burning Fields� and �Through the Fire and Flames� are so textured you�d need gloves to touch them, but on a grand scale the album simply repeats itself far too often.

Fans of DragonForce of old will notice a marked improvement in the quality of sound on Inhuman Rampage- the production is tighter and more refined, the instrumental parts are more intricately knotted together and the album as a whole has an overarching polished effect which even Sonic Firestorm failed to achieve. This will undoubtedly irk many purists who yearn for the raw, low-budget feel of old, but just as many will recognise the transition as the realisation of DragonForce�s massive potential- the sonic upgrade, in my opinion, sets this album apart from, and on top of, its two predecessors. While this may not be DragonForce�s masterpiece, it�s definitely a step in the right direction for me. Perhaps with the addition of a sixth member, bassist Fred LeClerqe, DragonForce will assemble the collection of songs to adequately compliment their already well-refined sound.



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user ratings (1326)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Bassist540 (1)
    Don't even bother with this fake band, or with this album...

    BringMeABrick (1)
    DragonForce has given us the absolute epitome of emotionless, soulless, worthless 'songwri...

    Kronzo (1.5)
    DragonForce release Valley Of The Damned for the second time with a different title and pa...

    testicularcancer (3)
    ...

  • Sp1cyMart1n1Man (1)
    If you like hearing the same empty, emotionless 10,000 mile an hour song seven times in a ...

    itachi1452 (3)
    ...

    Andrew Barr (MM8) (4.5)
    Playful, yet extremely technical. What a wonderful combination....

    Jorn van Schaïk (2.5)
    Extremely technical and boring power metal taken to insane limits....

  • breed77@theforum (4.5)
    A great album, that just misses out on classic status because of its samey drumbeats. List...

    Ed Watson (1)
    A terrible collection of 8 versions of the same song. Arrogant, self indulgent and mind n...

    The Door Mouse (3.5)
    This is an exhilarating mixture of great guitar solos and an epic sound....

    atalackofwrds (4)
    Inhuman Rampage is DragonForce's answer to over thought, shitty power metal. As Revolver p...

  • wikuk (2.5)
    Fast and cheesy. That's all that this band stands for. Might be good, might be bad......


Comments:Add a Comment 
DTisdabestest
February 28th 2006



22 Comments


*Your gaming knowledge outstands me*
I've only heard a few songs off the album, but they didn't grab me the way valley of the damned did, but as you pointed out it is a step in the right direction.

Glad someone finally did a review cause I didn't know much about this one. Gud job i'll look foreward to the 'cleaned up' version.This Message Edited On 02.28.06

Storm In A Teacup
February 28th 2006



12688 Comments


What happened to you not liking any kind of metal?
Good review, votes.

Cain
February 28th 2006



155 Comments


This was quite a nice review. Good work.

madmunch
February 28th 2006



89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review man, I think this album is great, Its the best metal album to come out so far this year that Iv heard

Thor
February 28th 2006



10158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm really excited about getting to listen to this. Has it come out in the USA already, or not?

Digging: Cult Leader - Nothing For Us Here

Shadows
Moderator
February 28th 2006



2530 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I heart this album! I've been on a huge Dragonforce binge lately and this is quite possibly my favorite of their's. Revolution Deathsquad and Body Breakdown would have to be the top songs here, but Storming the Burning Fields and Operation Ground and Pound are also great. Excellent work Spat, although the video game analogy confused me.

Shattered_Future
February 28th 2006



1539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Few problems with your review:

Mackintosh is FAR from not a one trick pony. If you ever bother to closely analyze his beats, he falls into a Sonata Arctica type drum syndrome, ie playing the same three or so beats throughout the whole album. However, he is a damn good drummer, crazy fast, and he has skills; it's just he doesn't seem to embrace them as much as he could.

Also, again, you CAN hear the bass in certain songs; you have your guitars, your keys, and this other high pitched instrument. 6 string bass, my friend. You just have to really listen to it; the bass fills are pretty high pitched.

Other than that, couldn't have reviewed this better myself. Bravo.

This album is great. Tons of mindblowing leads, head exploding tempos, more keyboard spotlight, and basically a step up in instrumentation from every member.

Why the substandard score then? Dragonforce is essentially a one trick pony; aside from a rare few cases, they tend to follow the exact same pattern, throughout three albums, no less. While there are still some great songs on here, it makes the album hard to listen to all the way through. There is no variation, and when there is, it's a bit weak.

However, Dragonforce still have that ability to shock and awe. It's just they're gonna need to find a new way to do it.

Shadows
Moderator
February 28th 2006



2530 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Mike, you've broken my heart.



Arucard
February 28th 2006



570 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I think this is probably DragonForce's best, because of the sheer speed and amount of Blasts on offer. Bass solo thing in BB is just awesome too.

Shame their is no song as catchy as Fury Of The Storm though

Shattered_Future
February 28th 2006



1539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ben, you know it's true though...

Shadows
Moderator
February 28th 2006



2530 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yes, but the one song they've crafted for their one song approach is so good they could use it for another two albums if they wanted.

ActAppalled
February 28th 2006



22 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this album is definitely a step above their previous work. what album were they lacking a bass player? i remember hearing bass guitar on all three of their albums.

I'm Charming
March 2nd 2006



332 Comments


This is Dragonforces best work yet. All the albums are great, but this was a great improvment over Sonic Firestorm.

Body Breakdown, Cry For Eternity and Trail Of Broken Hearts are my favorites off this album.

Great review as well!

LifeSentence
March 7th 2006



16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Probably one of the albums I've listened to 'over and over' in my stereo constantly..

I just think the guitars do it for me. The whole speed/style of what the band can achieve. And the random 'video game' noises (Hear 'Through the Fire and the Flames')... ahha.. that just the icing on the cake for me

Great Album...

RATMFanatic
March 9th 2006



35 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've only heard a couple of tracks by Dragonforce, but i have to admit there awesome! And i can totally see the videogame reference, i need to buy the album..

everythingisblack
March 15th 2006



29 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wow these guys can harmonize their guitars nicely. I like the pace of these guys, fast. Fast is how everyone thinks of fantsy music and these guys deliver

Mo4mykey
March 16th 2006



4 Comments


I like Dragonforce....and I love guitar solos... they are good at wat they do in fact the best, but I jst dont think their album deserve such high rating.

yes they are fast ...indeed and the drummer is freaking fast too but he jst duznt put much throughts into his drumming....its boring to listen to it after few songs honestly.

And the whole band jst not putting much thoughts into "song writting" and after awhile of listening to it u will find that their songs sound like 1000s of notes crash together and turn into a song...they are good musicans and great players but if they should jst think more about how to write a "song" than how to play fast......ppl who is good wif their instrument duznt mean they are good song writters.

but great album tho....good game music....stuff everyone should listen to whenever they feel like fast guitar and playing Nintendo.

The atheist in me
March 16th 2006



5 Comments


I know just about nobody here has done it, but usually when i mention dragonforce! People underestimate them, just because the come from a metal genre. So the cast the aside. Personally i think dragonforce are one of the best bands to come out of britain, out of the world! and i wish them all the luck possible!

Through fire and flames is a song i will never tire of listening to, as is revolution deathsquad!

So to all those, who say they are rippin off of heavy metal, they arent, their songs play a lot faster than some metal bands!

Join the Dragonforce army, coz they are band that are not going away for a long time

Confessed2005
March 18th 2006



3314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This band are one of the best power metal bands ever - period.

Thor
March 19th 2006



10158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Plain and simple - this album owns most other power metal releases out there. I bet that this will be one of my favorite albums this year.



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