"From day one, the bandís goal was to establish an identifiable style all of their own."
Taken directly from the Dragonforce site biography, this quote is very true. Dragonforce is a band that takes power and speed metal qualities and fusing them with a little bit of pop, hair metal and death metal to create a unique style that no other band can match.
DragonForce was first known as "DragonHeart", but changed their name to "DragonForce" due to another band sharing the exact same name. According to their website, the demo version of this album (done as "DragonHeart", not "DragonForce"), which has five songs on it, was created, recorded, and mixed within seven days. DragonForce was delighted to see that all five of these songs reached the top five slots of the old mp3.com power metal charts. When they released the full version of "The Valley of the Damned", the recording quality was noticibly better than the demo, and the drumming was much more energized.
DragonForce has gone all out on their first album, recording 9 songs that total up to about a 52 minute album. Every song (except Invocation of Apocalyptic Evil) is over 5 minutes, which shows that they put a lot of work into every song. Personally , I think this album is slightly better than Sonic Firestorm
, due to the fact that their is slightly more diversity between the songs than their second work. The drum work also differs in each song and you can actually hear the bass in most songs, though they could be louder throughout the album.
The number one thing you will probably want to give this band a listen is for the superb guitarwork on this album by Herman "Shred" Li and Sam Totman. Both show amazing efforts in every song on the album, from the Rusty Cooley-speed solos which are present almost every song, to the Guns 'N Roses-like solos in others. They even have acoustic riffs in some of the songs, which gives those songs a nice, softer touch. It's clear that these two have worked hard to accomplish the amount of soloing they have in this album.
If there is one person that is keeping this band from becoming a death metal-like band, ZP Threat is that person. Unlike many extreme metal bands, ZP has a voice very close to that of a pop star. Suprisingly, his voice fits the band perfectly. His vocals are incredibly clean, making the lyrics of every song easily audible. Despite having the pop-like voice, it is very powerful and melodic throughout the album. He never hits a wrong note at all and is clear that he worked on his vocals. The only downside is that the vocals could have been mixed in a little better; they sound a little mixed into the music in some areas of the album.
Vadim Pruzhanov doesn't have much star time on this album compared to the other two albums, but he still gets the job done. Though he doesn't show it too much in this album, he is another very talented member of Dragonforce. He playes even crazier live, if you get the chance to see them live. The one song in this album where he gets a lot of attention is Disciples of Babylon, and it's not too shabby. However, he has more technical parts in the second and third album, which is a good sign that a good keyboardist like this guy is getting attention.
Didier Almouzni is a very good drummer; he seems to be a lot more versatille than Dave Mackintosh, whos drumming is solely focused on the death metal blast beat. Didier still does blast beats, but mixes up different beats throughout the songs, rather than just the seeemingly one beat Mackintosh. Musicians featured in the album are Diccon Harper playing bass and Clive Nolan on backing vocals and additional keyboards. The bass in this album has a couple of good fills here and there, but could've have been a little more noticeable overall.
Following the short intro that has a longer name than the track time itself, Invocation of Apocalyptic Evil
, you'll notice that the second song, Valley of the Damned
, gives you a very good first impression of Dragonforce; the incredibly speedy drums and guitars, the cheesy but fun lyrics, and the near pop-like vocals. And that's only the first 3 minutes of the song. Next comes Herman Li shredding away on his guitar like there's no tomorrow, then switching off and letting Sam take the soloing a bit later. The end of the song is the best part; its almost like Slash himself was hired to do the soloing at the end. This song easily has the best guitar work on the album. Even if you do not want this album, at least give this song a listen.
The next song, Black Fire
, probably has the best lyrics overall on the album. "To be free, there must be black fire"
is an incredible line that just sticks in your head. This is one of the only songs in the album where the bass is almost clearly heard throughout the entire song. Overall, this song is one of the catchiest on the album, and you'll probably remember the lyrics well.
You probably have realized that Dragonforce plays in all major keys signatures; different than the minor keys almost all other metal bands play in. Black Winter Night
is the most "positive" sounding so far. Parts of the verses are vocals and drums only, which gives a suprisingly catchy sound. It gets cheesy near the end right after the solos; they finally add the classic "woah" into their songs, which is, um, cheesy.
By now, you probably think that the whole album is all about speed? WRONG. The next song, Starfire
is a power metal ballad. The beginning of the song with only vocals, acoustic guitar, and soft drumming makes this song the closest Dragonforce will ever come to being "pop". Though speed is Dragonforce's thing, this is an incredible song, including an acoustic guitar solo by Sam, and another Slash-like solo from Herman a little later. The best Dragonforce ballad. Period.
Dragonforce kick things back into top speed with Disciples of Babylon
. As the song progresses, you'll notice that there are a lot more keyboarding here than in other songs. Halfway through the song, it goes into an acoustic bridge, which is very nice to listen too. Drums is added a little later, then a keyboard solo. After the keyboard solo comes a guitar solo at a decent tempo, unlike the insanely fast solos in Valley of the Damned or the slow, moving solo in Starfire. The song ends with the best keyboard solo on the album.
is also another lyrically good track. The chorus was done very well and fits the song very well. The song slows down like the previous song, but not as much, and it isn't acoustic-filled. Instead, they put some of the best guitar work on the album here, though quite not as good as it is in Valley of the Damned. The drumwork during the slower part is also very good for Dragonforce.
Omg! Another ballad? Nope. Evening Star
has a nice slow 30 second intro, making you think it's another ballad like Starfire, but the speed kicks in right after the solo. The keyboards are noticeable here too, but aren't given much of a chance like in Disciples of Babylon. The guitar solos in this song are basically screaming due to the octave driver (?) Herman and Sam like to use in their songs. The song ends slow with a short bass fill at the end.
If there was a contest for the cheesiest lyrics ever, Heart of a Dragon
would probably win it. I laughed when I first heard the chorus, which is also the intro, the first time. "Proud and so glorious, standing before of us, our swords will shine bright in the sky"
is quite possibly the cheesiest thing i've ever heard. Otherwise, Heart of a Dragon is a nice short (for Dragonforce) song, and a great way to end the album.
Top 3 Tracks (No Order):
[#]Valley of the Damned
[#]Black Winter Night
[+]All the instruments, especially the guitars, shine somewhere in the album
[+]The songs are less samey as they do in other albums
[+]Despite the track lengths (all are over 5 minutes long), the songs don't drag
[-]It could've been mixed a little better (more bass, a little more vocals)
[-]May be too cheesy for the people who don't like power metal as much
[-]May be a little heavy for someone new to the metal scene
[!]The guitar work gives almost all metal albums a run for their money
[!]The lyric book include the places of the guitar solos and who does them
[!]The album cover
[?]Why did you have to come up with such a cool *cough* band name?
This album, I believe, is the most underrated of the three Dragonforce albums and gives power metal a new twist. This album gives something new to the world of metal while retaining its many power metal qualities (cheesy, fantasy lyrics, insane speed). Anyone who listens to metal or even heavier rock should definently buy this album, unless you absolutely despise power metal. May the Dragonforce
be with you.
Overall rating = 5