Ultra Beatdown

Oct 1, 2008 at 12:00 am

Power metal gets a bad rep. No, it's not all Dungeons and Dragons fantasy bullshit, as some cranky critics suggest. Sometimes — that is, sometimes — power metal is done correctly, bereft of ridiculous histrionics and overblown melodramatic nonsense. Of course, DragonForce has always reveled in being overdone, outrageous and blatantly ostentatious. And these guys are showy, man. Sometimes this pretension works. But, unfortunately, this time, on Ultra Beatdown, it doesn't.

The band can't seem to break free of the chains left over from the derivative, grandiose swill of their previous release, Inhumane Rampage. Yes, Herman Li and Sam Totman are good guitarists — but what they do with that ends up being no fun to listen to.. In fact, after the initial two-minute shock of being bombarded with insane speed riffs, it quickly gets tiring and a bit overdrawn.

At least this time out, the band has introduced some dynamics (definitely missing last time out), but vocalist ZP Theart's overacted cries nevertheless often just fade into the background amid the blazing guitar runs of Li and Totman and the occasional noodling of keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov. Hell, there's so much guitar on this album at points, the damn thing just ends up sounding like a viscous, muddled mess. It does take skill to keep it up for the full eight-minute duration of most of these tracks. It also takes skill to make it all sound good. It's all about checks and balances in the end.