Well, here it is, the recorded début of the new Dragon Force vocalist!
It's been release for a few weeks, but my pre-order was from the US so I had to wait a bit to hear it. Plus, I only just decided to do this blog as more of a music blog. Saves my little rants on Facebook ;)
Got to get this out of the way first ..... I LOVE and have missed Dragon Force!
Personally, there was a lot of expectation ahead of this album. I loved ZP Theart as a front man and singer (Totally different things. Might have a rant about that in the future). When ZP left, even though Dragon Forces number one selling point is the guitar work, I thought they may struggle to come back. Bring on the YouTube auditions!
I'd loved to have sat through those videos(!) I can only imagine a power metal X-Factor that would make Simon Cowell cringe.
I missed Dragon Force supporting Iron Maiden when the new singer, Marc Hudson, made what I think was his live début. I heard mixed reports ranging from amazing, to garbage to people saying they were miming. I highly HIGHLY doubt the miming allegations. I can't comment too much as I deliberately avoided the videos on YouTube as I wanted to give the guy a fair shot until either a) I saw him live, or b) I hear recorded material.
I heard the now customary "instead of an actual single" streamed track/video "Fallen World" and was pleasantly surprised .... very surprised if I'm honest. It was great. The guitars sounded great, the structure was more like a single edit and it really held me. I didn't over play it, though it was tempting as I was trying to judge the voice. I listened to a couple of times and really liked it....voice judgement TDB.
At that point I pre-ordered the album, and waited patiently.
The album arrived, and after my customary flick through the CD book I fired it in the CD player in the car. Not always a fair starting point, but I had to get back to work (I'm not basing this on just that listen by the way).
First track started .... and it grabbed me straight away. Good start. Impressive vocal work in the intro by Marc, but something didn't feel right. When the track starts proper, it's very Dragon Force in terms of lyrics and sound, but there was something strange other than the voice. The guitars were very clear, and very restrained. There was very little "widdling" over the vocals. There seemed to be more of a push for Rhythm guitars, with some lead parts. All this building up to a guitar solo.
Seems normal for most bands, but not Dragon Force. It works though! There are still some points where they just go for it out-with the solos, but no where near as much. This is a much more accessible Dragon Force. When "Fallen World" came on after the opener "Holding On", you noticed the "Widdle" more. Not too much, but it's there.
Another surprise though is that by the end of track 2 we are at 9 minutes 5 seconds ..... eh? Inhuman Rampage st track comes in at 7 minutes 24 seconds. Ultra Beatdown, 7 minutes 16 seconds. Both Sonic Firestorm and Valley of the Damner are over 7 minutes as well. The Power Within, 1st Track ... 4 minutes 56 seconds.This new album has one track over 7 minutes. None of the rest go over 5:20! This might up the number of songs at a Dragon Force gig ;0)
Dragon Force have one of the most underrated rhythm sections in metal. The drums are as tight as ever and the bass has more prominence than previous albums and it helps lift the sound to that next level. Dave Mackintosh deserves more recognition. He's a proper metal metronome. The speed of the things he plays? Not many drummers can even dream to keep the parts THAT tight!
This is a bit of a paradox of an album. It is a lot simpler in structure and dynamics, but almost feels like it has more going on. That may be because we can hear more as the guitars aren't over powering everything. Same "changes" with the keyboards. More prominent and adds plenty of colour in just the right places.
Now .... the guitars. I don't know if someone sat down and spoke to Herman and Sam, or if they were getting tired of what they were playing, or what .... but.... something has slipped in to place.As I said previously, the structure is a lot more normal. The parts parts underlying the vocals seem a lot more restrained. Don't confuse restrained with dull ... they are just holding back and letting the song "speak for itself".
The solo parts are still MENTAL, but even they seem more structured in the way they are played and what is played.
In terms of musicality, this is the album that Dragon Force needed to make, and people who complained about the length or complexity of Dragon Force songs will be surprised by. The songs work at the shorter lengths. They aren't drawn out or feel like Sam and Herman just showing off for 8 minutes. I'd go so far as to say that musically, this is the best album they have done.
Marc .... he's a great singer. He can hit the stuff he needs to hit. I've seen the vids on YouTube, including the Dragon Force tour preview video that shows him singing some older stuff (including a wee fluff or two). I have no doubt the he will do well with Dragon Force, and indeed that Dragon Force will do well with him. There's just something lacking for me. ZP had a bit more balls behind his voice, in my opinion.........
now .... literally as I'm writing this I'm questioning that. I have Dragon Force on a play all and it's going between line-ups. I take back my balls comment. I think what it is is that there is an almost nasal quality to Marc's voice. I can't put my finger on it. There's something that doesn't fit with me. Maybe after a few more listens, or after I see them live, I'll feel different. I hope so.....his voice is growing on me.
I'm not going to go on about the lyrics .... they are Dragon Force lyrics. Nuff said .... apart from to say I love it!
For me, this is Dragon Force at their musical best. For Marc, he had the clichéd big shoes to fill but seems to have come in and made his mark. Would the album have sounded better with ZP? The first time I heard it, yes. When I started to write this review, yes. Now? I'm actually not so sure.Is this a proper review? Changing my mind as I go along?
Let's be honest, this isn't a review. This is me making individual points that I'd make in a pub, but putting them one after the other! :0)
Stand out tracks for me, "Cry Thunder" and ""Give Me The Night"