After ten whole, respectable years of existence, Dragonforce finally broke their routine of releasing a new album every two years. Indeed, in 2012, the London-based extreme power/speed metal collective kicked out full-length number five, but it was their first record in over four years, "The Power Within." But this lengthy hiatus was necessary because DF lost their original lead singer, ZP Theart, and then recruited a new vocalist in Marc Hudson in 2011 (and recorded said album with him). Fortunately, even though just the guitarists, Herman Li and Sam Totman, are the only two remaining founding members of the group now, Hudson's vocals fit in their Iron Maiden-meets-Judas Priest-meets Helloween-meets-Kamelot-meets-Metallica-meets In Flames sound like a glove. "The Power Within" begins with "Holding On," a prototypical (but still strong) Dragonforce opener where melodic, Bruce Dickinson-by way-of-James LaBrie vocals soar over furious picking and drumming. The above-mentioned axemen rip out buzzsaw riffing, and Judas Priest-y, screaming, shredding solos like it ain't no thing. The blistering-yet-simultaneously tuneful track is also of note for featuring -- in true Dragonforce fashion -- a grumbling bass line, catchy, sing-songy vocal refrain, and keyboard solo near the end. There are a few borderline experimental moments found in this record, though. One example of such is the succeeding "Fallen World," which is presumably the fastest and fiercest thing Dragonforce have ever captured on tape (yet, at least), reportedly clocking in at a whopping 220 B.P.M., and boasting pounding blast beats and brutal, seven-string riffing and Slayer-esque soloing throughout. Another example is song number three, "Cry Thunder," the first ever DF song that is mid-tempo without being a ballad. It is an industrial-strength, chugging stomper, even if it does feature the usual gratuitous amounts of lengthy, ripping, and technical solos and symphonic-sounding keyboard runs. Back on more familiar and traditional ground, "Give Me The Night" is a scorching piece of full-on thrash metal that finds Li and Totman effortlessly trading-off terrific, wrist-spraining solos (few songs have done this so successfully since Megadeth's 1990 classic, "Hangar 18.") And even the bassist, Frederic Leclercq, gets in the action here, tossing in an exceptional bass solo near the end. Other standouts include "Wings Of Liberty," a part ballad/part blistering fast seven-plus-minute-long epic; the propulsive speed metal riffs, thudding thrash beats, prominent keyboards, and fiery, twiddly solos of "Heart Of The Storm"; and the wailing, air-guitar-able solos and soaring, skyscraper harmonies of "Last Man Stands." And, of course, one must not forget to mention the beautiful acoustic strumming and warm, harmonized crooning found in "Seasons," an epically melodic, entirely unplugged ballad that brings the set to a fittingly memorable close.
A welcome return from Dragonforce.