Ultra Beatdown by Dragonforce

Yesterday, James, one of my students, let me listen to Dragonforce‘s new album, Ultra Beatdown.

First impressions: The cover reminds me of Ghost in the Shell.

I’ve been listening to Dragonforce for a couple of years now. Dragonforce is a power metal band–some would say extreme power metal band–from the UK.They’re known for having blindingly fast tempos in their songs, along with guitar solos that are played with inhuman speed. One of their most famous songs, Through the Fire and Flames, has found its way into the popular video game Guitar Hero. Their music style includes violent tempests of riffs and electronic sounds that last for 6 or more minutes (Through the Fire and Flames is a song of typical length at over 7 minutes long). Their guitarist Herman Li is said to be one of the fastest players in the business, and even their vocalist ZP Theart is capable of belting his extremely high and long screams without sounding hoarse. (I actually find Dragonforce’s vocals their most impressive element.)

DF’s critics say the music is either digitally accelerated or that the chords are actually just very simple; the speed is the only thing that makes it special. Yet other people decry Dragonforce’s songs as templated and unoriginal; one only has to look at their lyrics sheets to see this. (It’s true, by the way. Sometimes they even recycle their song titles in the lyrics of other songs.)

Whether you like them or not, Dragonforce has a couple of unique elements that makes their music instantly identifiable:

-Like many metal acts, DF’s themes and lyrics have a very heavy fantasy feel about them. Although their sound is neither distinctly epic metal like Rhapsody of Fire (whose music contains elements that could’ve been in the LotR soundtrack) and is definitely not symphonic metal like Nightwish, their lyrics contain a lot of references to warriors fighting evil, epic battles, and scenes of apolcalyptic destruction.

-The electronic snythed sounds that find their way into the songs sound like they were taken straight out of video games. This is especially true of Ultra Beatdown. A couple of the songs from this album, namely E.P.M., Strike of the Ninja, and The Warrior Inside have intros that really sound like typical synthed video game music. In fact, The Warrior Inside begins with something that I swear was in a Super Mario soundtrack somewhere, though as a whole, the song sounds it would likely be a theme song for May from Guilty Gear.

And no, as far as I can tell, Dragonforce doesn’t have satanic lyrics. (I pay close attention to the lyrics of any song I listen to.) If anything their songs have lyrics like “And we will crush the evil standing on the temple” and “My soul and my spirit will go on for all of eternity.” Listening to their music makes me think of scenes of Armageddon, but the Armageddon as depicted in the Bible: With good winning over evil.

Ultra Beatdown has some really silly lyrics, though (which I find refreshing, honestly.)

Feel the fire burning bright in the night
Where the warrior lives and the warrior dies
Wherever you go we will be by your side
For the Spirit of Ninja will carry the light

That really cracked me up.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying Ultra Beatdown. It may be unoriginal and templated, but I listen to it for the adrenaline rush anyway. If I wanted poetry in the song I’d listen to Nightwish instead. It makes for good workout music, especially when you’re pounding away on the treadmill and need a little boost to finish the last hundred or so meters. Of course, as my friend Mac said, Dragonforce makes for very dangerous driving music. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to drive constantly at 120 kph during rush hour (and go for 180 if nobody else is on the road).

However, due to the lack of any sort of metal in this country’s legitimate record dealers makes one err, go to great lengths to acquire such CDs. I even had one of my students purchase Nightwish’s Century Child and Dark Passion Play in Singapore because I wanted to support the artists. Our local record stores have nothing but OPM (which is good), Pinoy Rock (Which has gotten very stale as of late. Pinoy Rock was great in the 90s, but now lacks passion and originality. ), and that hellspawn jologs music.

Urgh. The Philippines: Where you have to be trashy to be popular.


~ by J. R. R. Flores on September 16, 2008.

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