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Metal

Dragonforce

Maximum Overload

[Metal Blade]

2.5 stars

These guys aren’t kidding around. There was a time, a few years back, when I thought they were laughing up their sleeves, and all the way to the bank. But six albums into a very successful career, Dragonforce is kicking things up a notch. Considering how ridiculously over-the-top the band’s music already was, that’s really saying something.

If you’ve ever walked into a Guitar Center and heard a few ne’er do wells engaging in a full on metallic shred-fest, each trying to cram in more hyper-picked notes, sweeping arpeggios and chunka-chunka riffs than the other, the odds are high that you just encountered a couple of Drangonforce fans. There is no room for subtlety, delicate interplay or whisper-to-a-scream dynamics here. There are dynamics, but they simply vary between loud and louder, or uptempo and crushingly uptempo. Don’t expect any blues references, either; this is neo-classical shred married to video game soundtrack frippery, all performed with dizzying dexterity and singularity of purpose.

It will take your breath away. Is that a good thing? Depends who you ask.

The aptly titled “Maximum Overload” commences with “The Game,” an anthemic blob of spray-cheese long on bombast, but also boasting enough clutchless gear shifting to retain a sort of wide-mouthed interest in the listener. “Symphony of the Night” and “Three Hammers” are both epics nearing the 6-minute mark and stuffed to the brim with technical virtuosity.

Dragonforce does reveal a sense of humor, happily, most obviously during a disturbingly deviant (but hilarious) take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Unless you are a staunch devotee of power-metal, “Maximum Overload” will probably get on your nerves rather quickly. But if you love this stuff, well, this is about as good as it gets.

- Jeff Miers