Every metalhead of a certain age is sure to remember the rise of Dragonforce. Backed by the might of Roadrunner Records, 2006’s Inhuman Rampage saw the group shoot into the metal mainstream, thanks largely to the success of “Through the Fire and Flames” and its inclusion in video games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. However, just as quickly as it began, the band’s popularity seemed to fade; the exit of frontman ZP Theart (now fronting Skid Row) exacerbating the demise. Not to be beaten, the group dusted themselves off and recruited Marc Hudson as their new singer, who fronts the band for the third time on Reaching Into Infinity.
I feel that most times, the singer is the worst individual to lose from a band, as their voice is usually the most distinctive part of the sound produced (doubly so when the band features a clean vocalist). That said, the vocals in Dragonforce have always been one of the weakest links in my mind. Both ZP Theart and Sam Hudson can certainly carry a tune and possess decent enough range to not do a disservice to the material, but there’s always been a certain unremarkability to both that is usually made up for in the strength of the vocal lines. The guitar playing of Herman Li and Sam Totman also helps, drawing much attention with their frenetic fingerwork and dazzling duels. Conversely, this also likely played a part in their decrease in popularity, as although their playing was incredible, the flashy showmanship soon wore thin, with each passing album becoming an exercise in endurance as every song descended into a lengthy shredfest. This was something that was scaled back upon Hudson joining the fray, with the songs becoming more concise and focused. This tends to hold true for Reaching Into Infinity too, but there are a few moments where the band slip into old habits and allow themselves a bit of self indulgence.
Very much a band set in their ways, Dragonforce offer fans plenty of what they’ve come to expect on Reaching Into Infinity. Hyper speed riffs are in abundance, interlaced with uplifting melodies, soaring vocals and an endlessly energetic rhythm section (drummer Gee Anzalone, making his recording debut with the group after joining in 2014, fits right in, never missing a beat with his nimble hand and foot work). A good portion falls into this mold, and although there is some variation in tempos, it can be quite exhausting as the band run through another standard power metal cut for the seventh or eight time. “Ashes of the Dawn” is one of the better stereotypical power metallers on the record, with some nice high notes from Hudson in the refrain, whilst “Midnight Madness” bestows upon us the sort of chorus that makes power metal fans weak at the knees. The glorious “Judgement Day” veers into a slightly darker bridge, with some prog/power style riffing and key solo and a fantastic sing along section.
It would be unfair to accuse Dragonforce of sticking to a formula on this (or any other record), as there are more adventurous tracks here and throughout their catalogue. “War!” is simply relentless, and if it were not for the presence of keyboards and the power metal style pre chorus, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a song from a hungry, up and coming thrash act. “Silence” is your token ballad, and whilst it is nothing to write home about, it helps break up the record. “Edge of the World” is the song most likely to get the tongues wagging however, as the mid paced power metal morphs into a bona fide death metal assault mid way through. I don’t feel it works too well in all honesty, but the band has to be admired for taking the risk and mixing it up.
Reaching Into Infinity is a fair effort that is sure to please Dragonforce’s fanbase. I do find that the band too often regresses into the excesses that left albums like Ultra Beatdown feeling bloated, leaving this the weakest Hudson fronted record released so far. There are some genuinely fantastic songs however, and when on point, it delivers the sort of exhilarating, high octane fun that Dragonforce are known for.
Highlights: “Ashes of the Dawn”, “Midnight Madness”
Reaching Into Infinity is available worldwide now, via earMUSIC.