Now on its seventh album, DRAGONFORCE has a lot to live up to: namely its members' rep as meta-human musicians. The decision-making process on whether to continue dropping albums slung at two hundred miles an hour each must be as nerve-racking as coming up with extravagant guitar solos not yet heard by the metal public. Not that DRAGONFORCE isn't capable of slowing down; it's just that when the musicians are all but held accountable to keep up appearances as maestros of velocity, dropping back to 30 mph is a risky venture.
Bassist Frédéric Leclercq, who wrote the majority of DRAGONFORCE's new album, "Reaching into Eternity", has publicly offered this bit of insight into the band's creative process: "It was very intense and very tiring... [I] lost my temper a few times – I think we all did at some point, because we wanted to deliver nothing but the best. I think we have proven that playing fast was something we were good at, so this time I wanted to bring even more diversity into our music. It's great to challenge ourselves instead of staying in a comfort zone". For DRAGONFORCE fans, this isn't so much a warning as it is assurance. "Reaching into Eternity" is still the most insane thrash prog you'd ever want, but this time, there's more to chew on.
The instrumental title track sedately opens the album, giving DRAGONFORCE the opportunity to explore a more verdant realization to its epic-minded compositions. Instead of rushing out, all guns blazing, like the group is expected to, this careful plotting makes the listener wait for what they automatically know is coming: the rocketing fireworks on "Ashes of the Dawn". If there's any real difference to DRAGONFORCE's outrageous alacrity these days, it's more sanitization of their storming overcapacities. Trumpets and keyboards herald DRAGONFORCE's conquering speed, and though the whole scheme is nothing you haven't heard before, the refinement speaks louder than the technical proficiency—the band's prowess still being tremendous as ever.
Of course, "Judgment Day" whisks even faster with keyboard blizzards vying to outclass even Thanasis Lightbridge, one of the apparatus's lower-profile yet super-skilled masters. Guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman remain Herculean with Marc Hudson leading the vocal charge like the four winds are at his command. Thus, you have a core summary of "Reaching Into Eternity", like all of DRAGONFORCE's albums, this one is concentrated on proving how fast metal can pushed.
It's not just the sagacious rock jam dropped into the flurrying "Astral Empire" and the tranquilizing placidity forced into "Curse of Darkness" that gives this album an edge of delineation. More abruptly than you can say "Home Sweet Home", DRAGONFORCE drops an eighties-puckered ballad, "Silence". Obviously more textured and driven by contemporary chord structures, DRAGONFORCE defies its own propensities with a buttery love ditty. Then you're in for another new experience with the 11-minute epic "The Edge of the World". Not only taxing due to its length, in this song, everything except for DRAGONFORCE's berserker mode is loaded in, which is still a lot to take in. Even "Our Final Stand", at the end of the album, nudges prog metal and eighties hard rock in a cutesy curtain call.
Fret not, speed freaks! "Midnight Madness", "Land of Shattered Dreams" and "War! " answer Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet's proverbial call for ludicrous speed. "War! " is appropriately nastier in spots than your average DRAGONFORCE number, courtesy of low end chords and manifest snarls amidst the tumbling scale theatrics. If you get the album's special edition, you can further satiate your thirst with the bonus tracks "Hatred and Revenge" and "Evil Dead", the latter being one of the rowdiest hell storms DRAGONFORCE has yet summoned.
What it must be like inside the speed force that rules over this band and the lengths they go from album to album to continuously dazzle its audience! This time, however, DRAGONFORCE hit its own proverbial Flashpoint (apologies to Geoff Johns) where a slight reset has allowed the band to alter its existence, while remaining the fastest audible antimatter channeled through six bodies.