My first impression as I listened to the intro track, Reaching Into Infinity, was that the vibe reminded me of recent Megadeth intros – but don’t hold that against it. The track leads into the grandiose, yet not overstated Ashes of the Dawn. Ashes… helps to set the tone of the album, letting us know that while there is plenty of traditional DragonForce sensibility about this latest offering, we’re also getting something a little different. The overall feel is more ‘post-apocalyptic desert’ than ‘lush fantasy landscape’.
This is well illustrated by one of the more interesting tracks on the album, Judgement Day. The track begins with an emotive intro almost more suited to an Industrial/EBM band the likes of VNV Nation, though the guts of the track could have easily found a home on “Ultra Beatdown”. The middle of the track takes an unusual turn, with a dark, Middle-Eastern flavour that brought to mind Dream Theater’s “Dark Eternal Night”. The track is one of several to highlight Vadim Pruzhanov’s keyboards, though the overall thrust certainly continues through the guitars courtesy of Herman Li and Sam Totman.
Another track of interest is Curse of Darkness. Recognisably DragonForce, but again with a darker tone, there’s a distinct element of Gothic horror in the organ sections and the lyrical content of vengeance, sorrow, and hatred. In fact, the song comes across as Edgar Allen Poe writing a story entirely in Power Metal clichés, with lines such as “Scattered dreams, I am the shadow of the man I used to be,” and “Like tears in the night, your memories are shining bright.” Mind you, I’m not exactly complaining. It’s my kind of overwrought Gothic twee.
DragonForce purists will be happy with Midnight Madness, which is the most traditional DragonForce song on the album. The song has its own elements of interest with its minimalist pre-chorus and again a bit of a showcase of Pruzhanov’s keyboards in an extended solo section.
War! is a curious track that reaches back to the ’80s in a massive way, calling on the styles of Slayer in its overall aggression, Testament in its lyrical thrust, and King Diamond in sections of its vocals. Arguably the most brutal track on the album, it does, however, carry a fairly traditional DragonForce chorus.
But the true standout track on the album is The Edge of the World. My first reaction on seeing that it ran for over 11 minutes was: “How many notes does one song need?” However, this track is quite a departure for DragonForce, focusing on sweeping musical vistas rather than pointed solos. The lyrics are Frédéric Leclercq at his storytelling finest, with elements of Game of Thrones and a hint of Iron Maiden‘s (and Coleridge) Rime of the Ancient Mariner. With all the gravitas of classic Led Zeppelin (with added enunciation thanks to vocalist Marc Hudson!), the only thing wrong with this track is that, for some reason, it was robbed of its rightful place closing the album.
Those lucky enough to purchase the special edition with bonus tracks will get their hands on Hatred and Revenge and Evil Dead. The former, at least, is worth getting – it’s fun and bombastic and eminently belongs alongside the rest of the songs of Reaching into Infinity. I’m actually at a loss as to why it was relegated to bonus track status. By contrast, I can understand the decision with Evil Dead. If anything, even more clearly inspired by Slayer than War!, it’s a novel track that doesn’t sit particularly well with the others. As a bonus track, it has merit, though its closing tends toward the bizarre.
Overall, Reaching into Infinity is a solid addition to the DragonForce corpus, with stand-out tracks that hold their own amongst the band’s work. Certainly, The Edge of the World breaks valuable new ground for the band. In the end, it hasn’t edged out The Power Within as my favourite of their albums, but I’ll certainly be keen to give it future listens.
Pre-order your copy of “Reaching Into Infinity” via www.dragonforce.com. Album out May 19th, 2017.