Dragonforce: Silly name, good band

Does anyone else remember when MP3.com was cool?

Back before the dawn of time, circa 1999, it used to be that you could go to MP3.com and find all sorts of independent, unsigned, or just wannabe bands that you’d never heard of and you could download a few tracks they put up. Some might have a song or two—others might have a few songs from every album.

I found a lot of good stuff this way. Blind Guardian had enough songs posted to fill a CD, and I’ve been a CD-buying and concert-going fan ever since I bought Nightfall in Middle Earth and listened to it on repeat play in the car. For about a year. (Don’t believe me? Ask Sunbeam.). I own a few Nightwish albums based on songs I found there. A speed/thrash group called Deep was compelling enough based on the two or three songs posted that I bought The Reach of Envy direct from their website—I had a hand-written “thank you” on the receipt from the lead singer. I can’t find any mention of them anywhere now, alas; the same goes for another Texas band, Riot Act, whose “Judged by Jury” still gets stuck in my head even though I lost that MP3 at least 4 years ago.

What was my point again? Oh yeah. You could find obscure bands and listen to their music and support them, and none of them have I ever heard on the radio. I don’t know what MP3.com is like now, but last time I checked it was a heavily ad-infested mainstream musical sewer pit. At least, I couldn’t find any good metal bands.

One of the almost-forgotten bands that I sort of enjoyed but never ended up supporting with my money was a group with the improbable name of Dragonforce. Seems like it was something else prior, but that conflicted with another band, and they had just changed it, but maybe I am confusing them with someone else. I was just legal to drink in 1999, after all.

Anyway, they were (and are, it turns out) a speed metal band of the classical persuasion—apparently, no one told them that the 1980s were over. It’s all there—random nonsensically vague songs about dragons and fire and swords, high wailing vocals, and really tight riffs at a ridiculously fast tempo. That should be restated—I have never heard any group play this fast this well. Or even just this fast.

That’s part of their appeal. The other part, for me at least, is that they are such happy songs. I don’t know how else to describe it. Major key, very fast, riffs that are somehow friendly. Happy metal. Go figure. Unbelievably catchy tunes, too, and without the vulgarity that too often ruins a perfectly good metal song.

The high wailing vocals were a bit of a problem, however. At a few key points, they were um, not quite there. I’m enough of a metal head that I could overlook this, mostly, but it drove my wife about ten kinds of insane. Catchy and happy tunes weren’t enough if the singer sounded like he was hitting the high notes only with the aid of a tennis ball to the groin.

I never quite got around to buying their stuff, but I never really forgot them, either.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was discovering the evils of the iTunes Music Store firsthand. Looking for more new music to bring back with me to the edge of nowhere in Afghanistan, I stumbled across… “Nah, it couldn’t be the same band. But who else would use that horrible name?”

And so it was. The songs I had listened to in 2000/2001ish were now listed on their first album, Valley of the Damned, and it must have done alright because there were two more albums, the latter of which with the cheery, happy title of Inhuman Rampage. I listened to the samples of the songs I could still hum and discovered that they had been seriously overhauled—rerecorded probably, remixed, certainly. Not quite as gritty as I recalled from before, but still unbelievably fast. Best of all, the vocals seemed improved and on key.

And a steal at 99 cents per song.

I ended up purchasing the first and third albums; I now deeply regret that I did not buy the second as well, as they have had remarkable staying power on my daily playlists since I left home. There’s a truly dreadful ballad (“Starfire”) on the first album; everything else is a keeper, the kind of songs you don’t mind getting stuck in your head. This is a good thing, because I can't overstate how catchy some of these tracks are. The third album shows more complexity, a more mature voice (with a greater acceptance of human male limitations), and a ballad that doesn’t suck. Both are best experienced with a good set of headphones, or better yet a stereo with good bass response and no neighbors.

I recognize that the metal-listening Sigspace-reading demographic is really really small (Sig himself being perhaps 1/3 of that demographic), but I felt like sharing and I’m in the middle of Afghanistan—it’s not like I have a lot else to write about. Maybe next I’ll write a review of fly strips and an evaluation of their efficiency in this climate.

Anyway:
Valley of the Damned: 8 out of 10 wailing guitars.
Inhuman Rampage: 9 out of 10 thundering bass lines.

Sig

Comments

Music reviews

I have weird musical tastes--I would listen to anything recommended at least once or twice to see if I took a fancy to it. So write away...I'm one of the other three people reading =)

Video

I watched their video for "Operation Ground and Pound" and liked it.

Dragonforce

Dragonforce - the reason for my mp3 player (as well as Muse and the Eagles of Death Metal). Saw them at Download 2006 - looking forward to December when they play Manchester. Watch them and watch the film "Flight of Dragons" - takes your mind off the day job and all the sh*t that goes with it !!

In the interest of expanding my personal horizons...

I'll give them a listen although I must confess, I'm probably not part of your metal demographic. But then, I'd never heard of Hoobastank until one of their tunes was used on a video salute to the Troops on www.militaryspot.com. I suppose I sort of live under a metal musical rock living in Detroit where they're into techno and r & b here. But fast and happy metal might have a place on the treadmill soundtrack.

Oh, and don't forget to have a nice day!

Blonde

SCARY!

I finally got a chance to listen to these guys...and you're right....this doesn't even sound like metal on speed.....I can't believe anyone much less a group of people can play THAT FAST! It was exhausting to listen to! HOW DO THEY DO THAT??

Blonde

Hmm

I'm offically wigged out. I didn't expect anyone to actually go out and listen to this band based on anything I say. Actually, I rarely expect people do to anything based on what I say.

Creepy.

Sig

Trust the man behind the bar

Hehehe. A bartender at a pub I frequent pointed me to this band a couple of months ago. After reading Sig's post, I have vague recollections of being pointed to them long ago.

This is an amusing band. Inhuman Rampage makes me laugh out loud. I suppose they have to sing something if they have a lead singer; too bad he can't hide behind English as a second language to justify his lyrics.

The influence of the blogosphere

How could I not listen to these guys after YOU recommended them? Afterall, you're being read by CENTCOM! (bowing in respect!)

Blonde