If ever there were an argument that power metal belonged on mainstream rock radio, Brit speed demons DragonForce are it. Since 2004, this sextet, built around the twin-guitar pyrotechnics of Sam Totman and Herman Li, have continuously delivered music that is every bit as accessible and harmonic as it is technically impressive and massively heavy. Reaching into Infinity is the band's seventh studio album and it marks the recording debut of new drummer Gee Anzalone. Perhaps more than anything they've previously recorded, this 11-song set vies for a place at the top of the rock charts.
On 2014's Maximum Overload, bassist Frederic LeClercq shared writing duties with Totman for the first time. While the musical muscularity was abundant, the usual attention to detail wasn't. The album had a disjointed, somewhat rushed feel as the pair had to learn to write together and apart for the same recording. That's been resolved on Reaching into Infinity, and what's more, the entire band gets into the act. After a brief, atmospheric instrumental intro, DragonForce roar into "Ashes of Dawn" with a brutal riff, cresendoing keyboards, and pummeling triple-timed drums. When Marc Hudson begins singing, he pushes the band over the top, soaring over the driving, hook-laden mix until the instrumental break where the guitars go nuts! "Judgment Day" kicks off with black metal blastbeats and death metal riffing, but the melodic hook is pure crunchy pop-punk, despite its monstrous attack. Hudson is backed by a choir that recalls the '70s stadium rock of Queen without ever descending into camp. The guitar and keyboard solos are among the most insane on the record. DragonForce deliver a wealth of ideas on this date, but they execute on every one. The sprawling "Astral Empire" offers an anthemic chorus, a burning bass solo, and furious drumming while Hudson's athletic singing keeps it all anchored in melody. While the theatrical crash and burn on "Curse of Darkness" simultaneously recalls vintage NWOBHM and Anthrax, the syncopation, shifting time signatures, and sheer speed reflect the band's own trademark. "War!" is where DragonForce allow all the aggressive elements in their collective persona to collide with their more melodic inclinations. We're talking thrash vs. symphonic prog. vs. hard rock vs. death metal. The 11-minute "Edge of the World" is an homage to Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son." Its structured, similarly suite-like sound evolving from a ballad, and moving through a panoply of metal styles -- including a few moments of growling dirty vocals à la Benediction -- before transitioning into a crunchy riff-laden choogle and circling back to its power ballad beginnings. The sheer creativity and accessibility of Reaching into Infinity raises the bar for power metal from here on out, and offers a new plateau for the band. Based on this set -- with their catalog as further evidence -- there is no reason DragonForce shouldn't be one of the biggest bands in the world.