Maximum Overload

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While the bulk of heavy metal experimentation is down to make the genre heavier and darker, power metal's unquenchable desire to drive the sound to soaring new heights has made it a glorious outlier of the musical dark arts. The problem is, in a genre where everything is epic, how does a band make its music seem bigger? Continually trying to answer that eternal question, DragonForce return with their driving sixth album, Maximum Overload, an album that pushes the limits of technicality with its blistering pace and seemingly nonstop virtuosity. Looking to change up the formula, the album finds guitar hero Sam Totman sharing the songwriting duties with bassist Frédéric Leclercq. While not completely transformed, Leclercq's presence provides the album with a thrash edge, adding just enough snarl to rein in some of the album's cheesier moments without making it feel overly serious. The real star of any DragonForce album, though, is the superlative musicianship on display, something Maximum Overload delivers plenty of. Totman and fellow guitarist Herman Li are, as always, in fine form, putting on a display of shredding at its finest as the pair coax sounds out of their guitars that feel impossible, all while playing at speeds that seem too fast to be human. Among the many treats on the album, the standout surprise has to be the cover of the Johnny Cash standard "Ring of Fire." In the hands of DragonForce, the song's gentle gallop is reborn in fire like the phoenix of myth, rocketing toward the heavens with a newfound sense of majesty. For all the mind-boggling complexity of their playing, it's moments like these that make DragonForce one of the more accessible acts in power metal. They take things just seriously enough that their albums don't feel like a joke, but aren't afraid to have a little fun, making Maximum Overload another dazzling heavy metal romp from the stalwart shredmasters.

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