Prepare yourself for a gripping, exhilarating ride on January 9th, 2006. On that date, DragonForce release their hotly awaited third album, ‘Inhuman Rampage’. The title is an apt summation of a devastating musical journey, an unstoppable force that the six-man group’s forthcoming tour of duty will leave devastated cities in its wake. Combing the primal force of power metal with hard-earned musical proficiency, old-school thrash and generous quantities of muscular melody in a unique style that they call ‘extreme power metal’, DragonForce have established themselves as THE heavy metal band of the past year.
The summer of 2005 saw them sharing festival stages with Iron Maiden, a sell-out headlining tour of the UK generating scenes of pandemonium. Intensive bouts of touring to accompany the band’s two albums to date – ‘Valley Of The Damned’ in January 2003 and the following year’s ‘Sonic Firestorm’ – has seen their fan-base escalate in quite dramatic terms. Meanwhile, the European metal press have swamped the band with almost universal reams of adulation. “DragonForce are getting bigger. Prepare for the onslaught,” Kerrang! warned. "DragonForce are as metal as f**k,” roared the UK’s Metal Hammer, “They’ll be enormous.” Writers and magazines from France, Greece, Finland, Sweden, Holland, Japan and many more wasted little time in falling under the band’s spell. Perhaps the best summation of all these accolades was Rock Hard (Germany)’s prediction that: “DragonForce could become the first British metal band in ages to reap respect from all over the world.”
Against all the odds, DragonForce have single-handedly revitalised power metal in their homeland of the UK, awarding credibility to a genre that till their arrival was regarded was little more than a joke.
Clearly, plenty rides on ‘Inhuman Rampage’. However, instead of resorting to panic and watering down the style of music that secured such a position of prominence, DragonForce have gone further over the top than ever before. The new album is faster, bolder and heavier – yet still as boldly stirring and distinctly hummable – as anything they’ve attempted so far.
“We’ve come up with the ultimate formula,” proudly declares Herman Li, one half of the band’s unstoppable guitar army. “Combining intensity, chaos and melody, with all the DragonForce trademarks, it’s something that’s never been done before. “For us, this is the next evolution in the DragonForce sound,” he continues. “I’ve never heard an album that sounds like ‘Inhuman Rampage’ – the title says it all! It's seriously gonna blow some heads off around the world during the next year.”
The eight-song album was recorded at Thin Ice Studios in Surrey and guitarist Herman Li's own studio in West London, some of its guitar sections recorded in hotel rooms while the band wound up the tour for ‘Sonic Firestorm’.
Track titles like ‘Through The Fire And Flames’, ‘Operation Ground And Pound’, ‘Revolution Deathsquad’ and ‘Storming The Burning Fields’ leave the listener in no doubt of DragonForce’s malicious intent, and more importantly their aversion to climbing the ladder of popularity by selling out. Winner of the Dimebag Darrell Best Young Guitarist award at Metal Hammer UK’s Golden Gods, Li and his six-string partner in crime Sam Totman have never sounded hungrier nor eager to prove their worth. From the start of each song to its exhausted finish, notes fly from all angles.
The album ends with its sole ballad, ‘The Trail Of Broken Hearts’, though as Totman quite rightly points out: “We still managed to squeeze three separate guitar solos in.”However, shredding for shredding’s sake has never been among the band’s intentions.Although keen to squeeze as many notes as possible into certain songs, this time the pair has experimented with various new textures and sounds.
“We wanted to keep things interesting, and there are sections of certain songs that will remind you of video games,” grins Hong Kong-born Li. “Many people will hear them and assume they were made by keyboards. That’s completely wrong. All those parts are done on the guitar.”
Which isn’t intended to under-value the superlative contribution of Vadim Pruzhanov, who co-wrote several of the album’s songs (including ‘Body Breakdown’), is credited along with Li and Totman as a co-producer and whose dazzling keyboard runs are as daring and provocative as anything performed on guitar frets. A Ukrainian by birth, Pruzhanov is fast becoming known for lengthy and insane solo excursions during the band’s live shows and has really come into his own on ‘Inhuman Rampage’. On the other hand, vocalist ZP Theart is already regarded as the glimmering pearl in DragonForce’s crown. Far too many European power metal acts are faced up by singers with the merest grasp of English diction. South African-born, Theart is the real deal – a stomping, roaring, beer-swilling frontman who fronts the band with passion and wit.
Alongside Li and Totman, Theart was a co-founder of DragonForce. The trio met in London in September 1999, using the name DragonHeart for their initial two years of existence. Quick to realise the possibilities of the internet, the band posted a set of demos at their website (www.dragonforce.com) and were rewarded not only by half a million downloads, but the interest of Sanctuary/Noise Records.
Early support UK spots with Halford and Stratovarius, plus the timely recruitment of a superior rhythm section moulded a professionalism to match their commitment, and before too long the group were placed on the launching pad of international success. The sextet toured Europe, South East Asia and the Far East to promote the debut album, and before too long, critics were queuing up to praise DragonForce’s fusion of modern melodic power metal, the energy of speed metal and the confident, in-your-face delivery of bands twice their age.
From day one, the band’s goal was to establish an identifiable style all of their own. To an outsider, the lyrics may seem to tell otherworldly tales of sword-wielding warriors occupying distant battlefield plains, but strip away the fantasy imagery and a message of modern-day positivity is right there beneath your nose. But most of all, DragonForce’s success is attributable to playing ability and perhaps their most under-played asset of all – a skill for composing ultra-memorable, rabble-rousing heavy metal anthems. ‘Inhuman Rampage’ offers indisputable proof.
ZP Theart – Lead and backing vocals
Herman Li – Lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Sam Totman – Lead and rhythm electric guitars, backing vocals
Vadim Pruzhanov – Keyboards, Piano, backing vocals
Dave Mackintosh – Drums, backing vocals