DragonForce – Reaching Into Infinity

It is a decade since DragonForce had the world at their feet: ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’ was the flagship track of the Guitar Hero series, and third album Inhuman Rampage had perfected their unique maelstrom of breakneck melody. The band was tipped to smash the glass ceiling to ultra-mega-rock-stardom.

And then they didn’t.

And it’s really unfair that they didn’t. Not only do they have a canon that boasts FOUR genuine #FiveFists classics – Valley Of The Damned, Sonic Firestorm¸ the aforementioned Inhuman… (all Noise/Sanctuary) and second vocalist Marc Hudson’s first with the band, 2012’s pop Metal masterpiece The Power Within (Essential/Roadrunner) – they also are unique, distinctive and have never abandoned their principles, even if their last album Maximum Overload (earMUSIC) was a little cartoony (even for them) in places.

Yet it feels like Reaching Into Infinity (earMUSIC/Metal Blade) sees the English virtuoso sextet having to prove themselves all over again. At least as far as the general metal community is concerned. Of course, they have their devotees, a lot of them, but come studio album seven, perhaps DragonForce’s chance of being a genuine contender has been and gone.

And if it hasn’t, Reaching… is not the album to argue their case. Unsurprisingly after eighteen years, the temptation to expand and explore is prevalent, and this is the album that sees them testing and trying a few new ideas. It’s also the first DragonForce album that doesn’t really connect.

Don’t get me wrong, it does everything it should. The opening tracks blaze by in a flurry and a fury (of the storm), all through the album choruses are huge, there are twin twirling, furious guitar parts locked ridiculously tight, and the collective is happily exploring new avenues – a Thrashy break here, a growled section there, a change of approach to some of the leadwork, a progressive tangent, an arrangement gamble – but sadly, for all the good bits, it seems like the ‘Force left behind the songwriting. Whereas on Power and Maximum they had honed almost to perfection the art of the melodic metal anthem, and delivered a slew of them, Reaching… is unsure and unnecessarily long winded. Song lengths have started to extend, but without dynamic or creative weight to back it up.

Reaching Into Infinity is by no means a poor album. Not by a long stretch. It’s just the least good album in a career of a band that is phenomenal when doing what they do best. This, though, is not them doing what they do best.