“Ultra Beatdown” (Special Edition) by Dragonforce

Artist: Dragonforce
Title: “Ultra Beatdown” (Special Edition)
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 8/26/2008
Genre: Power Metal/Melodic Metal
Rating: 4/5

When Dragonforce released their new CD “Ultra Beatdown”, they celebrated the event by releasing two different versions of it on the same day. Ok, so this is not entirely correct, but they did release a standard edition with eight songs and also a Special Edition version that featured nicer packaging, two additional songs and a bonus DVD with a couple of features. Given that we already reviewed the standard edition when we had snared a copy, we chose to re-visit that commentary below to refresh your memory and then analyze in a little more detail the differences that can be found on the special edition version which we now finally own a copy of. Here goes nothing….

“The guys in Dragonforce are back to do their super sonic Speed Metal thing and deliver unto the masses a righteous thrashing with their latest album “Ultra Beatdown”. It marks the bands fourth release and second for the Roadrunner Records label and finds the guys continuing along the process of delivering highly charged Metal that is driven by blistering guitar work and drumming. When I first heard the band with “Sonic Firestorm” I didn’t know what hit me because it moved like a freight train on greased tracks and just ran over the listener and left them dazed at just how fast the band moved on recording. It surely wasn’t a fluke as this continued on to their Roadrunner Records debut “Inhuman Rampage” and now onto “Ultra Beatdown” as well. The conventional Metal listener might dismiss them by saying that it must all be the same in sound and it’s interesting to see just how the fans split themselves off into sides that are either with them or against them with every breath. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground and while there are those who find the band the next best thing since sliced bread there are others who will rally their hatred in the street about them. I fall to the positive side when it comes to the group and find them quite entertaining and very lively – it’s actually safe to say that we can almost hear the fun that they have at this in the albums opener “Heroes Of Our Time”. When the album begins you see that the band has not slowed to a comfort zone or are resting on their laurels after finding so much success from Guitar Hero III but instead are back to the business of smiting the listener with speed and technical displays of guitar wizardry. This comes care of the twin lead guitar slingers of Sam Totman and Herman Li and no matter how hard I try I still cannot determine who the faster or better guitar player between them is. I would ask one of them if the chance arose but I fear the answer would be “I’m faster and better” from each of them. As we get to the second track of “The Fire Still Burns” we realize that while there is a similarity in the drive and tempo of the tune that the band has upgraded their abilities in terms of how technical they are.

Let’s face it, when the band’s premise is to play Metal this fast and with a ton of guitar solos there is some risk of their being a little bit of a consistency that you will recognize from time to time. When we hit track three we find that it seems as though drummer Dave MacKintosh had been listening to some super powered Black or Death Metal based on the blast beat drumming that the tune features at its onset. The tune becomes an almost glorious sing along which will definitely be a song that the audience will be a part of in concert. I really liked how “Heartbreak Armageddon” started and would have enjoyed hearing the track kept at the tempo that they launched it with but like most of their material the band falls back into the lock of acrobatic speeds and riffs. Either way you slice it the band has delivered once again and will surely impress those who had hoped for a solid album from them. It blows right by you as well and I found this interesting since most of the tracks pass the seven minute mark. It’s not all a shred fest by the way and the band offers up a solid ballad/anthem with “The Last Journey Home”. I know that the cell phone displays will be lighting up for this one. Singer ZP Theart hasn’t lost his edge and leads the charge into melodic choruses that seem to soar to the skies. There is also a lot of good coming out of keyboardist Vadim and he seems to be much more involved in the tunes as far as his instrument goes as compared to the guitars. My view is that if you are one of the detractors of the band or perhaps know some folks who might sway your decision about them is that you take a moment and choose for yourself about their relevance or lack thereof. I have always managed to find some level of good as well as a lot of energetic Metal fun in Dragonforce and I thank them for keeping the scene interesting with their contributions. This is a promising move upward from what we heard on “Inhuman Rampage” and I am pretty confident that many Metal maniacs will also enjoy digging their air guitar out of the closet to play along with the band as the album melts their speakers.”

I had closed out my original review of the standard edition with the out loud muttering about being unhappy that the label chose to release two different versions of the thing because this makes me fear it turning off some fans by doing so. As far as the two bonus songs that are featured on the Special Edition, well they are ok at best and not much different from the main album tracks. Given the available space on the CD medium there was no reason to not have them on the standard edition as well. I didn’t dislike the tracks but they also didn’t send me into the stratosphere based on what they were doing in them. Nice melodies and catchy riffs that blister by you at a sonic pace but again this is what they do on most of their stuff in the first place. The DVD that is included features two segments that are fun to spend a few minutes watching and the first is a “Making Of Ultra Beatdown” feature. During this short film clip we find the band being filmed by each other as they demo the new recording from their kitchens, offices and eventually private studio on the computers. It’s filmed mainly by Totman and Li who are always going off on one another and that alone makes for some humorous footage. The advancements in computer recordings are also demonstrated as the band shows how easy a section that they didn’t want in the track is removed by merely pressing a button. The second feature finds Herman Li meeting with the Ibanez technicians as they work on his signature edition of the guitar. It’s interesting for any music fan to see just how willing a company will go for one of the bands that they sponsor and it was interesting having Li explain various aspects of the particular model he was going to use.

The Special Edition is packaged in a slip-cased jewel box and to me is the better item to purchase if you are still wondering if you should invest in the album. In my opinion the additional tracks and DVD make it much more worth it than picking up the standard one and finding yourself wondering if you should have gotten the other one. I liked the release on the first go round because the band is a lot of fun to me, but I would have liked to see a little bit more included on the DVD such as videos and live footage from somewhere along their many tours. Knowing how Roadrunner Records has been delivering Deluxe Editions about a year after many releases, this is probably what we shall see next Fall. Stay tuned for that, but for now pick up “Ultra Beatdown” and start practicing your air guitar once again.

Track Listing:
1. Heroes Of Our Time
2. The Fire Still Burns
3. Reasons To Live
4. Heartbreak Armageddon
5. The Last Journey Home
6. A Flame For Freedom
7. Inside The Winter Storm
8. The Warrior Inside
9. Strike Of The Ninja (bonus track)
10. Scars Of Yesterday (bonus track)

Official Website: http://www.dragonforce.com

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