Dragonforce – ‘Warp Speed Warriors’

By Katherine Allvey

If you’re reading this, the odds are that you already know exactly what the latest Dragonforce album sounds like. And you’re absolutely right: every song sounds like power metal played at 1.5x speed, with guitar solos that make you wonder how Herman Li hasn’t worn his fingers down to stumps and drumming at the rate of a hummingbird’s heartbeat. However, what makes this album stand out from the rest of the Dragonforce back catalogue is the subject matter, because ‘Warp Speed Warriors’ is the sound of the inner nerd being unleashed. Tackling more than a few major fandoms along the way, this is a tribute to all of Dragonforce’s favourite things. 

The kingdom of Hyrule, home to Link, Zelda and Gannon, is the first stop on our ‘Warp Speed’ tour. ‘Power of the Triforce’ could easily have become a parody track, but by exercising a little restraint (for once) they’ve created an upbeat song that’s moshable and elicits a double take when you realise that yes, vocalist Marc Hudson really is singing about ‘the power of the master sword’.

Dragonforce’s aptly renamed Taylor Swift cover ‘Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version) (Dragonforce Version)’ is another surprise. Again, they’re playing it straight, with part of the fun coming from recognising the song’s origin. It’s a brilliant cover and proves that the trope of genre-swapped covers of eighties power metal staples work in both directions. Even the ‘normal’ songs on ‘Warp Speed Warriors’  – those not linked to a specific fandom – are very much on theme. ‘Doomsday Party’ features haunted retro arcade synths lurking behind the turbo guitar solos as well as a strangely thoughtful piano interlude. The debate rages on as to whether ‘Pixel Prison’ is a first person retelling of ‘The Escapists’ or a first draft of ‘Dragonforce: The Musical’ but regardless, it’s theatrical and adventurous.

Then there’s ‘Space Marine Corps’. This will either be one of Dragonforce’s biggest hits or the point in their career that they jumped the shark. It’s a six minute track based on the Warhammer 40k universe with lore-heavy references and some seriously clunky lyrics (‘we’re jumping, we’re jumping, we’re massive jumpers’). It would be easy to snark on this song if it wasn’t also ridiculously catchy. You’ll find yourself singing the chorus days later to the embarrassment of those around you. It’s so unabashedly excessive – down to mentioning a favourite colour scheme for tabletop miniatures – that you have to respect what they’re doing, even if as you’re asking yourself why they felt tabletop wargaming needed an anthem. Are they sharing their love of Warhammer 40k or aiming to attract a very specific crowd in the same way a band might record a Christmas song? The jury’s still out.

‘Space Marine Corps’ won’t be the only time you’ll question Hudson and Co’s choices on ‘Warp Speed Warriors’. Hidden away in the bonus tracks are remixed versions of a couple of album tracks which are far better than the versions included on the main album. The album mix of ‘Astro Warrior Anthem’ is standard Dragonforce fare, but the remix with Matt Heafy of Trivium taking over half the vocal duties? That’s something special, with the two contrasting voices adding character and extra bite to their normally polished sound. Adding Arch Enemy’s Alicia White-Gluz to ‘Burning Heart’ brings a touch of harshness and aggression to counter the overwhelming gloss of their performance. Why were these songs not included on the main record? By bringing in guest vocalists, Dragonforce are offering something new and unexpected to their sound, not enough to send them spinning into a new and off-brand direction, but just enough to hint at what they’re capable of outside their niche. 

‘Warp Speed Warriors’ is a great return for Dragonforce after five years away, and diving into the world of the geeky and retro is an entertaining gimmick. However, by not including their celebrity friends on the main album and having at least two songs rely on a deep knowledge of their subject matter to understand the lyrics, Dragonforce might have missed the chance to make a career-defining album. Let’s hope the new songs are received well on their current world tour and aren’t burnt up in the fire and flames of their older work. 

Kate Allvey

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