New Dragonforce Record Features Johnny Cash Cover, Guitar Solos Recorded on a Yacht

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Dragonforce website
Dragonforce in action

Dragonforce is a gateway drug to heavy metal for video game nerds. No, really -- I've seen it happen.

In the British band's 15-year span, they've been able to develop a sound that truly stands a part from any other band within the genres they're constantly rotated between. It's as if some festival organizer is scratching their head somewhere, saying "Well, they fit in with speed and power metal... but they've also got that hard rock ballad sound down... the fast-as-hell guitar arrangements are on par with technical death metal... and, uh, they also sound like the soundtrack to a retro video game. What's that called again; 'Nintendo metal'?"

And the description wouldn't be far off. The Grammy-nominated band is known for its overwhelming ambush of organized yet chaotic sound, with fantasy and supernatural-based lyrics, soaring melodic vocals, electronic accents, and techniques that do sound like retro video games.

In fact, Dragonforce guitarist Herman Li recently told Guitar World that people have described the band as "Bon Jovi on speed" and "Journey meets Slayer."

Li founded the band in 1999 with fellow guitarist Sam Totman, and Marc Hudson (lead vocalist, who came on board just in time for 2012's album), Vadim Pruzhanov (keyboard, keytar, synthesizer, backing vocals), Frederic Leclercq (bass, backing vocals), and Gee Anzalone (drums, backing vocals) round out the lineup.

Dragonforce's sixth studio album, Maximum Overload, comes out August 19. It's 10 high-intensity tracks, more of the signature sound that fans have come to love from the band-. However, this time around the band decided to challenge themselves even more.

Taking a fresh direction, they decided to work with an outside producer, Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend) for the first time ever (Li and Totman have always co-produced the records). There's also one guest on the album, Trivium's Matt Heafy, who does backing vocals on "The Game," "No More" and "Defenders." It's also the first time ever that Dragonforce has included a cover song -- "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash.

The result is an album recorded over a six-month period at an array of locations, from Jens' own studios in Sweden, to Zoltan Bathory's [Five Finger Death Punch] yacht. It not only displays how the band has matured musically, but how they've also incorporated heavier elements, bringing a taste of '80s thrash metal to the mix. As Li puts it, "It's about evolution, not revolution."

Up on the Sun talked with lead guitarist/founder Herman Li about how giving up control on the album enhanced his creativity, covering Johnny Cash, and the experience of recording a guitar solo while standing on a moving yacht.

You guys brought in a new producer on this record, Jens Bogren, to challenge yourselves as musicians. In what way did that challenge Dragonforce?

Herman Li:I think that one thing is we had to hand the work over to someone external. Sam and I are control freaks because we're producing all the time. While the process was happening we were learning techniques that were a bit different than how we usually do it.

Was it for you to hand over some of that control, since you have worked as the producer on so many albums?

It was OK for me; I think it was harder for Sam in the beginning. Um, but, I was okay with it because I guess when I started recording I didn't have this load on my shoulder like how I used to. I used to have to write so many notes about what had to be done. I didn't have to worry about it. And when I knew something needed to be recorded I didn't have to do it myself; I could just send an email. That was kind of cool, like, oh, is that all I have to do for that?

I'm sure taking that load off your shoulders accented your creativity a bit.

Yes, I could think about the playing. This was the freest album for me to record.



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