Valley of the Damned & Sonic Firestorm

Spinefarm Records

If you have ever played (or watched anyone play) Guitar Hero, you know how the Expert Level is virtually impossible unless you are Slash. You’ve probably also noticed that there are a few songs by a group called Dragonforce that happen to be even more impossible to pass on Expert Level. That would be the work of the greatest guitar duo of all time, Herman Li and Sam Totman. They make the band’s first two albums, Valley of the Damned and Sonic Firestorm, the two most influential fantasy metal albums of all time. Newly reissued, they offer your chance to actually listen and understand why Dragonforce is one of the greatest bands ever.

Their debut, Valley of the Damned is nothing more than the greatest fantasy metal album ever. From the blistering title track to the final (bonus) track “When Dragons Rule,” you get the feeling that you’re going through a video game like Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda. Tracks like “Heart of a Dragon” and “Black Fire” could easily be the background for massive dragon battles. Call it power metal. Call it speed pop. Call it fantasy power speed pop metal. Whatever you call it, you can’t deny that it is not only technically perfect, but sonically brilliant, especially when you get to the tag team guitar solos that make every track last at least five and a half minutes each.

Sonic Firestorm starts off with the blistering “My Spirit Will Go on” with speed metal drumming courtesy of David Mackintosh, soaring (scrotaling?) hair metal-worthy vocals by (the appropriately metal-named) ZP Theart and guitars that are being played so incredibly fast and precisely that I can smell the burning strings. The album even comes complete with a monster ballad, “Down over a New World.” Every song on this album is brilliant and the reissue (which includes the new track “Cry of the Brave”) just proves that despite the fact that the album is only six years old, it sounds like it is three decades old and timeless all at once.

There is a reason that Dragonforce songs on the Guitar Hero games are the hardest to play on Guitar Hero. They set guitars (and guitar controllers) on fire. The reissues of Dragonforce’s first two albums showcase both Li’s and Totman’s extreme talent and a hair-metal-meets-fantasy-world bravado that proves why both albums are classics in the metal genre.

Dragon Force: www.dragonforce.com

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