Liked it when I was a teenager. Still like it now. I was born with correct opinions.

Fast, fast, fast power metal, driven by pummeling double bass and wild guitar-shredding. Thousands of notes blast out, stinging and singing like flocks of golden birds. As a kid, I couldn’t believe what what I was hearing. “There should be a law.” If guitars had human rights, both Sam Totman and Herman Li would be trading harmonica solos on death row.

Later discoveries like Galneryus, Vai, Satriani, Gilbert, Shrapnel Records, Yngwie, Buckethead, and even stuff like Nitro would make the DragonForce blitzkrieg sound more ordinary. But when you’re sixteen, this album does to the ears what Arnold Schwarzenegger does to a rainforest in Predator. Not every bullet kills, but they fire a million of them. When I heard Li snapped a string recording the final solo for “Through the Fire and the Flames” (it’s at 6:57—that BROINNGGG that sounds like a saxophone flutter), my first thought was “you mean there were five strings that didn’t snap?”

It’s an assault of notes, with the metronome stuck at exactly 200 bpm (fifteen years later, I’m still mentally reliving an argument I had with a guy who insisted they’re 100 bpm, because that’s what iTunes told him. Are your ears painted on, bro?). Singer ZP Theart is the steel truss rod supporting the album amidst the chaotic 16th note tapping and sweeping. Without his lead melodies, the enterprise would collapse.

Inhuman Rampage is a real “guitar” album, but few serious guitar players enjoy them. DragonForce never had a chance at being cool: they rocketed to fame in 2006 after a song of theirs appeared in Guitar Hero 3. Truly, the roads to metal immortality are as many as the stars in the sky. Varg Vikernes killed a dude. Glen Benton razored a swastika into his forehead. DragonForce, the absolute madmen, got a song on Guitar Hero 3.

“Through the Fire and the Flame” was their breakout hit. It’s a very good song, though I imagine they regretted writing the intro, because they have to play the song at every show and thus must take a nylon-stringed classical guitar on the road for the rest of their careers. But then there’s “Revolution Deathsquad”, which is even better. And “Operation Ground and Pound” is better again. There’s no actual compelling factual reason “Fire” escaped containment and became their career-defining song, except by circumstance. It could have been one of about four other songs.

Inhuman Rampage is consistently high-quality, but it’s all the same kind of quality. This is the other problem with DragonForce: they tend to burn out the listener. One of the album’s best tracks, “The Flame of Youth”, bounces off you because you just heard “Cry for Eternity”. But it’s a wonderful song, with a great keyboard solo from Vadim Pruzhanov (an underrated member of the band, along with Dave Mackintosh and his nimble drumming). I recommend mainlining only three DragonForce tracks at a time. There’s a lot of ideas and creativity on display, but it’s all culled from the same part of the songwriting amygdala. If DragonForce all sounds the same to you, it’s because you’ve overlistened to them, and your ears have grown a callous.

The album ends with “Trail of Broken Hearts”, which I don’t think I’ve ever listened to all the way. It’s a Poison/Motley Crue style power ballad that doesn’t really work: it sounds too clean, without that whiskey-and-cigarettes roughness that Axl Rose and so forth sometimes bring to a power ballad. But do get the Japanese edition, or whatever version has “Lost Souls in Endless Time” as a bonus track. That song is just nuclear.

It’s easy to turn a corner with this band. First you love them. Then you regard them as videogame sounding trash. Then you love them and regard them as videogame sounding trash. Corners, man. Keep turning them and you’re back where you started.

But I never hated this album. It feels like the purest distillation of DragonForce, and perhaps of power metal. The moment in the storm when there’s more rain touching your face than air. Terrifying, unendurable, but brilliant in its purity. An experience not to be missed.

There’s an art approach called horror vacui—literally, “fear of empty spaces”—where every square inch of the artwork is filled with super-busy linework, as though there are ghosts that might lurk in blank spaces. There’s another style called Wimmelbilderbuch—literally, “teeming picture book”—where an image seeks to contain an entire book’s worth of content: gaze into it, and you’ll see tiny lives, little threads of story spun out and then snipped off. The most famous Wimmelbilderbucher are Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally puzzles, although Hieronymus Bosch could surely be mooted as an early example of the style.

Where does that leave DragonForce? Between the two. Horror vacui is frantic nonsense, endless jabbering so you don’t hear the quiet, and it has pessimistic undertones. Wimmelbilderbucher are wholesome puzzles or fascinating slices of life. DragonForce makes bright optimistic music, made for teenagers and videogames and teenagers who playe videogames, but their intensity borders on a horrific edge. The shredding soon no longer registers as guitar playing, but rather the endless teeming of a million maggots, coiling and uncoiling in viscera. That sounds like a weird comparison, but I find the sight of masses of maggots deeply fascinating. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t give a fuck about finding Waldo, but just likes staring at those impossibly packed yet dead (or beyond dead—they never had a life) people, then give DragonForce a try.

Yeah, Guitar Hero 3 was a mixed blessing. Yeah, they became a laughingstock at a certain point. I heard “FagonForce” and “DragonFarce” so many times that I started keeping my appreciation of them to myself. The image of a locked vault with a firestorm raging behind it proved prophetic. But this is special, special music to me.

(I just looked at the cover for the first time ever and saw that it’s actually not a locked vault. Oh.)

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