Modern British metal doesn’t get much more vibrant and exciting than 15-year veterans Dragonforce, a band reknowned for playing faster and more furiously than most comers. Guitarist Herman Li took the time to tell SHANE PINNEGAR about new album, Maximum Overload.
Maximum Overload is arguably the heaviest record Dragonforce has ever released.
It’s also the first time they’ve worked with an outside producer, Jens Bogren. Li is over the moon with the result, and says Bogren, who has worked with Opeth, Kreator, Symphony X and many more, got a great result out of the band.
“Yeah, we’re excited. Jens is a top world class metal producer and he’s done so many different styles of music and he’s very open minded to try different things with us and push us to another level,” says the Hong Kong-born shredder.
“He definitely pushed us really hard in our performance individually and as a band. He has a really good ear and he can hear if we play well or not play that well – and he’ll tell us! He’s really good.”
Bogren also gained a reputation as a bit of a hard-arse in the studio.
“Oh, yeah,” laughs Li. “He was nobody’s lapdog let me tell you that. Just because I will want something, doesn’t mean I’m going to get it. It’s almost like, ‘hold on, your ideas will be considered’ or whatever. He definitely took no shit.”
Maximum Overload is Dragonforce’s sixth album, and with each new record comes progression. As well as enlisting Bogren to produce, chief songwriter and guitarist Sam Totman co-wrote most of the tracks with bass player, Frédéric Leclercq. The results speak for themselves: resolutely Dragonforce, but bigger and better.
“Yeah, I think it was a really good combo,” agrees Li. “They’d never worked together that way. It was good because we somehow had so much fresh ideas the way we expanded our sound.”
An old friend of the band, Trivium’s Matt Heafy, contributes backing vocals to three of the album’s tracks.
“It’s just really lucky that he was off tour when we asked him to do the songs – he said, ‘yeah, I’m going to finish the tour soon, I got a week off’. I wasn’t really expecting there to be chances of doing things like this because they’re really busy. That was really actually a surprise. It was really lucky that we had him.”
Maximum Overload also features a cover version – a Dragonforce-styled version of Johnny Cash’s country mariachi classic, Ring Of Fire. It’s far from an obvious choice, but they make it work.
“It was very natural how that song came about,” Li explains. “We thought, ‘okay we’re going to do a cover song for the first time because, for us it will be original, because we’ve never done one before’, but we would only do it if we found something that would sound like Dragonforce when we’d play it, the way we would arrange it.
“So Ring Of Fire just came on TV for Sam when he was watching, and he actually arranged it within 15 minutes to get the whole song the way he wanted it, he had a kind of vision. And then we heard it and we thought, it was cool and that’s how it came about – it didn’t actually take that long, because it just felt right. If you’re stuck and can’t think about it, then you haven’t got the right song.
“We stick to the Dragonforce style – solos, guitars, speed. You have to do it that way because it’s a cover song because people have to hear the song, but go, ‘I know straight away this is Dragonforce’. It’s got to have that stamp on it.”
We wrap up with Li affirming that Dragonforce will be taking Maximum Overload right around the world – including Australia.
“We’re going to do a full world tour, for sure. What we did basically, is starting in the UK first and then we’ll make our way probably through Europe and hopefully we’re definitely going to get our way to Australia. We’re just filling in the schedule like that. Hopefully we’ll be back down there again soon.”