|Review: Dragonland - Astronomy|
Label: Century Media
Year released: 2006
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Review online: January 23, 2009
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
Rated 4.55/5 (91%) (20 Votes)
Dragonland fans can usually be split into two sides; the folks who prefer the fantasy-infused, glorious Power Metal journey of both their debut and sophomore efforts. Or the folks who prefer the darker, Evergrey-inspired moments of Starfall. Astronomy picks right up from where the acclaimed Starfall left our mouths lying on the floor. Where once we had an overt amount of keyboard use, we now have a lethal injection of Swedish Melo-Death. Standing tall and proud in its genre, Astronomy is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Crashing onto the speakers with enough pomp to topple a mountain, "Supernova" is a proverbial treat to the ears, with gorgeous symphonic elements; shredding guitar solos and token female cooing. A great indicator as to what's in store. As ever, Jonas Heidgert bares top form with his majestic range, a true talent on the scene. With an exotic intro, "Cassiopeia" immediately strikes me as single material, one of the more commercial cuts here, although excellent female vocals courtesy of Elise Ryd carry this track above anything mainstream metal could offer us. Blink and you'll miss it, "Contact" races across your speakers leaving a certain dragon-named act choking in a midst of dust, boasting one of the more impressive guitar/keyboard duos I've laid witness to in recent years. "Astronomy" and "Antimatter" showcase the tricks these picked up from homegrown acts such as Nightrage or At the Gates. Speaking of Nightrage, two of their boys, Mario Iliopoulos and vocalist Jimmie Strimmell appear as guests here. Further guest vocals are supplied courtesy of the fantastic Jake E from power metallers Dreamland.
Half way through Astronomy, we're given the fourth installment of Dragonland's "The Book of Shadows" saga, expertly performed and written by Dragonland masterminds Olof Mörck and resident keys/synthesizers wizard Elias Holmlid . "Beethoven's Nightmare" is certainly one of the more ambitious tracks on display, telling the story of classical composer Beethoven, of which some of his works are weaved throughout. Impressive to say the least, it leaves me thinking what they'll come up with next. You may recall me proclaiming "Cassiopeia" as verging on commercial; with "Too Late for Sorrow" Dragonland take biscuit in terms of commercialism - shamelessly I find this very enjoyable, home to some very classy fret-work. "Direction: Perfection" really slays, with some sick clean/harsh vocal harmonies and some downright dirty riffage. Closing in suitable Dragonland fashion we're treated to Astronomy's version of "The Book..." entitled "The Old House on the Hill" which is altogether bigger and better, evoking the works of film-score giants such as Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman. In the booklet can be found a full back story to this impressive saga, which I must admit is a delightful read. However with a third of the material being instrumental here, it becomes increasingly easy to feel cheated. Admittedly my sentiments exactly, however after coming to terms with, and understanding the sheer amount of work that was put into "The Old House..." those initial feelings were quick to vacate.
Fans of epic Power Metal, albeit infused with a modern day Melo-Death sound, you really can't go wrong. You may find yourself asking why I didn't reward this album with a perfect score. Well I feel that as fantastic as Astronomy is, predecessor Starfall stands just that little taller. I also believe that Dragonland have an ace up their sleeves to top both said albums, but as always time will tell. Regardless we have a top tier release on our hands, which deserves pride in place amongst your CD collection. Highly Recommended!
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