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Review: Dragonland - Under the Grey Banner
Dragonland
www.thegreybanner.com
Under the Grey Banner

Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2011
Duration: 55:55
Tracks: 12
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: January 11, 2012
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
for:
Under the Grey Banner

Rated 3.9/5 (78%) (20 Votes)
Review


Despite having a really Power Metal name, Dragonland have not really been a Power Metal band for some time. After the solid if uninspired Holy War back in 2002, this band decided they wanted to jump on the power pop/rock bandwagon and produced two almost unlistenable albums with Starfall and Astronomy. The mix of pop melodies with prog-rock sensibilities was beloved by some deeply ill individuals, and I was pretty sure I could safely write off this band.

Thankfully, not so. Under the Grey Banner may be extremely derivative, but it features some ace songwriting and is an unabashed Power Metal album. You could tell someone this was the follow-up to Holy War and there is nothing in the sound of this album that would make that sound like bullshit. No more Boston/Journey vocal melodies, no disjointed prog jerking in place of riffs. This is a real, honest PM recording.

Now, this is still a deeply derivative band, and the cornerstone of their sound is Rhapsody "of Fire" from one end to the other. It must be pointed out with some cruelty however that Rhapsody have not made an album even close to this good since Symphony of Enchanted Lands. This is heavier and less keyboard-obsessed than Luca and Co., and Jonas Heidgert is a class above Fabio as a vocalist. Plus the songwriting is much more solid and focused than either band has managed in nearly a decade.

There are some really first-rate Power Metal songs on here, including slower numbers like "Shadow of the Mithril Mountains" and the heavy "Durnir's Forge", in addition to old-school PM speedsters like clear album highlight "A Thousand Tower's White".

It's not all good, as the lyrics wallow in Tolkien imitation to the point of embarrassment and there is quite a bit of breathy female voiceover which is extremely silly. They also employ a second vocalist on some of the songs, and while he has a powerful baritone that nicely complements the lead vocal, he is way overselling it, and sounds frankly ridiculous. He sounds like John Rhys-Davies at a poetry slam – that shit is just too much.

Overall a powerful, solidly-written album with some truly excellent songs and a few flaws that keep it from being the classic disc it could be. Still, a dramatic return to form from a band I had long since given up on.

Other related information on the site
Review: Astronomy (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: Holy War (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Starfall (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Starfall (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: The Battle Of The Ivory Plains (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: The Battle Of The Ivory Plains (reviewed by The Lord of Hate)
Review: Under the Grey Banner (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: Under the Grey Banner (reviewed by MetalMike)
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