Sweden’s Dragonland have a passion to create fantasy-based music “that actually tries to be mature and that enriches said fantasy world with inspiration from millennia’s of human mythology”.
What’s more interesting about this Gothenburg act other than the fact they’re not bawling their lungs out to the sounds of jagged death metal is the fact they also state that “to make a neo-classical album filled with overtly bombastic clichés of steel clad warriors was out of the question.”
Being a big Rhapsody Of Fire fan and realising the ridiculous but necessary OTT antics of the band, this is an album that sounds tantalizing. Perhaps there can be a half-way point where fantasy music need not be grated with the finest lashings of mozzarella!
Well, Under The Grey Banner still emphasises all that is typically HUGE about power metal concept records – ambition, a backdrop of symphony, vocal pitches that reach for the heavens and yes, even that extra cheese topping. But it’s not without its finer intricacies.
It’s not like Dragonland drop the neo-classical thing because they can’t do it, they just don’t need to be showy about it in order to make a good record. The Tempest reveals their fine talents in this respect, but as expected from their initial statement, the Swedes don’t overdo it. Fire And Brimstone hears guest vocals from Fred Johanson playing the part of ‘the antagonist’ throughout, but with less involvement than any Christopher Lee narrative in the aforementioned Italian act.
The beautiful ending of The Black Mare leads us into Lady Of Goldenwood and it’s something you immediately get a good sense about. It’s a lovely track that breaks the album up without losing its flow in any way – also giving a folkier dynamic to the record with Olof Morck’s violin, while his fellow Amaranthe singers Elize Ryd, Jake E and Andy Solveström all make great contributions.
Dûrnir’s Forge has a mid-breakdown that even sounds mathy with the unusual rhythmic structures pulled out by sticksman Morten Lowe Sorenson. Pair that with some chuggy (almost djentified) riffing on The Trials Of Mount Farnor and rare melodeath verses of the title track – you realise this is probably a tad more modern and concise in some episodes than first thought. For a fantasy release it’s not quite up there with the ironically, neo-clasically-embracing Pathfinder debut album, but it’s certainly a fine record to get lost in.