Dragonland - Astronomy
(3 reader votes, average 4.33 out of 5)

by Ben Perry

Image

Band Name: Dragonland
Album Name: Astronomy
Release Date: November 13, 2006

Band on Record:

Jonas Heidgert: vocals
Olof Morck: guitars
Nicklas Magnusson: guitars
Christer Pedersen: Bass
Elias Holmlid: keyboards, synths
Jesse Lindskog: Drums

Guest Musicians:

Elise Ryd: Female vocals.
Jimmie Strimmell (Dead by April): Growl vocals on “Antimatter” and “Direction: Perfection”
Marios Iliopoulos (Nightrage): Guitar solo on “Cassiopeia”


Track 1: “Supernova”
The keyboards and odd drum pattern that kicks off this track makes it immediately sound alien and different than other bands, mixed with the “intercom” spoken beginning and you have a recipe for weirdness. The vocals are absolutely grand, with Heidgert controlling his high and low ranges a lot better here than on previous albums. The three solos, two guitars and one keyboard, all have a great tone and great presence for what has already been played.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 2: “Cassiopeia”
Completely different in delivery than “Supernova” as Spanish acoustic guitars begin the track with female vocalizing over it, until the power kicks in and crushing guitars play around the melodic vocals and guitar melody that is sadly placed in the background. The female vocals add a new dimension and sounds good with Heidgert singing with Ryd in some instances. The solo reminds me of something Gus G (Firewind, ex-Dream Evil) would play, good stuff and it makes sense as Marios Iliopoulos took Gus’ place in the band Nightrage.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 3: “Contact”
Just like “Supernova”, the instrumentation on here is erratic and different with the effects from the keyboard all the way through the guitar sequences. It sounds cool, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the norm. The keyboard solo is a great point-out portion, besides all the other little added features, and then when the two guitars and keyboard duel in an otherworldly fashion.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 4: “Astronomy”
Bombastic and loud would be the best way to describe this tune, however the song remains surprisingly melodic thanks to the vocals which have been stellar throughout this album, as well as the guitar breaks that accompany the “wall of sound” established by the bass and rhythm guitar and bass. Just like all the solos on this album, combining the keyboard and guitar effects on here makes for another unique and great listen.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 5: “Antimatter”
There’s a small amount of melody on this track, coming from the vocals, while everything else lays assault to your ears with distorted guitars and loud, thumping bass. The solo doesn’t even have that much melodic influence as the “wall of sound” takes precedence over it. The growl vocals are okay, I prefer them when they backing the melodic, but as a stand-alone they are decent.
Song Rating: 8 out of 10


Track 6: “The Book of Shadows Part IV: The Scrolls of Geometria Divina”
An instrumental track based on “The Book of Shadows” series that was present in the previous album, Starfall. The instrumental tracks Dragonland produces all are epic in their telling as if to convey a story, and this is no different, and will be seen again in “The Old House on the Hill” trilogy at the end of this album. There are some interesting elements and unique instruments used that make this a good listen and break from the constant guitar bombardment.
Song Rating: 7.5 out of 10


Track 7: “Beethoven’s Nightmare”
Interlocking the metal that Dragonland is most prominent at with classical piano chords now and again really does make this seem as if Beethoven was suffering a nightmare in order to discern the piece of music in his head. The guitar melody is of particular noteworthy in here as it plays along the same scale as the piano, but at a different time being its shadow. The solo is not fast and not furious as they often are in power metal, but tinged with the blues and a Joe Satriani vibe, if I’m hearing it correctly.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 8: “Too Late for Sorrow”
What would be considered the “ballad” on this album, however you cannot just judge that based on the music as it is still quite energetic, but in the lyrics and the difference in the music from constant rhythm to more melodic. The interplay of the vocals between male and female work perfect for this song as well, and I will admit it took a while for this to grow on me, but it finally did with everything that gives this melody as well as still being powerful.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 9: “Direction: Perfection”
Transitioning well from “Too Late for Sorrow” with a slower entry and keeping the same keyboard motif, there is a decidedly different feel to this song than most of the album as it has more of a thrash or death metal feel in the guitars. That may be from the influence of having those death metal growls in the song as “Antimatter” did. Here they play the background role for almost the entire song and I think they work a lot better than “Antimatter” where Strimmell was able to come to the forefront with his vocal style.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 10: “The Old House on the Hill Chapter I: A Death in the Family”
Set up as a movie soundtrack, with all the elements of metal that Dragonland uses for this album combining the soundtrack-like sound effects of anticipation with some good guitar melody before switching to more keyboard and cello type effects as the scenes play themselves out with sound, no words.
Song Rating: 7.5 out of 10


Track 11: “The Old House on the Hill Chapter II: The Thing in the Cellar”
Starting off less auspicious than the last track, it builds into a decent instrumental with the same movie theme as before, but not as good as the previous track in the use of metal in the score as well as the other effects.
Song Rating: 7 out of 10


Track 12: “The Old House on the Hill Chapter III: The Ring of Edward Waldon”
Following the same musical score as the previous two songs, this has some elements of the Lord of the Rings musical score and the use of guitars is probably used best at the beginning of this track throughout the entire trilogy. Still, not the best stuff Dragonland had on this album, or in their career.
Song Rating: 8 out of 10

Overall Review:
Astronomy shows a metamorphosis in Dragonland’s musical and lyrical direction towards something more mature and advanced. The beginning of this band was steeped in fantasy with their The Dragonland Chronicles (albums The Battle of the Ivory Plains and Holy War) that were speed and power metal driven, into Starfall that was heavily influenced by bands like Sonata Arctica having a keyboard driven album that also touched on the mystical in places. Astronomy takes things into a different realm, a more real realm as everyone wonders about space and the unknown that comes from the sky.

The band not only has matured in their subject material, but musically they are more adept at conveying emotion and changed their style towards a heavier musical approach in that transfer. The keyboards are still there, and still just as unique and great in their composition, however they compliment the bone-crushing guitars in a way that was replacing the guitars originally. The lyrics morph to encompass this change as the lyrics are more sinister and dark, as well as dealing with the unknown, an uncomfortable subject. Given the name of the album, every song except the trilogy, “Too Late for Sorrow” and “Direction: Perfection” deals with that theme of space or the unknown in some way, however there are uncomfortable twinges in each of those songs. The trilogy of “The Old House on the Left” was created in a film score-esque way that accompanies a story in the linear notes. That story is disturbing, I will not reveal anything so as to not ruin the surprise, but the music accurately gives a mood to the reading that you should do to accompany the listen. “Too Late for Sorrow” describes the lose of hope and the uncomfortable knowledge that you know longer know what to expect on a day-to-day basis, the same idea comes across in “Direction: Perfection” where the singer is apparently being stalked.

Every other song has the twist of mystery, whether good or bad, as well as the greatest mystery: space. “Supernova” discusses the extreme powers of that event of star explosion conveys, whereas “Cassiopeia” tells how boasting against the gods transferred Cassiopeia into a sky constellation and the telling of that tell being used to reduce the mystery space provides by giving an explanation so that the fears of the ancient Greeks could be lessened. The great question that people have in current times lies with the existence of life in space, and “Contact” brings that fear to the forefront literally as those we come in contact with happen to be our worst fears and bring the destruction to humanity. The fear of the unknown does not always have to come from the outer limits, but in our own mind can lie the unknown as “Beethoven’s Nightmare” shows that we can be tormented by our own mind the genius that lies within it.

Dragonland have, and I hope will continue to grow in their development. Jonas Heidgert has changed his vocal style to a slightly lower register and mixed up his singing to make it more manageable where before he constantly hit the high notes and the keyboard mastery of Elias Holmlid to work with the guitars and evoke the perfect emotional response to accompany the lyrics. Those elements are what makes a band good and with a refining of that skill to mix up some of the background guitar this band can become one of the great power metal acts.
Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10

 

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