1. As Madness Took Me 
2. Starfall 
3. Calling My Name 
4. In Perfect Harmony 
5. The Dreamseeker 
6. The Shores of Our Land 
7. The Returning  
8. To The End of The World 
9. Part I: A Story Yet Untold 
10. Part II: The Curse of Qa'a  
11. Part III: The Glendora Outbreak 
12. Rusty Nail [Japan bonus] 
13. As Madness Took Me [DEMO/Japan Bonus] 
14. Starfall [DEMO/Japan Bonus] 
  Jonas Heidgert - vocals
Elias Holmlid - synthesizers
Nicklas Magnusson - guitar
Olof Mörck - guitar
Christer Pedersen - bass
Jesse Lindskog - drums

DRAGONLAND: "Starfall"         dragonland                      


review  by Marco "Norman Knight" Signore____   

Maturity and ideas 

The disc opens with a song by the name of “As Madness took me”. Immediately one can feel what the album will be like… a typical power metal work with all the notes at their expected place.

The vocals in this song are sung at a comfortable level for the vocalist, Jonas Heidgert, with a good level of reverb, and accompanied by a good pattern of keyboard arpeggios and pads that in an almost symphonic way frame the bass’n’drum work, all with a good playing guitar.

The title track is the second song of this CD. It opens with a powerful riff of guitar, a bit undertone due to the symphonic background of the keyboards. But instead of going in the usual power-metal way this song is a bit more original, and more reminiscent of Europe than Stratovarius. Good and unexpected changes of tone and rhythm and openings that on moments appear almost melodic hard rock, with synth sounds that brought me back to the Eighties. There’s very little standard power metal in this song, and this projects the band to a wider audience. However, this song is a good second piece (I would have made it the opener!), with a very good proof by the drummer Jesse Lindskog.

A reinassance-style viola sound with bass strings is the soundtrack of a reciting voice in the opening of the third piece, called “Calling My Name” – just few seconds, then the song explodes, with full force double drum, synth strings, and hammering guitars and bass. Good work of the voice again, as Heidgert shows to know how to use choirs and effects in the vocal line. The guitar, however, is little more than a second bass line, and that is a bit of penalty for the good Magnusson; however the song goes on, the reciting voice comes back in a sort of symphonic bridge, that almost splits the song in two and paves the way for the guitar solo, with the six strings agan taking back their rightful place. The synth arpeggios balance the initial guitar solo and create a carpet on which the voice of Heidgert takes the listener by hand and goes to the end of the song, that simply happens. It doesn’t fade – it stops abruptly, and then we are greeted by a dark and hammering guitar with a sweeping resonance synth for the next song, “In perfect Harmony”.

Again we find a different song, orginal and not simply a “power metal” generic song. Some personality injected in this track has changed the cards, and the song flows nicely – very good the trials of all the musicians. The guitar in some parts has even more in common with a Symphony X style than the usual stuff proposed by Stratovarius & C. The guitar solo as well is something quite new in the power metal – even though here Magnusson (or is he Mörck?) has some reasons to thank the good old Yngwie…

Relentlessly comes the fifth song, “The Dream Seeker”, and we are forced to follow the double bass drum running with the strings of guitar and bass only to reach a techno bridge that introduces the vocal line. It’s a bit misleading… was not for some keyboard sounds and the drum we could think we are listening to a prog metal song. Good work, good work indeed. And the song changes atmosphere again as we delve deeper into the melody and at last we can also hear the bass! Here Pedersen shows his ability with the four strings, as Magnusson launches a melancholic guitar solo ended by a keyboard episode almost played like a slide guitar. I am impressed.

A moment of tranquility… the waves of the sea and the song of the seagulls… illusion! Synth arpeggios and guitar, bass and drums playing the rhythm as one mercilessly step into this new song, “The shores of our land”. A good song, with very interesting ideas, that increase in number as the track walks in the CD player. Mr. Homlid on the keyboards shows us what a synth insert can do for the economy of a song, and soon we find a change of pace again – a march almost from the golden days of Iron Maiden, and then keyboards again almost in a Genesis revision, with a female voice (it seems that female voices are winning strongly out there…). And a very good guitar solo with a generous lever use anticipates another female vocal bridge – that makes you imagine of the sun setting over the sea, gulls flying and the oblique spears of light illuminating the high coasts, a dragonship on the horizon. A grand finale! It makes shivers, my compliments! My favourite song, for what may matter. Strong, well built, well structured, epic in some parts, and with interesting and original ideas from the single musicians.


But with “the Returning” the power metal rides again, with both Magnusson and Mörck running at full speed on the handle of their guitars. Great keyboards openings again, even in a sort of tapping… inserts of piano, and the power of the rest of the band supperting the work of Holmlid. Another good song, even though a bit less original than the previous ones.

The rolls of Lindskog on the toms introduce the following track, “To the End of the World”, with wha wha guitars and synth strings that prepare the entering of the vocal line in another “Europe-style” song. A simple yet intriguing beat by the drums and followed by the good Chirsfer Pedersen on bass. An excellent use of the effects on the voice again shows the maturity of this band and of the single elements as well. The solo section is very unpredictable with many tonal changes of the guitar chords as the synths play a nervous and skittering melody. And the voice changes tonality many times as well, making this song another interesting episode in the album.

We approach the end of the disc, and we find a mini-suite in three parts, called “The Book of Shadows”. The part one, titled “A story never told” opens with a sweet keyboard work, with synth pulse bass, synth strings and a piano main line. A crescendo brings to a delicate harp section with a high-pitched string note, that dissolves into a piano arpeggio with horns holding the melody. A very epic song that would be nice in a fantasy movie. Then, angelic female choirs tells the tale of this story never told. Sudden a change of pace with a rhythm section that anticipates war… or a ride of great heroes – but bringing a curse… the “Curse of Qa’a”, the second part of this suite… the vocal line rages on, reaching a climax when suddenly a female voice soothes the storm with an oriental melody, that has the flavour of the desert, the stars shining over the endless sands… and ancient tombs full of mystery…down to “The Glendora Outbreak”, a reprise of the main theme (worthy of a Hollywood movie indeed!) that leads to a grand finale of epic guitar soloes and pillars of synths that again make you dream of strange lands and mysteries in the cold air of the evening in mystic places.

What to say about this album? I was a bit disappointed with the first DragonLand album, back in 2001 (The Batle of Ivory Plain), but with this masterpiece this excellent band managed to prove that they have maturity and ideas. The main reason I did not like the first Dragonland work was the usual… too much standardised power metal, too much Stratovarius, too much double drums, too much standards, too little original ideas.

This “Starfall” is the opposite. Excellent in any respect, starting from the production and ending with the performance of the single musicians, “Starfall” is an album that convinced me. I wanted to listen to his CD with as much care and attention as possible in order to to a review from a neutral position. Again, I don’t like “standard” power metal, but in this Dragonland album these guys managed to put practically everything, from power to prog to epic soundtracks.

In an age where the “power metal” is so often becoming synonimous with “commercial”, when even the epic fantasy is thrashed and jailed serving the demons of profit and mass production, I did not expect such ideas and quality from what at first MAY seem “yet another power metal band”. No, Dragonland show clear ideas, clear minds and best of all the will to detach from the standard to try and give some original music, an injection of optimism for a metal genre that too many times is failing at the gates of originality.


rating: 9/10


Marco Signore 
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