Draekon - Prelude to tragedy (EP) 3.5/5
1. The value of all
2. Darkness falls
3. The division
4. Wails of anguish
5. Where silence stills the soul
It is a long, hard road for American bands trying to make a name for themselves in the European symphonic power metal genre. Sure, Kamelot are internationally acclaimed and thriving, and Theocracy (maybe not so symphonic, but work with me) have carved out a nice niche for themselves. Overall, however, the United States has been an unforgiving wasteland for this style of music. This makes the efforts of Draekon all the more laudable. Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, this quintet self-released an EP entitled ‘Prelude to tragedy’ last year. Draekon followed up that release with fine performances at the 2011 edition of the Warriors of Metal Fest and (more recently) the Pathfinder Metal Fest IV in Marietta, Georgia. We don’t usually review EPs here at Metal CD Ratings; however, we decided to make an extremely rare exception for Draekon to showcase the efforts of this promising young band.
What is immediately striking about ‘Prelude to tragedy’ is the voice of Chad Barnes. Not only does he sing powerfully and clearly, but at times he sounds eerily like departed Kamelot singer Roy Khan. The plaintive wails, the edge of desperation, and the emotional quality and timbre are all highly reminiscent of Khan. That’s not to say that Barnes is a clone. Particularly in a live setting, he brings his own sound and style to bear. But Barnes is not solely deserving of the spotlight. His bandmates (and especially guitarist Joshua Simpson and keyboardist Alex Biccum, also of Lorenguard) weave a rich melodic tapestry of sound that succeeds in being lush, grandiose, and dark/wistful, all at the same time. Sonically, ‘Prelude to tragedy’ is most impressive as well, as its production values rival that of big-budget Nuclear Blast releases. The liner notes indicate that some well-known studio wizards in the industry (Jason Suecof and Alan Douches) were involved in the engineering and mastering processes, and it shows in the high-quality sound achieved on this EP.
The songwriting on ‘Prelude to tragedy’ shines, too. Though perhaps taking a few too many cues from Kamelot in terms of melodies and arrangements, Draekon have penned memorable and compelling songs. In terms of catchiness, opener “The value of all” is a sure bet, but everything gels brilliantly on “Wails of anguish”, which is dark and heavy, bombastic and captivating. Really the only questionable songwriting choice on this CD is final track, “Where silence stills the soul”, which is an acoustic’n’symphonics number that is carried by Barnes’ voice. This song is aiming for something between those tear-jerker Kamelot ballads and the dark, mystical, understated Crimson Glory numbers, but it doesn’t quite get there. It’s not easy to write a killer ballad, and Draekon haven’t quite mastered that particular art. The result, unfortunately, is that ‘Prelude to tragedy’ goes out with a whimper, not with a bang, which does hurt a bit given the 5-song, 25-minute format.
To fans of European styled progressive/power metal with a healthy dollop of symphonics, Draekon is highly recommended. Those who worship at the altar of CDs like ‘The black halo’ and ‘Epica’ will find much to like about ‘Prelude to tragedy.’ And again, Draekon deserve mad props for tackling this out-of-fashion style (at least in the U.S.) and executing it with such professionalism and aplomb. My hope is that on future releases, Draekon will step out of Kamelot’s daunting shadow a bit and work on carving out their own sound. Even if they don’t, however, recent Kamelot has veered a good bit stylistically from the likes of ‘The black halo’. If the originators don’t want to play in that style any more, then why shouldn’t Draekon seize the flag, take the torch, and lead us all to the promised land? Keep up the good work, Draekon. I for one will eagerly await your next, hopefully full-length CD release.
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