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Dragonland - Astronomy 3/5

Reviewed: 1-12-07


1. Supernova
2. Cassiopeia
3. Contact
4. Astronomy
5. Antimatter
6. The book of shadows part lV: The scrolls of geometria divina
7. Beethoven's nightmare
8. Too late for sorrow
9. Direction: perfection
10. The old house on the hill chapter l: A death in the family
11. The old house on the hill chapter ll: The thing in the cellar
12. The old house on the hill chapter lll: The ring of Edward Waldon

Here comes a slab of melodic power metal from Sweden’s Dragonland, their 4th studio album entitled ‘Astronomy’. When it comes to bands with Dragon in their name, Dragonland wouldn’t be the first band that comes to someone’s mind (DragonForce, anyone), but this band has prodded along and has released their 4th CD in 6 years.

Their debut CD ‘The battle of the ivory plains’ was very good as debuts go. Nothing new, but a decent CD regardless. Dragonland’s 2nd CD ‘Holy war’ was an average CD in my opinion. A step backwards from the debut although their sound remained similar. The main problems with that 2nd CD were Jonas Heidgert’s vocals, and the CD’s production. Heidgert can sound great at times, but awful during other times. The disappointing ‘Holy war’ led me not wanting to listen to their 3rd CD, ‘Starfall’, but reading reviews of it seemed as though the band had improved somewhat. Now along comes ‘Astronomy’ and I see a lot of different opinions on it. Some say good while others say potential top 5 metal CD of the year... so with my interest rekindled, I had to hear for myself.

The first thing that jumps out at me with this CD is the sound. This is not the Dragonland that I know from their first 2 CDs. They have incorporated a lot of different sounds and styles into this CD. At times it sounds progressive, or symphonic, and even atmospheric too. Jonas Heidgert’s vocals sound much much better on this CD than on ‘Holy war’. From melodic to high-pitched screams, his voice has improved ten-fold.

Production is also fantastic on this CD. The vocals are clear and on the same level as the music, whereas in the first 2 CDs, the vocals seemed to be behind the music, which was irritating. Dragonland’s use of synthesizers and keyboards is exceptional on this CD; it really adds a different but great element to their sound.

But considering the CD as a whole; after listening to it I asked myself just what exactly was I listening to? The songs are completely all over the place, sound wise, jumping from progressive to symphonic and melodic metal. The first 2 tracks “Supernova” and “Cassiopeia” are slow and progressive/atmospheric sounding, with lots of synthesizers used. I feel that those 2 tracks are not the strongest on the CD and shouldn’t have been the first 2 songs someone hears when they play this CD.

Things really kick up a few gears with the 3rd track “Contact”. Here we hear the more traditional sounding Dragonland, a la their first 2 CDs. Of course their sound is much better on this CD. Fast guitars, soaring melodic vocals and a great use of keyboards can be found within that 3rd track. It’s probably one of, or the best song on the CD. The title-track is also very good. A mid-paced melodic galloper with crunchy guitars, where you can really hear the improvement of Heidgert’s vocals. “Antimatter” is a decent track, which is straight up power metal, with fast pounding drums and soaring vocals.

‘Astronomy’ contains 4 instrumental tracks; “The book of shadows part lV: The scrolls of geometria divina” and the “The old house on the hill” trilogy, which ends the CD. These aren’t your normal instrumentals either. They sound like an epic movie score, with orchestras and the whole 9 yards. But I wonder what was the reason for these tracks, were they really needed in this CD? Particularly to have 4 of them. I thought it strange to end the CD with that trilogy, as it may not hold the listeners interest. I’m sure that these epic instrumentals would appeal to some listeners, but it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the CD.

With all that being said, the bottom line is that ‘Astronomy’ is a good CD from an improved band. Dragonland have let their creative juices flow, bringing you not just the average melodic power metal CD, but a detailed and creative CD which includes progressive and symphonic metal, with an overall epic and atmospheric feel to it. Not the best CD of 2006, as some people have pegged it, but it's easily within my top 10 or 15 best CDs of 2006.




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