Review Summary: The Chronicles of Dragonland, the Power Metal band, Part III: A Real Kick in the Ass
Well after taking a nearly ten year break from their story The Dragonland Chronicles
and after releasing the two previous non-story albums Starfall
, Dragonland had finally released part three of their epic tale of heroes, elves, monsters, and of course dragons. While some people may question on why they took such a long break, especially considering the fact that Astronomy
was released five years prior, others might think that this slight hiatus was necessary for them, as it will help get some rest and practice for their next release. Not to mention this overall halt in this story and the other two releases did certainly give Dragonland the time needed to give Under that Grey Banner
the energy it needed, as not only is this record probably the most epic of the tale, but probably one of their best releases to date.
There are three things that listeners will notice compared to the first two albums. One: the production is a lot cleaner than The Battle of the Ivory Plains
and Holy War
. It’s polished quite well, almost to the point of sounding mainstream. Even so, it doesn’t affect them negatively, as it’s a sound that is rather fitting for Dragonland, even if it is one that has been heard before. Two: the vocals are much improved from Dragonland’s preceding albums. Jonas has once again improved his voice to a more mature sound. He doesn’t go to his squeamish falsetto voice as much and no longer feel strained. And three: there are far more guest artists than Astronomy
. The one band that Dragonland has seemed to have the most peculiar interest in is partner metal artist, Amaranthe, as literally all of the vocalists (from 2011 that is), Elize Ryd, Jake E, and touring member Andy Solveström have joined in on this album along with two other singers, Fred Johanson (obviously by his voice you can tell he plays the villain of the story), and Anna Mariann Lundberg. The guest artists are fitted rather excellently throughout the album and certainly add more atmosphere to the album, though at times they can be distracting as the sheer numbers of them certainly take hold in the last few songs.
This album in particular actually focuses less on the orchestrations than Ivory Plains
and Holy War
and more on the guitar work and drumming. They’re less audible than the rest of the band but still backup the music very well. Again, the guitar work is fantastic and the drums keep the energy alive throughout. The album opener Shadow of the Mithril Mountains
(putting the actual first track aside) brings out the fast pacing guitar work and drumming that is typical yet enjoyable for power metal artists to do, and certainly shows how much Dragonland has improved. There is a lot more variety as well as there are more slow-paced songs present in this record, but it’s not softer sounding as you would think. The Tempest
and Dûrnir's Forge
are heavier and brutal than much of the album and yet keep the flow consistent. Even so, Lady of Goldenwood
ends up having that necessary soft sound as it breaks any monotony that the album contains, despite not being as slow paced as it should be.
It’s actually hard to find major flaws in this record, but the one that some may find unappealing is that Under the Grey Banner
is just simply another “fans-only” album. Not really saying that some people that are outside the fanbase won’t enjoy this, but you have to know Dragonland’s previous records to really enjoy this. The outsiders of the fanbase won’t really find this to be a real groundbreaking album for Dragonland or for power metal in general. It’s the stuff that many mainstream audiences have heard before, even if it’s enjoyable to say the least. But the fact that Dragonland has improved in the style that their story has set is what makes this album worthwhile. And whether or not Dragonland will continue to improve throughout their story is a question that only time can answer.
So with that said, Under the Grey Banner
is the most consistent album that the three story-based albums have to offer. Whether or not people will enjoy this album as much as the fans do, it is likely that it won’t be the case. But until the next album that Dragonland releases, we can surely enjoy the three story-based albums for now and the other two records prior to this one. Fans of power metal will certainly enjoy this, and the fans of the band will really enjoy this. It’s just the way it works.