Dragonland - Starfall
Century Media
Melodic Power Metal
11 songs (49'28)
Release year: 2004
Dragonland, Century Media
Reviewed by Marty
Those who got a chance to get early promo copies were heralding this as potential album of the year material. In fact, the way many were singing it's praises, you'd think that in the power metal genre, this was the equivalent of the second coming of Christ! Depending on how you look at this album and your opinion of power metal in general, this could be a masterpiece that raises the bar in this somewhat over-saturated genre or it could be dismissed as just another average release from yet another melodic and sometimes speedy European power metal band. Myself, I'm caught somewhere in the middle. Having been a long-time fan of this genre, it really takes something very special and of the highest quality to really impress me anymore. As far as the genre goes, it's all pretty much been done before and therefore the impact of really good or exceptional speedy melodic power metal has gotten diluted by the sheer number of bands out there that are all playing slight variations of the same sort of basic power metal sound (I sense an editorial topic brewing here....). This new album from Sweden's Dragonland is their third and first for their new label, Century Media Records. Over two years were spent working on this album with painstaking attention to every detail and the result is an album that has an amazing sound and a rich, polished and powerful production. Tom England and Hendrick Danhage (Evergrey) helped out in the production of Starfall as well as lending a hand with the backing vocals and some lead solos. Being a little above average than most in the genre, Dragonland attracted some attention with their melodic yet epic quality power metal with their releases The Battle Of The Ivory Plains and Holy War. Although they had a decent sound and a better than average vocalist, they still seemed to be lumped in with the many others in the genre, waiting for their turn to edge out in front of the pack. Starfall is a markedly different album in it's rich melodic quality and stronger keyboard presence and the overall "epic" quality to their sound is somewhat diminished. The melodies are richer than ever and although it's still power metal, the band has softened their sound a bit, opting to "control" the speedy elements and use them for a more dramatic effect with the song arrangements rather than barrage the listener with a never ending flurry. I applaud this new direction in the band's sound and although I don't quite see it as a masterpiece, it certainly is a solid album.

The somewhat deliberate attempts by the band to change their sound and approach to their brand of power metal hits you with full-force with the first two tracks on the album. As Madness Took Me showcases the bands new richer and very melodic sound with a big memorable chorus and lots of melodic guitar harmonies; reminding me of Boston, Queen and some extent, the 80's era of Queensryche. The title track, Starfall, uses a great Stratovarius style mix of guitar and keyboards and again the vocals and choruses evoke a positive feeling that is both powerful and melodic. The Shores Of Our Land highlights more of the new changes in approach. This one's an odyssey complete with sound effects and is a great mix of power metal, celtic-flavored melodic interludes and female vocals (provided by Johanna Andersson) for this epic tale. The Returning gets back to the band's speedy power metal roots with a mix of solid riffing and keyboards which at times soar in their majestic quality. The album comes to and end with a three part epic entitled Book Of Shadows. This one sees the band using dreamy, orchestrated passages for part 1; themes which are revisited in a more heavier fashion throughout parts 2 and 3. Part 3, The Glendora Outbreak uses epic themes and huge keyboard effects for a big dramatic touch that overall has more of a progressive feel than anything they've ever done before. With a mix of big epic lead solos and a more laid back and cleaner Joe Satriani style for the interlude, this one builds to a stunning conclusion. A bit out of character with the rest of the album but being a progressive rock fan, the quality of this three part song cannot be denied. Other tracks on the album also feature more of a speedier and aggressive power metal sound but the melodic sense never falters nor does the quality of the sound and the band's performance. Some tracks that begin like such a typical power metal track, quickly diversify with many tempo and mood changes; all adding a more dynamic sense to their music. The guitar riffs are seldom just speedy palm-muted exercises but are very finely crafted, interesting and far more intricate than most in this genre. The generous use of harmonized lead fills and scale runs on many tracks boosts the melodic sense of the songs and greatly enriches their sound.

There are many excellent songs on this album with a soaring melodic quality that permeates almost every track. After the first two tracks, you get the feeling that this is going to be something; a real milestone of melodic power metal. If the whole album was of the quality of the best 4 or 5 songs, then there would be no question that this would be album of the year material. Many may disagree with me here, but there are a few tracks that just don't have any real memorable qualities to them. Sure they sound great but the songs just don't click. I like this album and once again I applaud the band for making the conscious effort to make the sound of the band different than before and trying to establish a more unique edge over the others. This may not be Dragonland's masterpiece but it signifies a major turning point in their sound (for the better as far as I'm concerned) and they are well on there way to forging a niche for themselves. Someday they may just deliver that "masterpiece".........

Killing Songs :
As Madness Took Me, Starfall, The Shores Of Our Land, The Returning and Book Of Shadows (Parts 1-3)
Marty quoted 79 / 100
Chris quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Dragonland that we have reviewed:
Dragonland - Under The Grey Banner reviewed by Chris and quoted 96 / 100
Dragonland - Astronomy reviewed by Andrew and quoted 99 / 100
Dragonland - Holy War reviewed by Chris and quoted 92 / 100
Dragonland - The Battle Of The Ivory Plains reviewed by Chris and quoted 88 / 100
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