Sound: Starfall is the third offering by Swedish power metal Gods Dragonland, and the first not to be based on their "Dragonland Chronicles" fantasy saga. The band make little attempt to distance themselves from the power metal genre but have enough musical and song-writing ability to render all previous power metal efforts meaningless.
The first track "As Madness Took Me" seems to go straight into harmonised, high-register vocals almost instantly after the guitarist has started. The track is incredibly twinkly during the chorus and has contains some excellent neo-classical play-off between guitar and keyboard, a technique used throughout the album.
There's a slight nod to viking/folk/pagan metal in "The Shores Of Our Land," which contains a drunken chant of "Loy-loy-loy" over an unrelenting heavy-metal backing. The last three track known as "The book of Shadows" are instrumentals either based on a story about an ancient egyptians curse written in the lyrics booklet or vice versa. This could be considered a low point for all who have a heavy dislike to movie sound-tracks, but it has a nice story non-the-less.
With Keyboard and guitar solos on each track, Dragonland have some of the most melodically aware players I have ever heard. Whilst many metal guitarists leave you thinking, "Woah, that speed was blistering" the impression with Dragonland is closer to "Woah, so that's what Mozart would sound like if he played electric guitar! (and was really into role-playing games" // 9
Lyrics: It would be difficult to insult the lyrics of a band who actually go to the trouble of writing an introductory paragraph to the start of each song in the lyric booklet. If your'e not a fan of ambiguous lyrics that probably lack any real meaning, this is certainly a positive point.
"As Madness Took Me": is a song about a person who is steadily losing his mind and by struggling to do what he thinks is right, makes his situation far worse. The lines in the chorus "Someday you'll see and you will believe me, I'm the one who will set you free" sound uplifting at first, but in context have a much darker meaning.
"Starfall": is a far more upbeat track about wishing upon a star and the lyrics contain very pretty sounding lines such as "A world where you belong," "where astral angels cry," and "the heavens sing your silent cry." I have doubts as to whether the last line used cry as a metaphor or silent was used as a bad synonym. However, Jonas Heidgert does hold a very long strain of notes during the last two choruses that a very impressive.
03."Calling My Name": is particularly interesting as it begins with some sound-bites of Charlie Manson i.e. "If I started murdering people, there'd be none of you left." This combined with the main lyrics "The spirits are calling my name, they beg me to free them from pain" suggests that perhaps the song is about murdering people in order to free their souls. I have serious doubts as to whether Charlie Manson actually thinks like this, as his interviews would indicate he's just plain delusion, but it's a good lyrical concept non-the-less.
Back to "The Book of Shadows," it's an adventurous epic beginning in Oxford, when a professor manages to crack an ancient code hidden in the "Book Of Shadows" and travels to Egypt to search for an ancient tomb, but that tomb has a deadly curse...
All in all, very good lyrical ideas and exquisitely sung throughout. // 9
Overall Impression: Overall this album is an irreplaceable addition to my collection. I accidentally discovered this album whilst searching for Dragonforce and I can honestly say that the Force can't hold a candle to Dragonland. Dragonland understand how to write a song, they play quickly when necessary but have a strong focus on vocals and melodic interest and also don't have the same drum-line on every song.
For me, the best songs on the album were starfall and the returning due to starfall's pretty twinkly nature and the returning's over the top "epic" themes. The only thing I can honestly say I disliked with this album was that the total run-time didn't quite crack 50 mins. Although it doesn't seem particularly short it certainly feels like it with a 10 minute instrumental in the mix.
If I lost this album I would certainly buy it again, even if all the songs were still on my i-pod. Otherwise, I would miss out on all the interesting opening paragraphs to each song. // 9