Third strike is deadly
Going back to its pre-Y2K origins, the Dragonlord idea has always been intriguing: have Testament’s Eric Peterson, who has written more than a classic song or two over the years, offer his experience in spinning blackened symphonic death/thrash and having it backed by his skillful friends and ex-band mates. That’s on paper. In practice, however, Dragonlord’s two full-lengths have been underwhelming studies that did little more than ape Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Cradle of Filth and put the band in the “follower” category.
But something has clicked in the 13 years since previous album, Black Wings of Destiny. After that amount of time, it’s likely difficult to say what, but today’s Dragonlord is a much different—and better—beast. There’s a more comfortable osmosis of what Peterson knows best as orchestration and tremolo-picked Norse riffs circle around solid thrash, NWOBHM and classic metal/rock influences. The title track shoots Rainbow (the band and the meteorological phenomenon) out of the arse of Old Man’s Child while “Northlanders” summons Peterson’s day job and Priest for a dance with Norwegian iciness. There are hints of Thin Lizzy here, full-on Celtic choral singing there and in the progressively punky “Ominous Premonition,” one of the best black metal tunes of the year.
Issues remain with the keyboards tinkling and orchestral simulation being too loud in the mix and creating a cluttering affect (“The Discord of Melkor” being one of the most egregious offenders), but Dragonlord appears to have found their stride by figuring out how to carve a niche by looking beyond their starting point and incorporating their roots and strengths.