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Dragonlord - "Rapture" (CD)

Dragonlord - "Rapture" CD cover image

"Rapture" track listing:

1. Vals De La Muerte (1:52)
2. Unholyvoid (4:39)
3. Tradition and Fire (5:00)
4. Born to Darkness (5:22)
5. Judgment Failed (4:20)
6. Wolfhunt (3:25)
7. Spirits In the Mist (5:03)
8. Rapture (5:24)

Reviewed by on July 8, 2008

"Featuring four out of five members who have all played in Testament, it should come as no surprise that “Rapture” has a strong base in thrash, but that base has been bent into the twisted and evil form of keyboard heavy symphonic black metal."

Birthed in the fires of legendary thrash act Testament, Dragonlord rose from the ashes of guitarist Eric Peterson’s desire to play darker and more keyboard driven music than was possible with Testament. Although Peterson does handle some of the guitar parts, he has shifted his primary role to vocalist and lays down his first ever recorded vocals for a band. Featuring four out of five members who have all played in Testament at some point, it should come as no surprise that “Rapture” has a strong base in thrash, but that base has been bent into the twisted and evil form of keyboard heavy symphonic black metal.

The opening instrumental track has a mysterious and medieval feel with sounds that mimic a choir of people chanting some kind of mantra and intermittent clashing of cymbals. It’s thrown off a bit by alternating notes that are too low for the rest of the music, creating an almost humorous circus music effect. While other symphonic black metal bands like Old Man’s Child have pulled off the evil carnival theme, it doesn’t work as well in this instance. The uneven opener slides smoothly into the first metal track, “Unholy Void,” where Dragonlord shows off what they really have to offer with fast and heavy dual guitars and horror movie style ghostly keyboards. Even with two guitar virtuosos in the band, the keyboards still tend to overshadow the guitar work. While they are mostly conducive to the dark atmosphere the album tries to maintain, there are a few unfortunate instances where they are used inappropriately and should have been toned down or left out entirely.

The vocals use the same high pitched screeching style made famous by Dani Filth, but with occasional dips in the tone that move it a bit closer to Dimmu Borgir territory. There are no outright imitations though, as Peterson definitely takes the sound and makes it his own by screaming with a vehemence that is often surprising, even for a genre known for its anger and fury. He clearly wants to make an impression for his vocal debut, and as a result no one could ever question the amount of passion he has poured into this album. Even without the addition of limited clean backing vocals, there are enough variations in the extreme vocals alone, such as changing pitch, varying the length of screams, and some use of distortion, to prevent the formula from ever getting stale.

The lyrics being madly shrieked out of the speakers don’t always match the integrity of the sounds themselves, and sporadically descend to levels just as inane as anything Cradle of Filth has ever written. The majority of the lyrical content is standard black metal fare regarding impassioned calls to arms and invocations to dark powers. The main exception to this occurs right off the bat with the opening track’s lyrics, which are actually quite interesting as they can be interpreted multiple ways, and may even be metaphors for Dragonlord itself. Lines like “Displacement time travel engaged” and “Draconian texture synthesis forces man to kneel his world” seem to be describing the band being born out of Testament and possibly even being railroaded into playing a style of music they would rather not be playing.

Dragonlord is an experiment in progress that works more often than it fails, but there are still plenty more kinks to be worked out before it could be considered a resounding success. As long as Peterson retains the passion in his vocals and the band finds a better formula for combining symphonic keyboards with heavy thrash guitars, Dragonlord will be able to take a place of honor alongside the great symphonic black metal bands.

Highs: Passionate vocals and great guitar work with thrash elements

Lows: Overuse of keyboards and some of the lyrics are silly

Bottom line: Solid thrash-influenced symphonic black metal for those who need a break from Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)