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Dragony - "Shadowplay" (CD)

Dragony - "Shadowplay" CD cover image

"Shadowplay" track listing:

1. Wolves of the North
2. Shadowrunners
3. Kiln of the First Flame
4. The Maiden's Cliff
5. Warlock
6. Babylon
7. Dr. Agony
8. At Daggers Drawn
9. Unicorn Union
10. The Silent Sun (Feat. Zak Stevens)
11. True Survivor (David Hasselhoff Cover)
12. The One and Only

Reviewed by on December 18, 2015

"'Shadowplay' – an album that not only dashes the jinx, but is truly one of the best symphonic power metal albums released this year."

“Sophomore jinx” – “an instance which a second effort fails to live up to the standards of the first effort.” This happens an awful lot in metal. A young band comes out of nowhere to tap into a new and exciting musical dimension only to set the bar higher than the ability warrants. This brings me to Austria’s Dragony, who released the debut “Legends” in 2011. Wait, you hadn’t heard about this? Right, neither did a whole lot of people. The name is what drew me in – like a kid in Fantasia. Let’s just say that on “Legends,” the band showed promise and potential, but the material presented was drab and daft compared with others in the scene. Four years later, the band has released “Shadowplay” – an album that not only dashes the jinx, but is truly one of the best symphonic power metal albums released this year.

It really is possible for a band to get dramatically better on a second album, so much so that it makes the debut look silly. “Shadowplay” is exceedingly better than “Legends” and it is hard to even listen to the debut anymore. Whether it is song structure, composition, production, orchestration – “Shadowplay” wins on every front, giving the thick milky richness of the crowdie released by Gloryhammer a run for its money. Dragony is serious, though….laugh if you will, it’s a fantasy world built for metal nerds such as your author. However, those easily offended by Euro-fantasy power…heed this warning: if overly symphonic power metal, with overtly cheesy references to dragons and unicorns makes you ill, please steer the other way. There is nothing for you here.

For those who cannot get enough of fire breathing winged beasts and unicorns lying across rainbows, let’s get right to the songs, shall we? One of the things that Dragony has put tremendous energy in is spectacular sing-a-long choruses, albeit lined with clichés. Each song supersedes the former from the opener “Wolves of the North” (the album’s heaviest) through “Babylon.” The highlight for me is “Kiln of the first Flame” and “Warlock” which sandwich tremendous ballad “The Maiden’s Cliff.” It’s a nerd fest of epic proportions: chest beating tales regaling of Victorian times where swords, horseman, valor, virtues and honor prevailed.

The second half of the album continues the trend, though not quite as catchy as the first. “At Daggers Drawn” kicks up the pace and power, while the cleverly titled “Dr. Agony” (get it?) is a throwback to early Kiske era Helloween a la “Dr. Stein” – with an opening verse almost directly lifted from UFO’s “Doctor Doctor.” “The Silent Sun” features the distinctive and unmistakable vocalist of Circle II Circle/T.S.O.’s Zak Stevens. “True Survivor” is just about the most perfect cheesy 80’s style cover that a symphonic power metal band can perform…truly channeling the mighty David Hasselhoff.

Dragony is fronted by one of the classiest singers in metal – Mr. Siegfried Samer (Visions of Atlantis). What is most remarkable about his performance is that he has come all the way back (and more) from throat surgery, sporting pitch perfect and phenomenal range to go with his smashing stage attire. Guitar riffs from Andreas Poppernitsch and Simon Saito are fantastic even if they sound a ½ octave below Manual Hartleb’s keyboards. The sound and mix is solid – so much better in fact than “Legends” – a testament to the work of Frank Pitters, Jan Vacik and Michael Smith.

“Shadowplay” puts Dragony in the upper echelon of symphonic metal, coming out of nowhere after a four year absence from the mediocre debut offering “Legends.” The musicianship is top notch and the memorability of these tracks leaves you singing them on first listen and remembering long after. For fans of Rhapsody and Gloryhammer, Dragony should be at the forefront of your band lists.

Highs: Energetic and highly entertaining Euro symphonic/fantasy power metal; an incredible difference between debut and sophmore effort.

Lows: This might present way more cheese than many fans can handle, orchestration/keyboards sometimes drown out the guitars a bit.

Bottom line: "Shadowplay" represents a remarkable difference from the debut....Dragony can now be called "Legends."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)