"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Drakkar - "When Lightning Strikes" (CD)

Drakkar - "When Lightning Strikes" CD cover image

"When Lightning Strikes" track listing:

1. Hyperspace – The Arrival
2. Day Of The Gods
3. The Armageddon Machine
4. In The Belly Of The Beast
5. Revenge Is Done
6. When Lightning Strikes
7. Winter soldiers
8. Salvation
9. At The Flaming Shores Of Heaven
10. We Ride
11. The Awakening
12. My Endless Flight
13. Aftermath – The Departure
14. Engage!
15. New Frontier

Reviewed by on December 22, 2011

"'When Lightning Strikes' is packed with ultra-catchy riffs and choruses that draw influences from European power metal, neo-classical power metal, and traditional metal with a heavy dose of hard rock along the lines of Deep Purple."

Drakkar is back to re-establish the foothold the band had in the Italian power metal scene. Without a shadow of a doubt, “When Lightning Strikes” represents the group’s finest and most developed album to date. The sound draws influences from traditional and neo-classical power metal and is impacted by the classic rock sound a la Deep Purple. The only missing ingredient is that polished crisp sound that only a Charlie Bauerfeind-like producer could provide. However, the material makes up for any deficiencies.

The band’s fourth release, and first in nine years, is presented in the form of a sci-fi concept about an alien machine (“The Armageddon Machine”) which lands in New York to judge the human race through protagonist and fighter pilot Colonel Hal Gardner. When Gardner comes to close to one of the giant metal inhabitants he is struck by the electrical storm surrounding it and captured. He learns that he’s an “immortal living recorder,” who has lived many lives in the course of human history. Through those past lives the aliens determine the fate of humanity. The story was written by guitarist and mastermind Dario Beretta.

Musically, “When Lightning Strikes” is packed with ultra-catchy riffs and choruses that draw influences from European power metal, neo-classical power metal, and traditional metal with a heavy dose of hard rock along the lines of Deep Purple (especially with the organ keyboards of Corrado Solarino). The band clearly matured in its time dormant from the scene. Beretta flashes his fantastic guitar playing (check out “Winter Soldiers”) and Davide Dell’Orto’s vocals are vastly improved (check out “Revenge is Done”) from his already high octane performance on the band’s 2002 release “Razorblade God” and light years ahead of the band’s previous vocalist Luca Cappellari.

The album’s best offerings include the grandiose “At the Flaming Shores of Heaven,” the Running Wild-esque “Winter Soldiers,” the speedy “New Frontier,” and the title track which contains a section just after the chorus with well played riffs, well placed pauses and a really groovy keyboard line. Beretta’s solos are some of the best I have heard in the genre, explosive and exciting.

The only slight drawback I can find with the album has nothing to do with the material, but the sound and the mix. While the musicianship and orchestration is top notch, the album’s sound is foggy, resulting in an unpolished demo sound, especially when compared to similar bands like Dragonland and Rhapsody Of Fire. The keyboards choke the mix at times, which draws attention away from this acutely guitar driven release. With a more crisp sound and befitting mix, the album could comfortably stand up to power metal’s finest.

Drakkar has roared back on to the power metal scene, when the genre needs it the most. In the past couple of years, most European power metal releases have been mired in a stale sound that has nearly stunted the music. However, Italy’s Drakkar reached back to past influences to find a path to the future. Lightning strikes twice!

Highs: A return to the glory of European power metal.

Lows: The sound is a little muddy and the keyboards choke the mix a little.

Bottom line: Drakkar sails back on to the scene, "When Lightning Strikes" twice!

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)