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Dragonland - "Under The Grey Banner" (CD)

Dragonland - "Under The Grey Banner" CD cover image

"Under The Grey Banner" track listing:

1. Ilmarion (3:18)
2. Shadow Of The Mithril Mountains (5:44)
3. The Tempest (4:13)
4. A Thousand Towers White (4:07)
5. Fire And Brimstone (4:31)
6. The Black Mare (6:13)
7. Lady Of Goldenwood (4:16)
8. Dûrnir's Forge (4:58)
9. The Trials Of Mount Farnor (5:26)
10. Throne Of Bones (1:47)
11. Under The Grey Banner (8:04)
12. Ivory Shores (3:18)

Reviewed by on December 1, 2011

"From the bombastic intro of 'Ilmarion' to the rich melodies of 'Ivory Shores,' the band puts the genre back on the map with an orgasmic display of power, speed, majesty, and melody."

If there ever was a band that could match Rhapsody at its very best, it would be Sweden's Dragonland. After a five year absence and two lineup changes, one of which sees drummer Jesse Lindskog moving to guitar, Dragonland returns with one of the most amazing fantasy power metal albums since Rhapsody's "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II." The band returns to where it all started, the "Dragonland Chronicles," which began with the "The Battle Of The Ivory Plains" (2001) and continued on the release "Holy War" (2002).

"Under The Grey Banner" resets the bar for fantasy power metal to an almost unattainable height. From the bombastic intro of "Ilmarion" to the rich melodies of "Ivory Shores," the band puts the genre back on the map with an orgasmic display of power, speed, majesty, and melody. It is further proof that fantasy power is stronger than ever, rather than the stagnant form of metal it has become lately, especially in light of the rise and dominance of symphonic extreme metal in recent years.

Combining the stunning vocals of Jonas Heidgert with amazing musicians Olof Mörck (lead guitar), Jesse Lindskog (guitar), Anders Hammer (bass), Elias Holmlid (keys) and Morten Løwe Sørensen (drums), Dragonland tell the story of the retaking of Westmark with incredible emotion. The album adds overwhelming guest performances of musical actor Fred Johanson (check out "Fire And Brimstone," "Throne Of Bones" and "Under the Grey Banner") as the antagonist and Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd who adds that Lisa Gerrard touch in "Ivory Shores" (also check out "Lady Of Goldenwood").

Dragonland creates a music that, if played loud enough with closed eyes, one can practically live inside the mystical world of the Ivory Plains, where the royal city of Westmark is under the grey banner of a tyrant bent on enslaving the continent. Within an album limited only by your imagination you can smell the perspiration of the Mithril Mountains, ride the galloping "Black Mare" and feel the burning "Fire And Brimstone" as the story unfolds around you within a sonic masterpiece that is a movie maker's dream.

Cascading emotion is displayed with showers of blistering speed ("A Thousand Towers White," "The Black Mare"), bombastic royalty ("Fire And Brimstone," "Under The Grey Banner") and dark majesty ("Durnir's Forge"). The album concludes with "Ivory Shores," which eerily sounds like a combination of Lisa Gerrard's "Now We Are Free"("Gladiator") and Annie Lennox's "Into The West" ("Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King"). It is the perfect ending to a perfect album.

Highs: A perfect display of symphonic fantasy power metal.

Lows: None

Bottom line: Dragonland breathes new fire into fantasy metal, with an album that will propel it back to greatness!

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
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)