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As much of a mess as Rapture was, one has to give Peterson credit for sticking it out and taking some of the criticisms to heart. On Black Wings of Destiny, Dragonlord makes an earnest attempt at separating themselves from the obvious Testament comparisons that rightfully encompassed the first album, shuffling the stylistic deck and blindly drawing a new hand. Along with the injection of fresh blood comes a subtle lineup shift with Ramirez's arrival on the four-string. Despite the reputable seniority of the majority of this lineup, they certainly proved that they have the capacity to stink a record up if given the opportunity.
While Black Wings of Destiny is much more coherent and consistent than Rapture on the whole, it also lacks the stratospheric high point of a "Wolfhunt". Dragonlord clearly planned these arrangements out with more vigilant care than before, and this time around have even chosen a better Dimmu Borgir album to emulate: Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. As such, the tempo is more measured and rumbles along steadily instead of lurching forward in fits and spurts. Livingston handles the keyboards nicely this time around, occupying a sizable amount of atmospheric real estate, but at the same time knowing not to breach any thresholds of inanity. The entire synth performance comes off as more orchestral, esoteric, and convincing; whereas on Rapture the atmosphere summoned was hokey and dubious.
As stated above, this is essentially Enthrone Darkness Triumphant all over again, as Dragonlord takes great care to follow a mental checklist as they go. Short and accessible track length? Check. Simple, yet driving keyboard lines? Check. Marginally technical leadwork that rarely snags the spotlight? Check. Visceral and convincing bellowing on the mic? Check. The list goes on and on. The atmosphere is hazy and dense, but part of this is due to the more compressed production job, which is one of the few areas in which Black Wings of Destiny falls short of its predecessor. Rapture sounded meaty as fuck, and boasted a singeing modern tone that merged potently with Allen's spastic percussive tantrums. While many of the same pieces are present here as well, the guitars sound much more sedated and weary - mostly due to the higher keyboard presence and attempt at a more balanced, Death Cult Armageddon-esque clinical production job.
This doesn't necessarily sound Dragonlord's death knell on it's own, as Peterson and Smyth make an intensive effort towards joining the modern thrash aesthetics that Rapture was hinged upon with arena-oriented powerchords and the occassional blistering tremolo upswing. A particular coherence is gained during the electric "The Curse of Woe", which should have represented the album as a music video as opposed to the rather forgettable "Until the End". At any rate, it takes care to touch all of the diabolical bases without inducing the slumber or eye-rolling normally associated with symphonic black metal of this fare. Likewise in primal appeal are the electrifying "Blood Voyeur" and the galloping charge of "Revelations". Black Wings of Destiny may not be as riff-driven as one would expect coming from the mind of Peterson, but being little more than an emulation of more popular European acts, Dragonlord has figured out how to apply the familial template to meet their own villainous goals.
While Black Wings of Destiny still finds itself spinning it's spike-adorned tires more often than it should, there is a passable number of surprise elements and hard left turns into more eccentric waters. Peterson covers a variety of styles on the mic and yet again proves his venomous chops with little trouble. Ramirez upstages DiGiorgio as well, with his pluggy, balanced bass tone sharing the spotlight with the guitars, embodying one of the better aspects of the album's unfairly roomy production. Black Wings of Destiny is professionally executed, well produced, and proves that well done emulation can always find a home. Hardly a game changer, but at least worth the CD it occupies.
I picked up this album in my local metal store not too long ago, but I hadn't really listened to it until a few days ago.
Having never heard any of Dragonlord's previous work, I'm not able to describe the transition of this band between albums, as a lot of you have described before, so I'll just cut to the chase.
My very first thought when I popped this CD in my stereo was "oh great....a Dimmu Borgir clone...". Lucky for me, I was mistaken. While I'll admit that the songs can be a little repetitive (hence the 4 point knock off), they are very well done, which makes for an interesting album with a very good sound.
One particular thing about this album that caught my attention was the drumming, especially on tracks such as The Curse Of Woe and Until The End. Jon Allen bangs on those things like a madman, but doesn't sacrifice the integrity of the song or make his drumming sound like noodling.
The guitar work on this album, especially the aforementioned tracks, is equally phenomenal. You can almost taste the Testament influence oozing from this album, giving it a powerful and thrashy sound, all while maintaining its melodic atmosphere.
This album also has some excellent keyboard work too, which is not overdone or wasted. The vocals are good as well, switching periodically between clean and typical black metal styles.
All in all, an excellent release.
I look forward to more from this band in the future.
Tracks worth mentioning - The Curse of Woe, Sins of Allegiance, Until The End, Mark of Damnation, and Emerald (the only Thin Lizzy cover I've heard to date that has not made me vomit).
I think the thing that stands out about this record is the drumming. The drumming is simply astounding. Take "Curse of Woe", for example. The aggression in the relentless pounding of the snares is breathtaking. The guitar work in this track, whilst impressive, is slightly drowned out by the keyboards and drums, but this is no bad thing. The blastbeats and tom rolls in this track really bring it to life and create that 'razor-edge-attack' feeling that is so prevalent in the music of Dragonlord. On the back of this, there are some great vocal lines in this track, the best being "don't tell me you'll save my soul".
"Revelations". That title didn't really spark my imagination, but I think the track redeems itself in sheer musical quality. It reminds me a little of Opeth with its guitar tone and long rhythm parts. It's in triple time, so it has a rather epic, swooping quality that really suits the guitar style of Peterson. The track lacks a bit of direction, but one forgets that when a riveting, albeit short, solo kicks in at around four and a half minutes. This is followed by a final verse of vocals accompanied by a blasting riff, and the song ends with a thud.
"Mark of Damnation" is another great track. It's full of hyper-blastbeats contrasted with some really militaric rolls and yet more Opeth-like guitar work, which is often panned to great effect. Guitar is another area where Dragonlord surpass all expectations. The sheer variety of sound is nothing short of bewildering. They switch from palm-muted chugging to Iron Maiden-like choruses, and then on to astounding solos. The keyboards that were so important on "Rapture" have taken a back seat in this album, not really showing their head until track seven, and this is a good thing if you like guitars, as they are given more free reign over melody than they were previously.
Eric Peterson's vocal style is something to be admired, I think. Many comparisons have been made to that of Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir, and the similarities are there, but I think Peterson definitely puts his own mark on preceedings. You can hear that classic metal voice, that Testament brought us, shining through the darkness, slightly overshadowed by the hoarse black metal growls (the fourth track, "Sins of Allegiance" is where to head if you're a fan of his Testament style). It's a compelling performance, and he manages to pronounce every word whilst maintaining the evilness that he so obviously going for, and even his longer howls are impressive. Sometimes he sounds a little strained, but I think that adds a little humanity to the sound, a sound which can generally be described as opulent but grim.
I think the best way to describe the overall sound of this is via black metal pioneers Immortal. Where Immortal use chugging riffs and powerful drumming to create a cold, wind-blasted ice sheet of sound, Dragonlord modify, via keyboards and some clean singing, that same sound to give the impression of dragons clashing in the sky above rocky transylvanian spires. And given that these guys are from the far-from-desolate USA, I'd say that's quite an achievement. The sound isn't incredibly different to the first offering, "Rapture", but don't think that's a bad thing - Rapture wasn't incredibly long, and definitely left the listener wanting more. "Black Wings of Destiny" gives you that little bit more.
That's not to say it's the same as "Rapture". Rapture was decidedly more aggressive than this, charging ever onwards to the repetitive shredding of guitars. Here, helped in part by the epic cover of "Emerald" by Thin Lizzy, Dragonlord is a little more romantic and slightly less shiver inducing. Rapture's lyrics were very sci-fi orientated and vague, which was great, but we didn't really get a feel for why they were called Dragonlord. There was hardly a mention of dragons or Satan, who is 'The Dragonlord'. Luckily, "Black Wings of Destiny" tells us tales of the dragonlord rising from the depths to conquer all, and our curiosity is satisfied.
I'm mightily impressed, I must say. In the face of a metal scene that seeks to get progressively darker and more simple, Dragonlord offer us a symphonic black/thrash soundscape that's epic, dark, glorious and triumphant in all the right places. Plus it ends with that heart-rending cover of "Emerald", and you're left feeling all tingly inside.
This is Dragonlord’s second album and it is a pretty good album. The disk starts off with an instrumental with keyboards, guitars, drums and media tracks. Then the real music starts with “Curse of Woe” which is probably the best track off the album. Their style of music is a mix thrash/black metal with the symphonic touch.
When you hear their music you will notice the vocals sounding a little like Dimmu Borgir’s. Even with that said Peterson’s vocals are much better and are done quite well with shrieks, some growls, and very good melodic/operatic vocals like in “Revelations”. Peterson’s lyrics are dark and good with lyrics of tales dragons and all of evil’s makings. The rest of the music is done good adding good black metal riffs and mixing them with the thrash metal riffs. The drumming unlike on most black metal disks is not all blast beats, but different which gives more variety to the music. The keyboards give the songs most of the dark touch with many different sounds creating the maximum devil worshiping feeling. They have ten tracks on the c.d. and the last two are great cover songs of Mercyful Fate and Thin Lizzy.When it comes the production on the album it is top notch and gives the best listening experience.
In the end this is a good album, it uses the newer black metal sound but it is done really well. I recommend listening to the songs “Curse of Woe”, “Revelations”, “Fallen” and “Blood Voyeur”.