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A good album from an improved band - 60%

TrooperOfSteel, July 28th, 2011

Here comes a slab of melodic power metal from Sweden’s Dragonland, their 4th studio album entitled ‘Astronomy’. When it comes to bands with Dragon in their name, Dragonland wouldn’t be the first band that comes to someone’s mind (DragonForce, anyone), but this band has prodded along and has released their 4th CD in 6 years.

Their debut CD ‘The battle of the ivory plains’ was very good as debuts go. Nothing new, but a decent CD regardless. Dragonland’s 2nd CD ‘Holy war’ was an average CD in my opinion. A step backwards from the debut although their sound remained similar. The main problems with that 2nd CD were Jonas Heidgert’s vocals, and the CD’s production. Heidgert can sound great at times, but awful during other times. The disappointing ‘Holy war’ led me not wanting to listen to their 3rd CD, ‘Starfall’, but reading reviews of it seemed as though the band had improved somewhat. Now along comes ‘Astronomy’ and I see a lot of different opinions on it. Some say good while others say potential top 5 metal CD of the year... so with my interest rekindled, I had to hear for myself.

The first thing that jumps out at me with this CD is the sound. This is not the Dragonland that I know from their first 2 CDs. They have incorporated a lot of different sounds and styles into this CD. At times it sounds progressive, or symphonic, and even atmospheric too. Jonas Heidgert’s vocals sound much much better on this CD than on ‘Holy war’. From melodic to high-pitched screams, his voice has improved ten-fold.

Production is also fantastic on this CD. The vocals are clear and on the same level as the music, whereas in the first 2 CDs, the vocals seemed to be behind the music, which was irritating. Dragonland’s use of synthesizers and keyboards is exceptional on this CD; it really adds a different but great element to their sound.

But considering the CD as a whole; after listening to it I asked myself just what exactly was I listening to? The songs are completely all over the place, sound wise, jumping from progressive to symphonic and melodic metal. The first 2 tracks “Supernova” and “Cassiopeia” are slow and progressive/atmospheric sounding, with lots of synthesizers used. I feel that those 2 tracks are not the strongest on the CD and shouldn’t have been the first 2 songs someone hears when they play this CD.

Things really kick up a few gears with the 3rd track “Contact”. Here we hear the more traditional sounding Dragonland, a la their first 2 CDs. Of course their sound is much better on this CD. Fast guitars, soaring melodic vocals and a great use of keyboards can be found within that 3rd track. It’s probably one of, or the best song on the CD. The title-track is also very good. A mid-paced melodic galloper with crunchy guitars, where you can really hear the improvement of Heidgert’s vocals. “Antimatter” is a decent track, which is straight up power metal, with fast pounding drums and soaring vocals.

‘Astronomy’ contains 4 instrumental tracks; “The book of shadows part lV: The scrolls of geometria divina” and the “The old house on the hill” trilogy, which ends the CD. These aren’t your normal instrumentals either. They sound like an epic movie score, with orchestras and the whole 9 yards. But I wonder what was the reason for these tracks, were they really needed in this CD? Particularly to have 4 of them. I thought it strange to end the CD with that trilogy, as it may not hold the listeners interest. I’m sure that these epic instrumentals would appeal to some listeners, but it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the CD.

With all that being said, the bottom line is that ‘Astronomy’ is a good CD from an improved band. Dragonland have let their creative juices flow, bringing you not just the average melodic power metal CD, but a detailed and creative CD which includes progressive and symphonic metal, with an overall epic and atmospheric feel to it. Not the best CD of 2006, as some people have pegged it, but it's easily within my top 10 or 15 best CDs of 2006.

Originally review for www.metalcdratings.com

True power metal - 99%

dragontheater, January 20th, 2010

I'm not exactly proud to admit it, but I was introduced to power metal by Dragonforce, although without guys like Dragonforce it would be more difficult for young kids to get into power metal. The most generic sounding power metal imaginable was also the only power metal I listened to for some time. How ignorant I was. While Dragonland's Astronomy was released in 2006, I listened to it in 2008 and even then it took me a more than few listens before I actually understood what I was listening to. So when I truly listened to it I was blown away.

There's not much to criticize, although there are a couple noticeable flaws. For one, the lack of songs with lyrics. There are four instrumentals on the album taking up 1/3 of the album. The ballad Too Late For Sorrow is bland, uninteresting, and easily the worst song on the album. You can just skip that one.

However, the instrumentals, The Book of Shadows Part IV and The Old House on the Hill Parts I-III, are simply amazing. Even though they might annoy some people at first, every single one makes up for it by the end. I wouldn't be surprised if Dragonland made an album made out of entirely instrumentals in the future.

The rest of the album is made up of instant classics. Supernova is simply amazing. I must've listened to it at least 100 times by now and it hasn't lost it's heaviness, catchy riff, or atmospheric appeal. The next track, Cassiopeia, has a surprising acoustic opening, but it actually goes along well with the song. There are female vocals in the song, but unlike in other metal songs, the female vocals enhance the song instead of hurting it. The third track, Contact, starts off a little slow, but then Jonas Heidgerdt's vocals come in with a vengeance and the song doesn't slow down again. The title track is up next and this one is a little slower than some of the other tracks, but is nevertheless amazing. The lyrics really tell the power of Astronomy the SCIENCE and I must admit I thought about space throughout the entire song. Next up is Antimatter, and compared to the other songs, it's different. Instead of speaking about the beauty of space, the songs talks of the unknown dangers of the final frontier. The use of death growls in hear goes rather well with the Bruce Dickinson type vocals here though. After The Book of Shadows Part IV, is Beethoven's Nightmare. It's completely different for the other songs in terms of lyrical content, but it just kicks so much ass it doesn't matter. Too Late For Sorrow then brings the album to a very unhappy stop. As I said before, it's just a bad song. Thankfully, Direction:Perfection is a perfect song to bring the album back together. After Direction comes the three part epic The Old House on the Hill. It's just this simple, The Old House on the Hill series fucking rules. It is a perfect mix between soundtrack music and metal. I cannot overstate how good these three songs are. If you buy this album, there's an entire story in the booklet that gives an interesting read and even more depth to the entire album.

Best songs: Every single one of them except Too Late For Sorrow

Another glorious effort - 85%

autothrall, November 8th, 2009

Four albums deep and this fantastic Swedish act proved yet again that they are criminally underrated amidst the prog/power metal circle. Astronomy is a glorious effort which manages to transform even its more annoying elements (I'm speaking of the guest fairy metal vocals and chug rhythms) into strengths. Jonas Heidgert sounds excellent here, his voice a clarion which should appeal to fans of other Swedish power metal acts like Nocturnal Rites or Dream Evil. On the whole, this album feels a little less ambitious than its predecessor Starfall, but the qualities remain intact.

"Supernova" is an excellent choice to lead off the album. It begins with a perhaps too-obvious sample under some ambience, then a symphonic synthesizer sequence is accompanied by some chugs and a pick-up riff which leads into the female vocal part, which I admit with some guilt, is quite beautiful. The verse has an excellent little guitar fill which breaks up its basic chugging structure, and this really makes the track. "Cassiopeia" once again uses the female guest vocals to good use, here she sounds a little like Anneke (ex-The Gathering). The verse to the track reminds me a little of Evergrey, and the chorus features Heidgert and Elise doing a dual melody. "Contact" picks up the pace considerably with some great riffing, and I enjoy how the verse begins with just Jonas, the drums and some ambience. The chorus features some anthemic European metal closer to their first few albums, and a great little shred. The title track is another hard rocker with some great melodic voice work. "Antimatter" actually sound slike a melodeath track at first, and Jimmie Strimmell of Nightrage contributes a few backing snarls. "The Book of Shadows Part IV: The Scrolls of Geometria Divina" is a nice break and totally different from what you've heard so far. It's a symphonic instrumental with some nice vocal samples and a tribal buildup. Really cool, and would probably do well in a video game. Other notable tracks are the anthemic "Beethoven's Nightmare", "Direction: Perfection" with its catchy verse synthesizer, and the three part symphonic/prog metal epic instrumental closing the album, called "The Old House on the Hill". My only complaint with this is it may have benefited from more use of the vocals to tie the album together, but as it stands it is still quite enjoyable.

The mix is excellent as with so many of these power metal albums. The synths and guest vocals are used to great effect and the band is endowed with talent in all departments. That being said, I wound up liking this a little less than Starfall. Either way, fans of power metal with prog leanings owe it to themselves to track this band down.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Another generic flower metal - 36%

Human666, June 27th, 2007

I don't have a serious problem with this genre, actually I find some bands which are pretty interesting, and even unique and very quality. But there is a shitload of too many generic, sketchy and kitschy bands which doesn't have any originality or talent and creates music only for the sake of creating. And only by it's name, 'Dragonland', you can guess that this is just another "by the cheesy flower metal book" band which playing the same riffs and the same melodies that had been done 1000 times before.

It seems that this album has been written punctually by the guide for usual european power metal. Polished and clean production?, check. Kitschy melodies?, check. Plenty of classical instruments?, check. Irritating vocals?, check.

This album tries so badly to be epic and grandiose, but eventually it sounds overproduced and boring. All the melodies sounds dull and frayed and you get the feeling that they really tried to create an atmosphere, but they failed big time. At first listening it sounded okay for me, I thought it will grow up on me, but it did exactly the opposite. After third listening I wanted to crush and burn this cd! It just sounded too operatic and fake for me, I can't stand albums which tries to produce atmosphere with extremely rich production, but doesn't put any emotions within their music. Wow! They just putted two thousands voices at the same second and added zillion of trumpets and violins! That was so awesome!!!!!

Well, not really.

Sorry, I don't buy it. It got pretty juicy peel, but look, it's very rotten from the inside!
The cover art is pretty beautiful, the production is excellent, but beneath it, there is nothing interesting.

Power metal without dragons! - 85%

Lord_Lexy, March 20th, 2007

I was reading a metal magazine when I read about Dragonland's "Astronomy". I had never heard of them before, but I am into astronomy and the stars and stuff, AND into fantasy. The combination of names forced me to order the album. And I do not regret this! Astronomy is an absolute must for every symphonic/power metal fan.

Lets' begin with the vocals: Jonas Heidgert knows how to sing in English (I can understand what he sings, which is not always the same for Rhapsody...), he doesn't go too high with his vocals, and his voice is nice to listen to. The lyrics aren't about dragons and sorcery or some kind of Dark Lord in a forgotten cave. I like those stories, sure, but I also like the change.
The riffs: heavy, but without getting hard or brute. Love them! And in the last three songs, the combination of guitars with classical instruments is sublime!

The songs themselves: Supernova, Cassiopeia, Contact, Astronomy and Antimatter are the songs that grant the album it's name. All wonderfull songs that allow you to dream away to the deepest regions of the universe...
Next is "The book of Shadows part IV", and to me it seems one must know the other part to understand this instrumental intermezzo. It also reminds me of Bal-Sagoth, who's albums are full of this kind of songs.
Beethoven's Nightmare is a dramatic song, and guitars succeed in sounding like a real piano.
Too Late for Sorrow and Direction:Perfection are two songs not connected to the others lyrically, but musically there is the same sound.
And then follow three more Bal-Sagoth-like songs: a trilogy: The Old House on the Hill. One must read the lyrics to understand the music. It starts kinda lazy, but towards the end, a climax is reached, and classical instruments together with drums, bass and guitars create a sublime epilogue for the album.

One of the best albums of 2006!

Couldnt have progressed better - 95%

SirMichaelJ, February 22nd, 2007

One thing Dragonland has always been is cheesy, some like it, some don't. For those who do, every release has been a pleasure. Now come Astonomy, the 4th cd by these fellows. Unlike the previous releases this one is for the metal masses, they retain some of the overall cheesy feel but add so much more of other elements it's tolerable.

Why is this album so enjoyable for all? Variety. There is tracks that are geared more towards progressive metal, such as Supernova, this song has a mix of power metal and progressive metal, but the dominant style is progressive. The keys are all there but do not hinder this song whatsoever. The combination of female vocals and male vocals really sets this song to another level, helps the whole contrast of the song.

You can than have the wildcard tracks such as Antimatter, who was partly written by members of Nightrage. This track shows the diversity Dragonland is taking with their approach to music. It sounds like a brilliant hybrid of melodic death metal and power metal, but not the shitty Bodom style. A much better, refined less electronic sounding combo. Not to mention if you had this release last year you got a sneak peak to Nightrages new vocalist. This song really changes the pace of the cd with its aggresion and overall demeanor. Great placment for this song, and even better job writing it.

Than you have the power metal side of Dragonland. The song Beethoven's Nightmare starts off with by far the catchiest riff on the album. What the best part of this song is how they blend the progressive elements, the movie theme elements and power metal elements, while keeping it sounding like power metal. Not only is the music well written but the lyrics are about one of the best composers in human history writing his last symphony while going deaf. It takes dynamics to write about such a subject. Not only that but the way they describe really sets a mood that cannot by described other than listening to the lyrics. This song i rahter lengthy, but for good reason. It changes pace a lot and never bores. The middle section has a really soft, long mellow solo, but charges right back into gear after one of their classic movie type interludes.

The last thing that makes this cd stand out is the Movie type sound scores they throw in. Not only do they flow well with the music, but it sounds like they should be in a major motion picture. The emotion, the vivid imagery, the sheer vastness of the landscape is all there. The bands that attempt usually fail because they can't make it sound epic enough while at the same time not sounding like a stereotypical band. Dragonland far exceeds this and sounds like true professionals.

All in all this is one of the best releases of 06. No two songs even remotely sound alike, and they switch styles while retaining their core sound. You can't really ask for much more. Look forward to any more releases from this band, because they have done nothing but improve since day one.

12 years later, this star has dimmed - 70%

BloodIronBeer, January 30th, 2007
Written based on this version: 2006, CD, Century Media Records

Note: this is one of a very few reviews I felt like I needed to rewrite, and sure my tastes have moved here and there on probably a lot of albums, but the score of 94 that I previously gave is well ... astronomically out of line with the quality of this album. I really pride myself on really holding off 90+ scores for truly deserving albums, and this is a glaring misstep in that endeavor. Maybe I didn't give this album enough time to simmer, maybe I was enamored with the theme just that much, or perhaps I had sustained some hitherto forgotten head trauma; but without doubt, this album is no where near a 94.

So, Dragonland always played a style of power metal as intensely cheesy and on-the-nose as their band name suggests. But on this album, for whatever reason, they decided to incorporate the groovy riffs of metalcore, the slick almost-heavy riffs of the Gothenburg style of Soilwork and In Flames, and an atmospheric, sometimes spacey take on their symphonics via some amalgamation of ET and Harry Potter soundtracks.

The vocalist remains the same as in the past, that Swedish power metal kind of voice with a slight accent. He isn't the most powerful, talented singer on Earth, or even in the Swedish power metal scene, but he can hold his own. Aside from this, some of the guitar tone and most drumming, Dragonland has pretty much completely changed direction.

Now, here I have removed a bit talking about how well put together the songs are, because that is silly. Fact of the matter is, the song writing here is pedestrian. Aside from the straight on symphonic tracks, The Book of Shadows and the Old House on the Hill tracks, almost every song breaks into the chorus within about 0:50. It's common knowledge that this is a preferred benchmark for radio air play, and why it normally follows that music that does this doesn't really have the greatest artistic integrity. The formula is: main melody, groovy riff, chorus, back and forth, throw in a guitar solo and/or interlude, more chorus, end.

There is hints of Swedish melodic death in a few spot (Direction:Perfection and Antimatter are basically carbon copies of early to mid era Soilwork), some neoclassical (Beethoven's Nightmare, duh), and a considerable portion of progressive metal. There’s even a couple parts featuring harsh vocals, not as main vocals, but to accent certain lines in the main melody. There is an immense emphasis on symphonic/orchestral parts, especially later in the album (the last 14 minutes comprising of the Old House on the Hill trilogy) . It's well executed from a presentation standpoint, and even though the parts are all synthesized they all sound quite real. In fact, in re-writing, I had to go look at the credits to see if these weren't indeed real instruments (even though the strings later in the album do give it away) - this album is extremely well produced, that's for sure. There is a depth and clarity to the sound, and the atmospheric bits and symphonic arrangements never fight to fit inside the sonic space. I could see this as being a contributing factor to why I thought so highly of this album at first.

The title track is indicative of the problem with this album, the main melody is kind of somewhere between flower metal and metalcore, with this sheen of pop appeal, and groovy beat, and a chorus that just does this unabashedly pop sounding "whoooOOOooooOOOOa whoOOOOooooa", "yeah" and then the word "astronomy". Yes, those are the lyrics to the chorus in their entirety: "whoa", "yeah" and "astronomy". A handful of tracks later, they drop the metal altogether and go full 80's pop rock ballad on Too Late for Sorrow, featuring a kind of duet with a female vocalist, not a single metal riff, or what would be considered a metal beat.

Those tracks aside, however, the album is still pretty solid. The track Contact really manages to clear the pitfalls of the melodic death metal fusion they're doing and the verse is just really cool with this fast thrash/d-beat contrasted with soft, steady melancholy melody line over top. Beethoven's Nightmare is another highlight with the, albeit predictable, neo-classical leads with pummeling drums, quoting the 1st and 3rd movement of Beethoven's 14th piano sonata, the "Moonlight Sonata". It's predictable, as it's one of the most popular pieces of piano music in history; but I have a big soft spot for Beethoven.

This kind of brings up something else pertinent to why I might have liked this album so much before, I was probably a little too impressed with the appeal of empty symphonic sounding tracks. 12 years ago, I was not very well versed in classical music. The Book of Shadows track is just a hodgepodge of dramatic sounding symphonic idioms from any Hollywood movie, it's really the worst kind of bad. The first part of the Old House on the Hill isn't much better except for the very end where the metal comes back in and they get to this polka/symphonic/metal thing that is way more interesting than the "let's try to sound like a big budget Hollywood movie" crap they're doing on the majority of these four symphonic tracks. The second track of Old House on the Hill is definitely the strongest - with it's eerie keyboards and staggered rhythm - even though it squanders the first 45 seconds on a 3 minute track. The third part definitely gets points for modulating keys and it's creepy dark circus music thing, but ultimately all three tracks have a little bit too much filler, too much pussy-footing, and not nearly enough cohesion.

In conclusion: fantastic production, very catchy at times, but frequently suffers from being stylistically unpalatable, with too much reaching for mass appeal. The symphonic parts have some very fun ideas in spots, but are structurally and compositionally a comedy of errors. I kind of thought I would give this an even lower score, I guess that goes to show there is something redeeming in the execution of the theme and the catchiness of the better tracks.