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Glorious, victorious sophomore growth! - 84%

AnalogKid, September 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Limb Music

“Glorious! Victorious!
And the gods are watching over us!
With our mighty power
The Unicorn Union unites!”

No, this is not Gloryhammer, nor Twilight Force (nor even Serenity, though the cover art might remind you of the band’s Austrian countrymen). Dragony may be a little less hyperactive on its instruments than its modern flower metal brethren, but the group’s love of all things shiny, cheesy, and um…Dragony, is certainly equal. In fact, I’ll take Dragony’s spirited brand of devotedly cheesy power metal (something shared with Twilight Force) over Gloryhammer’s borderline idiotic mockery of the genre anyday.

This being Dragony’s second spin of the wheel, followers of the band’s first album had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Despite Dragony’s comparative anonymity next to the aforementioned acts, I would call them every bit as professional – perhaps even more so in some areas. Dragony did not struggle with worthless interludes taking up minutes of material on its debut, for example, and its penchant for strong melodies has always come first, before any other element. Happily (for me, at least), the band has cranked up the orchestral hits and choral arrangements for Shadowplay, but in nowhere near as extreme and bloated a fashion as Twilight Force ended up doing with its 2016 release. My favorite tune from Dragony’s debut, Legends, was “Alcador”, which I felt was the most texturally exploratory and best represented the band’s combined talent. Well, Shadowplay is basically “Alcador” made into an album.

Continuing with the Twilight Force comparison, this album is loaded with more mid-paced songs that the former band would nevertheless be proud of. Dragony maintains its signature melodicism – some of the songs here have very similar motivic and melodic tendencies, but they are all recognizably Dragony, and no one else. Opener “Wolves Of The North” is wonderfully representative of Dragony in general – dig it, and you’re sure to enjoy the whole album. If you’re unimpressed, it’s unlikely that anything else is going to change your mind. Shadowplay largely sees Dragony improving on everything that the band mapped out on its debut, with one major exception: it seems that the band suffered enough comments about its name to put together a song with some word play on it. That song is “Dr. Agony”, and it is a brilliantly hooky song with ridiculous lyricism. Actually, thematically and musically, it seems like something Helloween might have cooked up (think “Dr. Stein” or “Mr. Torture”, and you’ll have a good picture of the zaniness in store for you).

Highlights on this album abound. Both songs already mentioned scratched off the obligatory mention list, I’d also call out the Edguy-esque (in lyricism, if not sound) “Babylon”, the unusually malignant “Warlock”, and of course, the fruity “Unicorn Union”, whose chorus I used to open this review. Heck, even the unnecessary ballad (“The Maiden’s Cliff”) and closing long-runner (“The Silent Sun”, featuring Zak Stevens) are perfectly likeable, if not my favorites.

I can pretty thoroughly call myself a Dragony fan at this point. Though I’ve recently criticized bands like Veonity and Astralion for regurgitating their first albums, Dragony shows greater measured growth, and had a more indentifiable sound to begin with. Shadowplay will not disappoint existing fans of the debut, and should be brought to the attention of fans of similarly constructed metal like Dreamtale, Fairyland, Freedom Call, Crystallion, Wisdom, etc. This one’s already received a number of well-deserved plays on CD from me.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal