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Kings, Dwarves, Elves, and Dragonlords - 96%

mak28, October 1st, 2004

First things first, if you hated them before you still will. They still have high vocals, lyrics about elves, dragons, mighty warriors and long heroic quests. The solos are still comprised of blazing fast arpeggios and double bass runs underscore most of the choruses. Also the singer is still named Fabio. lol That said this album is a big step forward for the band.

So, what has changed? To this point their albums were epic but they never had quite the scope this album has. The album feels huge. Also, in the past they relied more on speed with the classical portions coming more as interludes and as atmospheric passages in the middle of songs. That’s not the case anymore. The classical music has now been weaved flawless in and around every portion of the album. That could be a sticking point as I think the resulting lack of overt speed will throw some people and disappoint others. It did with me, at least to begin with. It pays off though as this time the album truly is a journey to listen to with tremendous rewards to be had along the way.

As mentioned, the album has a different feel to it. The songs are now more progressive then ever, switching moods dramatically at times, and everything feels darker and more serious. I mean it’s got cheesy demon voices on it and fantasy lyrics ripped straight from LOTR (seriously, royalties should be paid for this storyline) but the more progressive arrangements combined with huge choirs, the real 60 piece orchestra, and, most of all, the high quality narration from Christopher Lee and company add a ton to the amazing feel of the album. It’s much more organic, making for an even more fantastic listen. Thankful amongst the bells and whistles the songwriting is still intact. There have been times in the past when the melodies on their albums have just blown me away, where it’s just magic. Whatever moments of brilliance showed up in the past showed up in album form this time. Fabio, singing with more power and clarity then ever, busts out some of the best choruses and verses they’ve ever written. Guardiani Del Destino may even be the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. That may sound lame but it’s incredible. The true highlights for me are the single Unholy Warcry with it’s super speed and stunning choirs, Never Forgotten Heroes and it’s galloping riffs and catchy chorus, Sacred Power of Raging Winds the aggressive powerful epic, the mentioned beautiful ballad Guardiani Del Destino, and the atmospheric outro Nightfall on the Grey Mountains. Every song has its moments though and I have no complaints.

I’ll close out with the obvious extras. The production is crystal clear and powerful, the performances are absolutely flawless, and some will love it, many will hate it.

The Bottom line: I think this album is going to take longer to get into than anything they’ve done before but it may also be the best symphonic power metal release ever. Time will tell. I will say this, I am still in awe at this point and this album has not left my CD player in days. It sounds incredible! Definitely a good sign after initial disappointment.