DRAGONLAND – The Power of the Nighstar (Album Review)

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It has been more than two decades since listeners first basked in the unrivaled glory of a battle on the Ivory Plains. In the ten years that followed, symphonic power metallers Dragonland took their audiences on sonic adventures alongside dragons and mighty heroes, journeying from the Mithril Mountains to the Elven Woods and beyond. From 2001 to 2011, this bright star of metallic enthusiasm brought five albums to the masses, and in doing so immersed listeners in the rich and enthralling fantasy tales of the titular Dragonland. Magic was found in both poetic lyricism and in the breathtaking grandeur of each composition, echoing some trends of the 2000s European power metal scene while maintaining stylistic originality. The allure of these stories combined with brilliant musicianship has made Dragonland a power metal staple since their very inception.

After just as many years of silence as they had songwriting, Dragonland finally returns with a thrilling sci-fi epic that takes listeners for a trip among the stars. “The Power of the Nighstar” brings with it the same care for storytelling and tantalizing hooks Dragonland have long been known for, and simultaneously breaks new ground with greater intensity than ever before. And this power metal masterpiece deserves the qualifier of “epic” not just because of its space-spanning stories, but because it clocks in at more than an hour long. With hefty tracks like the nine-minute “Journey’s End” paired alongside shorter forays such as “Aphelion,” Dragonland sticks close to the album structure that has worked so well for them in the past. This varying track length, with nary a minute gone to waste across its runtime, keeps “The Power of the Nightstar” rolling right along with a strong structure and dynamic passages that tell its story just as well as any words could. This careful arrangement of tracks supports the narrative by its very architecture and makes the album an experience meant to be enjoyed in full.

When vocalist Jonas Heidgert first opens “A Light in the Dark,” his magnificent timbre soars with its unmistakable might and astounding grace. To hear him break into that first verse feels like coming home, instantly familiar but novel in the same breath. There is something absolutely infectious about the way Heidgert sings, a voice that is powerful but tender in the same breath, so enticingly melodic that each repetition of a chorus becomes even more mesmerizing. The momentum from “A Light in the Dark” continues in the following track “Flight From Destruction,” where a vocal-forward mix keeps Heidgert’s bright delivery dancing hand-in-hand with brilliant drumming from percussionist Johan Nunez. Nunez is the newest addition to the Dragonland fold, and there is no doubt that his skills are a near-perfect match for the band’s style. The familiar mainstay of drums rolling beneath a frenetic guitar is a staple of “The Power of the Nightstar” as well, often showing off Nunez’s endurance and confidence behind the kit.

“The Power Of The Nightstar” Album Artwork

For musical motifs that span from fantasy to science fiction, there are fewer better instruments to set the mood than synth. While some other acts in the power metal scene use keys to create a sense of delicate mystery or as a mere accessory to guitars, keyboardist Elias Holmlid is nothing less than a force of nature that commands attention. “Through Galaxies Endless” features keys that are just as explosive as any guitar solo, blistering with speed and the energy of a supernova. Between the masterful execution of synth and additional orchestral touches, “The Power of the Nightstar” emerges as a truly multi-dimensional album, and its conceptual scope is matched by similarly expansive musicianship. The songwriting on display absolutely captures the grandeur and sheer size of a galaxy-spanning adventure.

As creative and breathtaking “The Power of the Nighstar” can be, the album is just as full of raw power. “A Threat From Beyond the Shadows” is a non-stop action sequence packed with meticulous shredding, ceaseless and sinister from start to finish. This ferocious might is equally present in the later “Final Hour.” Almost apocalyptic with its shadowy tones, “Final Hour” is a climatic burst of speed and determination, made even darker by a passage of spoken-word narration. Leading the pack on these supercharged songs is guitarist Olof Mörck, clearly proficient in his craft. This tremendous battle between the stars comes to life with each orchestral element woven into the mix. These compositional feats are an absolute delight to behold, and show that Dragonland has retained their edge while continuing to push their artistic development to the next level.

Dragonland finds its greatest success in the atmosphere and attitude that is embodied within “The Power of the Nighstar” just as much as within their prior works. Both music and storytelling can serve as escapes for a weary soul, and Heidgert leads the charge in presenting art centered on bravery, courage, and the beauty in pushing onward through seemingly insurmountable challenges. With particular poetic flair in “The Scattering of Darkness,” this album is centered on a fight to survive, but is presented with an awe for the beauty of perseverance. To melt into the stellar embrace of “Oblivion” is as good as seeing the cosmos with your own two eyes, as Holmlid and Mörck paint galaxies with their breathtaking command over melody. This closing instrumental piece is a perfect conclusion and stays true to form as a Dragonland classic closer.

The wait for the next epic quest is finally over, for Dragonland has returned as mightily as the heroes they sing of. There is little left to do but embrace the brilliant “Power of the Nightstar” and let it carry you to a world beyond your wildest imagination.

Released by: AFM Records
Release Date: October 14th, 2022
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal

Musicians:

  • Jonas Heidgert / Vocals
  • Olof Mörck / Guitars, Violin
  • Elias Holmlid / Keyboards
  • Jesse Lindskog / Guitars
  • Anders Hammer / Bass
  • Johan Nunez / Drums

“The Power of the Nightstar” Tracklist:

  1. The Awakening
  2. A Light in the Dark
  3. Flight from Destruction
  4. Through Galaxies Endless
  5. The Scattering of Darkness
  6. A Threat from Beyond the Shadows
  7. Aphelion
  8. Celestial Squadron
  9. Resurrecting an Ancient Technology
  10. The Power of the Nightstar
  11. Final Hour
  12. Journey’s End
  13. Oblivion

8.9 Excellent

Dragonland has returned brighter than ever before with the thrilling sci-fi adventure “The Power of the Nightstar.” Take a trip across the cosmos as these experienced power metallers embark on a musical endeavor that will delight and enrapture with its sonic ingenuity and technical polish

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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