Swedish DRAGONLAND are back with their fourth album, "Astronomy", and they continue their progression away from the symphonic Power Metal of their early times, these days having stepped down a notch in terms of heaviness and speed, but for that now incorporating a few elements that had been previously absent from their songs.
The foundation of this Göteborg quintet undoubtedly is Melodic Metal with a strong reliance on melodies, but they manage to stay away from the dreaded seas of sappiness, instead erecting pretty variable song structures that keep the tension high and living off the excellent vocals of Jonas Heidgert, which definitely are one of the pillars these compositions are built on.
Opener "Supernova" is one of the catchiest songs on this CD, but from "Cassiopeia" on DRAGONLAND show that they definitely know how to shake things up, beginning with some Spanish guitars, then alternating male and female vocals, very nice effect and after that "Contact" thunders out with an extremely straight rhythm and also surprisingly fast, nice surprise, but that is not all of the surprises the Swedes have in store for us. "Antimatter" is another driving song with great structure and dynamics, but other than Heidgert's great vocals we even get a few growls on top of that! Very strong effort!
Another surprise, albeit a little into the other direction, is "Beethoven's Nightmare", which is very well done neo-classical Metal, which just simply does not fit into the context of this album, but the audience will be split upon the closing three-part epos of "The Old House On The Hill". It is not easy to put into words, but I guess to call it soundtrack-like music interspersed with some Metal will most probably come the closest I could get. Well done, no doubt, but again the question of the context on the album...
Anyways, this concept album about, surprise, astronomy shows a remarkable maturity in song writing and top notch musicianship, even though one might dispute the flow of the album with the mentioned two songs. But if you like your Metal melodic and varied, there should be no reason for you not to give "Astronomy" a chance!
(Online January 10, 2007)