November 21, 2005

CD Review: Dragonlord - Black Wings of Destiny

The Dragon has landed bringing with it the destiny wrought by black wings. I admit, that makes no sense, but it felt like the right way to start talking about this new thrash/black metal album, and sophomore effort from Dragonlord. I have not heard their debut, but this is interesting enough that I may check it out.

Dragonlord is a supergroup of sorts. It is a project put together by Testament's founding guitarist, Eric Petersen, who also handles the vocal duties. Along with him is a former Testament bandmate, Derek Ramirez, on bass. Joining Eric on guitar duties is Steve Smyth, also formerly of Testament and currently with Nevermore. On drums is Jon Allen, of Sadus and Testament and finally, on keyboards is Lyle Livingston. Looks like Eric mined Testament's past for just the right musicians to surround himself with.

Upon my first spin through Black Wings of Destiny, I can't say that I was terribly impressed. On one hand there was an feeling of old school thrash metal, but it was infused with black metal sensibilities. However, it didn't really stand out to me. My reaction was rather ho-hum.

A few more spins and I started liking the album a bit more. Not for the singing, mind you, that still felt rather generic, but rather for the layers of instrumentation and the intricate orchestrations. The riffs are fast and heavy, really bringing back those great years of 80's thrash, but obtaining a modern relevance. Petersen and Smyth work well together, creating this wall of rhythm, backed solidly by Ramirez' bass work. Jon Allen is solid, delivering the double bass destruction needed for the music. Filling everything out and adding another layer to the mix is Livingston's keys, I have always liked the additions keyboard can make to the metal sound.

The music is epic in scope, but fierce and primal in its execution. It is not the best of the genre, and probably not the best that this group will do. The singing is still the weakest part of the mix, I just found it to be too standard. On the good side, some of the riffs are sure to induce some old school head banging.

As for the songs, the best is the final track, "Emerald". It combines shredding and chugging guitars, solid rhythm section, and Eric stepping out of the black metal scream in favor of a more 80's metal style voice. It is a fantastic track and an album saving entry. Other high points are "The Curse of Woe", and "Black Funeral".

Bottomline. I don't think this will find its way into my player too often, but it is still a fine entry in the thrash/black metal genre. I did find it intriguing to hear Petersen away from the Testament sound, moving into something that is, perhaps, a bit more extreme. The album proves that long standing metallers can still learn new tricks.

Mildly Recommended.


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