As the clarion calls, I shall meet my end
At dawn of this day, the kingfisher still flies
A knight alone, a star in the pale winter light"
One Word Review: Draconian
Of Dragons and Elves is a fantasy power metal album inspired by the Dragonlance saga, namely the Dragonlance Chronicles, a trilogy of books written back in the 1980'ies. Being a massive fan of both the books and power metal in general, I was overjoyed when I first heard about this band and album. The band is based in Germany and have financed the album themselves over a period of years. Great was my anticipation when I ordered the album and massively impressed was my state of mind after the first listen. Two months and many listens later the album has clearly shown its strengths and weaknesses but overall I am still mightily impressed.
The music is complex, mostly fast paced, highly melodic and captivating. Songs like The Dragon's Lair, As Tarsis Falls, The Crownguard's Quest and Brothers in War are close to being power metal perfection and I am awed that this is a debut album. Incredible potential is on display here. It is clear that Blind Guardian is a major inspiration and somehow the band does this inspiration honor.
After an suitably huge Hollywood-like opening instrumental, the album explodes in a metallic full force attack with In The Sign of The Valiant Warrior. It is quite sweet in its effort to overpower the listener in an all out assault and succeeds in smashing you into the ground, making sure you won't leave for a while. There is a great moment at 1:10 ("Once forsaken, despaired and lost we turned away"), where Matthias Graf hits just the right tone as he sings "away" and this brings out the Blind Guardian feel right away. My only problem with the song is the cut and pasted feel the song has, the result is a song that has sublime power but doesn't flow as well as I could have imagined.
Tale of the Everman is the first epic song on the album. It manages to capture a grandiose atmosphere, in part due to the way its sublime chorus fits the song and its slow pace. Trust me, you will be drawn to this song and it will grow and flower slowly. As the song slowly gathers strength and intensity its 9 minutes become a real journey through an atmospheric, otherworldly landscape.
The Dragon's Lair opens with a short instrumental tension builder before releasing its majestic and headbangingly forceful chorus. My god, I hope to hear this song live one day. There is a drive to the song, delivering great tension and through the song, the chorus somehow seems to grow in bombastic presence. By the end the choir part of the chorus feels absolutely massive and I have a hard time to wipe the wide grin of my face. A highly effective tribute to a fearsome character from the first novel.
By now I feel the album has conjured something close to power metal heaven. The album starts out on a high and keeps improving with great ideas and songs that feel worked through and complete. Incredible for a self financed debut album.
Unfortunately the album falters on a couple of occasions. It feels as if the band wanted to push the album to the limit, so they threw everything in there instead of only putting in the brilliant stuff. This brings me to the title track, a ballad strongly derived from Blind Guardian's "The Bard's Song - In The Forest". This song makes the mistake of trying to put the concept into context of the real world and to me, it completely and utterly fails in that mission. It is such a shame since it destroys the atmosphere that has been built to this point.
Elventwilight fortunately goes back to the story and portrays Tanis Half-Elven's inner turmoil. It doesn't completely succeed and I feel the song lacking memorable melodies and intensity. An ok, nice enough song but not quite up there with my favorites.
After this dip in quality, the album reclaims the glory found in its first four tracks.
As Tarsis Falls loads up on drama, melodies and great guitar work in addition to another sublime chorus, which ups the intensity to fist clenching heights. The band uses the trick of repeating the chorus with increased intensity to great effect. They use this in several songs. Here, the second time the chorus is sung with a slight falsetto voice, it delivers a great effect. I also love the ending of the song, where a beautiful interlude fades out and delivers a sombre feeling in touch with the story.
My Honor Is My Life serves as a perfect tension builder for what is one of my favorite songs on the album, The Crownguard's Quest. The great drive, the powerful and proud singing in the verses and the superb bridge section to the chorus all build up to another majestic chorus. The trick of the repeated chorus is used to great effect here, alternating between a mighty, bombastic first serve and a slower, more epic second delivery. It just works beautifully. The song stands out as a blood pumping hymn about pride and its downfall.
The Last Knight admirably tries to keep up the momentum and feels like a strong continuation of The Crownguard's Quest.
The story and lyrics don't quite do justice to the source novels but seen as individual songs that take place in that world they work just fine. The lyrics feel lacking at times and there is definitely room for growth in that department. I sincerely hope the band stays within this concept and continue to develop it.
Near the end of the album Brothers in War (Forever Damned) showcases everything that I find special about Evertale. The song is an epic about the relationship between Caramon and Raistlin, who have always been my favorite characters of the novels. Amazingly Ralph Scheepers (Primal Fear) shows up on guest vocals as Raistlin and he adds extra spice to the song and gives it a special identity. The song opens slowly and builds from there, into a quite majestic epic. It is a great feeling as the chorus finally appears and releases a lot of tension.
The Final Page, the last song on the album tries the same trick as the title track and attempts to wrap up the story in a real world context and again fails. Obviously, this is my personal impression of the lyrics within both songs. They just don't cut it and it is a great shame.
However, I was able to forgive the narration on Manowar's Gods of War, so I am easily able to forgive these two missteps. Aside from Elventwilight and Firestorm, which never really captured me, the rest of the album is high class power metal and worthy of any genre fans' attention.
The production is overall good but the sound is metallic in the bad sense, meaning that it is too thin, over-trebled and lacks punch, especially in the drum sound. Seen in the light of this being a self financed debut, the production is quite impressive. Lead singer Matthias Graff has just the right raw, gritty feel to his voice and reminds me of Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) which is a major compliment. The massive choir vocals are well incorporated as well. The guitar sound is excellent and has enough crunch to make me happy. Matthias Holzapfel displays some great skill.
At 10 songs and 53 minutes this would have been a small masterpiece. At 14 songs and 77 minutes it is a slightly bloated, erratic experience that leaves me with the impression of a band with monstrously huge potential, if they can just rein themselves in and keep focus on what truly works. Of Dragons And Elves works wonders in most of its playing time and for that it gets my high recommendation. At the time of writing this gem can still be purchased at the band's official website.
Update November 2014: 5 Months later…
I still listen to the album on a regular basis and it is clear that it holds up extremely well, a reinforcement of my initial impression.
I was very happy earlier this month, when I read that the band got a record deal with NoiseArt Records and will release the album officially on February 27th, 2015.
In The Sign of the Valiant Warrior has grown and though it was already among my favorite songs, it has grown to the point that the cut and pasted feel I talked about in my review has become an advantage of the song and only adds to its explosive nature. It has risen to become a truly brilliant song.
The songs that hold up are true masterworks and I couldn't have imagined the Dragonlance Chronicles to have gotten a better power metal treatment than these songs. I occasionally give the songs that don’t hold up a new chance but I still can’t handle the lyrics.
As a whole my impression still holds but has clearly improved further than when I wrote the review. Just for the record my dream tracklisting for the album would be the following:
01. Paladine's Embrace
02. In The Sign Of The Valiant Warrior
03. Tale Of The Everman
04. The Dragon's Lair
06. As Tarsis Falls
07. My Honor Is My Life
08. The Crownguard's Quest
09. The Last Knight
10. Sturm's Funeral March
11. Brothers In War (Forever Damned)
This would have made it an instant classic in my book. A completely convincing and completely relentless album.
The music has shown depth and resilience and the fact that 5 of the songs are on my all time favorite playlist is a major compliment.
If you have yet to discover this gem then you have to check out Evertale for some true power metal. Without doubt, Evertale is the most promising new band I have discovered in recent years.
Update March 2015: Remastered Edition
Evertale officially released their debut on February 27, 2015. Poring over their Facebook page, I noticed that their producer had made some adjustments to the sound and the band announced their album as a remastered version of their self released debut. Needless to say, I purchased it blindly to experience the improved sound, since this was one of the few faults I found with their independent release.
To say the remastering of the official album makes a world of difference would be pushing it. Listening really really closely, there is a variation in the sound and fortunately, the over-trebled part of the sound I mentioned in my review has been improved, resulting in a slightly (very slightly) warmer sound. But overall, my impression is that the difference in sound, is not worth re-purchasing the album for, unless you are a seriously addicted Evertale fan, who appreciate the finer detail and have a stereo system of some merit. Fortunately I can check all those boxes.
Written By Steen
Online: Monday, July 7, 2014
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2015 - Added March 2015 Update with comment on the Official Remastered release
In The Sign Of The Valiant Warrior
The Dragon's Lair
The Crownguard's Quest
Monday, November 24, 2014 - Gizmo
Steen have you heard the bonus track? Dragonriders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94KgDCNLrrQ
Monday, November 24, 2014 - Steen
Funny, I actually discovered this only yesterday. Excellent bonus track. It will be interesting to see what they come up with for the next album. My expectations are massive!
Monday, November 24, 2014 - Gizmo
jep expectations are very high ;0)
Friday, February 20, 2015 - Gizmo
New album expected at the end of 2015 ;0)
Friday, February 20, 2015 - Steen
That is very good news! Do you have anything official? I've noticed that the official release of the debut, out next week, has been remastered and according to producer Christoph Brandes, has a warmer, more dynamic sound. That is exactly what I had hoped for, so I'll have to buy another copy.
Monday, February 23, 2015 - gizmo
Thought i read it in a news mail from Nuclear blast but can´t find anyting from Nuclear blast home page and i have deleted all mails. Must have read it on facebook then, in an official comment from the band where a fan asked about a new album. I asked about if the new album would be Drangonlance theme again (hopefully)
Monday, February 23, 2015 - gizmo
Due tell if the remastered version is signifikant better than the first, however it will not include Dragonriders tracks, i don´t understand why because that tracks has also been remastered. I have no plans of buying the remastered version. A fan also asked about some early demo´s from the band under the name Blackened. They replied that the demo´s were out of print but they would mail the mp3´s for free if he were interested, maybe they would be worth checking out!
Monday, February 23, 2015 - Steen
I'll definitely update the review when I have heard the new remastered version. I think there is no room on the disc for Dragonriders. It's already 77 minutes of music! Back when I reviewed the album I also wrote the band and strongly hinted that they should stay within the Dragonlance universe, so I'm hoping for that as well. There are so many possibilities there. Thanks for the heads up, I'll pursue that Blackened demo now.
Friday, April 10, 2015 - Gizmo
Got the new version of the album yet Steen? and heard the Blackended demos?
Friday, April 10, 2015 - Steen
Yeah, I got the new version. Check out my March update at the end of the review above for info on it. No, I haven't heard the Blackened demos. The band never answered my email. Still hoping for a reply.