The overall track-list:
Hyperspace – The Arrival
Day Of The Gods
The Armageddon Machine
In The Belly Of The Beast
Revenge Is Done
When Lightning Strikes
At The Flaming Shores Of Heaven
My Endless Flight
Aftermath – The Departure
It took about 10 years… but now the glorious journey continues.
Foreword: Well, where will this journey probably be headed to… ? Today’s overall slogan should be ‚aim for the top‘, which is why DRAKKAR are starting off with a brand new album called WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES. It was about time – the last official album has been released 2002. So, we as the overall fanbase of this precious Italian band can surely (and proudly) say… ‚welcome back, DRAKKAR‘ ! Although there might be some listeners that will have to get used to the band’s totally new sound and style – which is somehow different from the previous album, RAZORBLADE GOD. But, thinking about it – it has already been 10 (!) years since the last album (not counting a digital relase in between). So, let us see what they’ve prepared for us, the audience !
Review: The first thing you will hear after plugging your headphones in (at least I tend to do that, but be sure that I am using high quality one’s) is an intro called HYPERSPACE – THE ARRIVAL. This one-and-a-half minute piece sounds like an orchestration to an epic journey indeed – it has a nice soundtrack appeal and influence. And, a special musical touch that could be sorted into the overall cosmic metal-genre… just like the first seconds of DAY OF THE GODS, the second piece on this album. This rather unusual track however offers the first distinctive break in terms of the musical style – the listener will be surprised by some calm tunes delivered by an acoustic guitar, accompanied by the lead singer Davide Dell’Orto. This track, which you might rather call an interlude, is a true calm before the storm – a storm that comes in shape of THE ARMAGEDDON MACHINE. Well, it is a title that can possibly be referred to as a ‚true‘ Heavy Metal mid-tempo track. It mainly consists of slower, harder heavy metal passages, adding some short double-bass attacks every now and then. It generally is a strong track with both ‚catchy‘ and ‚true‘ elements, adding some surprises like special keyboard arrangements. It totally lives from Davide Dell’Orto’s good performance, but has one little problem which can be heard in the refrain. Right – just when a little background ‚choir‘ joins in to deliver some apocalyptic lyrics.These parts sound a little too wimpy, thinking of a 2012′ album coming straight from the Melodic Power Metal genre.
IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST is another short interlude that doesn’t really consist of music – but a rather atmospheric approach. So, let us continue with REVENGE IS DONE instead – the first highlight of this album. Well, at first there can be a rather disharmonious impression, since the transition from the former interlude isn’t handled too well – but after a short acoustic part the track starts to flourish in terms of all elements. The riffs are surely catchy and well-played, the refrain is both epic and a little laid-back, Davide Dell’Orto’s performance is once again of a high quality – and offers a great diversion compared to many other singers in this genre. The most outstanding elements can however be found in the playful keyboard arrangements and the various points of alternations – making this track everything but a bore. Coming up next is the title track, WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES – and guess what, it is hella epic. A continuously marching double-bass acts as the engine, harsh riffs and a very nice atmosphere are making this one an unmissable piece. I don’t know why I am reminded of TIMELESS MIRACLE’s THE RED ROSE towards minute 1.50, but this track is a true banger, no matter what. And, DRAKKAR are continuing using this approach, finally – WINTER SOLDIERS’s begin gently reminds of good ol‘ HELLOWEEN times, holding on to this ‚classical‘ Power Metal approach until a truly outstanding instrumental part is reached (2.40 and following). Now, what is going on here… ? This are DRAKKAR like we never heard them before, but they surely know how to inspire the audience. It is an absolute must to listen to this track – I have to correct myself, placing this track to the overall top and position #1 on the WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES highlight-list.
Time to take a deep breath – SALVATION is a piece that will invite you to do so. After a little awkward start (ambient sound from the far east) the track emerges as another smooth mid-tempo (well, maybe a little faster) banger with everything on the highest level of quality. A great refrain, interesting instrumental passages, a decent double-bass, somehow ’new‘ and fresh sounds and arrangements… there is nothing more to wish for. The same goes for AT THE FLAMING SHORES OF HEAVEN, a title that indeed is as epic as the title suggests. It is a good track, reaching an even higher level of dignity in the ending passage. Where to go, what to do – reaching this point you will certainly know that DRAKKAR rock. They manage to establish a very mentionable amount of a certain ‚epicness‘ when it comes to their overall output – just like within the mighty AWAKENING. Well and once again, the ‚choir‘ could sound way better, but the melody and the overall arrangement just leaves me stunned. And what about MY ENDLESS FLIGHT… ? You might guessed it for now, it is another highlight; it is very powerful and comes along with a stunningly beautiful refrain full of melody and epicness. Oh, this could last forever… but it seems like the journey is almost over, as THE AFTERMATH – THE DEPARTURE announces. This interlude takes on the musical mood of the opening track, adding a more orchestral touch to it. But, what a surprise… it is again time for ENGAGE! ? Indeed, this last interlude leads us to the grandé finale, the NEW FRONTIER. Ah, shivers down my back – there couldn’t have been a better piece for the overall ending. This track is a very speedful, catchy and powerful Power Metal hymn, making you think of a perfect mix of bands like LABYRINTH, CELESTY and IRON FIRE. But we are listening to DRAKKAR indeed… a band that has managed to ensure their place on the highest ranks of Power Metal, again.
Conclusion: How dare you to ‚fool‘ me like this, DRAKKAR… in the beginning (tracks 1-4) I thought of an average metal-album that would merely contain any true highlights. But what came after that, is just impossible to compare… it is just great. Tracks like WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, WINTER SOLDIERS, AT THE FLAMING SHORES OF HEAVEN or MY ENDLESS FLIGHT (and last but not least, the mighty NEW FRONTIER !) could be very well referred to as ‚masterpieces‘, making this album one of 2012’s first true highlights. Any listener that is looking for a more playful Melodic Power Metal with a nice mixture of catchy keyboards, heavy guitars, outstanding and truly unique vocal performances and a general ‚epicness‘ should definitely check DRAKKAR out. They are back – and I am thankful for that. WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES is an album that may start a little slow – but will totally blow you away after that, and the first moments of getting used to it. Hell, I never want to miss it again !
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