Italian Power Metal and Dragons. It’s almost a given isn’t it? Dragon-this, Dragon-that…so what do we have here? Dragonhammer eh? A Dragon with a penchant for woodwork maybe? OK, safety goggles at the ready, let’s see if I can hit the nail on the head, chip away to judge whether their style is Plane, or if I will need to Drill too far to see what they Saw? OK, I’ll stop now. This is a Progressive Power Metal band on release number 3 (9 whole years after their 2nd release no less!), what can they offer to the Dragon-infested waters (yes I KNOW the term is ‘Shark-infested’, I think this dragon thing is infectious…).
Dragonhammer are resplendent in that Italian Power Metal style. It’s never a blanket rule of course, but Italian Power Metal differs from other country’s Power Metal in the same way that German Power Metal has it’s own nuances, as does Swedish etc. When you’ve heard a lot of Power Metal, as I have over the last 20 years or so (you can keep your sympathy, much of it was actually out of choice), you start to recognise these traits (or is it just me…again…). It’s not just in the accenting of the vocals, the music of Italian Power Metal just has a slightly higher…flamboyance for want of a better term. Rhapsody Of Fire take it to the extreme of course, but so many Italian Power Metal bands have this essence to certain degrees, and a few of those bands seem to echo around the musical chambers of “The X Experiment”.
First track proper, ‘The End Of World’, had me immediately thinking of Athena and Shining Fury – the latter could be more down to the vocals (both bands included Francesco Neretti in their ranks and Dragonhammer singer Max Aguzzi really sounds like him at times), but there is a lot of Athena in the progressive arrangement too. As the album progresses (tiny pun intended…) other Italian Prog and Power acts become apparent – just hints of course, but they are there all the same. Vision Divine spring to mind on several occasions, but Dragonhammer’s keyboards are a little more understated, with the guitars pushed nicely forward. Delving deeper, ‘My Destiny’ is reminiscent of Labyrinth and ‘Last Solution’ has the slightly more manic gallop of Shadows Of Steel. Secret Sphere are another band that I hear smatterings of in ‘Escape’ as well as in the nicely crafted ballad ‘Follow Your Star’. But basically I’d say if you like Vision Divine and the aforementioned Athena then this could be just your thing.
Dragonhammer are by no means a rip-off though! My comparisons are here only here as a guide and after all, Dragonhammer were there the first time around. For me the most interesting time for Italian Prog/Power Metal were the years around the turn of the millennium and that’s when Dragonhammer’s debut surfaced. “The X Experiment” definitely harks back to that time, but with the beauty of a nice current crunchy guitar sound – which is all absolutely fine by me, but best not leave it another 9 years between releases this time eh guys? And come on Italy, surely it’s time for a new Power Metal act entitled Dragontesticles! Power Metal with Balls – it’s the Dragon’s Bollocks! You heard it here first – I claim copyright…
(7/10 Andy Barker)