Well it is almost mid-January of 2012 and the releases keep flowing. There is a new Metallica EP called Beyond Magnetic on its way with tracks not used on Death Magnetic that aren't that bad. The cynic would say it is an attempt to blot out the memory of the god-awful Lulu from everyone's consciousness.
Dragonland: Under The Grey Banner. The band have the word Dragon in their name, so you can expect something epic, of course. They are a symphonic metal band that has gone all concept with this release. This album is nine years in the making and it sounds it. This is third part of a series of releases, the last of which was Holy War.
The timing could not be better, of course, as it was released almost simultaneously with the RPG epic computer game Skyrim. And there are times this disc sounds like a game soundtrack. Just check out "The Black Mare" and try not to think of your faithful steed in your favourite fantasy RPG.
This is a good thing or bad thing depending on your point-of-view. This release, like many of its type, is seriously steeped in the works of Tolkien. Not a bad place to take inspiration from but a bit of cliché' now in the power and symphonic metal realm. That said, this is not bad stuff at all and has the right amount of pomp and pace.
I found it a bit impenetrable at first, to be honest. However, given a bit of chance it does warm a bit. There is no denying the quality of this release. It just does not have that immediacy that some releases in this genre tend to have. Again that could be a good or bad thing depending on your view. It's another epic fantasy concept album from a symphonic metal band. If you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy it all.
Iron Maskl: Black As Death
Neo-classical power metal is a genre that the Japanese lap up with gusto. This is one of the bands they love the most. Think Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force when he had Joe Lynn Turner on vocals back in the day. Then again, a former Malmsteen vocalist in the form of Mark Boals is on vocals, and he adds something special to the tunes. Tone down the guitars a bit with less intrusive widdling and that is what you have here. Think Yngwie but not as anal retentive and needlessly complicated.