Dragonhammer – The X Experiment
Reviewed by Arno Callens
Last year we had a veritable Italian power metal renaissance with Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Thy Majestie, Sound Storm, and many others delivering albums at the top of their game. It was then that the long-dormant Dragonhammer awoke from hibernation and announced that it was working on new material. Time For Expiation left us mouthwatering for nine long years and now, in the middle of this splendid power metal climate, The X Experiment was gonna drop.
It doesn’t leave quite the crater that I expected, mostly out of misguided expectations. See, Dragonhammer has never been about big bombastic statements (contrary to the bands mentioned above). What they bring is much more simple and stripped down, and therefore works on a much more subtle level. Every now and then they pummel you with a stone-cold classic like “Legend” or “Eternal Sinner” (“CAN YOU TELL ME WHYYY?”), and display the potential to fill an album of those, but that’s not what Dragonhammer does.
Take the opener as proof. “The End Of The World” features a familiar but effective lead and segues into a splendid chorus complete with a guest appearance by Roberto Tiranti from Labyrinth. Just the way a power metal album should begin. To quote Django Unchained: “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity. But now you’ve got my attention.” Initially the album seemed to peak there, but upon repeated listens I discovered several more strong tracks until it was all of them. “Escape” and “My Destiny” are not rewriting the rulebook for “soft power metal”, but they’re still a princess cut above your middle-of-the-road Italian PM, and delivered with such passion and emotion it hardly matters. A big part of that is Max Aguzzi, who may not be the most technical singer, but whose heart is always on his tongue.
What remains is much less direct, and shows how much the band has matured from its early dragon-chasing days. The keys and orchestration are very laid back and therefore hit when they are used to effect. Take the mesmerizing “The Others” or excellent ballad “Follow Your Star”. These are not songs that will inspire furious sing-alongs straight away, but they ear-worm your way into your brain sooner or later. Similarly, the title track seems very basic, yet after a while it’s hard to get rid of that refrain. And of course it wouldn’t be Dragonhammer with at least one last instant power metal blaster, and “Last Solution” way more than delivers on that front.
The X Experiment appeared to be somewhat undercooked when compared to my anticipation, but I’m to blame for that and not the band. The sound is the same, the production richer, and while Dragonhammer still screams more potential than what is heard, so was the case with Time For Expiation, and I learned to love that. As per each repeat, I’m growing fonder of this. The important thing is that Dragonhammer’s back, and let’s hope they don’t hibernate again.
4.0 // 5