There are few genuine classic melodic power metal bands left in the business, with most ancient champions either retiring or “evolving” into something no one asked for. Austria’s Dragony have been supplying the old power metal crowd with finest European forged steel since their inception around 2011, when their first album Legends released independently, a time where I’d known them for a while already and had come to revel in the ’90s symphonic power goodness long before the band was signed by Limb Music in 2012, who released Legends again. Smart move, after all, Legends was the most explosive piece of the genre I’d heard in a long time.
With this year’s Masters Of The Multiverse, the follow-up to 2015’s more modern sounding Shadowplay, Dragony are looking to refine their style for a more distinctive character. Visually, Masters Of The Multiverse follows the new retrowave trend which has been hitting the more melodic genres of metal lately, with some examples being Gloryhammer, Victorius and Grailknights devolving into more-image-than-music kind of bands. Fortunately, Dragony don’t let this visual spice impede their songwriting.
Instead, Masters Of The Multiverse offers a whole bunch of power metal tracks, which couldn’t sound more like the sincere early 2000s style everyone was annoyed by back then due to the mass of bands throwing their hat into the ring. Today, there’s about 3 hats in the ring, so I wholeheartedly welcome every band keeping up the tradition. There’s a few typically indicative songs for Masters Of The Multiverse, the opening “Flame Of Tar Valon” being the first one laying out the direction of the album. Like Blind Guardian before them, Dragony join the ranks of storytellers once again, telling us not only of epics like Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time saga, but also other media like Predator, A Song Of Ice And Fire, Diablo, Secret Of Evermore and Dragon Age. This puts the band right up there among the ranks of power metal nerds, with Swedish Twilight Force being a recent addition to the refined roster. There’s few things cooler than adventure power metal.
Masters Of The Multiverse‘s songwriting follows suit, loads of massive, dramatic choirs, symphonic orchestral support and huge choruses. All of this usually performed at above average speeds attends on power metal fans with some much needed epic fodder. It’s hard to pinpoint a single best track on the album, almost every song ticks all the boxes for what you expect from classic power metal. “Flame Of Tar Valon” opens the album with enormous high-speed power, “Grey Wardens” puts forward a level of dramatic energy before known from Virgin Steele and early Rhapsody, and “Defenders” as one of the most old school, euphoric huge chorus tracks on MOTM, brings tears to the listener’s eyes. Another track worth mentioning is “Days Of High Adventure”, which was obviously inspired by Avantasia‘s “Journey To Arcadia” and “A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies”. I don’t mind though, this is a heartfelt dedication to fantasy in the shape of an atmospheric epic.
I could continue like this about close to every track on the album, Dragony clearly know their craft and their roots. There are only few quarrels with MOTM. “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It” has a cool title, but disappoints with it very modern sounding songwriting, with synthwave-y keyboards and a superficial chorus and melody. Fortunately, concerning songwriting, this is the only outlier in an otherwise phenomenal album. Sure, I’ll skip the ballad “Fallen Star” each time, but it’s a good effort, just about average for people who like power ballads. Sadly, the album’s sound is far below average. No energy, no kick, no punch. The guitars are way too soft, the same is true for the drums. How great this album could have been with a punchy, finnish-style production. Instead, we get a softened AOR sound which takes the wind out of the sail’s of even the most energetic tracks of MOTM. I don’t know what happened here, but I am disappointed. The songwriting speaks for itself, I love the album and its spirit, but the sound! Compared to the band’s previous two, enormous sounding albums, this is a listening experience not heavier than Journey. The computer orchestra doesn’t improve on that.
In the end, Masters Of The Multiverse is a great album for people who love their metal melodic, epic and dramatic. Songwriting-wise, Dragony are at the top of their game once again, leaving behind even smash hits like 2015’s “Babylon”. The band’s performance is tight, as expected from people who follow their evident passion. Only the sound cheats the album’s reach for perfection. Well, you can’t have everything. Here’s hoping for a remaster/remix in 10 years or so for some kind of anniversary.