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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on June 2, 2013
The music that Dragonlord play is perhaps best described as "blackened thrash" in that it is equally influenced by black metal than it is by thrash. Indeed, the vocals (skin crawling rasps) and lyrics almost seem to have "black metal" written all over them, and there are just enough black metal-derived keyboards mixed in, too, thus helping to make the musical arrangements sound even fuller. But featuring two members of Testament (Eric Peterson and Steve Smyth), Dragonlord also have strong, undeniable roots in the latter of the two genres, too. And they fill their songs with thrash and speed metal riffs. Other genres they fuse-into their sound include power metal and melodic death metal. And even some Nineties-era grind elements find their way into the mix in some of the songs. Or, in other words, DL, and their 2001 debut, "Rapture," take some of Testament's more technical riffs (from that band's 1999 era), and mix it with black metal vocals/lyrics, symphonic flourishes, decent bass lines (the band are blessed to have tapped the skills of Sadus bass virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio, even if he goes unnoticed most of the time), and tight, brutal drumming. So, think "The Gathering"-era Testament mixed with Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Metallica, Suffocation, At The Gates, Iron Maiden, Morbid Angel, Death, and Goatwhore.

After "Vals De La Muerte" (a surprisingly calm and atmospheric, symphonic black metal-derived instrumental intro), the album really gets underway with "Unholyvoid," which greets the listener like a freight train, with its blistering, rip-roaring thrash riffage. Some symphonic black metal elements do remain, here, as there is a full-orchestra present; but it, while audible, is pushed to the back of the mix. The vocals, meanwhile, are classic black metal; and the drumming in this song is noteworthy, too, as it is deft and thunderous throughout. But for the most part, this is the guitarists show -- Peterson and Smyth definitely have talents aplenty, and they show them off by dominating the maelstrom, here, with smoke-inducing twin-guitar dogfights and fiery solos that rip the air. So while the song might be vaguely symphonic, but it is for the most part brutal and thrashy. And the tune's symphonic outro flows perfectly into the next track's intro; but things soon slam into blazing, rock-hard thrash riffs, again. As such, "Tradition And Fire" practically screams "vintage symphonic black metal" (much in the same vein as Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir) in that perfectly balances ambiance with pure, thrashing brutality. The number is also of note for featuring a great crescendo -- it ascends from a hooky, hoof-pounding thrash gallop (a la Nevermore) to explosive, whiplash-inducing grindcore territory at the drop of a hat. "T&F" also sprinkles in some tasteful synth flourishes, thus helping to lend the arrangements some nice texture and depth.

Despite featuring a symphonic intro, "Born To Darkness" is a steady beating that rocks as hard as ever, as a heads-down, frills-free thrash romp with fiery, chug and churn riffs. Still, this is a much more mid-tempo cut than the three that preceded it, and it even features some clean, nearly spoken-word vocals. And plus, a totally ripping melodic solo is slipped in, here, for good measure, as well. But immediately following it, "Rapture" returns to its full-fledged brutal roots, as a scorching, ripping thrash melee of impeccable, frenetic, head-rattling blast beats and bullying riffs. But "Judgment Failed," while brutal, also injects some perfectly-placed symphonic music elements, thus helping to add a bit of nuance to the mix, and allowing the listener to catch a fleeting breath or two. All told, the end result is a tune that is easy to imagine Immortal (et al) nodding in approval while listening to it.

Next up is another tasteful bludgeon in the form of "Wolfhunt," which tears the listener's head clean off with a frantic, dissonant onslaught of fiery pick slides, warp speed riffing, grumbling bass lines, and wild, blasting drums that evoke pure grindcore. But aside from featuring some grinding blasts, this song is mostly a throwback to classic, Slayer-esque Eighties thrash. And so is "Spirits In The Mist" -- at least for the most part. See, it is backed by strong, churning, and sometimes almost buzzsaw-fast speedster riffage; but its raspy vocals and outlandish lyricism are both very heavily influenced by straight-up black metal. Finally, the set comes to a close with "Rapture," which is highlighted by a memorable, mazy soloing section (complete with tasty sweep picking).

It might not warrant getting a five-star rating from yours truly, because the inclusion of a couple of more excellent, eargasmic guitar solos would have been nice. But even so, this album is one of the best debuts of the new millennium, best extreme metal releases of 2001, and a record that already cements Dragonlord's status as being one of the best extreme metal supergroups of the decade. As memorable as it is potent and brutal, "Rapture" is a no-brainer for all fans of black metal and thrash.
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on August 13, 2005
...If you are a fan of Symphonic Black Metal.

Ah yes, Symphonic Black Metal. It's the genre that bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth kick-started in the early ninties that soon became saturated with carbon-copies. What makes Dragonlord different? Not much really, it's still Black Metal laced with wonderous keyboard effects and symphonic elements, but this time it's good.

If you took the keyboard arrangements of Dimmu Borgir and mixed them with the thrashy riffs and songwriting style of Testament (In fact, Eric Peterson and Steve Smyth have come from Testament to make this side project) and bulked them up on Black Metal steroids, you wouldn't be too far off. Eric Peterson has even done a Black Metal makeover on his vocals so they sound more "evil". While they aren't the best Black Metal vocals you'll ever hear, they do a fine job. All in all, it's nothing very original, but it's executed very, very well.

Each song is as strong as the next and waste no time kicking your @$$, but there are some standouts. "Unholy Void" starts out the album with a bang as "Vals De La Muerte" (An instrumental opener that's actually great to listen to) draws to a close. The majestic keyboards coupled with brutal Thrash Metal riffs and a spacial atmosphere catch your attention and don't let it go for the rest of the album. "Tradition And Fire" keeps up the pace with another jewel of a song that's unrelenting in it's Symphonic Black Metal awesomeness.

If there was a single to the album, it'd most likely be "Born To Darkness". It's less brutal than the rest and focuses more on keyboard effects than the other songs (although there is an awesome riff near the end that makes mo go into a headbanging fit every time I hear it), and the already sweetend Black Metal cut is topped off with some clean vocals.

"Judgement Failed" is probably my favorite from the album. The blasting riffs kick you off into one hell of a ride that you won't regret taking. The song soon breaks out into the best clean vocals you'll hear from 'Rapture' topping the astonishingly beautiful keyboard effects that's pure captivating ecstasy for the ears, and it's as catchy as hell.

Another highlight is "Spirits In The Mist". The song is sheer symphonic bliss as the guitars lay the background for this song, but one shouldn't complain. The piano verses alone are worth listening to the song for. The whole peice reeks atmosphere and the closing riffs are the most mesmerising works of the album.

The production is excellent. The guitars are thick and punishing, and the drums are blasting and meaty. The bass is audiable enough to hear, although you probably shouldn't expect to hear the bass too often. The keyboards are, as they should be, enough in the background to provide tons of atmosphere, but forefront enough to let you in on their majesty.

So, is this album original? No. But is this album an awesome cut of Symphonic Black Metal? You bet it is. Thirty-five minutes and they don't waste a second delivering killer riff after killer riff. Although it's not the best Black Metal you'll find, it is a worthy and rock-solid investment that's screaming for attention. If you are a fan of Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child or any other Symphonic Black Metal band out there, I highly reccomend you give this a chance.
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on October 13, 2004
Although there are some typical Testament influences on this album, Rapture can be mainly described as a melodic Black Metal album. Testament guitarist Eric Peterson is a big fan of Black Metal, mainly melodic Black Metal bands like Dimmu Borgir. On Rapture he combines his Thrash Metal roots with Black Metal. Besides playing the guitar, Eric Peterson also sings on this album. His vocals are also a mixture between Black Metal and Thrash Metal vocals. Its works surprisingly well. Although most of the songs are fast, sometimes I wished that some songs would be faster and contain more blast-beats. Also the arrangements are rather simple compared to his main influence Dimmu Borgir. Further complaints are the short length of the album and the sloppy production. Sometimes the band doesn't sound like playing very tight. Because this is Eric Peterson's first effort in a Black Metal band I hope that further releases will improve. I still recommend this album to Testament fans who do not dislike keyboards and fans of melodic Black Metal in general.
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VINE VOICEon August 15, 2001
I remember reading an Eric Peterson interview sometime back and was impressed that he was so heavily into black/death metal. When I heard this bands name and title I immediately though "Great, another dungeons and dragon's band..." Wow was I way off.
This is what Dimmu Borgir are trying to sound like. I'm not a huge fan of black metal but Dimmu does it well and I enjoy the heavy riffs, insane drumming and dark lyrics. Dragonlord does it better. In one album Peterson has managed to capture what this sort of music is all about, and he can pull off the vocals with the best of them.
Not for the faint of heart, if you enjoy stuff like Soilwork, Opeth, Dimmu, Susperia and Cradle of Filth then check this out.
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on June 8, 2004
I really enjoy this album. It's good Thrash Metal with some Power Metal and Black Metal influences. The guitars and drums are strong and the pace is fast with a lot of slower breaks. The vocals are good, but not great. Rapture has an Epic feel to it with longer tracks and some catchy Power Metal guitar riffs. I know there are members of Testament in Dragonlord, but I can't really feel too much resemblance in musical styles. Dragonlord is definitely going for a different sound. While the album goes in a lot of directions, the musicianship is very focused. I feel the keyboards are a little over used and sometimes out of place, but I still think Rapture is a very solid release. I give Rapture 3.5 stars not 4, only because the replay value is only moderate. I'm looking forward to their next release.
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on September 7, 2003
Let's face it: comparisons with Cradle of Filth abound because they do sound similar. There are slight differences here, though, and some I think, are for the better. If you like the general sound of this type of metal but are turned off by the often-immature anti-religion, intentionally 'scary' show that Cradle is, this is what you're looking for.
The music is expertly executed, the production is top-notch, everything is just where it should be. Rapture does make a good introduction for people looking to get into extreme metal but aren't yet ready to swallow the actual Scandinavian black metal attitudes and image.
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on January 4, 2002
From my first listen I have not been able to put this album down! It is a perfect mesh of thrash and black metal. This band is essentially Testament w/o Chuck Billy, but with a keyboard player, Lyle Livingston. Eric Peterson takes the vocals like a howling demon, and the addition of Livingston(of Sacramento's Psypheria) makes this a perfect match. The songwriting is impeccable, too! Without a doubt, my metal album of the year! If you like this check out
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on August 10, 2001
Interesting how much I disagree with the previous review. I didn't find it goth at all unless keyboards means goth. The production on this album is amazing especially considering this is their debut album. I find it is a very well executed riff oriented album. Sounds like a mixture of what eric peterson was doing in newer testament and added black metal type riffing to it. This album is real heavy and mixed very well where nothing is dominating the other and everything sounds real great. The vocals are pretty impressive considering it is Eric of all people. Not the best vocals but fit the music and don't sound bad or cheesy. This album makes dimmu borgir and cradle of filth look like amateurs. He is so much better at writing guitar riffs. I recommend this album to fans of both Testament and Dimmu Borgir type black metal. Nothing new, but so much better than the majority of the black metal pack. I would be pleased if Eric continues to write black metal if it continues to be this good, although I hope this doesn't interfer with Testament who are so good that I can't wait for a new album (not the rerecorded versions of old songs).
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on August 15, 2001
First of all i want to tell all of you that i am not a huge fan of Testament. But this is really something else. This is a great <all stars-super-project> containing musicians from such a great bands like Sadus,Testament,Death,Psyheria. And even though all of these guys are from U.S, this masterpiece sounds like a top-notch european Agressive-Symphonic Black Metal in vein of Dimmu Borgir,Old Man's Child and Cradle of Clones. Even though this album came out like a month ago, Dimmu Borgir and all of the other kids, sound like a Dragonlord .... Everything totally rules about this album, guitars are raw and agressive,keyboards give you hint of Arcturus's "spera Hiems Symphonia", and drumming is totally insane. This ear candy will rule the black metal world very soon and you will hear about them as they raised the level of black-thrash-death metal musicianship. It's a total killer.Buy it now or die. Fans of Dimmu Borgir,Cradle Of Filth,Susperia and Old man's Child will find this album revolutionery. Go and buy it now !
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on August 22, 2002
No matter how good the intentions Eric Peterson had in making this album, black metal it is not. It's not atmospheric or evil sounding, it doesn't have the wall-of-sound, it doesn't have epic sounding riffs, nor does it have screechy vocals. The production and mix are also all wrong for black metal - the production is not trebly enough and the keyboards are too far in the back. Ok, so enough of what the music is not, and more on what the music is. Take some more technical Testament riffs, add some fast tremolo picking and paste some cheesy "spooky" keyboards segments over the music so it sounds completely disconnected from the rest of the band. During the slower segments you have the standard thrash drumming and during the fast parts, there's some blastbeats. So basically, this is thrash with "epic" keyboards and Eric attempting his best black metal screech. Luckily he doesn't succeed in attaining the high, witch-screeches and sticks to a more mid-ranged screech that doesn't detract from the music too much. The riffs in Testament's The Gathering were highly impressive, and the riffs here are somewhat in a similar style and are some really good ones, but for some reason they sound unimpressive. Maybe it's because it's so unoriginal, or maybe it just lacks the spark that Testament possesses. I'm not sure. But what I AM sure about is that this album never achieves the black metal sound, nor does it impress as a thrash album. It's stuck somewhere in between - in mediocrity.
Highlights: Unholyvoid, Wolf's Lair, Rapture...
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