Top positive review
Excellent debut; upper-tier blackened thrash
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.