The label’s press release for Obscurity states ostentatiously that the album will be the band’s “definitive consecration to the international scene.” Sidelining that this is a gross misuse of the word and concept of “consecration” on multiple levels, there’s no way to make me crankier right off the bat than with inane marketing bluster. Tread lightly, My Kingdom. As a third-line power metal act that’s trundled around in the Italian underground since 1999, Dragonhammer is remarkable mainly for its first pair of albums from the early 00’s, which caused a minor splash in the then still developing Euro-power scene. However, 2013’s The X Experiment was received with minor back-patting and a minimum of fanfare in most circles. Now, four years later, the boys are ready to prove that they’re ready to break out and attain some serious recognition…right?

Nope, ‘fraid not. For one, a major stroke is delivered against the band upon first listen: whereas The X Experiment and earlier albums exhibited at least a modicum of progressive (or at least non-standard for Italian power metal) songwriting, Obscurity is noticeably, and at times dreadfully, straightforward. Songs like gliding opener “The Eye of the Storm” and the processional “Children of the Sun” are quite satisfying and boast an improvement in catchy keyboard licks, but others like the completely banal and useless “Remember My Name” and the snore-inducing repetition of “Town of Evil” are some of the least noteworthy tunes that I’ve ever heard from the band. Also, when re-listening to sections of The X Experiment and comparing it to the new release, I swear it seems as if vocalist Max Aguzzi has actually regressed, his accent worsening and his words slurring as badly as on Time For Expiation. I’ll be honest: between this and the none-too-helpful lyrics, I can’t even tell what songs like “Town of Evil” and “Under The Vatican’s Ground” are supposed to be about.

There’s a bit of redemption to be glimpsed here and there, however. The album’s title track, along with those already mentioned in a positive light, really highlights the improvement of Giulio Cattivera as a soundly contributing member of the band (unlike his more reserved performance in 2013). About half of the tracks here can be ballparked as respectable, if completely unambitious, power metal in the tried and proven Italian national style. The remainder, however, is utterly forgettable, highlighting a behavior that I’ve been on my soapbox about for some years now:

It’s 2017, and by my reckoning, it’s now been about 25 years since power metal really became a “thing,” with greats like Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, and Helloween proving out and properly establishing the style in the early 1990’s. Granted, Dragonhammer has been an entity for a majority of that time period, but if you’re going to continue to play things very safe by genre standards, you’d better be doing it so well that your fans keep begging for it. There is literally nothing on Obscurity that countrymen like Highlord, Derdian, Labÿrinth, etc. haven’t done and done considerably better and/or earlier. And it’s for this reason that I get so hot-headed over garbage marketing like that which I quoted above.

Obscurity is bound to leave Dragonhammer in just that relative state, and given the nature of this album and the historicity of power metal as a genre, I don’t think the lack of a breakthrough here is going to be news to anyone – least of all the band. This album certainly isn’t poor by any stretch of the imagination, but taking a release that might have been “pretty good” twenty years ago and slapping a sticker that says “HEAVIER, MORE MODERN, MORE VARIED” (it is not those things) on the front is a surefire recipe for the bargain bin. Please, Angry readers, go to My Kingdom and pick up the reissues of The Blood Of The Dragon and Time For Expiation, but I’m afraid Obscurity won’t be worth your hard-earned coin until it’s on sale – even if you’re a fan of the band’s back catalog.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: My Kingdom Music
Websites: dragonhammer.com | facebook.com/dragonhammer.official
Releases Worldwide: October 27th, 2017

Share →
  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Seeing a guy called Swordborn say shit like “by my reckoning” on a power metal review for a band called Dragonhammer performing on a label called My Kingdom is all kinds of fucked. I thought Steel’s escapades with epic doom were to be the veritable downfall of AMG but it’d seem my premonition didn’t showcase the full picture.

    Good review though.

    • I needed help destroying things from within so as to establish a LARP-friendly blog in the ruins.

    • Swordborn

      I do my medieval best.

    • Nukenado

      Henceforth, all kvltists will writhe and squirm in agony.

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    MORE LIKE DÖGSHITHÄMMER AMIRITE

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Shithammer would be a great band name btw

  • wayne the devil

    Fake facial Hair Alert….Guy second from right….Hmmmm??

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Salvador Dali’s sister?

      • Salvador Molly? I went to school with her!

        • wayne the devil

          Funny…earlier this year a demo was released by a Black Metal outfit by the name of Elizabeth Shaw….used to know a girl by that name and well..you guys get it…one of the more odd reasons to check a band out but that’s metal I guess!!

          • Name’s Dalton

            Turned out to be this Salvador Dali sister dude?

          • wayne the devil

            The demo turned out to be more fun!!!!

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            NO. WE DON’T GET IT.

          • wayne the devil

            I bet you do…brutally no less….

          • wayne the devil

            Since I will get hammered for the hard core version of my wild tale, here is the soft core version-
            Fillet of sole, baby, my favorite dish
            Fillet of sole, baby taste cant be missed,
            oh, I lose control, when you serve fillet of sole!!

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          That’s. ….surreal.
          ….sorry……

  • I liked Time for Expiation. This doesn’t do much for me.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      It’s becoming harder and harder to find really innovative and fresh PM these days. Many of the bands who do offer new takes on the genre usually end up lumped in with the progressive crowd.
      Is it that all the great melodies have been used up? All the possible chord combinations exhausted?
      When will we hear another Epica (Kamelot), or Keeper of the Seven Keys? Or something as exciting and kick ass as the debut from Lost Horizon?
      These are the albums that made me the heavy metal hamster I am today.
      Who will step forward and take the torch for the future of power metal?
      Is it even possible anymore?
      Disappointed I sit in my soiled wood chips………

      • ssorg

        Is Witherfall PM or prog-metal, would you say?

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Proggy doomy power metal.
          BUT my argument is more with the standard power metal formula.
          Have all the possible melodies and arrangements been exhausted?
          One listen to the new Dragonforce for instance showed me a band rewriting inferior versions of songs they recorded on previous albums.
          Or Sonata Arctica. ….they usually nail it once or twice on their more recent releases…but then either get really weird or wank aimlessly on the rest of the album.

          • Swordborn

            Sonata is just weird and not a good comparison to anything. :P

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            I know it’s taste based (that rhymes). For me Winterheart’s Guild era Sonata Arctica was PM at its catchiest.
            I have checked out a few of the bands you mentioned above and found little to mitigate my cynicism, but I’ll check out the others and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
            Thanks!

          • Dark Forest is particularly good.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            I recall getting that album and I was reminded of all things Elvenking.
            I’ll dig it up again though.

          • Speaking of Elvenking, they have a new album pending.

          • Swordborn

            And it is perhaps their most power metal work to date. I very much like this new leaf they’ve turned over.

          • Swordborn

            Beyond The Veil was my AotY last year by a wide margin.

          • Swordborn

            Power metal is my commission, and I’m still convinced it’s very much alive and producing interesting new stuff, especially where the genre lines get bent a little bit. Communic, Ancestral, LionSoul, Cellador, Keldian, Force Majeure, Palantir, and Unleash the Archers have all hit the 4.0 mark for me this year, and that’s a huge spread of sounds. Of those, Cellador is perhaps the least distinct and closest to that school of Dragonforce clones, but is more concise and genuinely energetic than DF has felt to me in a long time.

            When referring to Sonata, I meant only their latest stuff. Early SA is solid gold.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Totally agree with Sonata.
            Thanks for the other names too.
            I’ll check em out.

          • Thraeg

            Welcome! It will be great to have more power metal reviews around here, especially since our tastes seem to line up (Beyond the Veil was my AotY too.)

            I agree on Unleash the Archers and Cellador being great, but haven’t heard of half of the releases you listed there, so definitely going to check them out ASAP. Besides those, I also really really liked Thunder & Lightning, Seven Kingdoms, and Galderia this year. And if you stretch into the more symphonic side of things, AfterTime and End of the Dream

          • ssorg

            If the genre constraints of PM make it both too easy to coast along with formulaic writing, and too restrictive to experiment without becoming prog, then it’s really mostly a semantic problem. There are a hundred bands that still sound like Entombed (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but there’s also Ulcerate, Gorguts, etc etc… It’s still all Death Metal.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            I agree.
            Which is why I’m confused as to why anyone would try to keep rehashing that old formula as there’s really nothing left to accomplish.

      • Swordborn

        I don’t have quite the same level of cynicism, since I feel there’s routinely good to great albums still emerging from new bands that are “taking the torch” so to speak, from the old. Bands like Dragony, Twilight Force, Dark Forest, Merging Flare, etc. (I’m picking from all over the power metal spectrum here, but you get my point) have all quietly taken over from the likes of HammerFall, Blind Guardian, Freedom Call, etc. when it comes to albums that really grab my attention.

        Speaking of recent examples, I could see Lor’s “In Forgotten Sleep” being the new “Heathenreel” for a whole new generation.

      • Norpal Nordickson

        Unleash the Archers.

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          That’s my PM album of the year.

          • Norpal Nordickson

            Well, there you go then!
            Also, Keldian

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            But the pickings were slim for that spot.
            I will check out Keldian.
            Thanks!

          • Norpal Nordickson

            Hope you don’t mind some AOR in your PM. Personally I think that sounds terrible on paper but hot damn the band makes that sound work.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Nope.
            Good tunes are good tunes to this guy.

          • Swordborn

            Keldian review was submitted by yours truly last week.

            Spoiler : I dig it.

        • Danny

          I second this. I also have to say, the latest Freedom Call has wormed it’s way into my heart and won’t fucking leave, awful artwork and all. And Galderia. There is still good PM!

      • Nukenado

        Darkest Fucking Era, good sir!

        • They’re more epic metal than power in my Big Book ov Metal.

          • Eli Valcik

            Epic metal is easier to get right. People tend to go a bit over board with power metal, you make a good PM album by restraining yourself, just look at Sumerlands or even bands like Riot. Never go full bubblegum.

          • Nukenado

            I personally feel that “epic metal” is just non-standard guitars and singing power metal…

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Nice….shaping up to be an expensive post…

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Wow….you were very consecratively generous with the score considering the consecratively harsh review.

  • Name’s Dalton

    NO

    • Eldritch Elitist

      You are not the Receptacle I was looking for.

  • Norpal Nordickson

    So these guys think that Morpheus is a good font for a metal band logo in 2017, and I feel like that tells me everything I need to know about their music.

    • Fontist!

      • Norpal Nordickson

        I prefer the term “typefascist”

    • Nukenado

      Hey, Vektor used Helvetica on Black Earth!

      • Norpal Nordickson

        You mean Black Future? Sure, but that’s okay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Helvetica and it’s generic enough that it doesn’t stand out that much anyway. Morpheus on the other hand is aggressively ugly and also distinct enough that it sticks out like a sore thumb. Hell, it was a weak and tired attempt of giving out a “mysterious” or “arcane” vibe even when it was new.

        • Nukenado

          Black Future. My bad. I personally feel Helvetica sucks on anything other than being the main text. Morpheus does suck though.

      • defjam

        Vektor can use any font they wish to because they rule

        • Nukenado

          Good point.

  • madhare

    The Embedded track reminds me of Gloryhammer. Expect without any of the irony and fun. So it’s just… stale cheese.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I’ll echo what someone else here said in that your score seems too positive for the tone of the review, but it’s a really good review so I’ll give it a pass. Your analysis of how frustrating it can be to be a power metal fan is spot-on.

    Also, you’re going to make it more difficult for me to secure decent power metal releases, so hopefully Steel manages to break your spirit before you become a fully fledged member!

    • Swordborn

      Fair. Given the band’s background, I felt like I had to work hard to knock this down to a disappointing 2.5. Thought I had enough emphasis on the general competence, but your point is noted.

      I think Kris and Shannon have their hands full trying to fend me off!

  • kmanitou81

    ESL music for ESL listeners.

  • defjam

    I thought a 2.5 is awarded to a decent-to-good release at this here website

    • 2.5 is mixed or flawed, part good, part bad. An album you like parts of but don’t enjoy as a whole. 3.0 is an album that despite issues can be enjoyed as a whole.

  • The Unicorn
  • sir_c

    What does a dragonhammer do? Fire people?

  • basenjibrian

    dude on the right sure is…sleek. Can’t see him wielding a sword?

    • Tofu muncher

      double chin challenge and band photo all in one.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    We need different vocal styles for power metal. I’m sick of the generic ‘I’m straining my voice’ style.