From time to time, there are works of art which remind us of the more important things in life; works of art which refocus our gaze on what it is to be human, and what our goals as a race should be. Such examples appear in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, both of which take their audiences to unheralded locations with innovative narrative techniques. It’s for this reason that Dragonheart is paramount in man’s interaction with music. If not for such albums as The Battle Sanctuary, who would remind us of our primitive warmongering? Of gods and kings and swords and shields? Of halcyon times where it was not just socially acceptable, but encouraged, to raid poorly-defended acquaintances and ravage their family? These are idolatrous times in which we live and Dragonheart serve to remind us mere mortals that demons exist and it’s our duty to repel their necromanctic advances, brandishing axes and with battle cries in our hearts.
Flaunting the type of classic and power metal crossover from the likes of Ironsword, The Battle Sanctuary is Dragonheart‘s first full-length in a decade, having reshuffled drummers. They’ve nonetheless remained trve to their roots, with thrashy overtones ensuring their aggressive and solder-like heft over flamboyant jesters of Luca Turilli‘s ilk. Though there are inconsistencies, I have to admire these fun shenanigans and the band’s earnestness in their medieval delivery.
“Far from Heaven… Close to Hell” and “Black Shadow” wallop you out the gates as two of the record’s strongest tracks. They boast everything that works, with hooky riffs, catchy choruses and boundless energy. Excluding a brief intro, the thrashy lead in “Far from Heaven…” demonstrates an intrinsic knack for memorable hooks, underpinning the song in a genre which can get overly fruity. Both choruses features backing chants and a ball-tightening clean vocalist, but this is counter-balanced by the heavier shouted vox. He offers a good harmonizing force to the clean vocalist, ensuring the material is heavy for the genre. Indeed, orchestral components are judiciously utilized to complement what’s already there, rather than supplanting metal instrumentation. It’s pleasing to hear power metal musicians who make goddamned heavy metal music, and don’t thoroughly investigate the darkest reaches of their own rectums.
It’s unfortunate that not all tracks can hit these heights. The vocals are executed by three out of four band members, rendering a great variety in styles. However, the different styles aren’t deployed tactically in the best possible passages, lending a sense of variety for variety’s sake. The shouts don’t have the range to carry the sole vocal melody, such as in the verses of “The Arcane’s Palace,” and the cleans sound somewhat strained on this track’s chorus. Additionally, there are a couple of passages with a great style which isn’t reused – the warm, bluesy tone at the beginning of the obligatory ballad “Marching Under the Stars” is lovely but subsequently ignored. The epic long notes held on “Circle of One” are evident here alone, when they would be a boon to the album’s remainder.
The Battle Sanctuary is also somewhat inconsistent. The title track is rather forgettable and the third and fourth tracks are actively quite bad. Songs fall down in comparison to their neighbors where their vocal or guitar hooks aren’t clingy enough. Cutting these would close out the record in a brief forty minutes which would conform to the immediacy favored elsewhere. As already mentioned, I enjoy how direct Dragonheart are, so a shorter album of highlights would suit them. The Battle Sanctuary is a fun record from a band who proudly bear a heavy shield and brandish a thrashy broadsword while undertaking their craft. The extremely loud production, spotty vocals and few weak tracks let it down, but I can recommend this pledge of trveness to fans of Ironsword and Blind Guardian.