Sartori – Dragon’s Fire Review

Though you’ve probably never heard of Sartori, you’ve definitely heard them before. Sartori neither revels in the murk of dissonant death metal, wallows in the wail of languishing post-metal, nor abstracts musical reality with a blackened avant-garde offering. Instead, in his namesake band, Andy Anderson Sartori uses his scooped six-string powers to provide straightforward, rollicking neoclassical shred, following the tradition of many other Yngwie-inspired shredders (who also dress a little like him). Arriving by way of Italy, Sartori and his crew hope to ignite hearts and horns with their triumphant take on power metal with their debut Dragon’s Fire. Break out the leather pants, silk shirts, and hair spray—while it might be 2022, the clock always strikes 1983 in the lair of the dragon.

Power metal works best when it’s firing on all cylinders, but Sartori often remains one gear too low. Sartori’s blazing fretboard and Scott Board’s soaring vocals both lift and level this throwback outing. Simple power chord progressions provide the backbone for many of the songs (“From Hell to Heaven,” “Dragon’s Fire”), often sounding faintly like beloved 80s classics (Dio’s “We Rock” comes to mind) with less of the textural flourishes—tasteful pinch harmonics, wide bends, whammy dives—that act like tinder to the flaming riff. Sounding like an amalgamation of every Malmsteen vocalist, Board performs admirably throughout, hitting many powerful highs, yet never crossing the line to gritty fry or glass-shattering falsetto—tame in the heat of battle.

While all the band members of Sartori certainly have chops, a lot of what they put out simply isn’t that memorable. Harmonic overload is a hallmark of the various power metal styles that Sartori represents but it’s curiously minimal throughout the record. Sartori’s scale-hopping overdubs and solos come in at huge volumes which overwhelm other sounds that are fighting for space (“From Hell to Heaven,” “One Distant Heart”). This stitched-in sound distracts from the impact these melodic lines could have had, resulting in tracks that meld together in the mind (“Evil Heart,” “Devil in Disguise”). Aided by the absence of vocals, the instrumental track “Castle of Lost Souls” hints at the power this band has in unifying their fret-clanging bass lines under modal histrionics—unfortunately, it’s not par for the course.

Additionally, Dragon’s Fire contains an eclectic mix of exciting and infuriating tones. Sartori’s rhythm section boasts a mighty sound from track to track, with drummer Dino Castano’s thundering tom rolls playing an integral role in the energy of my favorite track “Battle of the Distant Lands.” This pair also drives the Iron Maiden adjacent semi-ballad “Through the Eyes of My Soul,” which features a huge crowd gathering chant that’s sure to thrill live. However, there are times when Sartori himself is pushing volume on his guitar too far, even producing show-stopping clipping on the intro to “Devil in Disguise.” And the dainty interlude “Little Aria in G Major,” though peaceful, sounds more like chirpy synths than nylons, which is reason enough to leave it on the cutting room floor.

Dragon’s Fire is fun, flawed, and frustrating. While the record does start to pick up steam toward the end, ultimately it doesn’t burn as bright as the records that fueled it. At a breezy 30 minutes, Dragon’s Fire is less of blaze and more of a smolder. Other neoclassical inclined acts like Galneryus succeed by warping the past through grand conviction or reckless abandon. Sartori has good intentions and wants to lift people’s spirits with a style of music they clearly love; however, with a style that’s baked in hero worship at too low a temperature, this Dragon’s Fire leaves me cold at the center.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rockshots Records
Releases Worldwide: January 28th, 2022

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