Volturian – Red Dragon Review

It blows my mind that only two years passed since the last Volturian album, which I gave a positive review. I stand by that rating, too. Crimson stands firm as a pleasant and fun, poppy and sweet, goth-tinged experience. Big choruses, a fair share of decent riffs, and crunchy downtuned tones which I’ve always loved in this format formed a dance-able volume that is extremely difficult to put down, even today. The pandemic, which hit just before Crimson dropped, stretched time to the point that now, it feels like I wrote that review all the way back in 2018 rather than 2020. Nonetheless, it’s 2022, and sophomore album Red Dragon prepares to swoop down and incinerate my credibility as a metal critic of taste once again.1

Anyone reading this review who expected to hear some growth in sound from the last album clearly hasn’t spent a lot of time with this subgenre. Volturian, masterminded by Frozen Crown’s Federico Mondelli, clearly stuck to their Amaranthe-plus-Lacuna Coil formula when creating Red Dragon. Saccharine and light vocals by siren Federica Lanna serenade the listener, while Massimiliano Rossi provides low end with his bass. Newcomer Andrea Zannin rounds out the lineup on the drums. With the formulation of Volturian’s sound carried over from 2020, and the performances of all involved equally satisfactory, all that remains to distinguish Red Dragon in Volturian’s fledgling discography is its songwriting.

Regrettably, it seems that the vitality and exuberance bursting out of the band’s collective pores on Crimson no longer features on Red Dragon. In fact, my experience with Red Dragon represents nothing short of a shocking disappointment. As I sit here, spinning this album for what feels like the hundredth time, I struggle to muster a single highlight or defining moment which distinguishes the Italian’s follow-up from the hordes of generic, toothless pop-metal albums that most of the staff here actively avoid. It’s such a severe case of wallflower syndrome that even the closing instrumental, “Descent,” and its cool Metroid-meets-The Beauty and the Beast (1991) synth melodies offers some of the most attractive songwriting album-wide. The sole exception, perhaps, would be “Freeze.” It has a killer chorus, relatively speaking, and a decent riff to help the song along. I also appreciate that much of the verse work in between choruses follows the bass guitar, which is a smart tactic I find more compelling nowadays than forcing arbitrary heft at every turn.

While Volturian’s songwriting quality and liveliness took a nosedive during these long two years, the production sees distinct improvement. The guitars are meaty while also sounding less artificial than before. The drums give a more natural, well-rounded range of tones. Vocals sit closer to dead center in the mix as well, which gives them a prime position to pop when needed and recede when someone else, especially the bassist, takes the spotlight. As a result of these seemingly subtle alterations, Red Dragon achieves a deceptively dynamic soundstage that would have easily earned Crimson an extra half-point.2 Sadly, the improved production value of Red Dragon is like giving Meryl Streep a bad script, and will never be strong enough on its own to save a lackluster record.

It is with a heavy heart that I express my deep disappointment in Red Dragon. Whatever magic Crimson charmed me with two years ago still charms me today, but that magic is entirely absent from the band’s new material. I’m one of the few writers on staff who enjoys poppy, sweet, and cheesy metal like this. All the same, there’s no denying that Volturian can do so much better. With that, I recommend that fans of gothy, hooky, dancefloor-ready metal skip this entry entirely, and blame the pandemic for turning Red Dragon into a flightless bird.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Website: facebook.com/volturian
Releases Worldwide: May 20th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Oh, who am I kidding? I never had any cred to begin with. Or taste, for that matter!
  2. Honestly, and especially considering how often I returned to it in the last couple of weeks, Crimson probably deserves the additional half-point anyway. —Contrite Metal Sponge
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