DRAGON GUARDIAN — Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom (review)

DRAGON GUARDIAN — Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom album cover Album · 2011 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sisslith
Do you crave some great fantasy symphonic power metal from the land of the rising sun? Well, this album is everything you need!

Led by Arthur Brave, Dragon Guardian are quite a prolific band that have been around in the metal scene for more than a decade. They are not very well-known out of Japan, but they have collaborated with many artists from their homeland. Dragon Guardian's fifth record, "Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom", was originally self-released in 2011. The subject of this review, however, is the limited edition released the following year through the German label IceWarrior Records. This very album is a re-recording of their debut "聖邪のドラゴン", and let me tell you in advance that it is a complete improvement.

Regarding the lyrics, all of them were written by Arthur Brave. Leo Figaro, who was recruited for the vocals and would later become the band's frontman, translated them into English. This is understandable since the aim of it was to reach a wider audience, but it backfires. As numerous Japanese singers, Figaro's English pronunciation is not the best, and the booklet contains a lot of grammatical mistakes. Therefore, it would have been better to leave the lyrics untouched. Anyway, the theme of these lyrics is enjoyable yet full of clichés, such as dragons, magic, treasure islands, soldiers and so on –which is a common characteristic of the genre.

The music is a different story; it is without doubt the highlight of this work. Arthur Brave is a fantastic guitarist as well as a versatile composer. He is clearly the brain behind this album: he is responsible for all the songwriting process and arrangements, and plays both guitar and bass on it too. One thing that I particularly love about Dragon Guardian is the melodic quality of their records. This one is brimming with catchy and epic melodies, which is especially noticeable on tracks like ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Requiem’ or ‘Book of the Magic’. There is also a considerable amount of slower sections and bridges with emotional pianos and neoclassical orchestral interludes that contrast with the raging power metal parts, e.g. in the glorious piece ‘The Never-Ending World’. Moreover, the thorough use of majestic and often baroque-flavoured synthesisers in almost every song complements the music perfectly.

Furthermore, Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom features a high level of virtuosity. Not only does Brave demonstrate his insane fretboard prowess, but also Kouta, aka “Johann Sebastian Bach” (Thousand Leaves), whose mind-blowing guitar mastery can be seen at the start of ‘Mountain of Sword’ or in the speedy ‘Holy Dragon vs Evil Dragon’. And this connects with the main flaw of the album: several songs sound pretty similar and it may seem that one is listening to just a long track instead of eight different pieces. Perhaps Figaro, albeit having an impressive vocal range, sounds rather monotonous, or some musical structures are overused. Nevertheless, there are enough and fairly appealing variations throughout the whole record that may oppose this view, like in the eponymous ‘Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom’.

While not a perfect album, Dragon Guardian’s fifth offering is undeniably satisfying from start to finish and highly recommended to any fan of the genre. The melodious and tuneful power metal passages interwoven with gentle neoclassical interludes make up for any flaw it might present.
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1 year ago
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