One of the great characters of gothic horror, Dracula, comes to life in a new heavy metal rock. Norwegian music veterans, vocalist Jorn Lande and guitarist and composer Trond Holter (Wig Wam) present Dracula Swing of Death. They use liberal elements of the Bram Stoker story, mostly revolving around Dracula' quest for lost love when he wasn't one of the undead, yet still seeking blood to live. Lande sings the part of the conflicted Count.
Unlike usual 'rock operas' there's no narration or instrumental segues. The album is more individual songs connected by the larger story or concept. And whether concept is fulfilled is rather difficult to ascertain without the lyrics, which were not supplied in my digital promo package. Musically, my greatest fear was that Dracula would sound like just another Jorn album. That was the tragedy of the latest Allen/Lande project. Russell Allen (Symphony X) showed up but essentially can't be heard on the album. Lande, inherently, with his raspy and strong voice, is a vocal force to be reckoned with. Holter, I think, played to his natural vocal inclinations by creating heavy bombastic, yet melodic, tunes to capture his power. Queen of the Dead, Hands of Your God, and Walking On Water, in this sense, do indeed sound like 'Jorn' songs.
Alternatively, having worked in Wig Wam specifically, Holter has the skill to create some quite catchy tunes. He knows the strengths of melody, harmony, and groove, and the songs are filled with all three. Sometime a spin will be put upon these elements with swing and groove of the title track. In another song, Save Me, the harmony and melody rise from the vocal arrangement, notably in the latter half with Lande in duet with Norwegian singer Lena Fl°itmoen. When it comes to the guitar, he's also a master at managing riffs and delivering blistering leads. There's some sweet stuff in Into The Dark and Queen of the Dead, by example. The instrumental True Love Through Blood gives Holter an even larger canvas to express himself.
All in all, Dracula Swing of Death is quite impressive, with strong songs accompanied by equally strong musicianship in a larger-than-life presentation. There's talk of a possible stage presentation of the album in the coming year. I'm not sure how that will turn out but, if attempted, I hope the record it for DVD. If not, then don't even bother. Recommended.
All in all, Dracula Swing of Death is quite impressive, with strong songs accompanied by equally strong musicianship in a larger-than-life presentation.
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