Dragonhammer - Time for Expiation
Scarlet Records
Power/True Metal
9 songs (42:37)
Release year: 2004
Dragonhammer, Scarlet Records
Reviewed by Jay

This Italian band returns with their second album and it is a big step up from their debut. The sound is certainly much more mature and bombastic. It is not perfect but it is a vast improvement from their first album which needed a lot of work.

They are still playing epic power metal but the influences seem to be more diffuse. With the first album, it was clear that they wanted to be Labyrinth or Rhapsody whereas with this effort, more influences like Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. Vocalist Max Aguzzi sounds similar to a more forceful Tony Kakko in his delivery on this disc and there is plenty of guitar versus keyboard soloing. "Fear of a Child" displays this formula to a T. The guitar work is vastly improved as well. The drumming is a little bit of a sticking point. While it sounds great, as this whole album does, it is a little to generic for my tastes. Raf Condemi is skilled behind the kit but it seems as though he is not pushing himself too much and merely relying on tried and true patterns and fills to carry the album through. While no album can be ruined by this alone, it is an aspect that could be embellished in the future. The keyboards of Alex Valdambrini shine though and are one of the better aspects of the record. Like the Finns, who seem to be master of the keyboards, he shines through on each solo and passage he plays.

"Eternal Sinner" opens up the album and is the speediest track to be featured here. It will give you the old power metal feeling and it is one of the few tracks on this disc which soars. While the music is improved, the overall themes have remained constant. We still are inundated with the age-old dragon motifs that seem to never be able to shake themselves from power metal. One track that got annoying fast is "Free Land" in which Aguzzi shouts Free Land about 30 times during the course of the song. It gets old after the second chorus. Power metal choruses need to be catchy but not the sort of catchy that you bang your head against a table trying to get the song out of your head. "Blind Justice" on the other hand, kicks things up a notch in terms of song structure and chorus hooking ability. Valdambrini's keyboard line truly fills out this song and elevates it as one of the better tracks on the album. While it is different from the soaring feel that is normally featured in power metal, the subtle quality of his lines flesh out a song that would be barren otherwise. The guitar solo on this track is easily the best on the album and has a Maidenesque double lead near the end. "YMD" or You Must Die as the track espouses, shares similarity to that of Dream Evil. It is not one of the better songs but certainly does not sink to the level of "The Pages I Never Wrote." This power ballad begins with promise as Valdambrini thrills us with a neo-classical almost concerto style piano introduction before the carbon copy generic guitar and drums come in. Once this happens, it feels as though Manowar has hijacked a song with amazing promise and great lyrical delivery. While Manowar has done a few good ballads in their time, this attempt to emulate one of those rather than remaining true to their own style is a bit of a defect in my mind.

DragonHammer have come a long way from their debut and this album is certainly a step in the right direction. They need to understand that they can become their own band and play in the direction they want to rather than simply replicating their influences. Once they begin to do this, we might see true metal brilliance from this band.

Killing Songs :
Eternal Sinner, Blind Justice
Jay quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Dragonhammer that we have reviewed:
Dragonhammer - Blood Of The Dragon reviewed by Paul and quoted 62 / 100
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