Starfall is the third studio album of Swedish power metal band Dragonforce, mainly led by guitarist Olof Morck and keyboardist Elias Holmlid who are backed up four other great musicians. Produced by Evergrey mastermind Tom Englund, the album falls in the classic Euro power metal style with considerable melodic metal and even AOR influences. Bands like Sonata Arctica, earlier Angra, Rhapsody, and even Europe all pop in in your mind while listening to this disc, which is basically very synth and guitar driven. It heavily focuses on melody and a typical Euro power metal singer named Jonas Heidgert. Besides the classic vocal stylings of the genre, Heidgert also uses more pop-oriented vocals, best explored on the short yet powerful title track. Beginning with AOR-like synth harmonies, the song takes on a very gripping mood the moment Heidgert enters it, but swiftly segues into a more classical-inspired piano passage and a somewhat atmospheric breakdown that allows the keys to take the lead. Ironically, things take a 180 turn with the following track "Calling My Name", perhaps most akin to the songs on Evergrey's The Inner Circle album, dealing with a relatively darker theme and featuring a good dose of Charles Manson type of spoken lyrics (hence the Evergrey similarity) along with traditional power metal singing. Tom Englund himself graces this tune with a mighty guitar solo that is immediately followed by a searing synth lead. Also, Englund does some lead vocals on this track, but they're quite different from his throaty, almost menacing style in Evergrey.
Guitarists Nicklas Magnusson and Olof Morck's guitar tone on "In Perfect Harmony" reminds me of the silky-smooth playing of Magnus Karlsson on both Last Tribe records and the recent Allen/Lande project. Neither Magnusson nor Morck opt for ultra-fast, technically challenging playing, though that's not to say they are unable to play that way. It's just they like to showcase a more restrained type of performance, trying to feed the songs with what they need, rather than boosting their own egos. Quite a few of the songs on this album are filled with well-played, expressive leads, such as "The Shores of Our Land", also featuring Evergrey's Henrik Danhage as a guest. Starting out as a very cliche happy-go power metal anthem, the piece abruptly breaks into a mesmerizing synth solo, picks up some beautiful female vocals, and then hammers back into a soaring twin guitar harmony. It's really well written and played. On the other hand, "The Returning" is a very straightforward power metal track with fast double bass drums, sweeping synths, and incredible tapping melodies on the guitar. However, as the album proceeds, it seems to slightly suffer from being way too predictable considering the potential these musicians and Tom Englund have. For a third release, they could have tried to be a bit more original. Considering the last three tracks on Starfall, comprising the "The Book of Shadows" trilogy, this band no doubt could explore a more experimental, and perhaps darker too, songwriting. It begins with a brief instrumental piece where Holmlid's synths produce ethereal melodies and then bleeds into Part II where Egyptian scales and more female vocals are heard. The finale, however, is simply breathtaking. Conjuring up images of an intense battlefield, save for a few seconds of female vocals, this is another instrumental track which encapsulates the band's, especially the two guitarists', strongest aspects. Constantly shifting between cutting electric leads and gentle acoustic passages, the song also features nice strings, classical piano interludes, and dense keyboard melodies.
Most power metal fans should enjoy Starfall a lot. Those who expect a bit more variety in music, however, might find what they want in their future albums. The last three songs are proof enough that they are capable of writing darker and heavier songs. Guess we'll have to wait and see what direction they want to go next.
- As Madness Took Me
- Calling My Name
- In Perfect Harmony
- The Dream Seeker
- The Shores of Our Land
- The Returning
- To the End of the World
- The Book Of Shadows Part I: A Story Yet Unfold
- The Book Of Shadows Part II: The Curse of Qa´a
- The Book Of Shadows Part III: The Glendora Outbreak