Metal-CD-Review: DRAGON GUARDIAN – Seimaken Valkyrias (2011)

Country: Japan – Style: Melodic Power Metal (+ Audio Drama Elements)

The tracklist:

1. Shinseiki
2. Kikai Shikake No Kami
3. Kakumei Daikouya Charlotte Shoukai
4. Kaizokusen Devil Wing
5. Gokodai Ryuu
6. Tenkai He No Kippu
7. Honoo No Maseki
8. Shokusai No Renkinjutsushi
9. Seimaken Valkyrias
10. Saigo No Yakusoku

Looking for something different ? Welcome to the world of the valkyries…

Foreword: Oh my, these good ol‘ language barriers… you all know that they can really be a pain in the **s sometimes. However, this should not be the case when it comes to good music, no matter where it is from – and that is exactly why I am still willing to give DRAGON GUARDIAN’S SEIMAKEN VALKYRIAS (roughly: The source of the magic sword of the Valkyries) a chance. But, just let me say it once again: I am not able to dive down deeply into the lyrical context of this album, neither can I really leave a statement on how the quality of the song writing is. And that is for the Japanese band to draw an explicit eye on their tradition, not only spoken in terms of the lyrics and content – but also referring to the colourful artwork which is held in a traditional manga-style. Speaking of which, it seems a bit annoying that the band seems to hold every tiny bit of information available in Japanese only – what makes it somehow difficult to search for useful information, even on their official site. Well, you can still try to use online translators for that (if you want something to laugh about), but by getting to the text-embedded images you will have no chance. An advise, DRAGON GUARDIAN: try to think about ‚us‘ too, for we are the international fans – a little English flag on the starting page would be great… 😉

Review: So, let us bravely march into the unknown. I can not really expect to understand everything, but hopefully I will at least catch a glimpse of that typical DRAGON GUARDIAN-like epicness drawn throughout the great melodies and fantastic arrangements. In fact, the band established yet another level of understanding which I am very thankful for… but let us wait and see. Since at first we have an instrumental intro, SHINSEIKI (roughly: The new century), for which we do not need any language tools. One thing that will catch your attention right away is this certain clarion sound, that delivers a nice amount of instrumental power and a slight feeling of a soundtrack-orientated mood. The listener is asked to lean back and relax, taking a deap breath before the fantastic journey into another fantasy realm begins. And then, just as the mighty opener KIKAI SHIKAKE NO KAMI (roughly: Deus Ex Machina) commences,  the impression of a richly instrumented track with very strong female-fronted vocals is swinging in the air. You might ask who this certainly powerful vocalist is… ? Indeed, it is Fuyuki ‚Fuki‘ Tenge, a real mistress on the microphone. She is also known from former DRAGON GUARDIAN albums as well as from the energetic Japanese band project LIGHT BRINGER, another band that specialises itself towards a modern Power Metal (with more Pop- and mainstream influences though).

And it is this Fuki that is often considered as a true insider’s tip when it comes to good metal from the far-east. It is just too bad that she does not get the attention she might deserve, at least internationally spoken – she must have a way higher status in her home country. But let me get it straight once again: her voice is simply amazing, and also very comfortable to listen to –  it is both voluminous and powerful, as well as a little more ‚girly-like‘ and moonily. The following KAKUMEI DAIKOUYA CHARLOTTE SHOUKAI is just about to present that, bringing some great and catchy melodies in – the best opportunity for Fuki to catch up. This song maintains a certain ‚drive‘, appealing very poetical and fantastical – an impression that is certainly being supported by the ambitions of the narrator characters (that just join in everys now and then) in this one. A great refrain with a hell of a melody and some nice classical samples wraps this one up. What follows now is KAIZOKUSEN DEVIL WING (roughly: Dragon wing’s ship), a very uncommon track that you might need to get used to first. DRAGON GUARDIAN are now bringing some totally new elements in – like aspects of a Pirate Metal that you might rather attribute to bands like ALESTORM. Just how can this work, you might ask… ? Well, you should see and listen for yourself. Actually this might be one of the strongest tracks on the album, combining every outstanding aspect of the band (up-tempo Power Metal, great vocals, narrators) with some atmospheric Pirate Metal elements and a decent sound of the ocean.

Then we have GOKIDAI RYUU (roughly: Ancient dragon), an interlude that consists of spoken words and a dramatic instrumentation only. This title is just about a minute long, so you may tend to skip it – it is hard to understand anything if you’re not Japanese and got no melody to catch a glimpse on the possible meaning. But now, we all shall celebrate – for we have TENKAI NO KIPPU (roughly: Ticket to heaven) as the outstanding hymn of the album. It has already become my personal favourite – it is just sparkling with energy, trowing some great and catchy melodies in that possibly no one can resist. What a strong drive, what an outstanding instrumentation ! Think of a colourful Christmas, combined with another far more epic occasion – then you might get an impression of this lively piece. HONOO NO MASEKI (roughly: The magic fire stone) doesn’t shift down in terms of speed or the majestic symphonic elements either – it is another great imaginary piece that will bring a lot of images in front of your imaginary eye. The next surprise comes along in shape of SHOKUSAI NO RENKINJUTSUSHI (roughly: Alchemist’s penance), a track that has a comparable mood to KAIZOKUSEN DEVIL WING (right, the one with the Pirate aspects) – but comes along much softer and smoother. One can not really speak of a ballad here, at least no typical one – it feels like sitting in a pirate’s hideout, listening to a soothing woman’s stage performance. And now… the overall title-track commences, SEIMAKEN VALKYRIAS. This piece last about 10 minutes long, but that is not the only speciality: the band sounds a lot harsher in this one, especially in the beginning. A little more power is delivered to the guitars and the drums – what a stunning experience. The outro SAIGO NO YAKUSOKU (roughly: The last prophecy) leads to a smooth and emotional ending of this somehow uncommon, but certainly well arranged album.

Conclusion: When it comes to the overall sound of DRAGON GUARDIAN, there just is no such thing as a ‚language barrier‘ – these Japanese guys are able to deliver ‚their‘ messages through other ways, in other manners. SAIMAKEN VALKYRIAS is a great album, without a doubt – it convinces with a great production quality, a great female singer and astonishing melodies with a certain fantasy-orientated touch that will literally drawn you into another universe. A universe of ancient warriors, holy swords and all the other epic stuff we Power Metal-fans care about… even though it is a little hard to understand the full meaning of each and every song – naturally. Therefore I can just express my number one wish once again: please, DRAGON GUARDIAN, try to make it a little easier for us international fans, too ! Since we are not a small circle any more… the numbers continues to grow, and hopefully I could contribute my part to it by leaving this review in the depths of the internet. Greetings, and farewell, you mighty manga-warriors !


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