Canada’s Drakarium hail from Saguenay, the same place as prog-thrashers Voivod; however whilst there are prog elements to Drakarium’s florid compositional stance, the similarity between the two bands stops abruptly there. If you like names like Stratovarius and Iron Mask then this is an exciting new star arriving in your sky. If you don’t, turn back now – there’s nothing for you here!
Despite forming in 2004 (although hiatusing for a few years in the middle of their existence), this is Drakarium’s first full-length. It’s clear they’ve spent their time wisely, as every single member of the band is at the top of his game instrumentally throughout Acte II. However, that’s not always the case with the song writing; for whilst the band’s skill is unquestioned, their ability to pull it all together in the shape of truly memorable songs is still up for debate. Rather, each song features spectacular bits and pieces – Pierre-Olivier Vigneault keyboard solo on Pacifica, for instance is World Class and worth the price of admission on it’s own – but it appears in the middle of a rather workaday fast-paced piece of neoclassical metal and hence it’s impact is lost a little in the general chaos of the song. Likewise the Iberian section on Tournesol is breathtaking in it’s execution yet the song itself just lacks the oomph to really engage the listener. The guitar work of Jean-Philippe Brassard and Guillaume Duchesne is absolutely top draw throughout, whilst the rhythm section of Dale Holmes (Bass) and drummer Alexandre Lessard-Martin also acquits itself well throughout, with Holmes throwing in some nice runs here and there.
But sometimes less is more, even in the fleet-fingered world of neoclassical metal, and hence the best track on Acte II, Jo Le Viking, is ostensibly the most simple. An uptempo piece of melodic metal a la Iron Maiden or Australia’s Lord, it’s put together beautifully, hitting it’s cruising speed early and then exploding into the sort of ‘whoah-oh-oh’ vocal section that Maiden have been setting light to arenas with for decades. It’s a tried and true blueprint – but it works, time and again. And it works for Drakarium here.
Overall, however, this is a very enjoyable album to listen to in terms of musicianship and performance. Now, with perhaps just a little tweaking of the formula to give the listener a bit more chance with involvement – hummable choruses, that kind of thing – Drakarium could find themselves at the forefront of this musical movement very quickly.
Acte II is out now.