Label: Napalm Records
Genre: Power Metal/Alternative History
Runtime: 49 minutes
Release Date: 15/01/2021
Here are three things I love: Power metal, alternative histories, and sinister magic. With their fourth album Viribus Unitis, Austrian-based band Dragony have combined all three to create a strong early contender for album of the year. Coming from Napalm Records, who I’m pretty sure will say yes to just about everything, this is some of the best metal I’ve heard since I started listening a few years ago. It’s earnest and enthusiastic, and incredibly fun without ever crossing the line into pure cheese.
Starting off with the classic ‘On The Blue Danube,’ Viribus Unitis tells the story of Franz Josef, Kaiser of the Austro-Hunagrian Empire as his lineage approaches the end of their reign. It’s clear that Dragony have done their research, but the facts never drown out the music. If you want more detail, the band have made a YouTube series chronicling the historical influences for their story. But after the first few songs, the history goes deep into the alternate. Franz Josef’s son Rudolf murders his lover and goes utterly mad. As he falls into insanity, he enounters Harry Houdini, who in this version of history is an actual sorcerer. Things kick up a further notch with the involvement of Nikola Tesla, who brings cyberpunk technology into play a hundred years too early. The album carries on into the First World War, ending in a ‘Battle Royale’ between cybernetic legions, a flying castle, and an army of the undead. taken as a story, it’s one I would happily read an entire series of novels about. As with all the best metal, the storytelling is just as important as the music. And the music does not lack.
For single band, Dragony have impressive range. ‘Love You To Death,’ chronicling Rudolf’s first murder, is a soft and melodic performance. It’s a hauntingly tragic tale, performed wonderfully by lead singer Seigfried Samer (who is also the former co-lead singer of another of my favourites Visions of Atlantis). Contrast this with the much heavier, and brilliantly titled ‘Made Of Metal (Cyberpunk Joseph),’ which is as bombastic as it is delightful. ‘A.E.I.O.U’ is another heavier entry, appropriate enough for a song about the outbreak of the First World War. My personal favourite song on the album is probably ‘Battle Royale,’ a medley of musical styles that brings everything to a rousing conclusion.
This is a very lyrical album, so if you want guitar-shredding solos, you might be disappointed, though there are a few strong instrumentals. Personally, I love the focus on vocals. It certainly helps that Dragony know how to write an infectious melody, but I’ve been singing along all week. Some of the lyrics are just fun to shout out, as evidenced in the anthemic ‘Legends Never Die,’ but just as memorable are the heartfelt cries of ‘Love You To Death,’ and ‘Magic.’ It’s actually ‘Battle Royale’ that has my favourite lyrics: ‘What has become of Sisi/My once beloved wife/A queen of death and misery/Not dead but not alive.’ Really, what’s not to like about that?
This album is clearly a labour of love, and as such it’s lovely to listen to. Dragony have created a great story with a killer soundtrack, and it’s their finest work yet.