January 28, 2015 Jorn Lande & Trond Holter present Dracula: Swing of Death (Album Review)
It seems, historically, Heavy Metal music, theatrics, and Horror themes go hand and hand. Marrying those concepts together in 2015 are Norwegian vocalist Jørn Lande and guitarist Trond Holter on their collaborative album titled Dracula: Swing of Death. Both respected and accomplished musicians in their own right, Lande and Holter have worked with one another since 2012 when Holter joined up with Jorn. Having a unique chemistry, they decided to try something new and created a new Rock Opera about the life of Count Vlad the III, Prince of Wallachia, widely known as Vlad, The Impaler or by his patronymic name Vlad Dracul(a). Within this story, the record taps into inner struggle of this historic figure of literature. With Lande assuming the role of Dracula, Mina and Lucy from the Bram Stoker book is portrayed by fellow Norwegian singer Lena Fløitmoen Børresen. Rounding out the line-up for the recording are Wig Wam’s Bernt Jansen on bass and Source of Tide’s Per Morten Bergseth on drums. A story that has been told time and time again in various platforms from movies, to the theater, to books, and television, Lande and Holter put a different spin on it all, attracting intrigue from not only Metal fans.
The story unfolds with the climatic intoxicating track “Hands Of Your God” which is laden with heavy emotions, strong vocals and an insurmountable melody the captivates from the get-go, all while Dracula mourns his first love, swearing for revenge. Following up, “Walking On Water” is an intense and multi-faceted track displaying all the talents of the contributing musicians flawlessly. Here, Dracula talks of his deal with the Devil for vampirism. “Swing of Death” is a remarkable, vivid, and bright tune with a cabaret theme. Its potency rings clear through the lyrics and unique melody, where the Wallachian Prince comments on Mina’s innocence and tries to sway her into vampirism. Thereafter, “Masquerade Ball” has a gentle, smooth piano intro with the thick, powerful vocals of Lande, morosely accompanying the vibrant melody. Here Dracula continues to serenade Mina, hoping to make her his. Bringing on a breathtaking harmonic duet between Lande and Børresen, “Save Me” is eloquently put together while exploring the many fallacies surrounding the legend of Dracula. Mina refuses Dracula’s offer, and he emotionally begs her to save him, while she remains adamant that her faith will save her from eternal damnation. Børresen returns again on“River Of Tears” for another superb vocal performance complemented by fierce riffs setting the stage for a unique blend of Rock and Opera. It is here the tale continues to unravel in a spectacular ensemble of excellency that explores Mina’s final surrender to love and an endless eternity with Dracula.
With a moment lagging in the musical composition or story, “Queen of the Dead” is another gem. Insightful, while deliberatly embracing the darkness that encompasses Dracula’s love and adoration for his vampire bride, soft riffs from Holter and a potent bass from Jansen merge seamlessly. Continuing the organic flow, “Into The Dark” is a smooth, engaging melody with a heavy, dark ambiance. The sweet vocals of Børresen introduce another intricate and perfectly executed duet where Mina confesses her love and accepts her fate with returned adoration. Fittingly, the instrumental “True Love Through Blood” comes next as a roaring, pounding composition that drives everything home with a cryptic, indulgent sound. Raging with riffs and steady drums, this song begins to wind down the story with the finale of “Under The Gun.” A haunting track with a final appearance of Børresen, a mellow melody burns into an unsettling chorus that elaborates on the troubles and hardships of being a vampire and having to stay out of the light and live in darkness. Not only on a strong note, Dracula: Swing of Death ends on a poignant one, having told a creative interpretation of this tragic figure.
It is not often that bands choose to make a concept album, let alone one that follows a classic story-line. Jorne Lande and Trond Holter have managed to produce an incredible, astounding story that rivals Kamelot’s 2003 masterpiece Epica. This, is indeed, is a must have for a Rock Opera fanatic of any age. CrypticRock gives Dracula: Swing of Death 5 out of 5 stars.