Dream Troll’s second full-length album Second to None really plays up the bizarre genre hybridization that started taking hold on 2018’s The Witch’s Curse EP. The group’s foundation remains rooted in upbeat European power metal, but the influences from AOR and alternative rock are just as prominent. The production is squeaky clean, the keyboards are domineering, and the vocals have an almost pop punky sneer at times. Even with the fantasy theming carried over from previous outings, the tone is undeniably modern.
These results are frankly jarring as hell, especially on the opening “Steel Winged Warrior,” but I would hardly call this a gimmick or sellout move. The various styles at play are integrated smoothly enough thanks to an emphasis on upbeat tempos, catchy choruses, and flamboyant theatrics. The structuring also shows no signs of dumbing down as the lengths are just as sprawling as those on 2017’s The Knight of Rebellion, showing off plenty of epic flair on “The Art of Death” and the ten-minute closer “Legion,” and the arrangements are packed with developed, multi-faceted layers.
The rock-solid musicianship also goes a long way in dispelling the listener’s preconceived notions of the style at hand. While the keyboard dominance would suggest diminished roles for the guitars and rhythm section, they manage to keep a steady footing with the guitars showing off plenty of prominent leads and chugs. The vocals also seem like they would get obnoxious after a while, but the lines and phrasing don’t push them too hard and even reveal a fuller character on songs like “I Will Not Die Today” and “Chrome Skull Viper.” It may still feel a little too overproduced at times, but such matters seem to come with the territory.
Second to None is a rather uncanny listen for yours truly but I really can’t deny its quality. More traditionally minded metalheads will need some extra time to fully digest it but I imagine it having the opposite effect outside our demographic. I’m not sure if it’ll be a commercial juggernaut by any means, but Dream Troll has a unique sound with potential for greater exposure and further development. This doesn’t captivate me as much as the newest effort by Idle Hands, but the transition feels more natural than anything that Enforcer or Battle Beast has put out lately.
“I Will Not Die Today”
“The Art of Death”