Dethlehem
Maelstrom of the Emerald Dragon (Story Mode)

“Hey, Farva! What’s the name of that restaurant you like with all the goofy shit on the walls and the mozzarella sticks?” “You mean ‘Shenanigans?!’ You guys are talking about ‘Shenanigans,’ right?”

“Shenanigans?” “Tomfoolery?” “Fuckery?” All of these could apply in some circumstances to Dethlehem’s latest slab of fantasy, D&D inspired metal, which is called Maelstrom of the Emerald Dragon. In the intro to the album, “Prelude – As Fate Would Have It,” we learn our heroes of Dethlehem are dead! Well, that’s it. The album is over. Move along. Nothing to see here. End of review.

Or… are they? Fuck around and find out…

The first proper track is called “A Tale That Time Forgot.” It gets going fast with a great riff, quick pace, and some burly vocals. If you didn’t know before, this isn’t your typical fantasy power metal. There are some elements, but Brutalitus the Bloodbeard has a commanding, thrash-like delivery, so the music itself leans more to thrash and traditional heavy metal than power metal overall. A little less than 2 minutes in, the music breaks into some synths, which carry the track for half a minute into some surprising, but well-done clean vocals. There’s some great, almost flamenco clean guitar with a solid lead which precedes a brief breakdown, which has a short return before the end of the track. A very solid opener.

“Oh, you shit ourselves again, Laura! God…”

“Beware the Mimic” is track 8, which opens with a traditional heavy metal gallop and some background symphonics. The clean vocals in the hook are stellar once again. The multiple guitar leads show off these guys’ chops. In the background of the memorably headbang-able section at the end are some keys, which continue through the end of the track.

There are so many standout tracks that it’s difficult to not just mention all of them. Two of my favorites are back to back in “On the Backs of Giants” and “Gelatinous Cube Labyrinth.” The former has a fun interlude before it, then when the track itself starts with “We rode on the backs of giants,” I know it’s coming, and it gets me pumped up every time. I’m glad they return to it at the end of the track. The latter has another great hook, incorporating the phrase “gelatinous cube.” Sexy.

Damn it, this is great… and I didn’t even go into detail about the title track! Suffice it to say that it’s fantastic as well. The story mode version I reviewed is just shy of an hour, but never feels like it. It flies by. Coming from someone who enjoys some tomfoolery in his everyday life, but does not in his metal, I have to admit it adds to the overall impact of this album. If you can get your hands on it, order the special edition, which I personally just received in the mail today with a “Lyric Bestiary,” as well as pins, a sticker, and a patch.

Maelstrom of the Emerald Dragon is a guaranteed good time wrapped up in a stellar album, in frankly, a year where we desperately need it. If you’re not into the fuckery, tomfoolery, or shenanigans, well okay, but at the minimum, pick up the “music only” edition of the album and don’t deprive yourself. I can’t stop listening to this and will be completely blown away if it does not end up high on my list at the conclusion of this year. “To be continued, snarf…”

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
October 15th, 2020

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