Dracula - Swing of Death

Dracula Swing of Death cover
Swing of Death
Frontiers Music Srl
As Grande Rock, first internationally revealed to you back in March of last year (read here), Jorn Lande’s next project, was to be a collaboration between him and guitarist Trond Holter (aka Teeny of Wig Wam), have created a new Rock Opera concept album 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). The whole story explores the inner struggle inside the multifaceted and engorging character that this mysterious 15th Century personality was, while also taking into account some of the metaphysical aspects that passed into literature, forming the whole basis of the vampire mythos.
On the album Jorn impersonates the main character of Vlad sharing the lead vocal duties with highly respected Norwegian singer Lena Floitmoen (representing Mina/Lucy from the Bram Stoker book). The duets feature Dracula and his women, which in the original Bram Stoker story is centered around Dracula’s first true love Mina (when he was a human before he sold his soul to the devil and became a vampire). The plot revolves around Dracula’s inner battle, where he still remembers what true love was, and as he wandered the Earth for centuries with a thirst for blood, his loneliness and desire to be able to love again has led him to the brink of insanity. In the original Bram Stoker version, he leaves Transylvania by ship and when he meets Lucy’s best friend, she reminds him so much of his first love Mina, that he becomes obsessed. Dracula sees her as some kind of “holy grail”, too good to turn into a vampire.
Musically, “Swing of Death” is quite interesting, because while it still falls into the category of a rock opera, it’s a rather atypical one. It has its characters, but no “narrator”, or long musical interludes, tending to sound more like a somewhat eccentric and eclectic album that mixes, Queen influences with Jim Steinmann’s pomp, slight hints of Alice Cooper and more contemporary hard rock elements. The “play” is intended to actually receive a release/performance in select Norwegian Theaters, soon enough.
“Hands of Your God” is a short mostly acoustic intro that initially bares too many similarities to The Scorpions “Lonely Nights” for comfort, but as soon as Jorn starts singing, (and he seems to be in damn good form) it becomes a lot darker and moodier.
“Walking on Water” introduces the drama straight away, assuming typical hard rock forms slightly adapted into a slightly more theatrical style, with Jorn, able to channel, same parts Dio and Coverdale, a perfect combination to deliver the intended lines… great song and a great performance, on part with the ones Jorn did on Avantasia’s “Scarecrow”.
“Swing of Death” begins as a bit of an old Cabaret number and has this old 20s/30s atmosphere, but slightly rocked up. It’s unusual and eerie, but that’s probably why it works so well. It sounds almost celebratory all of the sudden in stark contrast with the rest of the songs on the album, both being able to stand on its own, but also in the flow and managing to encapsulate a gazillion of atmospheres in just under five minutes...
Following the rather “sardonic swing...” comes the desperate, theatrical and intense “Masquerade Ball”. In just a little over two minutes and while the song is still unfurling, Jorn is vocally transformed from a human to a vampire and that transformation is quite spectacular, probably one of Jorn’s best performances, while this is not exactly a typical song it’s such an integral part of the album… it’s undead heart, bereft of lifesblood… as “Dracula” feeds on his beloved Mina’s neck… claiming her as his Bride…
“Save Me” is pretty much the “aftermath” a duet… with Dracula’s “love interest” Lucy, trying to repel him in any way possible, to avoid “her fate”...
“River of Tears” is another duet between Jorn and Lena (Vlad – Lucy/Mina). It’s an extremely melodious and interesting piece and maybe the one that has the least dialogue, even if it tries to encompass a quite large portion of the story, (the murder of Lucy etc.)…
“Queen of the Damned” has Jorn/Dracula, pretty much in a monologue, considering that Mina, his one true love, the reincarnation of his “wife” Elisabeta, is to be his bride to follow him… it’s a really rocking number, one of the best in the entire album and while it's the longest at six and a half minutes it’s a mini, opera, with its “furious” instrumental parts simply being majestic.
Drawing closer to the story’s climax, “Into the Dark” is another involved and very melodic duet between an entranced/seduced Mina and Dracula... a brilliant moment in the album.
“True Love Through Blood” is a very beautiful instrumental that I suppose might have been put placed there to be incorporated in a theatrical production… (Storywise, Dracula – is chased back to his Homelands, narrowly escaping London and the plots of Dr. Van Helsing to capture him)…
“Under the Gun” is the grand finale, and while since the “transformation” the songs opted to go for a far more theatrical style, this one, is somewhat of a return to the rock roots, pretty much trying to again fit a lot of story in one short an vague song. It’s not a per word, tell-tale of Dracula’s death, but more or less, it takes the essence of the chase and final capture of Dracula, in the chapel where he denounced god – all for love – it mourns and half justifies the soul, now atoned of sins – joining his wife in heaven – over some dreamy melodies – but it also extends the whole idea, to show that this is the birth of the vampyre mythos.
Overall, a very involved, beautiful, deep and meticulously created piece of art that really is a small triumph for all those involved. Expertly produced, nicely illustrated and very respectful to the source material, I doubt this could have turned out much better than it did. Bravo.