Oh, look, another album review! It’s almost as if this was once a metal blog \m/
If you haven’t heard of Draconian (because you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave or in a top-secret military bunker somewhere), they formed in Säffle, Sweden in 1994. Their style fuses the “beauty and the beast” vocal style of female/male vocals with synphonic and doom metal elements, creating a dark, beautiful gothic sound. Often compared to Anathema or My Dying Bride, Draconian definitely share the same . If you’re into the genre, this sextet are one of the more beloved underground bands, with some incredible albums in their discography (Arcane Rain Fell and Turning Seasons Within particularly float my sorrowful boat). They’ve just released Sovran, their first new album since 2011, and it’s looking likely to eclipse all others as the top album for the year in this genre.
Before I start talking about the music, can I just be the 1000th person to say how awesome the artwork is? It was done by Chioreanu Constin (Arcturus, Primordial, At the Gates, Arch Enemy).
Sovran is the band’s first album with vocalist Heike Langhans, who replaced Lisa Johansson after her departure in 2011. For this album, the band have departed with many of the stronger symphonic elements they’d incorporated into 2011’s A Rose for the Apocalypse, leaving the raw, brooding doominess to reign supreme. Some fans may not enjoy this change, but personally, it’s my favourite Draconian album to date. The band sounds fresh, rejuvenated, ready to issue forth a renewed ocean of despair.
The album’s opener, “Heavy Lies the Crown” is a monolith of gloom – all forlorn, doom-laden riffs and heartsick vocal harmonies between Langhan’s rich beauty and Jacobson’s grim death growl. The two are perfectly matched vocally, playing off each other to both soften and ugly up the music exactly when it needs it. I would say Langhan’s vocals aren’t as “operatic” as Jacobsson’s, but I think that’s a plus, rather than a negative. She brings much more emotion into the songs, pulling the listener into that beautiful and sorrowful world. Her performance on “Rivers between Us” is particularly evocative.
“Pale Tortured Blue” is another stunning track, with some of the most exquisitely sad and majestic music I’ve heard in a long time. I loved the heavy, grandiose WEIGHT of the arrangement on “The Marriage of Attaris”, and the sweeping chorus in the more goth “Dishearten.” This album is particularly driven by the guitar sound and the guitar/keyboard melodies, and it is a stunning example of songwriting.
If you want something cheery to listen to on a night of drunken shenanigans, this is not the album. But if – like me – you are spending far too much time reading old gothic novels, stargazing, and writing about doomed lovers, then Sovran is the perfect soundtrack for your sorrow.
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