Draconian // A Rose for the Apocalypse
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —Apocalypse WOW!
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: www.draconian.semyspace.com/draconianmusic
Release Dates: EU: 2011.06.21 | US: 06.22.2011

It’s Angry Metal Confession time kiddies. Steel Druhm has many things he should confess but for now, lets focus on aspects of the metal scene I’ve grown weary of. First up has to be symphonic black metal. Its been done, overdone, redone and ultimately, undone. Another very overused gimmick is beauty and the beast vocals (death metal vox paired with soaring, usually operatic, female vocals). Since Theatre of Tragedy came out with Velvet Darkness They Fear, every gothic metal band under the moon tried their hand at the style and while it can be amazing, it’s been overblown in a major way. Because of the staleness in this approach, only the very best practitioners leave any impression on me. Draconian is one such expert unit and while I liked their early material, I LOVED their 2008 release Turning Seasons Within. That opus managed to balance heavy doom with ethereal gothic sensibilties and they made the beauty and beast approach work magnificently. Now with A Rose for the Apocalypse, these Swedish glumsters have done it yet again and offer a top quality gothic-doom/death album brimming with emotion, intensity and dark atmosphere. Its good enough to make me rethink my position on the entire paradigm and its a real slobberknocker of a metal album.

Draconian always excelled at long, doom metal set pieces that made maximum use of the dichotomy between the raw death rasps of Anders Jacobsson and the beautiful, emotive voice of Lisa Johansson (Shadowgarden). Opener “The Drowning Age” picks up right where Turning Seasons Within left off and its a great choice for the lead track. Starting off powerful and heavy, it soon locks into the traditional Draconian sound with a great doom riff that reminds of Brave Murder Day era Katatonia and really old Paradise Lost. Anders has a great death croak and when Lisa joins in she’s as enchanting as always. Over the next seven minutes they give a clinic on how to make this dueling vocal style work. Its as good as anything off Turning Seasons and contains the memorable line “let’s bring our gods to the gallows.”  The rest of the album rings with equally high quality gothic tinged death/doom and songs like “End of the Rope,” “Elysian Night” and “a Phantom Dissonance” manage to be heavy as hell but memorable and addicting after just one listen. Not all the songs grind along at a doom crawl and they wisely shake things up with more aggressive tracks like “End of The Rope” and “Deadlight.” They also bring back violins with good effect on tracks like “The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight.” None of the ten tracks are weak and there’s enough diversity in approach and tempos to keep things from getting boring.

Draconian - 2011 - by Linda Ã…Â…kerberg +46 (0)70-7555227 | linda@lindaakerberg.comThis time out Lisa’s vocals are pushed further into the forefront and it works well. She has a great tone and she never goes for an operatic approach or over-sings. She lets her rich, beautiful voice do its job without forcing anything (listen to her haunting vocals on “Elysian Night”). She sometimes reminds of Marjan Welman (Autumn, Demiurg) and sometimes Anneke Van Giersbergen (The Gathering). Whenever she comes in, her voice captivates and it really meshes well with the death vocals (especially during “Deadlight” and “A Phantom Dissonance”). Also worthy of praise is the guitar work by Johan Ericson and Daniel Arvidsson. They provide an impressive array of great doom/goth riffs and a lot of it is both heavy and tasteful. The riff at 4:30 on “The Drowning Age” is stellar as is the depressive opening to “The Last Hour.” At various times during album, the riff phrasing reminded me a lot of unsung but great Finnish doomsters Rapture (who all doom/death fans should seek out ASAP).

Yet another highly impressive release leaves Draconian at the very tip of the gothic doom/death spear. They keep refining and perfecting their take on the style and with results like this, there isn’t much negative one can say. This is the equal of the great Turning Seasons Within and likely to be one of the best doom metal releases this year. Its all about finding the beauty in darkness and these folks have the knack for crafting bleak, haunting music that remains memorable and accesible. Give this a listen and bask in the gloom as beauty and the beast gets a temporary reprieve.

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  • One of the few times we agree 100 percent:) This band is fantastic and this album scored the highest of any albums I’ve reviewed this year.

    • Steel Druhm

      It is a mighty fine piece of gothic doom/death. I think this is heading for the Best of 2011 List.

      • “Also worthy of praise is the guitar work by Robert Westerholt and Ruud Jolie.”

        Did I miss something though? These guys are in Within Temptation. Did they make a guest appearance on the Draconian album that I wasn’t aware of?

        • Steel Druhm

          Yep, you’re right. I had the wrong info page up and wrote down the WT guys. Late night writing messed me up. I feel shame. Corrections to follow.

          • It’s all good. I had Fredrik the bass player inform me of something I wasn’t aware of in the comments of my own review so I wasn’t sure if this was another detail I overlooked.

            To other readers, we may be getting details wrong but the point is still the same, buy the album!!:)

  • Thanks for an awesome and very generous review. It was a delight to read. Correction though; “Let’s bring our gods to the gallows” ;)

  • Steel Druhm

    My bad. Apologies Anders.

  • Great review. I’ve not heard of the band before but they sound exactly my cup of tea. So I’ve just snagged the first two albums from Amazon mp3 and looking forward to listening to them. Will get the latter two tomorrow when this new album is released.

    As I said to AMG on Twitter, Draconian seem to be carrying the flame for gothic/doom with a female element, now that Sirenia – a once great band – are a complete and utter mess.

    Anyway, great review and once again wonderful to discover a band here, not for the first time.

    • Ah Twitter. But yeah, Sirenia really stinks now, but Draconian seems to be making all the kids happy. 

      • And old farts like me too. :)

      • Anonymous

        Stop being ageist!

        • Me!? Shocked. Shocked and appalled, no less. Such accusations!

  • Very interesting review. I’ve not listened to Draconian before as I am not an avid fan of doom metal (too slow for me), but I think I’ll pick this one up as soon as I can. But when did Sirenia supposedly become so bad? I haven’t heard their last release but I enjoyed The 13th Floor.

    • Their last album was pretty terrible.

    • If you liked The 13th Floor you’ll probably like The Enigma of Life (the latest album). But for me these two albums have huge problems. First the vocals – I think Ailyn has a pretty average pop voice and it’s really not suited to this style of heavier music. More importantly she clearly doesn’t understand the English lyrics and mispronounces many of them – and I really don’t think a vocalist can do justice emotionally and dynamically to lyrics they don’t understand. Hearing her sing “rise” as “rice” over and over is disheartening and is as much a failure by the producer than anything. 

      The second big problem with these two albums for me is how dull they’ve become musically. Early Sirenia is heavy and dark, but with a great eighties goth vibe added to the early Paradise Lost metal sound. There was lots going on, but beautifully composed and recorded. Instead the recent material is more basic and formulaic – perhaps to accommodate Ailyn’s abilities. And the recent albums also lack vocal input from band leader Morten Veland. 

      To me it’s a real shame. I love the early albums, in particular At Sixes And Sevens, and feel the quality of the band’s output is now way below that.

  • It’s at least as good, maybe better IMHO. If you like one you’ll like the other for sure.

  • Matt Speer

    Amazing album, just listened to it. Their best since Arcane Rain Fell. I still think “Death, Come Near Me” is their ultimate song, but there are some seriously badass songs on this new release. I was worried it would be mediocre, glad to see I was wrong.

  • It’s the first time I listen to Draconian (probably because there’s been a lot of disappointment lately regarding “beauty and the beast” albums) and I was sceptical, but, boy, did they impress me. It’s in my top 10 / 2011 so far.

    • If you like this, check out their Turning Seasons Within album as well, top quality stuff.

    • If you like this, check out their Turning Seasons Within album as well, top quality stuff.

  • Mario Tinton Prambudi

    Yesterday I played Elysian Night over and over again, and today A Phantom Dissonance gets the same rape. I really love Lisa, she’s always mesmerizing me with her angelic voices, she’s probably the strongest reason that makes this band very attractive to me. (Shivers down my spine whenever Lisa is singing her part).

  • Mario Tinton Prambudi

    Yesterday I played Elysian Night over and over again, and today A Phantom Dissonance gets the same rape. I really love Lisa, she’s always mesmerizing me with her angelic voices, she’s probably the strongest reason that makes this band very attractive to me. (Shivers down my spine whenever Lisa is singing her part).

  • muy buena critica a mi me parece na mas que perfecto no hay mas que decir soy nuevo en el genero y este fue el primer disco que me tope en el camino y es majestuoso 

  • Very interesting. I did not even know they had gotten a new album out, so I’ll have to get this and give it a spin. I love everything they have done, thought for me, their best album will always be their second.

  • Ahmad Azizkhan

    This album has became my favorite, they have great combo of music and great synchronization of vocalisits and well chosen lyrics with smooth guitar playing :)