Draconis – Anthems for an Eternal Battle Review

There’s something special about South American death metal. I don’t know what it is, but the continent seems to have no shortage of bands that pair a raw, uncompromising, and wholly sincere approach with a strange and otherworldly mystique. Peru’s Mortem and Chile’s Atomic Aggressor, for instance, both excel at infusing the sound of old Morbid Angel with a sense of ancient and mysterious horror, while Chile’s Death Yell use less discernible influences to craft equally dark and aggressive material. Thus, I was quite excited when AMG Himself recommended I cover Draconis, an Argentinian death metal band who I’ve never heard of before.

Unfortunately, Draconis really don’t sound much like the bands I listed above. In fact, they really don’t sound much like anyone. Despite the death metal tag, Anthems for an Eternal Battle actually feels more like a melodic death metal album from the formative days of the genre, when folkiness and lightweight riffs reigned supreme. Many of these ten tracks are dominated by simple and fluttery melodic phrases that occasionally break into a gallop or collapse into jagged rhythmic lurches that don’t quite deserve to called riffs. After multiple listens of Anthems, I finally realized what all this ends up sounding like: a really bad version of early At the Gates.

In a word, the band’s execution here is simply awful. On many of these tracks, the drumming and guitars are so sloppy that it sounds like they’re barely able to stay in time with one another. The main riff of “Inner Quest” sounds like the first thing your teenage self came up with after picking up a guitar in grade school, yet it still seems like the guitarist is hardly able to play it. Likewise, though some later tracks feel a little more subdued, in general many of the band’s ideas (and thus, many of their songs) sound quite similar to each other. The writing is equally poor. Draconis claim they use “riff salad” songwriting (as if that’s a good thing?), but in reality many of these tracks are quite repetitive, with “Remembering the Unremembering” being a particularly notable culprit. The vocals are also terrible, consisting of a pained shout that sounds like the vocalist is trying to perform despite having a particularly bad case of strep throat.

There’s plenty to complain about with the production as well. The guitar tone is weak and tinny, while the overall sound is trebly and lacking heft. The drums are buried in the mix, but it turns out that actually helps a bit because the snare has a notable pong sound to it that I’m sure would be more annoying if it were mixed any higher. If I’m really reaching for a positive here, I do have to give credit to the band for having a bizarre and intriguing atmosphere that vaguely reminds me of The Chasm. Likewise, the opening title track is less melodic than the other tracks and offers a bit of variety as a result, even if its “guitar solo” sounds like a failed attempt to play the same melodic phrase over and over (which is particularly odd given that some of the solos on here are actually decent). Second track “Puppets Who Ignore Their Masters” stands out with some forlorn melodies and interesting chords, though its repetitive ideas and sloppy performances ultimately just make it feel like a waste of a good song title.

I haven’t heard an album this bad in a long time. I get Draconis come from a country that doesn’t seem to have a huge metal scene, and thus I applaud their efforts to storm ahead and create a death metal record that actually has quite a different feel to it than anything else out there right now. At the same time, virtually every aspect of this album, from the writing to the performances to the production, is a total misfire. What’s most amazing to me is that Draconis actually formed in 2003 and have three prior albums under their belts. I don’t know how Anthems for an Eternal Battle ended up sounding like a bad demo tape, but I do know that I’ve already spent more time listening to and pondering this album than it deserves. The band have the potential to do something worthwhile in the future, as long as it’s the exact opposite of this.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Brutal Records
Websites: draconis-band.bandcamp.com | draconisband.com | facebook.com/draconis.bandpage
Releases Worldwide: July 31st, 2020

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