It is wintertime again. Well, not quite yet, but we are almost there. And it is definitely cold enough for my thin blood running in my veins. The countryside gets more desolate by the day with murky light and fog everywhere. The weather pelting you with rain, sleet, and snow at Thor’s whim. And you ask yourself: Whatever happened to Freyr and his sunny ways?
So, what better time than now to look at an old(er) Doom Metal record with a Gothic flavor. Draconian‘s 2005 second full-length album Arcane Rain Fell is a good one to start this series with.
This record really marks the turning point for the band!
Since the end of the Kerberos days, Draconian were in search mode, as a bunch of demos can attest. Things started to get off the ground for them, once they added Lisa Johansson as the female front. Together with Anders Jacobson and playing to the Gothic crowd with a perfect beauty and the beast set up, they managed to hit two birds with one stone. In turn, they did not lose their gothically inclined audience. And as Doom fans started flocking towards them more and more, they just carved themselves a niche in which to shine.
Lisa, first appearing on the 2002 demo Dark Oceans We Cry, was to leave the band much later in 2011, to the doom-laden chagrin of much of her fan base. Fortunately, they found Heike Langhans, whose excellent vocal powers were on display as of 2012, culminating in the tear-filled newest album Sovran.
Arcane Rain Fell offers the perfect departure from Where Lovers Mourn.
And in more ways than one: Lisa’s style became scarcer, moving away from this distinct Gothic Metal front chick style. Much better attuned to the overall theme of foggy swamps and miserable people moving over muddy paths under a watery moon. The growls got darker and more menacing, too, on Arcane Rain. And so did the music with its turn towards more tribulation and torment. All this added to this bitter medicine that was already insanely spreading its wings.
In this new world, Johansson plays the perfect dark angel with her crystal clear intonation, counter-weighing Anders Jacobson’s deep growls. And also in tone with the Gothic undercurrents that were prevalent in the early ’00s.
Draconian also presents the perfect counter-weight to what is commonly called the Peaceville Three – My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Paradise Lost. The band hit the fray with new and fresh material. But for some reason remained relatively unknown to this day.
For long stretches, Arcane Rain Fell sounds like the traditional Nordic Melodic Death Metal that we have grown to love from outfits like Insomnium. This is not surprising. Draconian join us from the cold river shores of the Swedish town of Säffle. Now, by adding the beauty to the storyline, this bunch of beasts changed direction towards Doom Metal big time. By still keeping to their Gothic Metal roots, mind you.
Now, may I suggest that you do not start on Arcane Rain Fell with desperation already in your mind and thoughts. Because it is an almost insane full dose of desolation that awaits you in the entrails of the record. The album gorges with slow, thunderous riffs and – at times – a roughly faster tune, strangely reminiscent of a later Amon Amarth. In sound, not in theme, of course. The growls always fit the theme and Lisa’s contributions chime in perfectly.
The band leapfrogs right into this doom-laden swamp with the first track!
A Scenery of Loss – luckily – turns out to be an epic first track, not an intro. Slow and powerful riffing, spoken monologue first – then the growls roll in. A 9+ minute friggin’ basketful of doom at pole position. Gotta love it.
Or take The Apostasy Canticle or The Everlasting Scar, for instance. Moving almost in tandem with My Dying Bride and their ilk, stretched lyrics included. What sets them apart are the juice-dripping metal riffs and the gothic tinge that the band displays.
I also like the varied approach to lyrics. Growls, monologues, and clear voice by both vocalists. This spikes this decidedly drab and tear-filled piece of metal with a lot of spice. And nicely conveys this sentiment of sadness and desperation that the style is all about. Then they throw in Death Metal and a healthy dose of Gothic Metal into their Doom Metal Potion. And wham!! You got yourself a tasty chunk of despair.
And it is neatly executed, too. There are no major flaws with the mixing and mastering effort. Underground Studio in Västeras stirred this record well, with just enough zing in the flavoring to keep things interesting throughout. If there is anything to moan about, it is the repetition bug that hit somewhat towards the middle of the album.
And I might have preferred to have Lisa Johansson move a little more center-stage. As the album progresses, her involvement feels more like the Gothic Pop Rock disasters like Blutengel and their boob-wiggling, bodiced chicks on stage.
Now, a mighty heap of woe is served with the last track Death, Come Near Me. Sticking the center-piece of the record to the end gives you an impression of the self-confidence already present in early day Draconian. On top, the way the vocalists come to the forefront is exactly what we should have had more of throughout Arcane Rain Fell. More female vocals, in sync with the growls. And the outcome is truly epic. Cool track.
Arcane Rain Fell serves you with a powerful Doom Metal potion. There is absolutely no doubt that they played pretty much every element in the doom repertoire. But by artfully mixing Death and Gothic elements into the fray, covered with variety and powerful riffs, they made the record stand out from the crowd. This serves us with a mountain of tears that is really one of the best Doom Metal records 2005 had to offer.
Now, as a fan of doom, should you invest in an ‘old’ record? Absolutely. This is a crafty one. Go for it.