Scandinavia seems to be an endless source of all things metal. This time we get it from Sweden, where I thought only the happy blonde bombshells dwell – but not so. The 6th studio album Sovran from Draconian is – at its base – real Doom Metal.
A powerful brand of Doom wanting to ice the bones in your body, and pound you crying into the dust with a deluge of sadness and tribulations. Interesting, how underrated this band is compared to the better-known players in the genre. Especially in comparison with the Peaceville Three – myth or not. Draconian are really up there with the best.
‘Tis not only one style. This here Doom Martini mixes well with (a lot of) Gothic Metal and – strangely enough – Melodic Death Metal of the Insomnium kind with a female twist. Just check out Shadows of the Dying Sun. Not quite the same, but the touch and feel is for sure similar. Add to that a pinch of Black Metal with some tremolo picking at times going on and you got your cocktail. And I daresay, their style has become much smoother as compared to former records, like Turning Season Within or Arcane Rain Fell.
The band name has (apparently) nothing to do with Draconian Times of their brethren Paradise Lost. Even if there is a lively discussion on-going out there, as to where the band name Draconian comes from. The coincidence is nevertheless striking: Just check the release date of the Draconian Times album with the change of the band name from Kerberos to Draconian in 1995. But ’tis a moot point anyway, and so much water down the bridge.
Sovran has this eerie ability to get under your skin. Happened to me as off the first snippets, assaulting my eardrums through my earphones, raising that irresistible urge to get my fingers into writing mode. And it IS Doom at its best, transmitting this mental picture of the Cold Wastes of Kadath with a terrible and desolate storm howling across them.
And the – for some fans at least – traumatizing change from the super blonde front piece to South African Goth Chick is a remarkable success. One could not find greater contrast in Heike Langhans. In short, Draconian chose well and found a very worthy replacement for Lisa Johansson. I am truly impressed, Heike sounds like some sort of subdued Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) – and so she should for a Doom outfit.
And no, Lisa is not ever coming back – she left way back in 2011. Sorry, guys. The worries of some that the beastly voice of Anders Jacobsson would not fit well with the sad, but beautiful sound of Heike Langhans‘s singing evaporate after the first track starts. I daresay this is one of the best Beauty and the Beast impersonations on the market so far.
Some voices out there screech that Sovran sucks big time. That true?
Not by far. But not everything shines like a heap of treasure either. Cold wastes being flat by definition (kind of…), Sovran somewhat seriously lacks variation, all songs kind of flowing into one muddy-brown flow of icy sadness. And the overall style is somewhat reminiscent of their older records.
It is only towards the end in Rivers Between Us that the band injects a bit of difference. But then almost going cheesy on us (more to that later). Now, the same boring streak is true in other records of the genre. For instance, the 2015 piece The Plague Within from Paradise Lost serves as a good example.
Now – on the other hand – the first three tracks on Sovran are just stellar!
Heavy Lies The Crown, The Wretched Tide, and Pale Tortured Blue are all cut from one stone. A Pale Tortured Blue stone, indeed. All of that flows into one another and makes you drown in a sea of depression. Wanting to invite the cold hand of death reaching for your warm, pumping heart. A Black Sabbath-ish delivery of tracks that will stick to you like acid glue. You will actually find a weird Sabbath/Insomnium style mix, taking on a disturbing momentum of sorts. I like it.
Then the record loses some steam – and gains it back as of Dishearten. With The Mariage of Attaris finally providing a fitting end to stuff. For this one, they pulled out their Doomish stops, a beautiful beastly conversation et al. Well done.
One of the more remarkable, but surprisingly cheesy sound assemblies, is Rivers Between Us featuring Daniel Änghede (Crippled Black Phoenix, ISON, Hearts of Black Science, Astroqueen).
To round this all up, the cover art never ceases to amaze. This is really a visual of Doom, as far as this is possible. The lyrics – whilst having a tendency to go into cheesy overdrive some – talk well towards the Gothic/Doom path down into the dark abyss of sorrows. But by and large well done and recommendable.
Lost steam and lack of variety apart…
Sovran is up there in the Doom Metal Valhalla. Together with the other Doom Warriors of the Realm, making music during the day and feasting at night.
Draconian present us with a mostly hauntingly beautiful web of tracks, taking you in and not letting you go until you listened to all at least three times. A contender for the Best Doom Album of 2015 and a must-have for all Doom fans out there.
Go and get it! And let’s hope that there will be a new record soon, they’re that good.