A few months after the RockmusicRaider blog really took off, Draconian‘s Sovran happened. This is probably THE record that shaped our take on Doom and Gothic Metal in any significant way. And way more than their famous brethren Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride ever would.
Chiefly, Sovran impressed us with this sludgy heaviness. This sepulchral march towards the ultimate state of sadness. Something that immediately connects with your inner sorrow. But it is also true that this record was and still is relatively close to the aforementioned two of the Peaceville Three and distinct Melodic Death Metal masters.
So, how will their newest release Under a Godless Veil shape up?
Well, right off the bat, the band leaves no doubt that this is Draconian. Heike Langhans still sounds like a lighter, somewhat ethereal version of Sharon den Adel of an earlier era at times. And their tune still freely dispenses this Insomnium-style Melodic Death Metal thing as if they invented it.
Yet, the Peaceville Three have pretty much left the building. And a lighter air greets the musical traveler of those tear-drenched plains. Doom is not out the door, far from it. But the gothic component of the band’s formula to success truly took a hike. And they kinda upped the ante on that Beauty and the Beast game, too. Not something I have seen lately this side of older Leaves’ Eyes records.
It’s refreshing to see that some bands still subtly improve their style without going overboard. This lack of heaviness might not be to the taste of everybody, though. Yet, this crew here kinda took a fancy to that often very gothic approach the band took on Under a Godless Veil.
Already Sorrow of Sophia sold our unholy souls to the gods of doom. This is one tasty mix somewhere in between a Gothic tableau of Victorian tastes and the steady, heavy flow of glum melancholia. I guess it’s this artfully done mélange of Langhans‘ finely chiseled ethereal wails and Anders Jacobsson‘s growls that adds a tad more substance to the tune.
And that’s the essence of this record right there. Thoughtfully arranged strings, fairly meaty metal riffs, and the scarce solo aside, these two do carry the flag for Draconian. The chemistry seems to fit, at least on the recording. And Under a Godless Veil would lose a lot of its allure if those two vocalists would not be there.
Yet here’s the thing. Clocking at a trifle more than one hour in airplay, the album sometimes feels a bit overstretched. With the exception of The Sethian, Draconian starts to lose a bit of that slow-marching grit as of the second half. One that they so ardently built to boot. Or in other words, instead of having my earphones glued to my ears throughout, my mind wandered away at times. And that’s not a good sign. Especially when the record tries hard to finish with that bouquet on Ascend To Darkness, but somehow fails to build enough momentum.
But let’s not forget the gems. The Sacrificial Flame is so full of true doom that it almost brought that taste of the Peaceville folks back. But it is Jacobsson‘s strained gowls and those painful monologues that really ramped up the depression there. Sleepwalkers indeed arouses this dread of loneliness haunted by the awful terrors of endless nightmares. You know, those that somehow keep on going and you can’t leave for some reason. But once the meaty beats of Moon Over Sabaoth try to slowly smash you to pieces, you finally start to drown in this ocean of mourning.
You see, none of the tracks on Under a Godless Veil really stand out. Instead, they’re all part of that finely arranged sorrowful web of misty female vocals, tasty growls, some clear voice vocals, and stylish riff work that cements this all together. Even if the thirst for a few true and substantial solos increased to ever greater levels as the record progressed.
Draconian truly managed to maintain their identity, not only by name but by holding on to their unique sound of Gothic and Doom Death Metal. And by increasing the goth part together with a pretty decent flow, they also severely darkened their offering. A subtle change to their former album that surely works to their advantage.
To the point that we started to throw salt over our shoulders to ward off bad spirits. And that’s a good sign right there, right? The darkness and wretched misery finally gripped us with its icy cold claws, as is the wont of this record.