Contrary to seemingly popular belief, “romantic” and/or “gothic” doom metal does not end with My Dying Bride. While that band have somehow come through what might say was a critically weak patch to return rejuvenated with a couple of cracking albums, peer behind them to the numerous bands they have clearly influenced and there are certainly a few worthy of note.
One band in particular of note is Draconian, whose use of dual (male and female) vocalists may see them by some lumped in with the pedestrian likes of Nightwish et al, but in sound they are considerably closer to MDB – and in some cases Katatonia, although on previous albums they have gradually been carving out their own, impressive sound.
And on this spectacular album they cast aside any preconceptions to produce what is frankly one of the best romantic doom albums I’ve ever heard. Seasons Apart arrives, swept along by a glorious, chugging riff with the vocals provided apparently by an angel and a demon – Lisa Johansson’s sweet, clean vocals the perfect counterpoint to Anders Jacobsson’s growling verses. The breakdown in the middle of the track is simply awesome, too.
It gets better, though: When I Wake is the equivalent of throwing the curtains open to bathe a dark room in light, particularly when Lisa’s vocals take over, while the epic Earthbound is simply staggering. A mix of higher tempo sections that merge into piano-led, Lisa-sung parts, this eight-minute monster is capped off by a galloping, thrashing finish that leaves your jaw on the floor.
Not Breathing is simply very good, chugging, doom metal, while The Failure Epiphany is notable in particular for it’s acoustic intro and later interludes, which lend a very elegaic feel to the track. Morphine Cloud keeps the momentum going, and again is simply what they do, done very well.
Bloodflower could almost be an indie-rock track, for the all-of-ten seconds that a picked guitar line is all you hear. Then, the dam breaks and a torrent of riffs, drums – hell, the fucking kitchen sink – all come crashing down at once. And it’s bloody marvellous music to let wash over you, too, and the Lisa-sung chorus that ends with “…I will love you just the same” is simply heartbreaking.
Really, though, the best is saved until last. The Empty Stare pulls all of the constituent parts of the band into a beautiful, beautiful song that as the music spirals up and down the scales the twin vocals chase each other through it all. And then, to finish, a one-minute piano track with little more than poetry recited over the top that bookends the album well.
And what an album – with all the attention various gothic metal bands have had from the press and music TV in recent years, it would be an utter travesty if Draconian were not to benefit from some of the attention (and, yes, sales) – this awesome album is one of the shining stars so far of 2008, and in it’s corner of the musical world at least is going to be a very difficult one indeed to beat.