Originally written by Erik Thomas
My last personal experience with Sweden’s Draconian was 2005’s excellent Arcane Rain Fell, and in fact, “Death, Come Near Me” is still one of my favorite doom tracks. I missed 2008’s Turning Season Within, and I was hoping to see if Draconian were still one of the top doom/ goth metal bands around.
While always a band that flirted between pure, rending funeral doom and more traditional Napalm Records-styled goth metal, it looks as if they’ve taken a few more steps towards the latter. While the dual vocals of growler Anders Jacobsson and crooner Lisa Johansson are still present, the music seems to have take a little turn away from the more knee-wilting, tear-jerking hues of before into more modern, sturdy goth metal. The basic roots can still be traced back to the likes of My Dying Bride (especially Jacobsson’s deep growls, which are pure early Aaron Stainthorpe in tone and enunciation, and the violin-flocked bonus track “Wall of Sighs”) and to the Finnish death doom scene with still melancholic layering and atmospheres, but there’s no 10-plus-minute dirges and, frankly, nothing as heart-wrenching as Arcane Rain Fell. I’m guessing this slight shift occurred on Turning Season Within, so I apologize if I’m reacting one album too late, but it should be addressed to fans in the same boat as me.
With that said, Draconian is proficient at this beauty-and-the-beast style of metal, and with that last remnant of doomy moroseness lingering around the Gothic, it comes together to form something professional, confident and charming in a slightly sad sort of way. Johannsson has a great voice, but never drags me into sorrow, and frankly, I think this band is possibly an album or two away from Lacuna Coil / Stream of Passion-on-barbiturates type transformation. Jacobson seems to be just there with his growls, slightly bereft of emotion. Even with titles like “The Drowning Age”, “End of the Rope” and “The Death of Hours”, there’s nothing on A Rose for the Apokalypse that reached into my chest to wrench my heart strings. The closest thing to a truly rending track is the album’s standout “The Death of Hours”, which starts like it might be a real tear-jerker, but ends up being a rather catchy little number.
There’s some solid music here, just don’t go looking for a woe fest. The production is big and lush, with the expected keyboard tinkling and the general slightly-slower-than-mid-paced gait is consistent throughout. There’s also a pretty predictable vocal pattern — you can pretty much tell when each singer is going to come in. As a result, Draconian has not (as I’d hoped) entered into the goth/doom elite, but rather, they seem stuck in limbo between Napalm’s cookie cutter goth roster and doom metal.