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Draconian - "Sovran" (CD)

Draconian - "Sovran" CD cover image

"Sovran" track listing:

1. Heavy Lies the Crown
2. The Wretched Tide
3. Pale Tortured Blue
4. Stellar Tombs
5. No Lonelier Star
6. Dusk Mariner
7. Dishearten
8. Rivers Between Us (Feat. Daniel Änghede)
9. The Marriage of Attaris
10. With Love and Defiance (Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on November 10, 2015

"It’s is both hair-raising and mind blowing in it’s ability to take the depths of desperation and morph it into avidity for life itself."

When it comes to the combination of clean female vox and growling male vox enveloped in gothic death doom beauty, there really is no band that can truly compare to Draconian. Take all the best elements of Amorphis, Paradise Lost and Within Temptation and you literally have “Sovran,” the new and incredible depressing opus from one of Sweden’s shining beacons of gorgeous hopelessness. There are plenty of other bands in the market – a flooded market from Scandinavia alone - but in terms of perfect sound, song composition and crushing sorrow, there can be only one and thy name is Draconian.

Lately, there have been too many instances where slews of bands have presented an oversaturated combination of Swallow the Sun, My Dying Bride and Tristana. Draconian corners the niche with an overload of pulsating anguish that drips with as much melody as despair. After four years and the addition of ex-Inferium vocalist Heike Langhans, the Swedish sextet took great time and care in crafting what has become “Sovran.” With Langhans, it’s as if a haunting doom version of Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel has taken hold of the sound transforming it in a way that former vocalist Lisa Johansson never could (as beautiful as her voice was). Complete with Adel’s unique melancholic tone, Langhans transcends the sound from great to stratospheric.

At the core of “Sovran” is the songwriting, shrouded in deep repentance and exuding elegance and pain. At times the mastodon carefully lumbers between trampling and elegance (“No Lonelier Star”). Then there are times when the full girth of immense framework - complete with pinned back ears and trunk curled inward - accelerates at frantic measure (“Stellar Tombs”). Anders Jacbosson’s clear gnarls are the perfect complement in what is truly a stunning display of beauty and beast. Johan Ericson and Daniel Arvidsson provide the perfect guitar tone, the base of Draconian’s craft.

One of the album’s most moving moments is in the magnificent “Rivers Between Us,” featuring the guest vocal appearance of Daniel Anghede (Astroqueen/Crippled Black Phoenix), who’s eerie gothic tones stand between Langhans and Jacobsson. At 2:54 a sound clip from philosopher Alan Watts’ lecture on Zen is embedded: “…all life is a magnificent illusion, a playing of energy, and that there is absolutely nothing, fundamentally, to be afraid of” and later “Fear will pass over your mind like a black cloud will be reflected in the mirror.” It’s is both hair-raising and mind blowing in it’s ability to take the depths of desperation and morph it into avidity for life itself.

Draconian’s style isn’t for everyone. Sometimes the material is incredibly disheartening and this may drive many away, so it’s all about how you choose to handle the despondency. Also, wading through the melodic death subgenre of metal can be a daunting and impossible task, with so many striving for attention. Here is where sticking with the tried and true can steer you like a rudder through the blackened shadowy estuary of gloom. Draconian has been into the game now for over twenty years and has never released a subpar album. In fact, “Sovran” may just be the band's crowning achievement.

Highs: Heike Langhans' haunting beauty transforms Draconian as "Sovran" shines in all its despair.

Lows: Perhaps the weight of despair and the endless stream of "melodeath" is too much for some listeners.

Bottom line: "Sovran" brings Draconian further into the upper echelon of Scandinavian death doom.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)