Draconian: A Rose for the Apocalypse

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Draconian: A Rose for the Apocalypse
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Draconian: A Rose for the Apocalypse
Doom Metal, Gothic Metal
Napalm Records
July 5th, 2011
Release length: 1:04:57
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Draconian has been a very strong force in the Doom Metal scene for quite some time, but still has remained primarily in the shadows of the underground Metal community. Since forming in 1994, Gothic Doom Metal act has issued quality release after quality release, and has only grown better with each effort that follows. And yet, the band just does not seem too well known, even to many of those who enjoy this kind of music with attractions to acts like Novembers Doom. With A Rose for the Apocalypse, Draconian sets their sights on destroying all you cherish and hold dear once more with a mammoth album that grips that Gothic element of their music tightly and sets a beautiful yet uncompromisingly depressing audio landscape to decimate their listeners.

A Rose for the Apocalypse has a track length that is just shy of sixty five minutes. Considering it’s the group’s fourth full-length, and the quality of previous efforts, one can only expect the best during this entire track length, and right away that presumption seems to be correct. “The Drowning Age” sets the tone of the album perfectly as it fades in with some ambience that quickly goes into the opening melodic Gothic music that is both beautiful and simple, yet coupled with the Doom Metal presence becomes an immediately burden on the listener, setting a very desolate atmosphere of pure pitch black. The gutturals match the overall atmosphere, being monstrous and commanding, eating away at the soul with the catchier Doom ridden despair of the song that only gives any sort of hope during the chorus which introduces clean, beautiful, and well performed female vocals.

All of this is enhanced nicely by the overall sound of the album. Draconian has always had a strong quality to their recordings, and A Rose for the Apocalypse is no different. The guitars are heavily distorted, though at times there is a cleaner lead over those heavily distorted guitars that create a punishing atmosphere, while the softer, more melodic cleaner guitars really give off that haunting Gothic vibe to the music. It’s a subtle mixture as far as guitars go, but it really works to pull the listener well in both directions at once emotionally. Then drumming often goes at the general pace the guitars are working in, mostly the distorted chords being played, and they generally match the atmosphere they set as well. When the guitars are fast, the drums kick up a more beautiful sound to the recording, and when slower, they add a more somber and depressive element into the mixture. The bass is also very strong int he mix, and it just helps to add to the bite of the distorted guitars, making the crushing sound they give off much more blunt and heavier. The production itself isn’t at the point where it’s sleek and stylish, but the music obviously does come off rather modern with a cleaner, digital sound relying on the instruments themselves to make it heavy.

With a great production quality, and “The Drowning Age” setting up the album perfectly, the only concern becomes whether or not the band can maintain that impressive sound throughout A Rose for the Apocalypse. It’s actually expected that the album won’t hold material as strong as “The Drowning Age” for each track, and it sadly happens, but even those tracks are not bad. Musically, “End of the Rope” is a slower paced dismal track that does have a good Gothic atmosphere to it, and there are plenty of random “classical” sounding moments during bridges to amp up that desperate atmosphere through chaotic violins played in a manner best fitting a more gothic influenced Horror film. This track is still enjoyable for what it is though, despite it’s not as strong as what the album started out with. “Elysian Night” is another track that doesn’t quite have the same bite, but it’s still a passionate track with a heavier Gothic influence to it. The music is less emotional during the clean female singing, and more powerful against the guttural performance. This isn’t bad, but all through the song, you’re waiting for either vocalist to just belt out a strong, powerful, and heavily emotional performance, and it just never comes, leaving the listener waiting and wanting, then feeling absolutely empty from such a rich experience that no real attempt was made to capture that powerful, emotional sound in such a matching manner.

As you progress through the effort, the album does hit some traditional snags amongst efforts like this, which lies in the patterns put forward. The only song to come close to matching “The Drowning Age” is the following track “The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight”, which has a much stronger atmosphere and performance then any other track. “Dead World Assembly” has a stronger vocal performance against music that is similar to “End of the Rope”, and the stronger, energetic gutturals really showcase what you wanted and expected in that track as well. On top of that, the vocals remain guttural male vocals against clean female singing vocals for each track, typically with the clean singing during the chorus, but some tracks like “Dead World Assembly” and others do change things up and kind of reverse them and the order of their appearance. It’s also about this time the release just starts to feel a little drug out, and the music doesn’t quite have that same bite to it that the start of the release had. While it’s evident Draconian is trying hard to emulate that same mixture of depression and desperation at times, it just tends to start sounding less unique in each track coming after “Deadlight”, which is where you really start to pick up on these patterns.

But in no way does this mean the album instantly becomes boring or makes less of an impact. The closing tracks of the release are just as strong as anything else on here, even though they follow the same patterns. “The Quiet Storm” diverts things a bit with the singing vocals coming in distorted as if listening to an old record player with audio one might expect from an early black and white film, giving the track that sort of atmosphere at the start of the song, progressing with a much lighter sound to the music thanks to the Gothic guitar playing with the bass driving the music at times instead of the heavily distorted guitars, allowing the song to build more instead of following the same patterns as some other songs, and “A Phantom Dissonance” makes for a rather eerie sounding slower paced track, again much like “End of the Rope” and “Dead World Assembly”, but the atmosphere for this track is just right.

When you break it down, A Rose for the Apocalypse can be both a monster of a release, and even feel like a tamer pussycat. There are times the music is beautiful and depressing with plenty of energy and aggression, and these tracks stand out nicely ont he album. But at the same time you have slower songs that feel more like a gothic ballad of some kind with a Doom touch that feels a bit restricted. But, even then the tracks are still solid offerings with the only real drawback outside of it not reaching that passionate performance level is the pattern that goes through just about each track of the album. None of this will keep you from going back to this album and embracing the desolate and despair-ridden world that Draconian presents on this album. Though it could have been stronger, the band does manage to keep alive some of the stronger presence felt at the start of the album, though they can’t seem to maintain the same impact and strength it has. If you’re a fan of music that is emotionally moving, or just the Gothic or Doom Metal styles in general, then this is an effort you simply have to check out.

01. The Drowning Age – 7:19
02. The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight – 5:27
03. End of the Rope – 6:34
04. Elysian Night – 7:53
05. Deadlight – 6:33
06. Dead World Assembly – 5:52
07. A Phantom Dissonance – 5:40
08. The Quiet Storm – 6:37
09. The Death of Hours – 7:48
10. Wall of Sighs – 5:15
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Draconian (band)
Draconian

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records.