Release date: June 24, 2011 (EU), July 5, 2011 (US)
Swedish metal has long been a favorite of mine, continuously putting out badass music and this year’s offering by doom metal specialists Draconian is simply spectacular. A Rose for the Apocalypse is heavy enough to blast the neighbors, yet dark enough to disturb your soul. If you believe gothic doom metal is too dark and oppressive, I say you should still check this album out. True, the lyrics are often tormented and depressing but Draconian has a style that stays true to the harsher side of metal and it’s a step ahead of the typical doom and gloom offered by other doom metallists.
Hailing from Säffle, Sweden, Draconian formed in 1994 although their first studio album wasn’t released until 2003. This is the band’s fifth studio release and it is by far the best of the lot. The three year wait has seemed much longer, but easily worth it. The beauty and the beast blend of Anders Jacobsson’s death metal growls and Lisa Johansson’s incredible clean vocals is where Draconian excel. Johansson’s voice is pure, even haunting at times and it contrasts beautifully with Jacobsson’s death gutturals. This is saying a lot when the use of such contrasting vocal styles in metal has been so overdone as to be beyond stale.
Kicking things off is “The Drowning Age,” a caliginous tune featuring some of Jacobsson’s deepest growls on the album. This is a great opening track as you get to hear the contrast of the vocals right from the start, and a vivid understanding of why this mix works brilliantly for Draconian, where it fails for others. It sets the tone for the rest of the album as Johansson’s melodic princess vocals are imprinted on nearly every track.
On “The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight”, we feel the return of violins to the band’s sound.
“End of the Rope” is a moody song enveloped in darkness with a touch of keyboards, nice melodic guitar work and well-written lyrics.
wondering who we should be
As tyranny becomes normality;
We hang at the end of the rope.”
“Elysian Night” is one of the heavier tracks although it does slow at times, mainly for Johansson’s captivating vocals. I believe this is her best performance on the album, her lovely, sirenic voice rings emotionally sweet and true. It’s also the longest track on the album at nearly eight haunting minutes.
“A Phantom Dissonance” utilizes extreme variances…from slow and instrumental, rocketing to heavy, dark and deep. The duo vocalists and extreme tempo changes make this a standout track.
Other notable tracks include “Deadlight,” “Dead World Assembly” and “The Quiet Storm.”
A Rose for the Apocalypse is deep, despairingly dark, yet seemingly supercharged at times, mainly because of Jacobsson’s extreme, angry growls. You can tell throughout this entire album, his vocals are more focused and his voice is raw and full of emotion. The use of keyboards, strings and flutes in addition to the heavy guitars and crushing drums create the perfect musical backdrop for the incredible vocals and I have to believe this is an album that will relate to doom metalists everywhere. In fact, it should appeal to a broader range of metalheads across the board as a lot of the songs on this album are faster and heavier than much of the doom metal out there. There is such sonic variance throughout the 10 tracks here that all metal fans can find something to grab hold of with this album.
While A Rose for the Apocalypse does not stray far from the traditional Draconian sound, the increased use of the dual vocal lines, faster songs and emotionally charged lyrics make this possibly the strongest album they have released to date. Certainly it’s on par with their 2008 masterpiece, Turning Season Within.