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Draconian : Arcane Rain Fell

With this album Draconian gave as comprehensive a definition of Gothic Doom as any record ever made.

When Sweden's Draconian released ' Where Lovers Mourn' in 2003, the core of the band had been together nearly a decade. That had given them plenty of time to work on their Epic-Melodic-Gothic Doom sound, seasoned with some Black/Death metal influences and dominated by the vocal interplay between Anders Jacobsson and Lisa Johansson. 'Arcane Rain Fell' is the 2005 follow-up, partially reworking demo-era pieces to create a concept theme around the war in Heaven and the hubris-driven fall of Lucifer Morningstar from grace. A more or less linear progression, it delivers a slightly slower, heavier and more mature experience that shifts the overall balance a little closer to doom than metal and introduces more of a rounded, crafted depth in the production. Other than that, the distinctive triumvirate of Draconian's musical force remain absolutely intact.

The first of these is Anders Jacobsson, who is also the primary lyricist, taking a majority share of the vocal duties on this album. He has an excellent, deeply emotive voice alternating between a powerful and savage growl and spoken/whispered word narrative sections that, while not necessarily to everyone's taste, are an interesting and perhaps essential way to progress the story behind the music.

Secondly, there is Lisa Johansson's contribution. Although her vocal parts are fewer and shorter than those in ' Where Lovers Mourn', her presence is still vital to creating the pervasive mood of gothic and romantic imagery. Her pure, clear vocals are strong without being histrionic devoid of the more operatic emphasis often used within the genre and timed and placed to perfection within the unfolding songs.

Finally, there is the quintessentially guitar-driven instrumental sound, augmented by keyboards and strings. The lead guitar of main music-writer Johan Ericson effortlessly slips from sequences of soaring laments, utterly distinctive in their piercing mournfulness, to subtler semi-acoustic melody lines and driving, crushingly heavy riffs with a seamlessness that is all the more effective for being unfussy and direct. Musically, the whole palette is somewhat simple and understated, often providing not much more than a cadence for the vocals to work against. There is more complexity in the link passages, but not a great deal more: those tend to rely on a number of slightly varied iterations of the current melody either side of a slick but quite abrupt change of pace or theme. Aside from the occasional outburst of flat-out drumming, or slow, tympanic beats, the percussion section do little except underwrite a basic rhythm. It almost sounds banal, described thus, but there is a synergy and emotional strength in this mix that renders the whole far more than the sum of its technical parts.

The album starts with rain and the measured pace of 'A Scenery Of Loss', portraying the bleak aftermath of the fall. A faster, black metal-esque mid-section, with eerily choral backing, leads to the gentle keyboards and weary anger of a spoken segue into 'Daylight Misery', which makes good use of a harmonised refrain and Lisa's vocal reprise to close. 'The Apostasy Canticle' tells of the beginnings of the angelic rebellion in a dense, 10-minute slab of pure, brutal heaviness. That is followed by the gothic drama of 'Expostulation', a short spoken piece that spits Lucifer's proud defiance in the face of God, and the exquisite counterplay of female and male voices in the fey tragedy and furious rage of 'Heaven Laid In Tears (Angels' Lament)'. The fury turns to despair in the fast, sustained twin-guitar riff of 'The Abhorrent Rays' that, along with the raw emotion of 'The Everlasting Scar', covers the casting-out from Heaven and heralds the final, 15-minute long, track, 'Death, Come Near Me'. It is a slightly clumsy choice for inclusion, being taken from the 'Dark Oceans We Cry' demo rather than 'The Closed Eyes Of Paradise' from which the rest of the album takes inspiration. Regardless of the conceptual match, though, it is an incredible piece of music: a sweeping, slow, painfully tragic duet between the two vocalists conducted over almost orchestrally mournful guitar and keyboard passages.

Quite simply, this album and this sound is as comprehensive a definition of Gothic Doom as any record ever made. It helps to have taken inspiration from a legend that the band are obviously familiar with, but the grandeur and majesty of the telling of it is all their own. There are no wasted tracks few wasted seconds, even in setting the stage for the understated yet beautiful music and the outstanding vocal talents that make this a tour-de-force of theatrical, emotional depth. Others have tackled the pure gothic elements, notably My Dying Bride, or the beauty-and-the-beast vocals, with contemporaries such as Theatre Of Tragedy and Tristania. This, almost effortlessly, combines and surpasses them all. Essential listening.

Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. A Scenery Of Loss
2. Daylight Misery
3. The Apostasy Canticle
4. Expostulation
5. Heaven Laid In Tears (Angels' Lament)
6. The Abhorrent Rays
7. The Everlasting Scar
8. Death, Come Near Me

Duration : Approx. 60 minutes

Visit the Draconian bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-10-24 by Mike Liassides
A Dream Of Poe - The Wraith Uncrowned
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