Draconian
Under a Godless Veil

Wow! Has it really been five years since Sweden’s Draconian dropped a new album on us? Five years to the date as a matter of fact. Man, it really doesn’t seem like Sovran was released five years ago, then again this past year of 2020 has been quite the rollercoaster, seemingly lasting an eternity unto itself. Whether it seems like it or not, the truth is that it’s been half a decade since a new Draconian release, and the band’s latest effort, Under A Godless Veil is just in time to usher in what might be the world’s saddest and most somber fall/winter season it’s seen in quite awhile (thanks Covid…).

Shame on you if you’re not familiar with Draconian and their brand of dark, gothic, “beauty & the beast” styled doomy death metal. I mean, they’ve only been steadily releasing albums for the past seventeen years. Though I can understand why one might have stayed on the outskirts when it comes to the band. Let’s face it, sometimes that aforementioned “beauty & the beast” tag doesn’t always bring the “heavy” when it comes to heavy metal. Yet in Draconian‘s case that isn’t necessarily true.

Since their debut album, Where Lovers Mourn, the band has had, and retained, a maturity in their craft and have always seemed to know where they were going and what they were trying to achieve. So much so that I would dare to say that their progression through the years has been one that is more of a side-stepping in their evolution than one of an aggressive move forward. A two steps to the side for every one step forward type of growth, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. Some albums, and albeit songs, are a little more heavy and hard hittting than others, while some are a little more somber and beautiful; to be fair though all their material has a bit of both worlds to them.

Though Sovran brought a noticed change. Not only was the longtime “beauty” vocalist, Lisa Johansson, replaced with the ever competent Heike Langhans, but there seemed to be a slight decrease in the album’s overall “heavy” factor, yet a slight increase in the band’s songwriting and dynamics.A lofty statement considering the group’s well established knack for creating some terrific doomy goth metal. Sovran brought a sense of even more maturity to the band’s sound, a less is more aesthetic of increased beauty and sadness, but with a “we can still crush you”, mentality. In my personal opinion it’s the band’s best album, as well as one of the best representations of the gothic, beauty and the beast, vocal styled extremity available.

So, let’s get to the nitty gritty, is Under a Godless Veil a better album than the mighty Sovran? Does it best the high mark set by their prior brilliance? Is it worth your time and your hard earned cash? Well, the answers to those questions are simple. No, no, and hell yes! Just because I feel that they haven’t topped Sovran with this newest release doesn’t mean that they haven’t crafted quite a stellar piece of somber artful beauty, easily on par with Sovran, standing shoulder to shoulder in might and fortitude. While admittedly, Under a Godless Veil is even less heavy centric than past offerings, and brings an even greater focused degree of the band’s ethereal side, showcasing Heike as the primary lead vocalist much of the time, the end result is one of a compelling and fulfilling emotional nature.

From the funereal somberness of album opener, “Sorrow of Sophia”, painting a picture of haunting despair and melancholic enchantment, to closer and contender for album highlight, “Ascend into Darkness”, showcasing some truly magnificent and dolorous death-doom elegance and might, Under a Godless Veil is a stunning piece of  despondent and menacing grandeur. Though the band doesn’t really employ any new tactics or display any new attributes that haven’t been previously in their repertoire, the pay off from the material is quite alluring and heavily satisfying. Picking a definite album standout is for sure a moot task. Truthfully, anyone of the tracks on Under  a Godless Veil could rightfully be viewed as an album highlight, as each has its own identity and emotional aura attached to it.

Be it the slow, brooding crush of beauty and aggression in “The Sacrificial Flame” and “Moon over Sabaoth”, the overtly more brutal and direct death metal nature entwined within the splendor and exquisiteness of  both “The Sethian” and the “Claw Marks on the Throne”, or the stellar funeral dirge like ethereal diaphanous of “Burial Fields “or “Night Visitor”, every track is highlight worthy. Personally though, my favorite track would have to be “Sleepwalkers”. The track hits just right, showcasing a hauntingly beautiful somberness, courtesy of Heike’s vocals, with a fantastic emotionl build up, attributed to  vocalist, Anders Jacobsson, climaxing into a brilliant vocal tag team cadence within its doomy, gothic stature. The song is simple, beautiful, clean, climatic and full of emotionally heaviness. What more could you want from Draconian?

I’ll admit to not being too much impressed with Under a Godless Veil upon hearing it for the first time. For whatever the reson, the album as a whole didn’t resonate with me and I wasn’t sure that Draconian hadn’t actually stumbled with Under a Godless Veil. Though much like anything that has any real substance, all that is needed to see and appreciate the greatness present is just a bit of honest attention. In this case it was giving Under a Godless Veil the listening time it deserved. I’m sure anyone that does so will ultimately be thoroughly satisfied and content with the state of Draconian in 2020.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
November 12th, 2020

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