Prepare for a journey into the realm of darkness and gloom. ‘A Rose for the Apocalypse’ is the new opus from Gothic doom metal band, Draconian. This Swedish group, in existence since 1994, has come a long way to define their music. The artists recorded several demos, but were never quite content with the result and always kept focus on improvements. Breakthrough came in 2002 with the addition of Lisa Johansson to the group and the demo album ‘Dark Oceans We Cry’. Draconian finally signed a record deal and in the next five years released four studio albums. The band grew increasingly confident with their music and on the last two works they got the opportunity to record at the Fascination Street Studios (known for Opeth, Katatonia and Paradise Lost). With years of experience to their name, the musicians reached a point of refinement with their fifth offering, ‘A Rose for the Apocalypse’.
This record comprises 10 elaborate compositions, filled with dark, heavy riffs and melodic and haunting leads, combined with dialogue of the contrasting vocals of Lisa Johansson and Anders Jacobsson. Additional instruments, such as keyboards or violins strengthen the sense of mystery, darkness and other-worldliness of this music. The overarching gloom of the songs is occasionally broken by the beautiful, melodic vocals and acoustic verses. The mood of this record is indeed dark, but the beautiful melodies make it an enjoyable, if still somewhat melancholic listening.
The Drowning Age starts the album with a blast of heavy riffs and a fast bass line. The seven minute-long opener then turns to a more steady pace, but remains heavy and dark. Both vocalists are at their best, taking turns in leading this piece. A number of riff and section changes are only a prelude to the ambitious musicianship that follows on the rest of the album. The essence of the group’s music is contained in The Last Hour of Ancient Sunlight. Lisa’s melodic voice, together with sounds of violin and keyboard create a climate of tranquillity. This image is then contrasted with heavy riffs and Anders’ growled vocals which, helped by the haunting guitar lead, seem to tear apart any sense of calm. End of the Rope is one of the slightly faster compositions. The heavy, steady riffs hold a sense of alertness which fades into a more lyrical chorus, sounding powerful over the heavy drums. The piece is interestingly concluded with a quiet piano finale, resembling a requiem.
The album contains some beautiful instrumental arrangements, with a great example being A Phantom Dissonance. The piece changes unexpectedly between a subtle, melodic verse sang over acoustic guitar and drums to a heavy, intense chorus. This is a rather stark contrast, even for this album, and what is also really worth noting here are the beautiful guitar solos. A rather peculiar feeling is created in The Quiet Storm, where Lisa’s voice accompanied only slightly by the guitars, is suppressed by the sound of crackling vinyl. The dynamic in this piece shifts gradually between calm and enigmatic passages to intense and emotional chorus. The composition culminates in both vocalists singing together just before a quiet, suspended ending. It is a rather interesting piece, indeed.
At almost 8 minutes, Elysian Night is one of the more lengthy pieces on ‘A Rose for the Apocalypse’. There is a degree of magnificence to this composition, stemming from its complexity and the strong, defined sound the group has worked for seventeen years to achieve. It is both melodic and heavy, but also elaborate and diverse, and undoubtedly one of the best pieces on the album. A strong contender is The Death of Hours, the final composition. Although still rather complex, the piece is quite lyrical with several spoken parts and melodic sections, and it fades out to a moving guitar solo.
‘A Rose for the Apocalypse’ may not be a record for everybody, considering the dominating sense of melancholy and gloom. What is however important about this music, is the true beauty of it. The instrumental arrangements alone are enough to consider experiencing this album, as the creativity and variety of sounds used by the group to create their compositions are amazing. After years of experimentation, Draconian have found their sound, and with it they have secured their rightful place on the metal scene.
Draconian is: Anders Jacobsson (vocals), Lisa Johansson (vocals), Johan Ericson (lead and rhythm guitars), Daniel Arvidsson (rhythm guitars), Fredrik Johansson (bass), Jerry Torstensson (drums).
Written by Natalia Gronowska