Where Lovers Mourn
Having listened to the latest Draconian album Arcane Rain Fell I felt compelled to go back and search for the band’s debut Where Lovers Mourn. Not to diminish what my colleague Jack had done previously I thought about the idea to write back-to-back reviews and post them in the same week. Good or bad initiative – you decide.
Two Draconian albums are almost the perfect tale of this young Swedish band’s evolution, and also a headscratcher for the doom fans about how many faces of the genre they can tolerate. Where Lovers Mourn is the band’s first full-length, borrowing songs from demos and showing the band hatching out of the egg, processing a lot of their favorite bands’ influences in the process.
The album is diverse, almost too eclectic in its approach to melodic and sad music. You would not think that if only given the opportunity to listen to the first part of the epic opener The Cry of Silence. Slow, mournful with wailing guitar sequences, the song announces the band’s fascination with My Dying Bride melodic doomdeath style, including Anders Jacobsson painful Aaron Stainthorpe styled growls. As the song proceeds, however, more and more gothic mannerisms make appearance. Both synthesizer and choral arrangements add drama touch. And then, of course, there is a matter of Lisa Johansson, the band’s female vocalist. If in The Cry of Silence she is somewhat of a cameo, many other songs on Where Lovers Mourn feature her prominently. Thankfully, she is not an operatic singer, as that would probably throw Draconian into a long list of Norwegian beauty-and-the-beast bands. Instead, she sounds clean and folksy, like a spring water creek (Akherousia). Seizing on the authentic folk nature of Lisa’s voice the use of strings in The Solitude and A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal (main violin melody) is very clever and ingenious. With these songs Anders and his growls are almost content to color the background firmly planting Lisa in the lead. And for that matter, when drum beats get stronger and rhythms become crunchier (The Amaranth) Tristania comparisons are practically unavoidable.
Prominent gothic influences do not overshadow the fact Where Lovers Mourn goes in every which way. Silent Winter has so much Opeth in it, from the riffs reminiscent of The Moor to Anders growling metaphysically low a la Akerfeldt. The end of The Amaranth, with its mid-Eastern solo and Anders/Lisa duet, reminds of Theli-era Therion, and the double bassed outburst at the end of The Cry of Silence is pure Gothenburg melodeath. Didn’t I say at the beginning that this was going to be diverse?
Reversio ad Secessum and the closer It Grieves My Heart revisit the doomier dirges, but I simply could not get rid of the feeling that sadness in Where Lovers Mourn is a little too sweet. By design (large role of synthesizers and female vocals) or due to production, the passion nectar exuded by Draconian on this album is satisfying, but syrupy. New producer, new studio, but the same creative forces behind them, things were to be rectified on Arcane Rain Fell.
My Quote – 75 / 100
Arcane Rain Fell
If the genre label fit a little loosely on the debut Where Lovers Mourn, there is absolutely no doubt left if you let their second album Arcane Rain Fell impinge on your senses.
On this album, the mood, the tempo, the production, everything just fell into place for Draconian and their emergence is complete. My Dying Bride inspiration pervasive, the sorrow is a lot less delectable, but massive and scathing instead. The opener A Scenery of Loss sets things up perfectly in this regard, its rain sound effects and a few narrative moments leading into the weeping guitar chords. As eclectic and diverse as Where Lovers Mourn was, Arcane Rain Fell deviates very little from its grave outlook. If there is a deathy part (The Apostasy Canticle), it is heavier and nastier than anything on Where Lovers Mourn, and steady riffing does not fall under gothic definition, the band instead giving their rhythm guitar a very definitive air-raid siren Katatoniaesque sound similar to the one on the influential Brave Murder Day album (The Abhorrent Rays).
Vocal choices logically follow. Lisa Johansson, female vocalist, now provides color background for Anders Jacobsson’s growls, unlike the debut. I hope Lisa does not get upset with her role so significantly reduced, but the atmosphere and disposition of Arcane Rain Fell indeed calls for harsh male growls. Interestingly enough, Anders seems a lot more understandable on this album. As much as the male voice wallows in misery, the female is there to provide support, tenderness and understanding. There is very little of sweet melodrama on Arcane Rain Fell. This is now simple: he grieves, she caresses, and the melody is overflowing the creative cup of Johan Ericson, guitarist and main composer of the band.
Taking a cue from the rest of the band, synthesizers are also relegated to the background, providing beautiful orchestral touches which give some songs’ parts the feeling of Heavenly Mass at some otherworldly cathedral (A Scenery of Loss, Heaven Laid in Tears).
As I was buying the album on Amazon I read one customer review saying how he liked the album, except the Satanic lyrics. The kid could not have been further from the truth. There is very little Satanic about Arcane Rain Fell, the way we normally understand it. This is the story of the Fallen Angel Lucifer being banished from High Heaven, where God decides to rule alone. And the account we get comes from Lucifer himself, not your garden variety bible interpretation. If interested, I strongly recommend NOT skipping the narrative Expostulation which explains the whole concept. In fact, this cut is done so well, this could be one narrative track you will look forward to, if you like the words pronounced with conviction, quiet orchestration and end-of-the-world drums. “Adonai, Elohim, El-Shaddai … Thou hast become the Father of Lies and I serve thee henceforth … NO MORE!” – this is some powerful lyrics. Expostulation proceeds to transition perfectly in Heaven Laid in Tears.
The only song that does not follow the concept is the 15 min closer Death, Come Near Me, which also I understand came from the earlier demo. No less morose than the rest of the album, it showcases the beautiful duet between Anders and Lisa, piano, acoustic parts and the lyrics that are tragic in their utter despondency. You have not lived, if you have never felt this way.
Arcane Rain Fell touched me deeply, and is going to join My Dying Bride Turn Loose the Swans and Yearning With Tragedies Adorned as the album I will be reaching towards when I think there is nothing left. The fans of early Yearning, Mar de Grieses, Morgion and Saturnus can fully embrace Draconian. 2005 brought a rebirth of sorts to this genre providing some of the year’s best albums (Slumber, Monolithe, Mourning Beloveth, Novembers Doom).
Killing Songs :
A Scenery of Loss, Expostulation, Heaven Laid in Tears, Death Come Near Me
|Alex quoted 93 / 100|
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