Draconian - A Rose For The Apocalypse (2011)



When last we left Sweden's Draconian, they had blown Murmaider away with their 2005 offering, "Arcane Rain Fell", and left me with a heavy heart after 2008's "Turning Season Within." Now, staying on their "every three years" schedule, the band are set to release their newest and most complete album to date. And with "A Rose For The Apocalypse," the band take their sound to new heights, and your emotions to dark, new lows.

The apocalypse begins with a double bass attack, something "The Drowning Age" carries throughout. Dark, distorted chugging accompanies the otherworldly growls of frontman Anders Jacobsson. But, as with past releases, he is so often offset by the beauty of Lisa Johansson. The music slows to a doom styled crawl, with ominous spoken words layered on top of whining guitars and a booming kick drum. Following the solid writing and structure, we end where we began, and acoustic guitars fade out.

Dialing back the aggression slightly, "The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight" leads with Johansson's angelic tones, before drums build and Jacobsson takes over storytelling duties. His screams have grown in depth, cutting through the heavy drums and guitar work. He takes the track into the depths of Hell with each growl. A guitar melody brings you to "End Of The Rope," guided by blasting snares and rapid kicks. Dueling guitars form the body of the verse, allowing Jacobsson to deliver his lyrical power. Don't get lost in his harsh presentation, for their are well crafted lyrics contained therein. Johansson soothes your sonic wounds in each of her divine passages. A soft, echoing keyboard carries you out.

Johansson voice, too, has grown in power and passion, as is evident on "Elysian Night." Adding some effects to her backing vocals proves key, creating a ghostly feel when combined with keyboards and synths. Layer after layer, coming together in glorious, evil harmony. Drums continue to hammer away, clearing a path for deafening growls. A soft interlude featuring lightly spoken words caps things off. "Deadlight" does something you rarely see throughout the bands catalog. It pairs both harsh and clean female vocals together, on top of one another. The contrast is breathtaking. Blistering double bass work and high speed bass lines enter in "Dead World Assembly," coming to an abrupt halt when vocals enter. The tempo drops, the volume evens out, and Johansson leads. Like a dance, she then allows Jacobsson to spring forward with a thundering build of instruments and violence.

Acoustic strings introduce "A Phantom Dissonance" before the guitars tear down the walls. The band balance beauty and brawn, cutting back and forth flawlessly time and again. The song builds to a fury, then cuts back to a flowing work of art. There is an ethereal haze created in "The Quiet Storm," a track with a most fitting name. Acoustic strums are all Johansson needs, as her effects-tinged voice comes through like old time radio. Even as the destructive voice of Jacobsson enters, the music slowly descends to madness. he welcomes the oncoming storm, as do you, knowing that gritty guitars will aid you.

The album moves to a finish with the chugging work on "The Death Of Hours," a track that combines the dirty, sludge guitar work with darting melodic picking. The harsh male vocals are at their devastating best, destroying everything in sight. That low, hollow kick drum that has become a Draconian signature is always there, like thunder before the lightning. Brilliant, depresssing spoken words hand off the outro to a guitar solo. A fitting end to a emotional journey. Unless, of course, the digipak version of the album is in your hands. In that case, "Wall Of Sighs" will be your finale, with a beautiful violin solo that is as impressive as it is saddening.

Once again, Draconian assert themselves at the head of the class. One crushing track after another, the band prove that this is not a stale genre. They have honed their skills, developed their craft, and come back better than ever. There is always a shared concern among fans when bands take so much time between albums, especially when there is limited touring in between. But is simply not a problem for these Swedes. If this is what the apocalypse has in store for us, then bring it on.

9.5/10

Official Site - http://www.draconian.se/
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/draconianmusic