It is a not very well kept secret that DRACONIAN are one of my favourite bands in the Gothic Doom Metal genre, so every time a new album rolls around, I have a fairly high level of excitement build up, “A Rose For The Apocalypse” was no exception. And on their fourth album since 2003 (with the last three they seem to have fallen into a fairly comfortable three year rhythm), if you don’t count the mix of old and new titled “The Burning Halo”, they at the same time deliver us more of their true and tested, but also try to bring in a little bit of a change to avoid being labeled as a copy of themselves, mostly in the structure of the songs, however subtle.
The basics are still the same, a melancholic mix of Doom and Gothic Metal, with the dual vocals of Anders Jacobsson and Lisa Johansson and overall an excellent balance between cohesiveness and enough variety to keep things interesting throughout. Now where in the past, the album covers had been moody and fitting the melancholic atmosphere of the musical content, the one for “A Rose For The Apocalypse” is just, well, weird, and does not really set the locale with the right mood, yet once “The Drowning Age” sucks you into their latest effort, that is forgotten as you are being immersed into the elegiac worls of DRACONIAN. Effortlessly flowing from double-bass underlaid sad melodies into very calm passages, with the interplay between Anders’ growls and Lisa’s at times ethereal vocal performance, the song is a near-perfect display of the class of the Swedes’ penmanship, once more showcasing why Anders’ growls are among the best of the genre, fitting and actually setting the atmosphere together with the bleak and desolate lyrics.
With “End Of The Rope” they even evoke a bit of “Arcane Rain Fell” in its atmosphere and its melodies, but overall they show that they have moved on from the original formula just enough to keep things fresh. The best tracks, other than the already mentioned opener, in my opinion are “Elysian Night”, “Dead World Assembly”, “A Phantom Dissonance” and “The Death Of Hours”, for different reasons, though. The first is the maybe gloomiest track of them all, which again draws from the interaction between Anders’ and Lisa’s opposite vocals, which technically could be lumped into the “Beauty And The Beast” category, but they use the contrasts so efficiently that you can’t hold this against them in any way, shape or form. With the second, Lisa’s ethereal delivery takes centre stage a little more, to be met with some of the growls in the middle, but the use of acoustic guitars and even violin make the arrangement of the song just simply beautiful. “A Phantom Dissonance” is the probably strongest contrast to “Dead World Assembly” and also within “A Rose For The Apocalypse”, since it features the probably heaviest riffing, but also goes all the way down to clean guitars and Lisa’s lone voice over some light bass and drums, before “The Death Of Hours” sums up DRACONIAN’s sound with at times very slow rhythm and just masterful song writing in total.
Just as in the past, the production is crystal clear, highlighting every voice and every instrument without making it sound sterile, though, creating a nicely warm sound that complements the mood and atmosphere of the album. In the end “A Rose For The Apocalypse” is another worthy addition to DRACONIAN’s catalogue, but does not really add anything new to their palette of colours, other than the above mentioned subtle varieties in the structures of the songs, still a standout release within the genre and followers of the band can’t make any mistake with picking this one up.
(Online December 20, 2011)