When I was growing up, the term Goth was not one of endearment. It generally referred to sullen faced sulky teenagers, often with unwashed back-combed hair, black nail polish and an unrequited love for The Cure’s Robert Smith. Of late, gothic has become a much more fashionable genre, both musically and cinematically. The popularity of Amy Lee’s band Evanescence, the DVD Box set favourite True Blood, the seemingly ubiquitous Twilight movies.
There has always been a strain of gothic running through heavy metal. The love of drama and melodrama; the sense of despair underpinned with a love of horror, morbidity, darkness: all have been key components in the development of metal.
It was perhaps not entirely unexpected that we would get to having a goth metal sub-genre at some point and Draconian are probably its best and most articulate exponents. Their latest album, Turning Season Within, is another exposition of their particular art, with some solid goth metal vignettes on display once again.
The twin vocal talents of Lisa Johansson and Anders Jacobsson won’t be to everyone’s liking but to these ears, it works well, marrying the despair, disenchantment but hopeful romanticism that permeates the record particularly well.
There are, as you would hope, some nice melodious tunes on this release. When I Wake has a lovely pounding riff accompanied by some seriously growling vocals offset with the often gossamer light vocals from Lisa; it’s a glorious example of what the band are capable of.
Likewise, Morphine and The Failure Epiphany expand the band’s musical range to embrace an often more progressive angle to their music which works well and enhances the mood and feeling across the record. In particular, The Failure Epiphany has an Opeth– like acoustic arrangement coupled with a ferocious blast of death metal. Its sounds like it shouldn’t work- strangely, and thankfully, it does.
On the plus side, Turning Season Within has much more in common with Opeth, Katatonia or Swallow the Sun than they do with Evanescence, Within Temptation or their ilk. This is exactly what I from goth- genuinely moody, genuinely epic, genuinely misery-strewn rather than the badge-wearing, bed-wetting shambles thrown out by lesser bands and artists.
On the downside, Draconian sometimes confuse “epic” with “slow and boring”, could do with a few more hummable tunes and, listeners, there is no merit in the spoken word nonsense that is September Ashes, the album’s closing track. It’s godawful, sixth form poetry, uttered with such ridiculous conviction I was laughing loudly.
Notwithstanding that unfortunate kiss-off track, there’s quite a lot to like with Turning Season Within, especially if you like this sort of thing. There’s also quite a lot that will get on your nerves, even if you do like this sort of thing. A bit of a mixed bag, then. However, if you are going to do your goth metal, then at least do it properly and Draconian are the real goth metal deal.
written by Mat Davies