Draconian - Under A Godless Veil review

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Band: Draconian
Album: Under A Godless Veil
Release date: October 2020

01. Sorrow Of Sophia
02. The Sacrificial Flame
03. Lustrous Heart
04. Sleepwalkers
05. Moon Over Sabaoth
06. Burial Fields
07. The Sethian
08. Claw Marks On The Throne
09. Night Visitor
10. Ascend Into Darkness

A change of personnel seems to have worked nicely for Draconian; Sovran reversed their seemingly downward trajectory, and this record should cement that change in direction.

Draconian's early work, particularly Arcane Rain Fell, counts among some of the most beloved work in the Gothic doom subgenre, to the extent that even I, someone who is not typically drawn to that sound, finds a lot to like in said material. There seemed to be a hint of diminishing returns with subsequent releases, however, culminating in Lisa Johansson leaving the group after A Rose For The Apocalypse. Her replacement, Heike Langhans of :LOR3L3I: and other projects, made a solid first impression on 2015's Sovran. The five years following that album were the longest the band have gone without putting out a record, but 2020's Under A Godless Veil makes good on the promise of Sovran.

Although I'm not intimately familiar with the group, I don't think fans of Draconian will find too much to be surprised by on this album; predominantly slow-mid speeds, female cleans/male growls trading off from each other, gloomy riffs with force behind them, and atmospheric, cleaner segments. The formula's not markedly altered, but it's delivered to a high standard with the level of conviction one would expect from Draconian, resulting in solid early cuts on the record such as "Sorrow Of Sophia", "Lustrous Heart" and "Moon Over Sabaoth". If there's one complaint I could offer towards Under A Godless Veil, I feel like a number of the tracks could have run a minute or two shorter; not that they necessarily drag to the point of me seriously losing interest, but some of the momentum they build starts to dissipate before all is said and done. Obviously, Draconian are no strangers to pulling off fantastic long songs (hell, they wrote "Death, Come Near Me"), but they're very capable when trying their hand at shorter tracks, including with "Night Visitor" on this album. It's by no means a dealbreaker, but I feel like a handful of tracks here slightly overstay their welcome, with "The Sacrificial Flame" one in particular that could have been condensed.

For the most part, I find Under A Godless Veil to be a solid listen without too many overly memorable moments, at least in its early stages, but of the first half-dozen tracks, "Sleepwalkers" most reliably grabbed my attention during my first few playthroughs; predominantly muted, it has a memorable pre-chorus where clean guitar and atmospheric drumming is accompanied with muted, distant growls before a stirring Langhans/Anders Jacobssen chorus duet. Like others as already mentioned, this track arguably pushes its runtime to or just beyond the limit, but it has some quality moments in it.

However, although "Sleepwalkers" usually managed to remind me that I was listening to the record during the first couple of listens, in terms of grabbing the listener's attention it has nothing on "The Sethian", a simply stellar cut that I would be genuinely surprised to not see become widely considered as one of the standout songs from the album. On a record that rigidly stays in the slow lane, something with the relative level of energy that this song brings is already going to make an impact (I mean, it's not fast, but it picks things up a bit), but they back up that elevated intensity with some spellbinding music, from the atmospheric, tom-heavy drumming early on, through to the buzzing tremolo and thunderous percussion that announces the chorus. The enchantment that Langhans gently singing above this crashing storm casts is so potent that it frankly makes me slightly frustrated that Gothic doom doesn't more regularly instil this level of passion in me.

As far as I'm concerned, "The Sethian" sits proud at the top of the pile of the songs that comprise Under A Godless Veil, but it doesn't completely outshine every song, with closer "Ascend Into Darkness" in particular delivering plenty to be impressed by. Without remotely wanting to discredit the first half of the album, the combination of these two songs, and to a lesser degree the duo of tracks in between, really makes Under A Godless Veil a bottom-heavy album. However, if you want to leave a good lasting impression, ending an album strongly is as good a way to do it as any.

Time will tell what those more keen on this sound think, but whilst I don't feel like this will be the crowning glory of the band's career, it's a very strong effort and should provide respectable competition to Paradise Lost's Obsidian for the title of being the best 2020 has to offer in Gothic doom.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 8


Written on 27.10.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not

Comments page 2 / 2

Comments: 35   Visited by: 339 users
31.10.2020 - 05:50

I like the songwritting skill of the band as a whole. There is no bad or medium track. All the tracks are stellar and they flow effortlessly, one after the other. This is what Draconian does best and they did it this time too.
02.11.2020 - 22:48

Amen !
17.11.2020 - 00:42

I enjoyed very much. Really dark, heavy and atmospheric, with great vocals.

Really great piece of Doom Metal.
11.01.2021 - 23:40

But would i crown them the album of 2020/? Nahh..
19.01.2021 - 21:44
Angel N.
Evil Butterfly
I've been following this band for 12 years and I can say that your score of 6 for originality is quite generous, it doesn't matter if you're a huge fan of style to review an album, in fact, it may even help to look at it more objectively.
The Fangirl.

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