Written by Mass
Album: Under a Godless Veil
Genre: Gothic Doom Metal
Release Date: October 30th, 2020
Highlights: Ascend into Darkness – The Sethian – The Sacrificial Flame – Sorrow of Sophia – Claw Marks on
The Grandeur of Stillness / The Sad Voice of Wisdom
This year has been a flourishing year for doom metal as several of the Doom giants have released their masterpieces, among whom we can name My Dying Bride’s The Ghost of Orion, Paradise Lost’s Obsidian and Pallbearer’s Forgotten Days. But above all, I had been looking forward to listening to Draconian. They have always been an inimitable band to me and their signature gothic doom death metal sound has enthralled me ever since I discovered them more than a decade ago with their album Turning Season Within (2008), where I listened to “When I Wake” until my ears, as well as my heart, started to bleed. Album after album, they have stamped themselves upon the massive corpus of Doom Metal.
After their colossal Sovran (2015), which was met with unanimous exceptional commend, the band took five long years to conceive, bear, and mature their seventh offering and release it precisely on the same date as their previous gem. They had an onerous task to equal or even possibly surpass their previous work. The extent to which they have succeeded, in this particular case, is a matter of taste.
It is through and through a well-planned and well-executed concept album: exquisiteness, artistry and skill galore. Since the first moment the curtains open, there is this heavy atmospheric resonance to which, later on, the goth-doom element is added. “Sorrow of Sophia” is a manifestation of the art of the band in its more subtle form. Initially, a dreamy soundscape is presented to us with Heike Langhans’
velvety vocals followed then, after almost a minute and a half, by Anders Jacobsson’s tremendous growls. The give-and-take of vocals continues throughout the whole song and in the meantime, the music is further augmented by the power of the strings.
Despite being the album in a nutshell, the opener is not the highest rating track. On such a wholesome and coherent album as Under a Godless Veil, picking one highlight is rather impossible, yet for the sake of reviewing, what can stand atop others can be “Ascend into Darkness.” With a runtime of roughly 10 minutes, this closer is the Draconian we all adore and admire. With Heike’s melodious and melancholic expressions of sentiments, Anders’ infernal vocal delivery, Johan Ericson and Daniel Arvidsson’s melo-
death riffage (one like those of Insomnium’s), scaffolded wherever and whenever necessary by Jerry Torstensson’s drumming, “Ascend into Darkness” is indeed the band’s ascension into the tenebrosity they had striven to achieve.
As stated earlier, Under a Godless Veil is a coherent yet diverse album; for an album of more than one hour, it ought to be so. “The Sacrificial Flame” is a down-tempo classic doom track, “Burial Fields” borders on dark ambient, “Night Visitor” delves into atmospheric doom (the damn solo on this, such a heartfelt beauty!), “Moon over Sabaoth” manifests the band’s austere, death-y side, “The Sethian” in parts gets its foot into the realm of atmospheric black metal, “Lustrous Heart” is gothic meets doom, and “Sleepwalkers” and “Claw Marks on the Throne” blend several of said elements into a gratifying mix. All the while, it is unmistakably Draconian you are listening to.
Music-wise, the dichotomy of the founding member Anders Jacobsson and the new South African Heike Langhans (joining the band prior to the release of Sovran) shouldering the singing tasks is truly a pinnacle the band has been able to achieve. However, overlooking Jacobsson’s art of lyricism would be far from fair. The impact the album leaves could be partly, and so duly, attributed to the lucidity and solidity of narration of this concept album. The concept of Sophia as, in addition to being a Jungian archetype, a mythos and a parallel to Christos figure in Christian mythology (or demonology, whatever!) keeps the album together in one piece. Sophia is an eminent figure in Gnosticism; she is a primordial soul being, but also, she functions as the creator of life and material world in some ways through the creation of Yaldabaoth or Demiurge. She is then dishonored, trapped, tortured and dismembered under the tyranny of a cruel god, Sabaoth and other demonic figures like Archons. Christ (her male counterpart) comes and seeks to collect and assemble her pieces, leading her to fulness (Pleroma) and
thus redeeming her. Subsequently, a Sethian wishes to avenge her and finally there is demise. Such a moving narrative indeed!
Another aspect of the album which has been of high caliber is the artwork. Natalia Drepina’s photo reflects the macabre and two-fold essence of the album in all its nuances and dark subtle furrows. The fiendish hand, stretching from the shadows outside the frame of the picture, grabbing the tender pale corpse by the top of her head, particularly the eye sockets and forehead, while she lies on grass in an
immaculate position wearing a white dress which foils the darkness of the surroundings and that of her hands all contribute to the impact of the scene. This album art is so Draconian and nothing short of splendid. It is what it should be and so, so much more.
In spite of the band’s more softened sound and more atmospheric approach on Under a Godless Veil, which might be comparatively overly lax and subdued to some fans and critics alike, resulting in some mixed reviews and certain expressions of minor dissatisfaction coming from both fronts, I, being an unswerving atmospheric die-hard, found this work of art to my heart’s content. Well, maybe, just maybe, somewhere deep within my sinister unconscious, I would wish to have had more heavy riffs and more death in it. But I am not, by any means, complaining. Under a Godless Veil is what Draconian should take pride in.
Personal satisfaction: 9.0