Artist: Draconian

Album Title: Under A Godless Veil

Label: Napalm Records

Date of Release: 30 October 2020

If you’re looking for a musical pick-me-up, the aural equivalent of chasing the last rays of sunshine before winter takes an icy grip, then this is most definitely not the album for you. In fact, given the year that we have had, you’d have to be a masochist to want to listen to an album like this. Well, you would if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so damn beautiful. ‘Under A Godless Veil’ is the seventh studio long-player in the Draconian discography and it’s the first that has moved me enough to want to write about it in a positive way.

It’s quite a rarity these days, but I’m finding myself smitten by a band that deploys the male/female, clean/gruff dual vocal approach. Too many substandard bands wanting to jump on a popular bandwagon meant that I quickly lost interest in this genre of music. It felt like it was a case of style over substance far too often. Here, though, I am rather beguiled by the music that artfully straddles the Gothic and doom genres, creating something both heavy and beautiful. For me, it is the strength of the melodies that is the biggest positive on this record, with many songs making me want to stop what I’m doing, close my eyes and listen. Not every one of the ten tracks pulls me in, but enough do to ensure that I find ‘Under A Godless Veil’ to be an entertaining listen.

Crushing, morbid brutality comes through the speakers on tracks like ‘The Sacrificial Flame’, a track that could, for large parts, be confused with My Dying Bride. The riffs are slow, lumbering, and devastating. But then the voice of Heike Langhans cuts through the darkness to offer a touch of beauty, a stark contrast to the snarling, deep, and guttural growl of Anders Jacobsson. An elegant lead guitar line, some atmospheric synths and enough of a hint of melody combine to really positive effect.

There are other heavy moments to be heard across this album, as seen at points within ‘Lustrous Heart’ and the closer ‘Ascend Into Darkness’. But for every bludgeoning doom riff, Draconian are intent on providing melody, beauty, majesty, dressed up in a distinctly dark and melancholy Gothic veil. It creates an interesting result, because the sheer amount of melody does serve to dilute the extreme edges of the music. This will either be a welcome facet of the music, or one that ultimately might detract from your enjoyment. This will depend on the side of the fence upon which you sit, but I get the feeling that some will love ‘Under A Godless Veil’, but others less so. For me, despite my love of heavy music, I love the final product.

As an example of what I’m talking about, tracks like ‘Burial Fields’ are built almost entirely on layers of synths that create rich, Gothic textures, where spoken word and haunting, ethereal vocals carry the listener on a much more serene journey than perhaps I was expecting when I listened for the first time. But it’s a beautiful composition, full of emotion, with gorgeous, subtle melodies.

It’s a similar tale with the first half of ‘Claw Marks On The throne’, albeit this has a darker, more ominous tone, eventually opening up to reveal a heavier core. But even then, the delicate melodies remain and despite a foray into more muscular territory, complete with arresting lead guitar solo, this remains a surprisingly elegant and beautiful track. ‘Night Visitor’ is another quieter piece with super atmosphere, accented by semi-clean guitar chords and a delightful, soulful lead break towards the close.

At this juncture though, let’s take a step back to the opening track, ‘Sorrow Of Sophia’, a track that’s the perfect opener because it contains a little bit of everything that Draconian do so well for me on this record. There’s a sombre intro, explosions of power via Johan Ericsson and Daniel Arvidsson’s riffing, as well as uncompromising growls. But there are also extended sections where delicate guitars, minimal percussion, and rich orchestration take centre stage alongside Heike’s soothing tones, to create a heart-wrenching opening piece of music.

For me, ‘Under A Godless Veil’ is book-ended by two of the best songs on the record, not to mention two of the most varied tracks. ‘Ascend Into Darkness’ maintains the high quality to the very end, closing the album on a high point among many other high points. Icy, fast-picked black metal-like riffs cut through the song like a knife, but at other points, there’s a real groove to proceedings as the funeral pace is quickened to nice effect, creating an engaging ebb and flow.

In between, the melodies within the aforementioned ‘Lustrous Heart’ are stunning, growing in power with every spin. The same is true for ‘Sleepwalkers’, an utterly incredible composition that features some interesting male vocals, lashings of claustrophobic atmosphere, and topped off by the most arresting and majestic chorus complete with a vocal duet of sorts that works really well. I could say much the same about ‘Moon Over Sabaoth’ thanks to another striking melody alongside great compositional nous.

As you can tell, I have been highly impressed by this record. A band that was always a little ‘middle-of-the-road’ in my estimations has really forced me to re-evaluate things with ‘Under A Godless Veil’. The heavy parts are satisfyingly bruising, but there is a veritable smorgasbord of melody and more subtle aspects, which means that my attention is held throughout. There’s not a weak track on this album, which also speaks volumes for the consistency and quality of this record. If you haven’t already checked it out, I suggest you remedy that as quickly as possible.

The Score of Much Metal: 92%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede

DGM – Tragic Separation

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews