Oscar Wilde once wrote, "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars." Looking at the stars is what Draconian
invites us to do, taking our spirits on a trip among them with the vessel that is Sovran, an oppressively romantic album.
1/ Atmospheric oppression
Sovran is the band's most doom and tragic album since Dark Oceans We Cry; paradoxically though, their oppressive melodies are dreamy: the growls groan like a man exhausted to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders and wishing to be rid of this heavy body imprisoning his soul...until the clear celestial female vocals take him into the embrace of their wings, and they fly away together toward the stars at the end of the beautiful "Dishearten", the lyrics of which were in fact writer by Heike!
The "beauty and the beast" vocals merge on top of the buzzing of three guitars and a bass downtuned to Drop C and of a powerful drum rhythm following mightily the excruciatingly slow tempo, topped off by a few organ and violin interventions. Draconian
remains faithful to its usual brand of doom gothic metal based on the contrast between the weighty guitars and soaring violin, the oppressive drums and airy organ, the powerful growls and soft female vocals.
Such emotion too in her bewitching voice! It felt like listening to Sharon Den Adel at her prime until I put Heike Langhans's face and name on it. "She gave me her voice this angel
in my view." Heike's voice brings Draconian's music the innocence and passion Lisa had lost. Her song blends perfectly with the clear vocals of Daniel Änghede providing guest vocals on "Rivers Between Us", the track judiciously chosen for the promotional video and a beautifully moving ballad that fails to become cliché thanks to the growls at the end of the track and the tortured lyrics, "The cuts in my flesh/The red in your eyes" or "Another deception/I whisper goodbye".—On another note and in keeping with a topic fleetingly mentioned just above, the official video for Sovran is also eagerly awaited by the fans!
I find myself disappointed at the end of each track, but my disappointment is only due to the song being over—I am thus grateful that the longest track was chosen to be the last of the album. Johan Ericsen's compositions are still skilfully written and although the two first tracks of the album were too linear to convince me entirely of their worth, all was forgiven once "Dishearten" came along.
2/ Gothic romanticism
Draconian's aesthetic is romantic in the original sense: nature seems to be their main source of inspiration as can be noticed in the elemental lexical field even in the titles of songs amongst their discography, titles like "Shades of a Lost Moon", "Dark Oceans We Cry", "Arcane Rain Fell", "Turning Season Within", "A Rose For the Apocalypse"... "Sovran" is an exception in that the title doesn't express it explicitly but a stellar theme can be read throughout the lyrics; a theme that is somewhat recurring and often merged with that of the sea, with terms like "river", "blue" or "mariner: the sea acts as a mirror reflecting the starry sky, becoming a sea of stars...a "cosmic ocean".
When the previous album went out, Anders Jacobsson
said that "The lyrics have been a part of a soul-searching journey
over the past years." He then promised that "Fans [would] see the romanticism, the darkness and the beauty". The lyrics, this time co-written with Heike, depict a world bearing the colours of death, love, and torment. However, this universe is shaken by the technical scientific terms out of works like Krauss's "A Universe From Nothing" or Sagan's "Comos". The use of more poetic imagery would have a better effect than terms like "cosmic", "astrospace" or "nebula"! It's a mistake that Shelley or Byron would have failed to make.
The lyrics of "No Lonelier Star" or "Stellar Tombs" invites one to contemplate the immensity of the universe and to question oneself, thinking, "each of us is but one human being among so many others, on a planet among so many others, in a galaxy among so many others, in a corner of an infinite universe. How then can one bear the weight of the world on one's frail shoulders! With distance, it can be noticed that at the end of the day, one is but a poet writing—or a fan reciting—endless versified lamentations, complaints due to one's suffering; but in the end, this pain is enjoyable. Indeed, this pain is mighty, proof that one sees beyond the scope of all those blind commoners; but nobody holds a monopoly on pain. Which reminds me of another of their interviews I heard, in which I misheard "mankind aimlessly breeding"; what I heard is I believe much more real: "mankind endlessly bleeding".
(Translation by Gautier Milewski)