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Draconian may have been the first doom metal band I ever got into. Although I had already experienced the powerful fusion of 'extreme metal' and melodic melancholy through bands like Opeth, Draconian's debut album 'Where Lovers Mourn' presented to me a different side of metal, one that took the tempo to the pace of a funeral march, with a dreary tone to match. Although doom is in no short supply of bands, and Draconian was certainly not the first to innovate this well-worn sound, they were the band who broke me into doom. In the years that have passed since then, however, Draconian have certainly changed their sound, to one that would not have been nearly as refreshing to me back then, but possesses as much emotional resonance as they always have. 'A Rose For The Apocalypse' continues Draconian's path towards a less obscure, and more harmonious sound. While the progressive and emphatic polish of Draconian will leave a weak taste to some, the band continues to mature and develop.
The death-doom category generally does not have much room for bands to separate from one another stylistically, without throwing away the label altogether. All the same, there is a significant development from their early material and this. Most notably, the band favours a much cleaner sense of production than they have in the past, and certainly in comparison with their first record. When you factor in the grief-filled growls, melodic guitar riffs and emphasis on epic composition, it's easy to joke that Draconian and Swallow The Sun are the same band, and that was the first thing I thought when hearing 'A Rose For The Apocalypse'. Regardless, this is not necessarily a bad path for Draconian to go down. As the incredible opener 'The Drowning Age' demonstrates, there is much potential for that feeling of epic, emotional impact that Draconian have always seen fit to deliver.
The vocals are structured around the often-used 'beauty and the beast' dynamic; that is, the contrast of pretty female vocals and a male growler. I have often found this gimmick to fall short and tread 'pure cheese' territory, although Draconian don't do a bad job with employing it. Lisa Johansson's voice is pure and the melodies she sings are stirring. As expected, the instrumentation is nothing to show off, but 'A Rose For The Apocalypse' feels very well produced and professionally performed. Where I feel that 'A Rose For The Apocalypse' falls off the wagon a bit is simply in the repetitive nature of the ideas on the album. That's not to say that any of these songs repeat themselves into monotony; the songwriting here is excellent. Rather on a hollistic album basis, it's difficult to be surprised even two or three songs into the record. Besides some ambient violin and an occasional mellotron, it becomes slightly difficult to maintain interest in what Draconian are doing by the end of the album, if only for the fact that these songs sound so much the same. Granted, there has never been a great deal of variety in their work or doom in general, but with the slightly more song-oriented, upbeat and produced nature, 'A Rose For The Apocalypse' feels like it runs in circles. On a song-by-song level however, Draconian are making some of the best death-doom out there.