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I loved The Burning Halo from the very first listen, and I knew right then that Draconian was a band I needed to look into further. It was only natural then that I ended up at the album that followed, Turning Season Within. Overall I would call this a step down in quality, but it is still a great album and I would recommend it to those starting out in death/doom.
I was full of praise for Anders and Lisa on the album that preceded this one, and all this one does is back up my initial thoughts. Lisa in particular is fantastic, capable of doing so much and fitting her voice into whatever style the scenario calls for. She's so consistently brilliant, always enhancing the music when she appears, and it all sounds so effortless. She's truly one of the best female vocalists that I've heard. Anders delivers deep crushing growls that contrast harshly with Lisa's serene cleans, and he's also got to be in contention for being the best in his field. While there are a lot of powerful vocalists out there, not many can portray raw emotion while growling, which is a skill that Anders seems to have mastered. There are bits where he appears soulless (unfortunately really, given that this was not the case on The Burning Halo), but as a whole he's very good at channeling the suffering of the character he portrays. But while both of these vocalists are great by themselves, when they duet with each other on tracks like 'The Failure Epiphany' the music goes to a whole new level. There's something about the contrast that's fascinating and I feel as though it ought not to work, but it does. It's a shame that they don't combine like that more often.
The music is fairly simple and there tends to only be three varieties on offer; one kind relies almost entirely on Lisa's vocals accompanied by a piano, while the other two are largely dependent on thundering guitars and either Anders's growls or Lisa's cleans. It's a style that works - to an extent. It definitely helps to build the music up and emphasise the more powerful sections, but doing the same thing over and over again is rather predictable and stale. Even on my first listen to songs on the latter part of Turning Season Within I was practically counting Lisa in before she appeared in the choruses. Some of the stuff they do is fantastic, and the melodies are brilliant right the way across the album, but something about the song structure just doesn't hit me the way that other records in their discography do. There are less subtle elements blending together than on The Burning Halo, and it's nowhere near as heavy and hard-hitting as Sovran. In comparison this seems so much more basic, and it doesn't have quite the same level of emotional charge as either of those records. I don't know think that the blame can be placed on one individual, but the package as a whole is simply weaker.
So while it makes for a good listen, compared to other Draconian records Turning Season Within is a little sub-par. The standouts are 'Seasons Apart', 'Not Breathing' and 'The Failure Epiphany', but even those tracks are quite a slow burn when held against 'Pale Tortured Blue' or 'The Morningstar'. When it gets to the chorus and the band are in full swing this is a wonderful listen, but when they're not it's quite underwhelming.
It's worth prefacing this review by saying that following up a release as great at "Arcane Rain Fell" is no easy task. And they certainly did not manage to do it, at least in my opinion. While TSW is not bad, the direction of it does worry me a little bit as a long time Draconian fan. While previous releases fit pretty neatly into the category of "Gothic Melo-doom" this record fits more neatly into the category of... "Melogoth" (yes I'm tossing genre labels together, wanna fight about it?)
I mean, it's certainly catchy. There is pretty much no denying that. But it lacks the really doomy and chunky vibe that was present in much of their previous releases. This is exponentially more 'pretty-sounding' than anything they have done so far. It also simply does not have the replay-ability that Arcane Rain or even Where Lover Mourn did. You can listen to the entire CD once, get the basic idea of what's going on, and not really feel compelled to go back and listen to it again. I would say I got bored of this CD after probably a month and have not really listened to it much since despite the fact that I still regularly listen to older releases. Where TSW succeeds in how pretty it sounds, it fails pretty strongly in implementing a haunting, chilling, or overall foreboding and dark musical experience. Often times I would liken it to teenagers hanging out in a graveyard writing the kind of poetry you'd expect to find teenagers hanging out in a graveyard writing.
Get this record if: You are fairly new to metal and want something that is accessible. This is definitely the easiest of their releases to enjoy if you are not particularly well-rounded in the realm of doom but still want something depressive that is easy to catch onto.
Do not get this record if: You like actual doom. Simply put, this is not going to do it. If you are new to Draconian I would strongly recommend Arcane Rain Fell or Where Lovers Mourn first. They are very enjoyable releases and worth giving a listen if you like hauntingly beautiful and melodic doom style metal.
Also consider getting: To explain the title to this review, Johan Ericson (Draconian guitarist) has a side project called "Doom:vs" and he also made a release in 2008 named "Dead Words Speak"... if you are looking for a true churning, powerful, and moving Doom experience that is the CD you should be going after. No elements of gothic, just mid-paced funeral style doom metal. I don't want to turn this into a review for that but I would recommend checking it out of TSW is too tame for you.
Granted, once you’ve reached the top of the mountain, there’s little option left apart from going down again. Bands which managed to constantly stay at said top could probably be counted on a single hand. Therion might come to mind, but it’s a case I’m so biased about I wouldn’t dare developing, apart from the fact dealing with Draconian Therion isn’t the most unexpected name, if only for the ties both bands have shared with the occultists of Dragon Rouge. That’s not the point. The point being, after the doom masterpiece of Arcane Rain Fell, Draconian returned to a somehow softer, more gothicized sound. So far, not surprising, as Draconian’s always been a bit more of a gothic than a doom band, as shown by its earlier works.
But, taking Turning Season Within as a melodic/gothic doom album, the comparison with the act’s debut, the gorgeous Where Lovers Mourn, becomes unfortunately mandatory. Just in case you hadn’t understood, there’s even an explicit reference by the band itself, in the second track When I Wake: So break this seal where the quiet remains / Where lovers mourn, broken and torn. Alas, the comparison is all but advantageous for Draconian’s third full-length. While on the debut almost every song was remarkable, with a behemoth like The Cry of Silence walking alongside the upbeat Silent Winter, with the acoustic curio of Akherousia or the unforgettable Amaranth which could almost receive the catchy tag, here by contrast everything sounds formulaic, predictable, mechanical. Soft parts alternate with heavy parts, female vocals with growls in a pretty standard way – a way many bands which are NOT Draconian are perfectly familiar with. Like a good dog repeating its tricks, Draconian plays its mix of gothic and doom metal in total security – the recipe has long been mastered, there’s no faux pas to be feared. Oh, at least they don’t abuse of keyboards, poor consolation. Come, there’s sugar for you, dog.
Of course it may be objected Arcane Rain Fell was, in some respects, mechanical, and even repetitive – probably more repetitive than this one. But the mood was here, this irrepressible melancholy of the graveyard poets, thanks to those immortal doom leitmotivs, and the almost total absence of Lisa Johansson’s voice which made her few apparitions even more precious. Now with less emphasis put on doom riffing, with every track exhibiting the same slow mid-tempo, with Johansson again sharing approximately equal vocal duties with Anders Jacobsson the mood has necessarily become lighter, less oppressive, even if the production doesn’t particularly differ. The melancholy remains, but on a friendlier side.
Actually, the flaws become all the more obvious given the guys included ONE song suggesting what this album could have been had they, let’s put it crudely, felt a bit more involved into it. Earthbound. Though the opening of this track doesn’t fundamentally differ from the others and doesn’t seem to go against the established formula, there’s already hints that at one moment or another something has to happen – the guitars might sound slightly more menacing, the sound might be slightly heavier – it’s merely subjective. When, after a disquieting quiet part, suddenly at 3:05 the storm breaks in. Now you’ve got it, that’s DOOM – one of those occurrences where anyone not writing the word all in caps is displaying a total lack of both taste and comprehension, y’know – just to remind you, finally, it’s Draconian playing, the band which recorded The Cry of Silence, Death Come Near Me or She Dies. And soon, topping this crushing, hopeless, slow as death progression, Lisa Johansson’s ethereal voice, more fragile as ever:
So frail the veil of life – so beautiful the face of death
Suddenly reveries bloom into night's heavy drenching...
As the title of hallucinating fairy should remain the sole property of the one and only Sona Kozakova (if you don’t know Sona Kozakova there’s some documentation for you at http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=4203), maybe dying angel on acid could work as an accurate description weren’t it equally senseless, but there would be little point remaining fully sensible dealing with an album which lyrical content is hinting to drugs in so many places. Besides, it’s amazing how much Johansson’s voice seems to transcend itself when backed by really heavy music. Sadly, it just seems the band itself still hasn’t understood it.
Devoting so many words to a single track could seem futile, all the more the other ones are far from bad. When I Wake or The Failure Epiphany for instance, taken separately, can compete with most melodic/gothic doom out there, however on the album as a whole they don’t particularly shine – while Earthbound, with its unique middle part, does. And that’s what can be rightfully expected from a band from the standing of Draconian; releasing not only good tracks, but tracks with stunning individualities, tracks that shouldn’t have to be studied for more than twenty listens to reveal their full potential. Turning Season Within is just Draconian’s weakest full-length to date and, what’s perhaps more worrying, lets an unpleasant taste of laziness. Let’s hope it’s nothing more than an impression.
Highlights: Earthbound, The Failure Epiphany
This band has gained some popularity in the doom scene, and not really undeserved. "Arcane Rain Fell" was good and I was hoping for them to continue down that path. Like most other newer bands populating the genre they draw their influences from My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Anathema and Paradise Lost.
Draconian's problem on the last album was definitely centered around one thing; Not enough guitars. Many of the songs were almost entirely flat in terms of guitars. It's hard to exactly describe it.. there simply wasn't enough going on. Just a melody here and there. This is however corrected here as there generally is more rhythm guitar work and drive going on.
Unfortunately the band has gained a problem they didn't have on the last disc.
After enjoying some solid doom metal for about a minute of "Seasons Apart" the song pulls to a stop for a piano break. What seemed very promising is more or less shattered by the female vocals, which are quite annoying. I know it's the same vocalist but the quality has dropped shockingly.
Instead of the often comfortable range presented on the last disc the pitch seems constantly forced. The chorus part at 3:05 is the grand example. It sounds grating and emotionless, I don't know what's happened. The goth level has also been upped, with more and more romantic and theatric themes making its way into the sound. Really reminds more of Within Temptation more than the last Draconian album. That's an influence I don't like to visit.
Generally this problem re-occurs. Many of the song have strong, Katatonia-like guitar parts and growls that really catch my interest. Then comes the female vocal break again and kills it for me. It just doesn't get there. "Bloodflower", "When I Wake", "Seasons Apart", "The Empty Stare". All great songs musically, and the growl smokes. Then comes this nasal, high vocal approach that just flat out kills them.
The general improvent of all the other aspects in their soundscape is what seals how frustrating "Turning Season Within" is. Production absolutely smokes, the band is getting heavier instrumentally, the growler keeps delivering. I really hope they can keep going down this path musically. Please just correct the female vocals for the next release and tune down the goth influences. There's potential for something much better.
Draconian as a band have been somewhat inconsistent in their music, although I would certainly say all of their albums are excellent. The problem always was that certain sections within song have often been turgid; they feel directionless but are often followed by a section of true brilliance. These sections for me always made it worth listening through the uninspired chugging parts. All their albums have a certain appeal about them and something I cannot quite place makes them special.
Turning Seasons Within is certainly their best album to date, everything about the album seems to work, the growl sections are not overly long and strained in a Trail of Tears manner, but at the same time the female vocals are not overly used a la Sirenia. They seem to have struck a decent balance.
The rhythm guitar and bass sound has alot of depth and as a result the songs feel epic without making the mistake of trying to fuse Hans Zimmer with Gothic Metal which some bands seem to think is the only way, after all there are many other ways to achieve vast sounding music. The drumming on the album is more interesting, as the drummer has really been given room for innovation with this release, which is a pleasant change from their previous releases where the drumming felt slightly mechanical at times. The lead guitar sound although distorted is pure and is high in the mix, So it cuts across the wall of sound to great effect, the end of "when I wake" is a good example of this.
It would be very easy to say this album is generic gothic/doom metal done well, However I would disagree, the overall feel of this album is generally different. For example most Gothic or Doom metal creates contrast between atonality and tonality, however the atonality feels like it’s discordant for dischordants’ sake. This album feels like the atonality has a purpose, the tritone is used to great effect being included in less obvious places to create tension, the female vocals aren't just used in the lighter textures as is the convention, but the heavier sections as well. There are other examples as well but this certainly isn't meant to be a music theory article so I will leave it at that.
The lyrics as always are full of sorrow and despair as is to be expected, but they do feel more articulately and thoughtfully written than others of their genre, this for me was definitely a highlight of this album.
This album is an example of what the gothic/doom genre can be, but Draconian also make the style their own. It has all the crunching guitar sounds, growls, soaring female vocals and (at the risk of sounding like a pretentious black metal reviewer) atmosphere that you would come to expect but with their own spin on it. Turning Seasons Within is definitely one of the albums of the year so far.
This album should have been as amazing as the last their last album. This album could have been as amazing as the last as their last album. Sadly, this is not the case however; because just like 'Arcane Rain Fell', this album (while good) borrows heavily from its contemporaries (specifically Mourning Beloveth).
The production is good and the music is alright but like the prior review states, this album is a Gothic affair. There is only one "true" Doom track on this recording, the rest is more or less watered down Gothic Metal.
The guitars are very melodic and tight over all, but they don't sustain or drag like they have in the past. The atmosphere isn't there, even with the keyboards (which sound pretty good for all intents and purposes). The bass and the drums don't do much to add or detract from this. This album is just too fast for its own good (relatively speaking of course).
The vocals from both singers are outstanding. Lisa has got to be one of the top three female Metal vocalists of all time; her range, prowess and conviction are very convincing. Anders has one of the more intense grim voices in Metal as well, with excellent mids and highs and intense lows. Lisa is also more prevalent on this recording.
As stated above this album borrows from its contemporaries, for example the song 'Earthbound' sounds like a more interesting (and Gothic) version of something Swallow the Sun would've done; while the track 'The Failure Epiphany' (featuring some spoken words from Novembers Doom vocalist Paul Kuhr) sounds like it could have been from ND's 'The Pale Haunt Departure' only more melodic. The song 'Morphine Cloud' sounds like a song that My Dying Bride would have written on 'Turn Loose the Swans' only more melodic.
Over all, this is a good recording, but it’s not what you've come to expect from Draconian. Hopefully their next album will sound more Doom and less like a Gothic Swallow the Sun rip off.
After the debut Where Lovers Mourn and the masterpiece Arcane Rain Fell, I was beginning to view Draconian as a source of stylistic stability. With each release I expected, and received, a somber blend of gothic, doom, and even neoclassical elements I had come to love. The advent of Turning Season Within has brought a slight deviation to the norm by focusing more on the gothic aspect of the Draconian formula. The end result is faster paced, more melodious, and a bit less atmospheric.
While a few things have changed, much remains the same. Draconian continues to create a dark soundscape. Growling male vocals still contrast sweet, ephemeral female tones. Lisa’s vocals are utilized more on this album than any other previous release. Guitars, once languished with notes seemingly stretching into eternity, are a bit more up tempo with sparse solos and more instances of harmonizing. Lyrically, the songs deal with various aspects of love or stages of romance. Some even include supernatural touches. Though there exists a marked shift from languid, droning compositions, the hopelessly remorseful atmosphere remains. It is simply created in a new way musically.
For Turning Season Within, Draconian adapted lyrics from the poetry of Therés Björk. Mina Eltaieb also provided the chorus for the track “Empty Stare.” Both the poetry of Therés and the lyrics of Mina fit the album like a glove. Anders’ lyrics for the album consist of endless remorse, despair, and concessions to death and misery. His adaptations of Therés’ poetry contribute to this effect well. Portions adapted from Therés appear to reflect on the overall message of each song, while Anders’ lyrics fill in the details, making the broader scope of the adapted poetry all the more meaningful with the conclusion of each song.
With all these aspects done well, Turning Season Within somehow seems incomplete. So used to agonizingly slow compositions, it’s almost as though Draconian had a hard time fitting their powerfully sad songs and lyrics into the faster tempo they’ve decided to work with. A couple songs sound as though they end mid note, as if they band couldn’t or didn’t want to think of a way to tie them off. I was left with the feeling that the album was an awkward transition away from the more pronounced doom metal elements into this dark, yet faster style. I suppose this is the cost of experimenting with a tried and true style. While done well, it’s still something new, and perhaps Draconian didn’t feel as confident working with it.
Either way, Turning Season Within continues the gloomy story of Draconian with a slight twist. The packaging may be a little different, but the same Draconian is there beneath it all. In a way, it’s refreshing to see Draconian can deviate from their doom metal roots and still manage to produce a terribly depressing album. Turning Season Within is a must have for any Draconian fan, old and new.
So here we have it, the latest offering by Draconian, "Turning Seasons Within". Anyone who read my review of their masterpiece "Arcane Rain Fell" knows that I have a very high opinion of these guys, and I still do. "Arcane Rain Fell" is a milestone in the now crowded doom/death scene. So, how exactly do you go about following up on a masterpiece. Well, in this case Draconian did not do that. However, I believe it was a smart move on their part. Draconian have taken eight songs and dialed down on the doom knob just a bit. Instead of making "Arcane Rain Fell Part II" by making more crushing, more doomy, and even slower songs, they have actually created a very worthwhile gothic/death metal album. After the Thanksgiving feast that was "Arcane Rain Fell", "Turning Seasons Within" is like the pumpkin pie afterwards, with extra "death whip cream" mind you.
So what's there to say about this album musically? Well in all honesty, not much. If you've heard Draconian, or just about any other depressive death metal band, then you pretty much know what to expect from this. This is not a criticism however, this a damn fine album. As said every song is mid-paced, the instruments do what they've always done and that is create a dark and oppressive atmosphere, and the tortured vocal delivery only adds to this. Surprisingly, as average as this may sound, it works. It's just good, there's really no other way to describe it. However, there are a few key moments on this album that make it worth the purchase. Lisa Johansson's voice is one of them. She actually begins this album, and is used far more than she was on the previous entry and I would almost go as far as to say that she is the star of this album. There are moments of absolute ethereal, where her voice and the instruments are in pure harmony together, the results are no less than mood changing. The mains verses of "Seasons Apart", "Earthbound", and "Not Breathing", are actually some of the most impressive and depressive material Draconian have ever turned out.
One of the reasons Lisa is probably utilized more is because this a concept album about the failures of love and the happenings in between. So, I'm thinking that Draconian thought by using Lisa more, they gain a woman's perspective, as well as a mans, making it a more human album by all accounts. Speaking of the man's perspective, Anders Jacobsson's vocal delivery is as passionate as ever, and in lots of cases, more ferocious as well. He screams fit the content of the lyrics very well, because believe me if you were singing about what these guys were singing about, you would scream it too. As far as the lyrics themselves go, they are very well written, however there is a huge downside to this. Draconian have almost always borrowed passages from various well known poets to use in their own songs, such as John Milton in "Arcane Rain Fell". This time they took some passages from a poet named Theres Bjork, and the results at times are no less than eye rolling. "Would you help me slit my wrists? See me cry, watch me...die!". Wow. I'm all for romantic tragedies, but do you think we can be a little less blunt here? It seems as though Draconian found the best Myspace poet and just had Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom speak them mid-song. Many of these passages are terrible because Anders' lyrics are more metaphorical, and these all out "woe is me" lines just really do not fit in the songs. They do not appear often and really don't hinder the songs much, however they are the least desirable trait of this album.
As said the instruments on this album are well done, as always. Draconian seem to be no longer content with the doom side of doom metal, and have written some passages that you can actually tap your foot to. Hell, there's even a solo here and there and they didn't stick out negatively at all. Every note just seems to fit the mood of the song very well, and as usual no instrument goes out of bounds in an attempt to give the song "more life", solos or not. The keys play a bigger role this time around, however they are kept in the background to ensure that they don't dominate the song. Trust me kids, this isn't Dimmu Borgir, Draconian are professionals and my hat is off to them for creating such well balanced music, while still retaining that gloomy atmosphere.
This album probably wasn't what any Draconian fan was expecting, and I think that is a good thing. While the change is slight, it's great to see that they have more tricks up their sleeves than just making incredibly slow, misery laden songs. They are also capable of making mid-paced, sometimes fast misery laden songs. This is not a masterpiece by any means, but it's still noteworthy in Draconian's small discography, and there are some genuinely beautiful moments held within it. I'd recommend it to any Draconian fan or to those who can't get enough of the earliest doom/death albums. It's a fine addition to any collection, even if it isn't a very adventurous one.