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When "by the numbers" isn't a bad thing - 86%

RedMisanthrope, March 14th, 2008

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.