Draconian: Under A Godless Veil (Napalm Records)
Sometimes a band is needed at a particular time, they seem to capture a moment, a zeitgeist, speaking for the majority with their music. Draconian are one of those bands, five years after the release of Sovran their bleakly beautiful, hopelessly romanticised doom metal is what is required in this year of endless isolation and living with a fear of the unknown/unseen. Under A Godless Veil is the seventh full length from the band and it is 10 tracks of wonderfully melancholic, dreamy music from Johan Ericson (lead guitar), Jerry Torstensson (drums), Daniel Arvidsson (rhythm guitar) (I believe Daniel Änghede plays the bass for the last time on this record) who shift between downtuned deeply heavy doom metal and soaring atmospheric melodic passages evidenced by the wonderful Sleepwalkers and the devastating Moon Over Sabaoth which showcases Anders Jakobsson's harsh vocals brilliantly.
On the other side of the coin though is a song such as Burial Fields, a haunting Gothic piece where Heike Langhans' celestial cleans drift above the lighter side of the bands sound, ascending into the clouds before you are once again pulled back to Earth with the metallic riffage. Now where Draconian are most effective is when both vocalists work in conjunction with each other providing that Angel/Demon delivery that has become so synonymous with the band since their debut album Where Lovers Mourn in 2002. For an example The Sethian presents both vocalists at top form the music is long, slow and heavy topped with a solo that shifts into the ominous Claw Marks On The Throne. At just over an hour Under A Godless Veil is Draconian returning with the depressive, desolate music fit for the times we find ourselves in, as the closing duo of Night Visitor and the 8 minute plus Ascend Into Darkness linger in your memory, you find yourself yearning to play it again as a kind of catharsis. Yet again another wonderful release from these Swedish Gothic masters of the melancholic. 9/10Scardust: Strangers (M-Theory Audio)
Israeli progressive/symphonic/cinematic metal band Scardust finally return with their sophomore album Strangers the follow up to their 2017 debut album Sands Of Time. It seems that the band have been much more heavily influenced by US prog metal on this second record option for an ambitious concept record much like the ones that Dream Theater were making in the early 2000's. It's even got a driving instrumental overture to get you ready for what is to come and much like most overtures it contains snippets of the remaining songs. After Overture For The Estranged the first song here is Break The Ice a jaunty emotive track that sounds a lot like classic period Kansas albeit with Noa Gruman's expansive voice that culminates in a powerful top end soprano adding more gravitas over the top of this theatrical prog rocking.
Conceptually the record is about being estranged from one another a theme that took on a new meaning when recording was interrupted by the pandemic meaning that this record was continued with each of the bands in their own homes/studios. Despite this the songs here have a huge scope musically, with all that made their debut so critically acclaimed while building the levels of technicality and melody with the Hellscore Choir returning and also the Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir also adding another edge to Huts. while YouTube sensation Patty Gurdy displays her mastery of Donavan's favourite instrument (Hurdy Gurdy) and her vocals to Concrete Cages. Despite the sweeping melodies on their record they also have some crushing heaviness on Over where the harsh vocals are used to great effect. Mixed by Yonatan Kossov and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Arch Enemy) Strangers is a brilliant follow up from these prog metal wizards. 9/10
Corners Of Sanctuary: Cut Your Losses (Exquisite Noise Records)Cut Your Losses is a new EP from American traditional heavy metal band Corners Of Sanctuary, it was released to coincide with the latest flavour in their craft beer range. Opening with a new version of their song Wild Card (also the name of their new beer) it's pretty standard trad metal that runs through a new version of My Revenge and two new tracks called Tonight We Roll and Mind's Eye. Very much a stopgap waiting for their next album Cut Your Losses is four tracks that show exactly why Corners Of Sanctuary have supported UDO and Tim 'Ripper' Owens but doesn't really do much else than be standard trad metal. 5/10