Draconian – Sovran (Napalm Records)

When I heard the first song i thought that the singer from WITHIN TEMPTATION had switched bands.  I intentionally never read the press releases or album notes before I listen because I my impression needs to be based on what I hear.  Getting back to the vocals, I really did think that there was a guest-vocal appearance which gave Draconian a new flavor.  Afterward, i discovered that the band actually has a new vocalist.  Despite singing in the same style as her WITHIN TEMPTATION counterpart, she beautifies the songs.  If you haven’t heard DRACONIAN before, they combine several ideas, often melancholic, but not adhering to any on style, like doom or goth.  It’s a hybrid that works very well.  The contrast between angelic female vocals and gruff male vocals is not as stark as in early THEATRE OF TRAGEDY.  You can discern every word, which brings the poetry to you for easier ingestion.   I have enjoyed every DRACONIAN album and was pleasantly surprised by the change of vocals.  The voice is quite beautiful. Each album has moments that stay in the imagination for a long time. If you enjoy being haunted by songs, then take a chance on this band.

Esoteric – The Maniacal Vale (Season of Mist)

The greatest, most visionary atmospheric doom band ever formed has created yet another masterpiece. Esoteric is so rich with sound that to hear their music is to attend the theater of the mind. If you’ve never heard them before, don’t just get this album, get everything they ever made! Then buy some expensive headphones and close your eyes. It is the farthest you will go without physically leaving. Every day there is a moment I reflect upon how lucky I am to have discovered this incredible sound. I shudder to think that there could actually be something better, for I do not think I could survive the ecstasy of the experience

Shape of Despair – Shades of… (Spikefarm)

This album is mortal to my ears, for it makes me a dead man, ebbing in a slow tide, rife with drear. The drone lulls me into a blackness where mere moments ago I beheld the world, and now my eyes are organs of the mind. On this stark canvas, the music makes a brush of every instrument, and woeful colors do depict such scenes as only could be made by the feelings this album inspires.
The slow, plodding rhythm appears harmless, but it guides the imagination into depths without noting the passage of consciousness, and then the altered state is achieved without memory of the inner journey. This is when the theatre opens, and no one can possible know the same experience.
No such descent can remain without a guide, and the rumble of a demon god assures no joy can be felt in this sinking plane. So terrible is the tone, yet the voice deepens the trance. It is as a flame that causes no flesh to recoil.
All the while, despair overtakes the heart, and the pulse becomes a drum which compels life to move toward death. Amid the crushing threnody rides soprano so haunting that the sky could have released black angels and even they could not match the impact of the voices. This, coupled with the morose synthesizer, creates such despair that the only thing preventing suicide is the longing to hear the music again.
This band has made a grand contribution to atmospheric doom, introducing fresh elements and exhibiting a rare creativity that I hope will become appreciated by people who otherwise see nothing in such dark music. Hasten to the vendor, for it would be a painful regret to have missed the opportunity to know this music. How many things have you let fall between your fingers, out of your grasp forever?
I am the herald who sounds the warning.

High Power – High Power (Brennus)

The only time I had ever heard this band was on a college radio station long ago, and I had hunted the album ever since… to no avail, until now.
This French power metal album has been newly re-released by fellow countrymen, and should be acquired at once if the name is recognized.

Most of the songs are unremarkable power metal songs typical of the ‘80’s, including a ballad, and entirely sung in French. But there is one song that is so special as to have inspired a decade of searching. Perhaps it was only because my mind was young, or maybe because I was not accustomed to dynamic songs, nonetheless I was hooked by “Offrande Charnelle”, and I think you might find it charming as well.

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