Massive Mega Review: Under a Godless Veil – Draconian

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Draconian’s seventh full length release, “Under A Godless Veil,” as some of you may know, was my 2020 album of the year. Reviewing the record has been high on my wish list since October, but it wasn’t a task I felt equipped to fully explore on my own. I felt the album deserved some lengthy discussion, and thankfully several other folks were inclined to agree. So, along with myself, ProgCaveOgier (The PCO), and Schultzie, our good friend Brandon Collins of Wasteland Coven and the newly formed Morbid and Miserable Records joined forces for a super-chat!  

Introductions:

VUK: Hello, everyone! I thought it would be a good idea to start with introductions. Though a few of us are familiar with each other, this is our first time working together. While I enjoy all flavours of Metal, I certainly have a soft spot for Doom. I’ve been a passing fan of Draconian for some time, but when I heard “Under A Godless Veil” for the first time, my brain exploded a little bit. I really wanted to do something special for the album. Thank you all so much for agreeing to take part in what is sure to be a fascinating discussion! 

ProgCaveOgier: Hi all, and thanks for having me onboard! Been a fan of the Death/Doom genre since the 90’s, and from the moment I was introduced to the “doom-trio” of the UK, namely Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride. I have known Draconian for more or less fifteen years. Around “Arcane Rain Fell” (2005) there started to be regular recommendations for them, but so far have not really been caught up in many of their albums in a big way. Not until now. After hearing “Under a Godless Veil” for the first time in full, I was sold! Glad to be taking part in this mega-review, as this album really deserves it! 

Schultzie: Hey there! I admit I’m a new listener of Draconian. I really enjoy exploring the dark underbelly of things, whether that be within the doom metal soundscapes of Mizmor and Vile Creature, the creeping gothic rock of Cemetery and Christian Death, the experimental howls of Lingua Ignota and Chelsea Wolfe, or the poetic genius of Leonard Cohen’s depressive masterpiece (one of my all-time favorites) “Songs Of Love And Hate.” Being a fan of poetry and literature, my attention is usually first drawn toward lyrics, so I’m looking forward to spending an absurd amount of time unravelling the words of “Under A Godless Veil.” I’m happy to be a part of this!

Brandon: Hey! I love all kinds of music, but Doom Metal and all of its varieties sit pretty squarely at the centre of my heart. I’ve enjoyed other albums from Draconian in the past, but this will be the first time I’m deep diving into one of their albums and giving it some serious analysis – and from my preliminary listening, I’m going to enjoy it very much!

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Sorrow of Sophia

VUK: The way this album begins is all sorts of beautiful. Heike Langhans’ voice is just soul-crushing. Unbelievably powerful and graceful. Her voice enhances Anders Jacobsson’s in a totally different way than Lisa Johansson’s did. Not in a ‘better or worse’ way, just stylistically a totally different experience. The way Heike delivers the opening lines – it’s almost as if her voice is gliding over a foggy river. Then, after she sings “The grandeur of stillness – And all of her sadness,” the waves come crashing in around her! We’re less than two minutes into this record, and the range of emotion is astonishing. Extremely cinematic. 

Some lyrics that appear a little later in the song:

         “And we sleep with the tides where we were lulled into matter

        Holding the burden of time

        And we wake in the midst of a world about to shatter

        Shedding the burden of time”

So good! I love that idea of “shedding the burden of time”… getting lost within the flow of something. Magical. 

PCO: The melodic passages of this song really speak for themselves! Along with the somewhat perfected vocal delivery of Heike’s, the melodies really struck home when I heard this particular song for the first time. And also, this tune is an excellent choice as the album opener, as it has everything that the following album has to offer condensed into a single tune. This is Heike’s album, without a doubt and already the first tune makes it clear. 

Brandon: This first track really does a great job introducing the duality of the album – not just between Heike’s ethereal vocals and Anders’ roars and growls – but between beautiful, tranquil passages and brooding, rumbling power. It’s an awesome preview of the kinds of shifts and range that will be coming up on the following songs.

Schultzie: “Sorrow of Sophia” begins with this wonderfully lush echo of guitar that rolls out deep like the endless churning of waves toward the shore. Heike’s pristine voice drifts out like a cresting wave, and the guitar riff sways like an uneasy boat tossing about on a choppy lake. The guitar pierces the silence entering like the “deafening winds” being sung about, then the drums crack the song into a steady sway, and an achingly theatrical piece unfolds. Anders’ voice pummels through the rise and fall of the instrumentation, and orchestral strings unfurl like plumes of dust rising higher and higher on a gust of wind. 

I appreciate Brandon’s use of the word “duality” because I feel as though that encapsulates this song perfectly. In more ways than one. The song is often rough and chaotic around Anders’ voice, but gentler and nearly uplifting when circling around Heike’s vocals. At the same time, the subject of Sophia also has an important aspect of duality to it. Sophia represents the sacred feminine, the human soul, the mother of wisdom, and must unite with her twin, who is essentially the unconscious masculine ego, and together create the androgynous whole.

Similar to how Eve in Christianity wants to obtain wisdom by eating the forbidden fruit, Sophia is seeking to uncover untapped and unused wisdom. This indulgence has led to her downfall, and she is now trapped in shadow. Sophia is overwhelmed by sadness as she waits, “concealed in shadow,” unable to return to the light. Having fallen into blackness and separated from the supernal spiritual universe, Sophia turns inward and brings forth a peculiar darkness that led to the creation of earth, water, fire, and air. From her comes the Demiurge, a ferocious and unmanageable spirit, that takes hold of those four raw elements Sophia has created and fashions them into a world replete with flaws such as sorrow, fear, ignorance, and an abundance of other destructive passions – all things experienced by Sophia in this black abyss so far away from the light. Because of this, Sophia is quite literally “the mother of our prison.” 

This world was made by her own terrible, ignorant offspring, and the Demiurge acts as a barrier to consciousness, which Sophia attempts to combat by bringing beauty, spirituality, and a Divine Spark into the world. She has given all of us consciousness and the potential to further our wisdom as a way to combat the dreadful things the Demiurge has crafted; she has released us from limited knowledge. It is light and compassion that are needed to battle the oppressive shadow that ignorance casts. Overall, the sorrow of Sophia could either allude to how her feelings of sorrow legitimately led to the creation of the world, or the sorrow of Sophia could be the overwhelming guilt she feels in having accidentally created it.

The Sacrificial Flame

VUK: After waking in this “world about to shatter,” this song speaks of life as a “barren wasteland,” “a wandering callous dream” that we are endlessly trying to transcend. I can’t tell if this is a song about going to Hell or getting through something hellish. Either way, clearly, this is a journey Draconian sees as a universal human predicament. “Soul. Matter. Spirit. Desire,” “Earth. Wind. Water and Fire,” it’s all connected. To my ears, this is a very Funeral Doom sounding track, partially due to the subject matter, but the groove has that struggle -vs- persistence atmosphere common for the genre. Again, Heike’s voice manages to pull the listener out of conventional genre impressions. 

PCO: I very much agree. This is one of the most Funeral Doom sounding tunes on the album. The opening of it reminds me a lot of what early Swallow the Sun had to offer. Then again, there are some obvious Candlemass riffs present too. Still none of these familiar elements sound here like ripping off somebody, rather simply very “Draconian.” Chorus on this one IS HUGE!  

Brandon: The depth of this track consistently blows me away! With the lower, fuller sound that it brings, it almost retroactively reduces the first track – which was already great in its own right – to an introduction! It still features a lot of the elegant touches from “Sorrow of Sofia,” but now with more interplay with the distorted riffage, as opposed to the different parts laying next to each other. Whereas the previous track felt like you were staring at reflections on the surface of the water, now you’ve plunged into the deep for yourself and are subject to all of the powerful currents that were waiting below!

Schultzie: This song bursts open with crashing percussion, the eeriness of a squealing organ, and a roving guitar riff. Together, they paint an awfully bleak mental image of the “barren wasteland” being sung about. Words drift out and are cut off by a thundering drum. The spiteful growls from Anders in the pre-chorus inspires fright, and it feels as though it could be the terrible, guttural sound of some dark being awakening from an ancient slumber. This song seems to be what truly sets the record into motion. It is rough, rigged, and jarring. The melody here is one that lingered in my head long after the third, fourth, fifth listen; it’s a song that is very easy to go back to, and it deserves and desires multiple re-listens. I am unclear as to what the sacrificial flame is supposed to refer to, but it makes me think about the Divine Spark that Sophia has supposedly embedded into every human being. Sophia had to sacrifice her sensibility in an attempt to understand the unknowable, and in return for bringing about the wrong physical world, she infuses a spiritual spark into creation, into “each flower, each flame.” 

Lustrous Heart

VUK: This was the first single from the album. I remember hearing this and instantly anticipating the full album. The opening guitar (which, in retrospect, is similar to “Sorrow of Sophia”) is a subtle, driving force, especially coupled with the sound of Anders’ voice. Now, what he’s singing about here – words about a heart “dishonoring the tears of Sophia,” and a prompt of some forgotten beauty – really got my wheels turning. Roman mythology depicted Sophia as the personification of wisdom, which to them had an inherent feminine quality. It seems to me, after the female voice in this song is introduced, Draconian is trying to suggest that Sophia (the truest form of unsullied intellect, personified by the feminine) has somehow forgotten her true nature (Gee… I wonder how that happened). Then the call to “bring back a deity of boundary eradication, and ultimate freedom” would bring about a “total recall and paradises lost” would crumble. What an incredibly powerful suggestion! Boundary eradication will recall paradises lost? Of course it would! I don’t think it’s an accident, by the way, that “Lustrous Heart” fades out and into “Sleepwalkers.” 

PCO: This tune is a big nod towards the first decade of the new Millenium and the several Melodic Death Doom bands it had. We’ve mentioned Draconian and Swallow the Sun here already, but there is also resemblance to Forest of Shadows and Ablaze in Hatred here for example. It has a big dynamic sway from minimalistic to a massive power chord frenzy. The chorus here sends big shivers down my spine. This is also the point when Heike’s vocals start reminding me of Anneke Van Giersbergen in their brilliant combination of emotion and perfect ear for melody. 

Brandon: “Under a Godless Veil” has some excellent transitions between tracks and this is one of the smoothest. The first few times I listened to it, it took me a couple of minutes to realize that a new song had started and this wasn’t a brilliant new passage at the end of “The Sacrificial Flame.” The pensive build-up on this track results in a chorus that is both explosive and beautifully dramatic, the kind of thing that should have your hair standing on end.

Schultzie: The opening of this track contains a wavering guitar line and the atmosphere here feels otherworldly and dream-like. Drums crash in like a quick lightning strike and the song is ripped open by Anders’ harsh vocals growling about the “tears of Sophia.” Heike’s voice floats in soft and feather-like and hovers over a stirring of light instrumentation. The guitar line that plays out during the post-chorus lingers in the back like smoke refusing to clear from a room; it shimmers for a bit and then the song fades out. 

I believe the lyrics to be about fighting against the ignorance and arrogance the Demiurge has infected the world with. Heike says to “reach out and break the cosmic window.” We are urged to disobey what the darkness wants, and we must shatter the glass barrier through which the true nature of existence is made accessible. The verse, bring back a deity of boundary eradication,” seems to refer to the Gnostic belief that there is a realm of darkness that exists beyond the Pleroma (essentially the Gnostic Heaven where divine beings dwell). It is separated by a boundary that can only be crossed by those possessing gnosis, or true knowledge. The lyrics are most likely referring to the fact that Sophia was the one to cross over that border in order to obtain that sought-after wisdom and “ultimate freedom.” Regardless of true meaning, this is one of the softest heavy songs I have ever heard.

Sleepwalkers

VUK: Where to begin with this one? Who’s sleepwalking here? Is it Sophia? Is it the idea of Sophia? Who are the hungry ghosts? Notice how the chord progression builds, right before that first chorus. It’s almost triumphant! Then, for the first time, both the male and female voices sing together…

        “Come into the fray

         For everything we’ve become

         In this cell we call home”

Then it’s back into the hopelessness of somnambulism, which only turns back around to a righteous fight for salvation. Fuck, I love this song!  

PCO: There is some absolute haunting beauty to the main riff here. Maybe the most My Dying Bride sounding track on the album? What I really have to point out here too, is that if the somewhat used 50/50 deal in vocal arrangements was the biggest letting point with Draconian in the past, what “Under a Godless Veil” has really improved in the dialogue of the band is the way how two vocalists work now in less predictable ways. Male and female vocals don’t have a regular pattern any longer. It is not to be guessed in the beginning of the tune, which one is going to do the verse and who is going to launch into chorus, for example. There are songs where the other narrative gets a bigger role and where they both sing together for example. I think this is the biggest secret to the magnificence of this particular album, when being compared to the older ones.   

Brandon: Once again, the track starts with a quieter, pensive mood, and it fits the lyrical themes of “Sleepwalkers” perfectly. From the beginning you can feel something sinister subtly working beneath the surface of the song, and it’s realized in the most satisfying way when the two vocalists take the chorus together. PCO is absolutely right about the unpredictable nature of the vocalists on each song – their roles and parts are different on every track which helps make each song feel unique.

Schultzie: The ringing sting of a trembling guitar string introduces one of the most beautiful songs on the album, in my opinion. Heike’s voice comes in like a hint of a draft through some open window, barely disturbing the curtains. The guitar moves out like a spider weaving its web, precise and with a light hand. The pre-chorus enters with a scornful, booming growl from Anders, the drums tumble in like a heavy fog, and then the two voices unite to sing the deep distress of the chorus. The lyrics speak of trudging through life barely awake, trapped in a sort of prison only an antagonistic being could have crafted. The sleepwalkers are the ones unaware of their own consciousness; unaware that they are being ruled by an “accuser made God.”

The final notes played on the guitar sparkle like the little bits of sun that catch your eye when thrust upon a wave, and then the song wavers out and melts into “Moon Over Sabaoth.”

Moon Over Sabaoth 

VUK: Sabaoth can be translated to “untouchable” (In “Lustrus Heart” who was untouchable?). If you do a little digging, Sabaoth will take you to Gnosticism, which held Sophia as part of their Holy Trinity, or the feminine equivalent of Jesus Christ. As if that weren’t fantastic enough, they’re singing about it being springtime on Saturn, again pointing to a Gnostic belief system involving seven Archons, which are demonic entities associated with one of seven “visible” planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Earth’s Moon, and the Sun). Now, somebody a whole lot smarter than me is going to have to help decipher exactly how all of this is coming together as it relates to “Under A Godless Veil,” but the band seems pretty damn serious when they call for us “be brave and rise above the moon over Sabaoth,” don’t you think? Rise above what the evil Archons have attempted to trap us all into thinking by whispering “in the shadows of fear.” 

PCO: I might be mistaken here, but the album is a concept release dealing with the Gnostic myth of creation. Sethians (who were one of the main currents of Gnosticism) believed that Sophia was one of the deities that preceded the creation of the material world. She tried to become a creator, but her actions lead to the rise of the Demiurge, who steals Sophia’s divinity and creates a material world with it. He then raises himself as the only god of this world he has created and Sophia falls from grace. The sorrow of Sophia, in my understanding, is the fact that while trying to create life she had created a world in which Death became the ultimate ruler, with his child Time. She therefore feels the pain and guilt in watching the creation that was meant to be hers, being eventually consumed by Death and Time. Such a heavy and sorrowful topic and such a mastermind album to give the story a melody! 

Brandon: I definitely didn’t have all of that background on the mythologies behind this on my first few listens, but damn if this information and analysis doesn’t enhance it! For me, it’s another sleek transition into the track, and more eerie tones mixed in than we’ve heard before. It’s a dark track, but with glimpses of light and beauty peeking in – they don’t dispel the haunting feelings of the song, but provide some contrast to remind you of the world outside of this song.

Schultzie: There’s a cold droning and a metallic pierce of plucked strings that touch upon a feeling of slight unease to introduce this song. These tones float out until a startling crashing of the drums comes in like sudden, tremendous rockfall. The first verses drop down with monstrous force, and the drama held within Anders’ voice is wholly and undisputedly unmatched. The dizzying, echoed vocals behind the verses trickle out over the scene unwinding, and the swaying riff bleeds into the chorus where the voices combine to sing of standing tall in the face of a looming shadow; rise above what keeps you in shackles and allow the soul to be returned to the divine realm of light.

The pre-chorus says, “down comes the serpent rain of a god insane.” The Demiurge is depicted as a serpentine being with the face of a lion, an animal known for its irrational passions and primal urges. The Demiurge is insane, corrupt, and arrogant, and aspires to destroy everything since his creations are viewed as being flawed and inept. 

The seven Archons are gathered around the “celestial crown,” the Demiurge, their creator and Chief Demon. The Archons control the Earth, along with the humans that inhabit it. It is the Archons that keep humanity from salvation. The Archons helped to create humans, so this helped to keep humanity under their oppressive influence, but the Divine Spark that Sophia, the “gracious Mother,” slipped into creation is what helps to allow humans to resist these mortal chains. As long as we are children of man, we will remain prisoners to this false creator unless we find it within ourselves to aspire to understand more, but the Demiurge punishes any who refuse to adhere to his ruling. We need to stand tall in refusal so that our souls will no longer “rattle the chains of Saklas.” Sabaoth is apparently one of the Demiurge’s sons, so technically a grandchild of Sophia. Sabaoth takes a liking to Sophia, the “gracious Mother,” and her boldness, and this angers the Demiurge, known more commonly as “Yaldabaoth” in Sethian systems of Gnosticism. The Demiurge, also known as “Saklas,” is represented as Saturn, the second largest planet. This might explain the lines about the “god of Saturn.” Sabaoth dethrones his father, Yaldabaoth, and casts him into Tartarus, an abyss of torment and suffering. Yaldabaoth grows envious of his son, and his envy becomes the manifestation of Death. Hence the line, “We found only Death.” I am not entirely sure what the significance is of a moon being over Sabaoth, but “Horaios” is the Archon that is represented by the moon, and the name is supposed to mean “wealth.”

Burial Fields

VUK: There is sadness here. And salvation.  

PCO: A wee breather in the heaviness of the album. A bit like the Iommi interludes in old Sabbath albums used to be. 

Brandon: “Burial Fields” feels powerfully peaceful to me. The whole album rests under a veil of melancholy, but this feels like the acceptance of that sorrow, rather than struggling with the pain. It’s a dreamy bit of respite before being swallowed by the darkness again.

Schultzie: An almost mechanical ticking spreads out over an ethereal soundscape. Heike’s voice pierces the din and sings of drifting through a “field of broken hearts.” The lack of a chorus makes this song flow along in a steady sort of tranquility; no quick rise or fall, just a smooth transition from beginning to end. To me, this song is about transcending a battered life into a realm of true light and freedom. Sophia is waiting in the shadows to be sent back to the Pleroma where she can become “even more beautiful.” The line “the more I writhe, the more I love” has that quality of things standing in opposition to each other, so yet another example of duality that much of Gnosticism seems to be founded upon (spirit/matter, male/female, Archon/Aeon, etc). The changing of “I’m the only angel you need” into “you are the only angel I need” is what I believe to be a reference to how, with the help of Christ, Sophia was made whole again and could then return to the Godhead. We need to be rescued from the darkness of the physical world and be brought into the spiritual realm through enlightenment; one’s gnosis must be fully realized, or else it risks being trapped by the Archons, remaining in chains and darkness forever. 

From what I have read, I understand the Demiurge to be a very cold ruler, so perhaps this is where the lyrics about shades of “winter in their eyes” and a “frozen stare” come from. 

The Sethian 

PCO: The title of the song is a direct link to the subject matter of lyrics we spoke earlier on. After the interlude of Burial Fields, the momentum of the album seems to shift a bit to the more Gothic Metal side of things. This tune bears resemblance to Sisters of Mercy in the verse, but launches to the most Metal part of the album in the heavy hitting chorus. Still, somehow this particular tune does not impress me like the rest of the album does. The heavy goes a bit too heavy in my opinion and the dreamy magic of the first part of the record is broken. Like being awakened from a sad, but so very beautiful dream to a realization that your dog is urinating on the bed. 

VUK: I rather like the heaviness. It enhances the story, I think, with a seemingly justifiable anger. The Sethian, if we’re still talking about the historical element, would be thought of as an antagonist by Sophia. “And you forget your god is a demon – I bleed in the lies you are preaching,” she sings gracefully but powerfully, calming the waters so to speak. Admittedly, that takes some reading into, which does sort of take you out of the Draconian daze for a moment. I’m with you on the song being a little less effective, and I keep telling that damn dog to stay off the bed!

Brandon: I totally agree that here is where the album has shifted into a less dreamy state, but I’m not sure I can get behind “too heavy” or the dog piss comparison! I would say that it’s a bit more “raw” than the songs that have come before, but that lends itself to more exposed and unfiltered emotion – especially from the vocalists and the guitar solo late in the song. And the ending features another brilliant transition, with the song trailing off in a way that makes my stomach drop.

Schultzie: A shrill guitar zips through and a shimmering chorus of voices unfurl. The drums cascade in, and Anders lets out a heartache of a scream that inches the song closer to a feeling of hopelessness. The album has made its way into a darker, lower level. The verses help to create a tension that fully rips open during the chorus. The repetition of “I am the Sethian” is a welcome intensity, and the unbelievable force of the drums in the chorus really drills it in. Heike’s vocals that respond to the chorus feel like she’s getting thoughts out that no one will hear or truly listen to. The guitar solo that leads to the outro is a powerful string of intensity, and the vocal line that closes out the song is just phenomenal with the constant rising and falling of, as Brandon described, unfiltered emotion. I personally really enjoyed this song, and I think I would dare to say it is one of my favorites on the album. And for the Sisters of Mercy comparison, they were my introduction into Gothic Rock, so I appreciate the similarities found here (imagine a “Temple of Love” mashup with this song). 

As for the lyrics, I understand a Sethian to be a follower of a specific sect of Gnosticism. There is believed to be a spiritual race of Seth, which is those that possess spirit. The Sethians placed utmost importance on Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, because he was conceived through actual love, and Seth was created with the likeness of Adam. The Sethians were supposedly the only ones capable of achieving true salvation. 

The lyrics where Heike sings, “I did not fall from grace, I leapt to freedom from the black iron prison; from deprivation to revelation. I’m but a dweller on the threshold of paradise and Earth,” seem to again speak of how Sophia wanted to learn more than she could stand to know, and then fell into the lower realms where her fallen consciousness was made into the Achamoth, thus producing the Demiurge. The closing lyrics, “And you forget your god is a demon. I bleed in the lies you are preaching. The world is dreaming. Your god is a demon, and mine is a mountain of souls’ screaming,” seem to touch on the fact that the world is dreaming in its blissful unawareness; we are the sleepwalkers. We are praying to a false god, the Demiurge, who arrogantly claims to be the one true ruler. This track is less dreamy, yes, but wonderfully powerful.

Claw Marks on the Throne  

PCO: If there was a slight complaining done with the previous song, here is where the mists of magic weave the most beautiful scenery. This song is BY FAR my favourite tune on the album, and when the band launches into the chorus with Heike’s vocals on top of it, hair stands on the back of my neck. Every time. This is a tune that freezes me to where I stand and leaves me staring into distance. SUCH A MAGICAL SONG!! So far, we’ve spoken a lot about the vocals, but in this type of music it is all about how good the musicianship of the band is. When music is slow and atmospheric, it does not allow a single bad note, half-arsed rhythmic or playing done in tasteless manner to break the spell that holds the listener in it’s grip. What the shred community does really not get, is that the secret in astonishing musicianship is NOT what you play, but what you decide NOT TO play. And here’s the key to masterful doom. To have a band made up of excellent musicians in order to manifest the greatness of the music, in all the careful manner this type of delivery demands. Did I already mention that this particular tune is amazeballs as it has all that in it? And more! 

VUK: Nicely put, and WOW what a song! These are very much the musical elements of jazz, as Miles Davis was quite famous for saying “don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there”. The guitar solo on this tune absolutely adheres to that concept, as does the drumming, and these… wordless things add so much depth to the story Draconian is trying to tell. Miles Davis said something else that’s evident here: “Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent.”

Ironically, musicians who focus more on technique often miss the romance in that. And that’s what makes Doom so precious. I’ve often thought the same thing you’re describing when listening to good Funeral Doom music, because so much of its success relies on the understanding of nuance within musical storytelling. By extension then, I’m reminded of our shared negative reaction to “The Sethian,” which seems to miss the mark by a hair. But I also wonder if that wasn’t the point. Because the story here is all about the elements… both wanted and unwanted. The Sethian had a shitty attitude, which didn’t win him any points, but the motherfuckers who scratched those claw marks on the throne came in all self-assured and bad-ass. Who are we being asked to root for at the end?  

Brandon: The guitar solo and the deep doom riffing behind it really steals the show here for me. It’s a beautiful, delicate build-up to that point, but once the moment finally hits (around 3:43), it feels like the whole purpose of the song, as if the narrative has been seized from vocalists and given to the instruments.

Schultzie: This song has a haunting introduction with its sparse notes thrown out into an echoing chamber of atmospheric sounds. The vocals enter like uneasy footsteps, and then the heaviness starts to grow with the addition of the drums. I think the bridge is about how the Demiurge, along with the Archons, never truly created anything, only made false reflections of things that already existed; soulless copies crafted out of chaos. 

Anders speaks of being trapped in a sort of stalemate, trapped in a never-ending circle: “In infinity is the absence of time. Nothing can grow, nothing emerges. Everything a reflection of the same.” As PCO stated earlier, Death ruled with his child Time, the two most destructive forces known to man. Together they sought to “grow what It would kill.” The guitar solo on this track is too chilling for words to properly express. The deep, thick tone of the guitar at the end of each chorus helps to create such a strange mixture of oppressive beauty and soul-crushing sadness. I find the structure of this song to be really interesting, and every choice made here is undoubtedly the best choice that could have possibly been made. 

Night Visitor

VUK: This song belongs to Heike. It’s the only one she sings alone, but I mean… she owns it. She gets to give the thank you speech. She gets to drop the mic. She gets to take it home and put it above the fucking fireplace. She puts up her feet. Goodnight. Anders wrote the words, but… he maybe shouldn’t have let Heike sing them. Ever the tortured artist. He gets no credit. And suffering for the betterment of his craft, he gracefully cheers her on from the couch.   

Brandon: Heike certainly does an excellent job with the vocals here, and deserves most of the credit for carrying this track. However, once again this song isn’t fully realized until it climaxes with a guitar solo! In my opinion, as Under a Godless Veil goes on, lead guitarist Johan Ericson’s bursts of expression become absolutely critical to the flow of these later songs as well as preventing any second-half-of-the-album fatigue from settling in.

Schultzie: Immediately we are met again with the imagery of shackles, of being bound. The chorus on this track is quite addictive, and the phrasing is mesmerizing. If you were to strip away the instruments from the song, Heike’s vocals would be the most perfect lullaby. Having the vocals drop out during the latter half of the song for the tangible electricity of the guitar to truly shine makes for sheer perfection. 

Ascend Into Darkness

VUK: Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” That’s the only comparison I’ve got at the moment. The scope of this album, and how it spins in circles, catching us off guard… time and time again. This song has all of the elements the entire rest of the album has, wrapped up in one glorious ball. It is here, at the end – as we ascend into darkness – that we’re finally able to appreciate what the rest of the story was preparing us for. And that’s what makes those last few notes of the album so bitter-sweet. The protagonist is begging for mercy. Mercy is given. The end. But… fuck you! It’s over?! Awe, come on! Play it again! Play it again! Which is precisely what I did the first time I finished this record. I played it again. I relived it, then I played it again. Absolutely, mind-fuckingly brilliant. 

Schultzie: There is so much to unpack with this final track. “Ascend Into Darkness” begins with a distant, sparkling guitar that grows louder and louder, and then there is the earth-shattering striking of the drums. The vocals arrive at the first verse with near tangible might, and the chorus is sung with an emotion somewhere between spite and remorse. The song slithers around in such unexpected, but readily welcomed ways. There are so many interesting and intricate sections within this track, and I had to listen multiple times to truly get a decent grasp on what is happening here. It is a highly dramatic and vigorous conclusion to an already remarkable album. I have a deep love of concept albums, and I feel as though it is only under various genres of metal that this type of album truly survives (though I must say that neo-goth/darkwave group Drab Majesty does a superb job at this). To tell a long, detailed, and emotional story through just ten songs and a little over an hour is no easy feat, but Draconian’s “Under A Godless Veil” is the album to do so nearly flawlessly.

Brandon: Agreed! This is an excellent resolution to the album, harkening back to the range displayed on the songs that came before it. And it’s definitely the kind of finisher that demands that you go back and listen again!

  • 4/5

PCO: The best gothic metal album of 2020. A fresh start for a veteran band, who has always been a bit overshadowed by the genre super stars. Maybe “Under a Godless Veil” will be an album that puts Draconian at the very front of the game.

  • 4.5/5

Schultzie: I completely agree with PCO. This album was undoubtedly one of the best gothic metal albums of such a devastatingly awful year. Under A Godless Veil was my introduction into Draconian, and it was certainly an incredible intro. 

  • 5/5

VUK: To me this album is absolute perfection. Each time I listen, I hear something new. The music is brilliant, the lyrics are brilliant, and the production is second to none. Records like these are the reason I keep buying records. 

  • 5/5

https://draconian.bandcamp.com/

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