The phrase ‘a contemporary mix of black and death metal’ is not one that should have you anywhere near a stereo.
It’s usually code for a slickly produced, spiritually empty pile of forgettable muzak.
There have of course been successes of a kind: Behemoth no doubt, Aeturnus, and maybe Zyklon at a push. But few truly blend the styles in a meaningful fashion.
I hear little death metal in Drakonis. They’re basically a black metal band (musically) of the early 2000s era.
Their emphasis on a dilettentish, overdone facepaint and mad butcher blood spatters speaks to the same. (In fact I think they seem much more effective sans makeup).
So those are the prejudices from which I approach this release.
Time though to set them to the side, because helpfully, if you don’t read such descriptions and don’t look at such photos, the music’s actually really good.
‘The Great Miasma’ does not sound like a great miasma. Bands like Portal do that. But it is very, very assured: a slow, lumbering, atmospheric and heavy track where wispy background voices and textures weave smokily between big, crunching guitars. It’s a super introduction.
A credible, doublekick heavy Hecate Enthroned-ish workout is next in the form of ‘Let Us Pray’ (10,000th time that title has been used?), which has a feel of Ancient Rites about it as well near the end, with that rolling, lilting, chordal beat. Primordial influences also seem to have weeded their way in.
It’s another very well executed track.
There is more to savour in ‘Queen Of Swarms’; an almost Emperial (yes!) lashout from acoustic clean picks that harks distinctly to the spirit if not the magisterial sound of In The Nightside Eclipse. What a compliment.
There arent many bands still pulling that off. It’s also a strong chorus line with its ‘hail hail hail’ vamp.
So let’s just call a spade a spade here. Drakonis’ visuals probably go down a treat live. But they’re already cripplingly dated, stuck in amateur hour, mean little to nothing, and retard rather than further the band’s strong music.
The theatrics are evidently important to them – and why not? – so it’s going to be about finding a look that’s true to themselves without the third rate wanna-black they’ve got going on at the minute.
Because it undersells some otherwise highly competent and impressively atmospheric music, with a particular shout out to some formidable drumming.
None of which is remotely close to death metal, while I’m still at it.
3.7/5 – Earl Grey ::: 10/10/17