Recording information: Fascination Street Studios.
For their fourth studio album, 2008's Turning Season Within, Sweden's Draconian strove to exploit the inherent dynamics between co-lead vocalists Lisa Johansson and Anders Jacobsson more completely than ever before, by crafting a song cycle focused on failed relationships; all well and good so long as you can envision a torrid love affair between Rapunzel and Cookie Monster, which is basically what the twosome sound like, respectively. Don't laugh: most heavy metal fans (and probably a few Disney employees) wouldn't even blink at this association, thanks to the abundance of so-called "beauty and the beast" vocal pairings spanning several heavy metal subgenres. In other respects, Turning Season Within picks up almost exactly where its excellent 2006 predecessor, The Burning Halo, left off: with a number of majestic, deliberate, meticulously arranged, though generally shorter studies in deeply contrasting light and shade -- see "Seasons Apart," "When I Wake," "Bloodflower," etc. -- all of which epitomize the very best of the melodic/gothic death/doom style as we know it. The broader canvas afforded by the epic "Earthbound" also showcases Anders Karlsson's rich synthesizer orchestration, but some may opine that Johansson's siren-like vocal harmonies cross over into Lacuna Coil territory on "Not Breathing," while "The Failure Epiphany" sounds more like Novembers Doom than Draconian (apropos, since ND frontman Paul Kuhr guests on final postlude "September Ashes"). Even in light of these minor imperfections and the relatively small creative evolution at hand, though, there's no doubt that the Swedish septet was cruising in absolutely top form with Turning Season Within, making it another redoubtable volume of work in Draconian's increasingly formidable discography. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia