Wednesday 18 January 2023

DRAKEN ~ BOOK OF BLACK .... review

If you stumble across Norwegian trio Draken's latest album "Book of Black"(Majestic Mountain Records) for the first time and are unfamiliar with the bands previous work you may, on the strength of its artwork, be expecting something that resides in the black metal or death-doom ballpark and to be fair if you did make that assumption then you would be wrong but at the same time - not completely wrong. There are elements of both to be found nestling in this bands sonic attack, but then there is also so much else. Punk(ish) aggression, thrash like tempo's, prog like complexities and even fusionistic modal jazziness all make their presence felt here among the heavy metal/ hard rock riffs and rhythms that are at the beating heart of Draken's music and all play there part in making "Book of Black" an intriguing prospect for any metal loving aficionado blessed with a discerning ear.

Hallvard Gaardløs (bass/lead vocals); Even Helte Hermansen (guitar/background vocals) and Andre Drage Haraldsen (drums) are the orchestrators of this diverse and at times quite brutal collection of metallic tomes and to say that they are at the height of their collective powers throughout, would be an understatement as the opening title track will testify to. "Book of Black" is a song that blends together a myriad of vocal stylings over a groove that is in constant flux, the song swelling, dissipating and changing direction as if it were a living entity attempting to break free from its form and structure, the only thing holding it in check being the musicians who gave it its existence, it's breath-taking! Gaardløs stated in a recent interview that for the new album Draken "wanted to make a more in-your-face hard rock/metal record, inspired by bands like Motörhead and Metallica", a statement that goes a long way to explaining the thinking behind next song "Bastards", a furious thrash-like romp that doffs its cap to both those bands Gaardløs mentions but in particular the former. "We Deserve to Suffer" follows next and its initial phase could probably be considered metal of an "old school" flavour but as the word "initial" might suggest its not long before things goes off-piste and onto paths less well travelled, the most interesting of which is a jazz fusion like episode that needs to be heard to be believed as words just can't capture the magnitude of its delivery. Much the same way as its predecessor did "House of Horrors" also starts off fairly straightforward before taking a sharp left turn, on this occasion though the transition is into progressive rock territories rather than jazz, albeit touching base with a little blues and doom along the way, the track also features some extremely tasteful keyboard from guest musician Vegard Lien Bjerkan whose contribution takes things to whole other level. Next song "Symbiote" features another guest in the shape of vocalist Anita Kaasbøll (Bladed/ Trondheim Voices), and is a song that has a musical groove and a vocal attack not too dissimilar to that of  USA stoner metal/Americana/prog pioneers Huntsmen (in their heavier moments) only with Draken putting a little more emphasis on the stoner side of things. The following "Devotees of the Faith" is song that totally lives up to Draken's claim of wanting to sound "more in your face" its caustic guitar tones thundering rhythms and confrontational vocal stylings  combine to create a musical attack that is almost hardcore in its execution while "Relentless Sinners" jams a groove a little closer to hard rock but is no less caustic or abrasive. Most bands and artists like to finish on a high and Draken are no exception and so they present us with "Bloodguilt" a song that stumbles back and forth between genres like a drunkard trying to walk a straight white line, gothic croons and feral roars decorating a groove that routinely crosses in and out of musical territories that are lightyears away from the songs point of origin. 

Draken are a band with a collective inability to be able to take a musical path and stick rigidly to that path, they are a band whose need to incorporate everything they have ever heard or experienced into a piece of music overrides everything. The only thing Draken demand of their music is that it remains heavy regardless of the direction it might take, of course this approach carries an air of risk, chaos is always a possibility, but these guys keep a tight hold on the reins and rather then let the music completely dictate its own path they steer it where they need it to go and with "Book of Black" they have steered their music to whole new level of  excellence.
Check it out .... 
© 2023 Frazer Jones

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