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  • Interview by Faye Coulman

Gothic doom titans Draconian talk touring, existential darkness and writing new material

It’s fast approaching a full three years since Swedish doom royalty Draconian let loose the sumptuous, melancholia-stricken magic of bewitching seventh album ‘Under A Godless Veil’ back in the autumn of 2020. And as Dark Matter surveys the bustling urban epicentre of Camden Town on the night of the band’s sold out show alongside fellow genre icons Swallow the Sun, we’re reminded of just how dramatically circumstances have changed for the better since the notorious period of grim uncertainty and isolation in which this mesmerising record was born. Now, mere hours away from debuting these enchanting tracks to a live UK audience, founder Anders Jacobsson and ethereal vocal talent Lisa Johansson take a moment to reflect on what’s been an extremely stressful yet momentous couple of years…

“Sometimes with music like this, you feel less alone in this world, because people are, of course, all different, but there's so much we share also that bubbles up to the surface, and you can connect with others through this darkness,” observes Draconian founder Anders Jacobsson on the extraordinary solace to be sourced from the kind of soul-baring, intensely evocative music for which these talented Swedish doomsters have long been globally admired. Indeed, it takes a rare standard of sonic artistry to resonate with listeners on the profound and deeply affecting level Anders describes, evoking all the varying degrees of sorrow, rage and deeply entrenched melancholia they may have hitherto considered themselves quite alone in experiencing.

Released back in an era burdened down with unrelenting extremes of isolation, grief and desperation, 2020 masterwork ‘Under A Godless Veil’ was therefore surely nothing short of a spiritual lifeline for darkly inclined souls grappling with the numerous assorted horrors of COVID-19 around this notorious time period. But for all the rich, ink-black catharsis to be derived from our ever-beloved extreme scene, there remained, nevertheless, the sizeable void left by the absence of live music – that ultimate, coveted communion of like-minded individuals united in a ritualistic frenzy of sound, adrenaline and unrelenting motion. With the various obstacles and impediments of Brexit, family commitments and, above all else, a global pandemic rendering this integral facet of the creative process utterly impossible for a number of years following the release of 2015’s ‘Sovran’, Jacobsson and co. have evidently faced more than their share of problematic trials and tribulations leading up to this year’s momentous return to the European tour circuit.

“This tour was actually supposed to have happened three years ago, so obviously it’s the first time we're going to be debuting stuff off ‘Under A Godless Veil’,” the vocalist explains. “It’s actually been 10 years since we were last here, actually in this very same club. So we have done two albums since then and that was the Heike [Langhans] era, and she was already in the band when we were here last time. I don't know if Brexit and all that happened at that time, back in 2015, I don't remember. Maybe not, but then there was something with the South Americans and having problems to getting into... They have certain Visas that needed to be done and cost a lot of money, so we had to get a session vocalist for Heike and she was also called Lisa. So we haven't been here with any female member until now, so it all feels a little bit new and London, of course, it's a big city and it feels like its been a long time coming.”

Coupled with this expansive body of yet-to-be-debuted material, the momentous return of former vocalist Lisa Johansson to the fold following a sizeable, 11-year absence also brings with it no small amount of eager anticipation ahead of what promises to be one of the most electrifying live performances we’re likely to witness all year. Of her newly re-established position as lead female vocalist alongside long-time friend and bandmate Anders, the singer enthuses, “It's my first tour and I think I'm adapting pretty good, and I feel that I'm really peaking vocally now. I sing better and have so much more confidence, you know? And on stage, I feel a lot more comfortable than I used to, so this is this is just great and I really enjoy it. I love to sing the songs from ‘Under A Godless Veil’ too. So far it’s been great and so well organised and everyone’s been so friendly.”

From the exquisitely glimmering, gossamer-fine fretwork of ghoulishly entrancing slow-burner ‘Sleepwalkers’ to the tortured, crushingly turbulent throes of ‘The Sethian’, there’s no doubt that choice tracks extracted from latest long-player ‘Under A Godless Veil’ will make for an intense and darkly compelling live experience. As to precisely what fans can expect from tonight’s now-imminent show, Anders remarks: “Simply living the experience of the songs, and just really bringing that out in a live context. So I have my hair in my face the whole time and I’m sweating a lot, but I try to feel and channel the energy of the songs as far as possible. Particularly with the lyrics, I try to feel what I meant when I wrote it and take in the vibe from the audience and the whole experience. Everyone in the band is so much more confident now and that really helps with our presence on stage.”

But while the band are, for the present moment, fully occupied and consumed with the immediately pressing demands of this latest extensive European touring cycle, the writing of a follow-up to 2020's masterful '...Godless Veil' is, according to Anders, already well underway.

"We’ve been working on the new album now for like a year already,” the lead lyricist reveals. “It’s been up and down with the songwriting process, which we need to sync in with everyone’s lives, but we have more than half the album, the base of it, written so when I’m heading out to a different country after the tour I’m not going to stop working for the rest of the year. It's going to be a bit different, I think. Still Draconian but maybe a little bit more experimental; that’s what I feel when I listen to it. You have the old gothy doomy stuff, maybe a little bit more industrial, but still very romantic in that sense. I've been trying to spice it up a little bit, always changing things up and that’s exciting to me because I’m a fan of Draconian too, although I will never see them live, I guess,” he jests with a chuckle.

“With this album, I want it to be a little bit more personal, focusing on processes deep inside my heart, and I’m hoping that’s something others will be able to relate to. We go through this life together in which there is so much darkness and we can light each other up by connecting with each other in that way. I think that’s what inspires me now, because I want to take these dark things and light them up and somehow illuminate the darkness. That’s what I always do when I write music; it’s a very therapeutic process, as is the stage. Every time, it feels wonderful and it’s not just because of the lyrics of the songs. It’s the energy that's so intense it feels almost like a workout session. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of and I try not to take it for granted.”


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