Where Lovers Mourn

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Epic goth metal with some heavy '70s progressive elements (Rick Wakeman-style keyboards, occasional interludes of softer, folk-like melodies, some spoken word passages that sound like the Moody Blues played at 16 rpm -- that sort of thing), the debut album by Sweden's Draconian is much better than many similar albums in this style. The seven-person band has a strong sense of both pacing and dynamics, which means that these eight lengthy tracks never bog down in repetitive riffing; the nearly 13-minute opener, "The Cry of Silence," manages to hold the listener's attention throughout, thanks to smartly deployed shifts in arrangement and tempo. Female singer Lisa Johannson is a perfect complement to her male counterpart, Anders Jacobsson, her warm mezzo-soprano tone adding a more interesting tonal shade than the usual faceless semi-operatic squealer who populates these bands. (Check out her glorious, soaring interludes on "Silent Winter" in particular.) Happily, Jacobsson's booming, dramatic voice only rarely delves into the Cookie Monster clich├ęs of Scandinavian metal, making him a better than average singer for the style as well, and the band as a whole does an excellent job of varying its attack.

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