1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 411

The Burning Halo, by Draconian
Suggested by Lee Ian Garner

Sometimes I wonder if my senses are broken.

I know that my sight is compromised. I’ve worn glasses for years. I tried contact lenses, but found myself drunkenly clawing at my corneas once too often, without realising my lens was on the floor. My sense of smell has organically returned after years of smoking. and I’ve no complaints about my senses of taste and touch.

My sense of hearing? I think it’s fine, but I can never be sure.

I can hear things. While I’ve barraged my eardrums with Heavy Metal since I was a nipper-snapper, and I’m a friend of the post-gig tinnitus whine, I’ve done no serious damage. My concern is that the things I hear are not necessarily the things heard by everyone else. It’s an old philosophical conundrum. I see a Big Red Fire Engine. Is the red I’m seeing the same red as everyone else is seeing too?

I raise this point because of the pervasive and overwhelming nature of my personal vocal bugbear, the Death Metal Growl.

It’s a broken record, but I’m pig-sick of growling vocals. My distain is documented across all my reviews, so I won’t dwell on it. Today, I’m concerned with how the growl is received by others. Because I simply cannot believe that growl fans are hearing what I’m hearing. The sound created is just bad. It has no artistic merit, no redeeming quality, no inner or outer beauty, no scope, no style, no substance. It’s merely white noise, white with a capital S.

The Burning Halo is a lovely album, on one level, fifty-four minutes of symphonic and gothic metal across eight sprawling tracks, paring anthemic guitars with haunting pianos and strings, allowing space for metallic chugs and demonic drums alongside a smoothness that both surprises and uplifts with its luscious languid gait. The clean vocalist, Heike Langhans, helps create something mesmeric and delicious, and if that was that we’d have a seven or eight… but that is not, I’m afraid, that. That is not that at all.

Anders Jacobsson, the harsh vocalist, is presumably paid good money to take something delicate, and vomit his bile all over it. It’s bog-standard low-register growling, pitched with a laconic drawl, raking its virtual fingernails down the listener’s metaphorical blackboard. The people behind the curtain have treated and mixed the resultant effluvia with an ear to shaping the sound, but a turd dipped in glitter is still just a shiny stick of sh*te.

As for songs, my standout is the nearly-ballad The Dying, which is perversely the longest on the album. The best of the rest include On Sunday They Will Kill the World, which mutates into something that’s frankly bizarre, and the rousing closer Forever My Queen. Even though I do like the album, most of the songs are overlong, almost hitting ten minutes each, and with titles such as Serenade of Sorrow or The Gothic Embrace, it’s clear that it’s not only the band’s sense of hearing that’s compromised: their sense of humour also appears to have been chemically castrated.

The Burning Halo gets 5/10, but only just. With one single tweak, I’d be offering high praise, but as things stand? It’s just another murky bucket drawn from a tainted well.

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