Johan Ericson likes to keep himself busy, so when he is not doing his day job playing guitar for Draconian he has a number of other ways of keeping his creative side occupied. Alongside mixing and producing duties and session work with the likes of When Nothing Remains, he also has a number of personal pet projects, arguably the most famous of which is Doom:VS. Johan maintains total and complete creative control over Doom:VS in the best way possible, in that he does absolutely everything. Very bloody good he is at it too with the previous albums receiving universal praise, but it must be a difficult and painstaking task to manage every aspect of an album from start to finish. Without a great deal of honesty and self-editing it could spiral into a massive self-indulgent ego-trip, but Ericson clearly has his head screwed on straight, especially where Doom:VS is concerned.
Whilst the wait goes on for a new Draconian album, (although the rumour is the wait will be over early next year), Ericson has been using his time constructively. It may have been six years since the last album ‘Dead Words Speak’, but he has still been busy working on new material in that time whilst working on other projects. That works out as a new song a year for the wait we have had, so with a year to work on each one, you’d expect them to be honed to perfection. Ok, if not perfect then pretty damn near. The good news is that the songs are every bit as good as I expected, with one or two small reservations. The beauty in the lead melodies is complemented by the deliberate pacing and the abyssal depths of the vocals. The title track is an excellent case in point, with the structure initially sounding similar to the sort of material Draconian were putting out around the ‘Arcane Rain Fell’ era, but as the track progresses it develops into something far more elaborate and expansive, utilising a number of different styles to great effect.
The time taken to deliver the finished product is reflected in the songs, great care and attention to detail being evident and I get the impression that there is perhaps an OCD element to the way Ericson works. Minor touches in the arrangements of songs offer major enhancements as the deeper atmosphere brings the whole thing to life. If there is one problem with this album and indeed the other Doom:VS albums that came before it is that Ericson’s death vocal, as good as it is, changes so little in style and tone throughout that it becomes a bit of a burden. By the time you reach the latter stages of the album you may find yourself subconsciously trying to tune out the vocals and listen to this purely on a musical basis. It may well be a minor gripe, but it’s one that gets bigger the longer you listen.
Doom:VS as a project leans far heavier on his Draconian days than his other major project, the gothic rock based Shadowgarden, and it often makes you wonder what could have happened had Draconian not lightened their style. There is no light here though, and Johan Ericson has delivered another satisfyingly spirit crushing work. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another six years for the next one.
(8.5/10, Lee Kimber)