Swallow the Sun & Draconian – Glasgow, UK – April 10th, 2023

What better way to celebrate Easter Sunday than a gloom-drenched evening with Nordic doom metallers Swallow the Sun and Draconian? This funerary co-headlining tour stops in Glasgow’s Slay on its UK tour. The venue is busy, defying both economic despair and festive familial commitments.

Sweden’s Draconian are a well-established hybridisation of gothic and death/doom metal, in mourning since 1994. Last year was particularly special for the Swedes; their original female singer Lisa Johansson rejoined the band following the departure of Heike Langhans, concluding a decade-long absence. The goth metallers take the stage and being a sextet, they truly occupy the compact stage. Their show begins with The Sacrificial Flame, from their latest full-length Beneath a Godless Veil. The guitars are quiet in the mix and succumb to the drums and robust vocals of Anders Jacobsson and Johansson. Johnasson is in her element performing Langhans’ material and imbues her performance with abundant sincerity. 

Plenty of the setlist originates from Beneath a Godless Veil, including Lustrous Heart, The Sethian and Sorrow of Sofia. Johansson is faithful to Langhan’s voice, offering a melancholic counterbalance to Jacobsson’s bruising growls. Icy rain-swept guitar leads are backed by clouds of distortion to craft haunting and solemn songs. Draconian are masters of the typical oscillation between light and dark themes that goth and death/doom acts play with. The band’s stage presence is energetic, given their sparse space to move. Seasons Apart, Elysian Night and Dishearten make hairs stand on end. Still, their performance’s highlight is rightfully saved until the end – Daylight Misery from their highly acclaimed album Arcane Rain Fell. This was an enigmatic performance that could bring tears to your eyes.

Finland’s Swallow the Sun are one of the melodic metal bands that came of age in the early 2000s and deservedly rose to stratospheric heights. Their sun-deprived doom metal twist on the genre provided ample atmosphere and solitary introspection. Beginning with Enemy from their most recent album Moonflowers, the quartet blanket Slay with thunderous riffs and piercing guitar leads from axemen Juha Raivio and Juho Räihä. The sound is flawless, complimenting the dark, sinister passages and crushing drums. 

Wearing hoods, the line-up strikes quite a brooding presence on stage, headbanging through a sombre set. Moonflowers is promoted keenly with dirges including Keep Your Heart Safe from Mine, This House Has No Home and Woven into Sorrow. On record, this album features violins, violas and cellos to embolden their music with classical takes on first-hand grief. These instruments are absent live, and admittedly it does strip away some atmosphere, but these tracks remain entertaining in their own right. Other discography highlights, such as Falling World, Firelights and New Moon, receive resounding responses. Vocalist Mikko Kotamäki gets a chuckle from the crowd when he announces that the rest of the set will feature no more clean vocals, just focusing on his monstrous death metal growls. The last song of the night is the beloved Swallow (Horror, Part 1). The venue rewards this sublime show with rapturous applause. The set has elapsed its scheduled run time, and thankfully, Swallow the Sun aren’t forced to truncate their set. 

This co-headliner of complementary but differing bands was a solidly satisfying slab of melodic doom. Both of these acts prove that depressive metal can be entertaining live and is the furthest away from a snooze fest.