Draken Premiere “Way Down Low” from Self-Titled Debut


Oslo, Norway’s Draken make their self-titled debut March 26 through Majestic Mountain Records, and if you’re the kind of person who likes easy categorization, it’s probably not a record for you. Bands who do one thing? That ain’t what’s happening here. Comprised of seven tracks across a sometimes-dizzying 45 minutes, Draken‘s Draken pulsates with energy through and through, but that performance element from bassist/vocalist Hallvard Gaardløs (also Orango and Spidergawd), guitarist Even Helte Hermansen (also Bushman’s Revenge) and drummer Andre Drage carries the heavy load when it comes to uniting the songs. That is to say, the purposes throughout Draken, especially as the adrenaline of opener “Realm of Silence” and “Way Down Low” — both of which ride the line between classic metal and heavy rock — gives way to the chunkier riffing of “Grand General,” and the full breadth of the record begins to show itself.

“Way Down Low,” at 5:54, is the longest of the three early cuts, and it brings the first surprising turn when it shifts into gruff, shouted vocals in its second half, revealing a current of heavy, modern noise rock that immediately throws the listener for a loop and pulls the rug out from under expectation. The stomp of “Grand General” offers some security, like it’s post-Mastodon with a classic edge, then the lead guitar starts in on this ’80s Don Henley thing before scorching out full-on and chug-whamming a finish (plus more growls) in under four minutes’ time, and, well, it doesn’t get any less complex from there.

Far from it, as Draken are really just getting started. Of the remaining four songs, none is under six minutes long. “(We Walk In) Circles,” the centerpiece, is seven and a half, and introduces an airy guitar atop fuzzy lumber leading to an open, subdued verse that draken drakengives way to a chorus that, were it not from Norway I might think of as being inspired by Akimbo (not that Norway is short on its own sphere of heavy noise), a blend of patience and electricity that’s telling in terms of Draken not being any of the members’ first time in the studio. The back and forth gives way to a rousing, worthy-of-being-the-centerpiece finish, and the 10-minute prog-metal “The Master” arrives. A highlight in style and substance alike, by the time it shows up, Draken have summarily blown the doors down in terms of genre and the fact that they’ve done so with such casual aplomb means that there’s little else the listener can do but try to keep up with the changes as they arrive. Might take a couple listens, honestly, as one song moves into the next and the purposes seem disparate, but that also has the effect of engaging with the album more satisfying.

So obviously things even out in the last two tracks, the band settle into some kind of middle ground, and the notion of challenging their audience — while still remaining basically accessible — fades away in favor of, I don’t know, willful mediocrity? Right? That sounds likely given how Draken‘s played out to this point, doesn’t it?

Of course not. “Strange Love” brings classic-speed boogie and hints at some of Spidergawd‘s swagger, while “Mountain in an Endless Ocean” is the most aggressively grooved inclusion on the outing, and that’s counting anything with the rougher vocals. A band like this, it can go one of three ways. One, they break up. Always possible. Two, they find one thing they want to do and do that. Three, they stay weird. Right now, Draken are downright gleeful in how all-over-the-place this debut is. They sound like they’re having a blast playing by no rules other than turn-the-amps-on-first, and it suits them. That’s a difficult strategy to maintain over the long term, and maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but right now, Draken is blindsiding and enjoyable in equal parts for its utter refusal to commit to a singular intent. If you can get on board with it — and again, it might take a couple listens to do so — you could have a lot of fun.

No single track represents Draken‘s Draken as a whole. Sorry. “Way Down Low” gives the album’s first hints that there’s more going on here that it might initially seem, so I hope you’ll listen to it in that context here too.

Please enjoy:

Hallvard Gaardløs on “Way Down Low”:

“‘Way Down Low’ was one of the last tracks to be written for our debut album and the inspiration for the song came after I went to the movies to see Us by Jordan Peele. I thought it was pretty fucking scary, so when I went home, I couldn’t really sleep so I stayed up and wrote that song. It was one of the last tracks to be written for our debut album, and also a very important one. The characters and overall theme of the lyrics tie together with the album cover, so this could well be a title-track of some sort. It goes to show that sometimes, a good scare can have unexpected results.”

Pre-order Draken via Majestic Mountain Records – https://majesticmountainrecords.bigcartel.com/product/draken-draken-vinyl

Draken’s self-titled debut album will be released worldwide on 26th March 2021 through Majestic Mountain Records. 

Hallvard Gaardløs – Bass, Vocals
Even Hermansen – Guitar
Andre Drage – Drums

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