A Dracula, the second full-length album from Las Vegas band Demon Lung (whose members actually hail from all across the country) is a story of satanic lineage, heartbreak, death and vengeance. However, the picture is more dark and lovelorn than nihilistic and gruesome, with singer Shandra Fredrick’s clean, often aching vocals and dramatic lyrics conjuring scenes of Dark Age dalliances, spilling heart’s blood, seductive dances in moon-bathed countrysides and, ultimately, forbidden loves left eternally sundered, the ghosts of their stunted promise hanging wraithlike and thick across the span of centuries.
The album is able to exert such acute narrative thrust because of Fredrick. Her voice is relatively low and powerful and splits the difference between operatic force, psychedelic wonder and, at times, plaintive alternative/progressive metal in the vein of Richard Patrick and Maynard James Keenan. The Tool similarity (whether coincidental or not) is not solely felt in the vocals. The instrumental compositions share many of the progressive tendencies of that group, and happily, their musical diversity and tightness as well.
The guitar and bass tones are metal all the way, but “doom” does not quite cover everything that is happening on A Dracula. There are some deathy, chugging double-bass runs, chunky, momentum filled stomps and baroque, medieval progressive entreaties to the Crimson King, with the last two coming back-to-back on “Gypsy Curse.” Demon Lung handle these wanderings with grace, so when Fredrick dons a sequined gown and becomes a crooning chanteuse in “I Am Haunted,” the diversion feels like a natural evolution within the framework of the song.
Speaking of evolutions within frameworks, A Dracula hangs together quite well as a concept album. There is a tangible storyline (based on Alucarda, a horror movie from the 1970s) concerning the daughter of Satan, who falls in love with a nun-in-training. As one can imagine, all hell literally breaks loose. This rising action is a boon as the album lumbers along and the songs become a bit samey. The lack of raised texture is a blessing and a curse – it is more pleasing to listen to the album as a whole than to cherry-pick for highlights, but there aren’t really any bombtracks that deliver a quick jolt of doom invigoration.
A Dracula is a strong entry from a group on the rise. Driven by an absorbing narrative, entrancing vocals and a muscular, diverse musical backdrop, it is an album that makes a lasting impression. Hopefully, as Still Life was to Blackwater Park and everything thereafter, A Dracula will represent just one well-woven tale in a long anthology of moving narratives.