Before The Dawn: Rise of the Phoenix
15/05/12 || Smalley
Since we’re coming up on the 20th anni of the Rodney King riots, I have to ask: can’t we all just… get along? “We” as in the metalheads camped alongside The Grand DM Canyon, with one side mostly only able to enjoy traditional death metal, and the other, heavily biased toward the melodic stuff, with each side reluctant to admit the other style does, in fact, have musical merit. Now, there are a few common points; both sides seem to dig “melo death” records like (knock on wood) “Slaughter of the soul”, or “Heartwork”, but the thing is, while those may be good albums, I feel they lean too heavily towards the brutality of traditional DM, and neglect to explore the potential beauty within melo death as deeply.
So, any metalheads who straddle the fence are in a no man’s land; we like traditional death and melo death about equally, and we do dig stuff like “Heartwork”, but when it comes to melo death that more even-handedly captures the spirits of both styles, not relying too much on heavy but also without sounding too “happy” (ala Kalmah… though they’re still good), there just weren’t that many options… until now, that is. You see, my due diligence in blindly vacuuming almost all new metal (and semen) through downloads, regardless of whether I’ve heard of the band or not, has lead me to Before The Dawn’s “Rise of the phoenix”, which, despite its painfully hackneyed title, is a great, fresh new fusion of the energy of “classic” DM with the beautiful melodies of melo death, making for a strong addition to my ever-growing best of the year list.
After “Exordium”, an intro track that’s actually useful for its beautiful acoustic guitars, we get hit by the duality of “Pitch-black universe”, which lays blunt, hard riffing, incredibly lively percussion, and deep Cookie Monster growls alongside clean lead guitar melodies/keyboarding that are so uniquely melo death, giving us the best of both DM worlds (with none of the bad), and with a great, consistent energy to the songwriting/performances to boot.
Things get even better on the epic “Phoenix rising”, with its choppy, thrashy riffing, with tastefully restrained use of the leads to lend the track a classy sort of elegance, and with a graceful chorus, a soothing piano outro, and an overall relentless momentum as cherries on top. “Cross to bear” adopts a more aggressive tone, but still satisfies with some excellent, winding lead melodies, while “Throne of ice” brings the acoustics back in a beautiful, ethereal intro, which segues seamlessly into the energetic, powerful verses, with an unexpectedly long, complicated overall structure that still engages the entire way.
After that, “Perfect storm” has a nice, unstoppable momentum to it, and from there, every remaining track is completely satisfying, which is nice, since most good metal albums still have at least one or dud-ish songs to bring things down a bit; not so here. Anyway, to address the classic DM fans specifically, don’t get me wrong; “Rise” does still qualify as a melo death album, so if you’re completely unable to listen to any DM softer than Bloodbath, you’re shit outta luck, but that also means you’re really close-minded; who the fuck cares what you think, then? But, for any metalheads out there more willing to come “towards the center” some (i.e. the sane ones), they shall find some very rich, diverse, and ambitious rewards to reap with “Phoenix”. Smalley hath spoken.
- Released: 2012
- Label: Nuclear Blast
- Website: www.beforethedawn.com
- Tuomas Saukkonen: vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Pyry Hanski: bass
- Joonas Kauppinen: drums
- Juho Räihä: lead guitars
- 01. Exordium
- 02. Pitch-Black Universe
- 03. Phoenix Rising
- 04. Cross To Bear
- 05. Throne Of Ice
- 06. Perfect Storm
- 07. Fallen World
- 08. Eclipse
- 09. Closure