You know all about our stance on so called “supergroups” at his establishment. The whole concept of a group of superlative (or at least well known) musicians coming together to form an exciting new project invites heightened expectations, and all too often the end product is a let down. Of course there are exceptions to the rule like Arch/Matheos and of course, that awesome Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration, but as a rule it’s best to approach these things guardedly. That brings us to today’s subject – a project by former Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini and Argus vocalist Brian Balich. Though neither are household names, they’re known in the metalverse for works past, and when I heard they were collaborating on a progressive doom album, my interest was undeniably piqued. Dawn of Ages is a mammoth effort, with 6 songs accounting for over an hour of music, and with track lengths sometimes exceeding 17 minutes, it’s obvious they were going for something larger-than-life. Taking elements of Dio-era Rainbow and Black Sabbath and mixing it with more modern doom like Solitude Aeturnus and The Obsessed, they’ve managed to create an interesting sound of their own that touches on almost every major doom act of the past 40 years. It definitely has some mind-blowing moments, but it has its flaws too. Such is the way of the super-powered.

Anytime a band opens with a 10-minute behemoth, you know you’re dealing with renegade badasses, and “The Fallen” certainty takes its sweet time getting its stone buttocks ov steel up and moving. At the 4-minute mark when the big doom riffs finally show up, they’re so welcome it’s like a party breaks out in your mausoleum and everybody’s coming. The mood is heavy, the riffs are huge and Balich’s big, raspy roar is perfect for the music. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before but it’s high-quality doom nonetheless, and it makes the longer than needed wait feel worth it.  “Forever Fade” is much more immediate, situating itself between gritty street doom like Pentagram and The Obsessed and old Fireball Ministry. It aims to put a hurting on you with crushing, aggressive riffage and does just that.

Big, long-winded set pieces like “Into Exile” shake so many doom branches it’s hard not to play Spot the Influence as the song drags you down nostalgia-filled highways and byways for 11-plus minutes. It shamelessly copies the classic riff from Sabbath‘s “Into the Void,” but with so much else going in, that seems fairly forgivable, especially given the stunning guitar-work throughout and the ripping solo that strikes at the 7:40 mark. “The Wraith” is longer still, mixing Awaken the Guardian era Fates Warning melodies with some very Pallbearer-esque vocal hooks full of emotion and pathos.

The biggest and most unwieldy cut is “Beyond the Barricade” which at various times recalls the epicness of Rainbow‘s “Stargazer,” the bluesy barroom rock of Deep Purple and even the grunge of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, all as the band does their best to pulverize you with classic doom sounds and staples. Balich outdoes himself vocally here and the sheer number of interesting riffs and harmonies is impressive.

The biggest issue the album has is that while long songs are expected on a doom album, these things are really, really long. As good as many of the ideas are in “Beyond the Barricade,” at over 17 minutes, it’s really hard to stay locked in and attentive. All the more so after the series of 10-13 minutes whoppers that precede it. Even the best music suffers when the compositions defy the listener’s endurance and stamina, and this album definitely demands you run the attention gauntlet. I have trouble spinning this in its entirety, though I very much enjoy every song on it’s own.

Between the two stars, it’s hard to say who impresses more. The guitar-work is wonderfully diverse, dark, engaging and at times, crushingly heavy. There’s a great mix between melody and power and Victor Arduini really lets himself go as he explores many different eras and genres of music, while always keeping things anchored in doom. Pick any track and you’ll be impressed by what he’s doing. As good as the guitar-work is, I’m equally impressed with the power and range Brian Balich displays on this material. He goes far beyond what he’s shown on the Argus albums, delivering truckloads of raw emotion and soaring harmonies. I honestly had no idea he was capable of so much as a singer and I was already a big fan of his vocals on the Argus albums.

Dawn of Ages is a very interesting piece of doom that manages to show where the genre has been while also giving us a glimpse of where it might be going. It defies the curse of the supergroup, and if the songs themselves were shorter and a bit more easily digestible, this would be Album o’ the Year material. As it stands, this is a mammoth slab of thinking man’s doom with more flavors than Baskin Robbins. Get the extra-large cone and prepare to gorge on riff cream.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2017

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Oh come on Steely-D! How old are you? Why would you call The Obsessed and Solitude Aeturnus “modern doom”?

    • Time is a human construct.

      • BlackSoots

        Are you sure about that Steel Druhm? Time as a socially constructed thing… Then we should make “pause life” something we could use on a whim for sure!

        You heard it here first foaks :)

      • André Snyde Lopes

        And you were below the waves.

        Eh, does Druhm-sama listen to Devin Townsend?

    • sir_c

      well, seeing that Def Leppard’s Hysteria is AOTM, things have become very relative lately :-)

  • Reese Burns

    I’m more of a funeral doom type guy but this sounds pretty rad.

    • I hear there’s a new Loss album coming soon.

      • Reese Burns

        Hey, I had no idea. Thanks for the heads-up, means a lot!

    • Then I highly recommend you visit frowningblacklion dot bandcamp dot com.

  • Eli Valcik

    I’m really happy right now, seems like tons of great doom are being released daily.

  • aaron bergman

    A Lulu of a review

  • André Snyde Lopes

    3.5s for everyone!

    • The new “standard by which all should be judged”?

  • Based on the embedded track, the review is spot on. I like everything I hear, but it’s too long. If it were half the length, it’d be excellent. Trim the fat!

  • DrewMusic

    Once upon a time, I uttered a phrase to the effect of ‘one can never have too much doom.’
    I’m sorry everybody. I’ll try to use my powers for good from now on.
    For reals, though, trying to keep up with all the doom and post-black being churned out damn near hourly at this point is getting a bit obnoxious, and I think I’m going feral in the process.

  • Wilhelm

    This sounds good, so much doom released lately is just boring and generic, it’s also usually mixed with post rock, sludge, or stoner rock. I like mine either mixed with traditional metal, of the gothic/atmospheric variety, and occasional funeral…to me the genre is all about evoking emotions and sadly I’m only feeling disappointment. Good review, good band.

  • Excentric_13073

    I was in zero hurry today (it is a Friday, after all) and the embedded track hit the spot. At least on my headphones, the mastering is really, really good.

  • contenderizer

    “Anytime a band opens with a 10-minute behemoth, you know you’re dealing with renegade badasses”

    Yeah, either that or a doom band playing doom on a doom record.

  • h_f_m

    I like the scene in the video that reminds me of trying to put things in a pile in a bethesda RPG.

    • Brian Balich

      the album will be available for digital purchase in a couple weeks… the label staggered the releases of the physical and digital versions… m/

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Finally got around to listening to this. Quite nice. I managed to swallow the sum of it in one sitting.

  • jersey devil

    this is fucking awesome.