Ah, the life of a reviewer. It has it’s share of perks for sure. The promos, the forum for spouting self-righteous opinions, the money and of course, the women. However, all of that glory fades when compared to the thrill of reporting that a beloved band’s new album is fantastic. This right here was a release I’ve been waiting eagerly for and I had to beg, harass and harangue Angry Metal Guy into letting me review it. Because he’s a harsh but fair employer, he finally relented and let me address the sixth album by these gents from Finland (although that probably means I have to review a crapload of cheesy metalcore albums in the near future [How'd you know!? - AMG]). For those unfamiliar, Before the Dawn is a little difficult to pigeonhole neatly into one genre. They’re essentially a melodic death metal unit with a fair amount of gothic, and at times, doom metal added in. It’s been a successful and highly enjoyable combination and these guys always impressed me with how they blended heaviness with melody and huge hooks. I’m very happy to report that Deathstar Rising is another big success for these guys, contains some of their best material so far and is one of the best releases of the still early year.
After a short, mood setting acoustic intro, things get off to an excellent start with “Winter Within” which demonstrates what makes these guys special. Founder Toumas Saukkonen’s harsh death metal rasp and crunching riffage, the fluid and melodic leads by Juho Ralha and very importantly, the outstanding clean vocals by Lars Eikind. The vocal trade offs and harmonies by Lars and Toumas are what really makes Before the Dawn shine and they kicked it up a few notches on this album. Things only get better with the title track which is heavy, mournful but instantly catchy and memorable. When Lars comes in for the chorus the song just ignites and its a real blockbuster. Tracks like “Remembrance, “Unbroken” and “The Wake” all hit hard with great heavy riffs and excellent vocals (the guitar melodies on “Unbroken” sounds a lot like those on the new Omnium Gatherum album). The major highlight is “Sanctuary” which features forlorn, haunting and emotional vocals by Lars over the top of some heavy riffing and cool, winding, melodic guitar leads. The effect is moving and this is a great fucking song and reaffirms why I love this band. Also worth noting is the contribution by new drummer Atte Palokangas who creates a lot of noise behind the kit and his authoratative performance puts a big exclamation point on many of the tracks.
Throughout the album there’s great balance between their aggressive death metal side and the haunting, morose side that comes through in Lars vocals and Juho’s melodic lead work. They really have a sound all their own and with each album they seem to develop a deeper insight into creating beautiful yet heavy music. There aren’t any weak tracks and the whole album reeks of quality writing and musicianship. The production is very clear and crisp and the guitars have a great tone to them so when they go heavy, it sounds mighty heavy indeed. This is a win across the boards.
Deathstar Rising is a must have for fans of melodic death metal and intense, dramatic music with top-notch musicianship. It’s better than 2008’s Soundscape of Silence and as good if not better than 2006’s Deadlight which I worship muchly. No matter how many asstastically bad metalcore albums I get stuck with reviewing, this was worth it and I regret nothing. Nothing!!