Another project from Rogga Johansson?? When does the man sleep and find time for the finer things in life, like beer and Mexican wrestling? These questions plague me as I peruse the list of bands, side-projects and side-side projects which Rogga has his paws on (The 11th Hour, Paganizer, Demiurg, Megascavenger, Ribspreader, etc. etc.). Now you can add Just Before Dawn, which is his collaboration with Anders Biazzi (Blood Mortized, ex-Amon Amarth) and a gaggle of friends from bands like Puteraeon, Zombification, Revel in Flesh and Godhate. Together they’ve churned out a crusty, thick and vicious ode to all things Bolt Thrower and Asphyx, which is similar to Rogga’s recent work with Megascavenger, but better and more consistent. Basically a super-group of Swedish death vets, Just Before Dawn follows closely in the boot prints of such war-obsessed acts as Hail of Bullets, Decaying and the aforementioned Thrower of Bolts. It’s war all day, war all night for these guys (the album art says it all) and that suits me just fine. The riffs are huge and pummeling, the vocals are guttural and vile, the pace is either slow and grinding or mid-tempo and grinding and the whole thing reeks of a battlefield in July. No surprises, just solid, meaty death with tons of power and glory. As if that wasn’t enough, they even got Rick Rozz (Death, Massacre) to show up and drop one of his infamous whammy dive solos like he did on the last Blood Mortized opus! This stuff sells itself, no?
The opening title track has old school riffs that will peel your eyelids off with power and awesomeness and when Rogga comes roaring in, you’ll shake your head in awe. This one takes me back to the glory days of albums like Bolt Thrower‘s Realm of Chaos and Entombed‘s Left Hand Path and that makes Steel Druhm a happy camper. Rogga’s vocals are huge, ridiculously guttural and raw and Biazzi’s riffs burrow into your mind like a maggot with a backhoe. This is the modus operandi for much of Precis Innan Gryningen (Swedish for “Just Before Dawn”), with tracks like “Under the Wheels of Death,” “Ten Megaton Warhead” and “The World Burning” blasting away in true war metal fashion loaded with enormous, sledgehammer riffs, savage vocals and a never-ending feeling of unease and dread.
As a change of pace, ditties like “Death Breaks the Surface” and “Pulverized” opt for a slower, toxic grind of the kind Asphyx and Winter were famous for. “Raped Soil” jerks back and forth between the two styles, incorporates mournful riffing that brings to mind Grave‘s better moments and features a melodic, but downbeat solo by Jonas Lindblood (Puteraeon). Just Before Dawn executes this death/doom grind very well and while I personally prefer the more tank busting, up-tempo assaults, no song sounds like filler (which is rare with a super group project) and since the album is rather short, it comes and goes quickly, leaving the listener wanting more.
This is a very riff centered variety of death and as he did on the recent Blood Mortized album, Biazzi writes a series of enjoyably crushing, ominous leads. I’m a big fan of his playing style and he always brings plenty of that classic Swedish death buzz. To add extra spice, a slew of guest musicians drop by to perform solos. I was particularly taken by the one in “Pulverized” which reminded me of Possessed‘s classic “The Exorcist” while also channeling the vibe of the early Bathory albums. It goes without saying I also love the vintage Rick Rozz whammies during “Under the Wheels of Death.” I mean, c’mon, those are as metal as metal gets! As always, Rogga sounds large and terrifying as he continues to show why he’s one of the best pure death metal vocalists out there. When his godless roar is placed over riffs this fucking huge, it sounds like the soundtrack to interstellar nuclear war.
The production is murky, raw and perfect for this music. The guitar sound is ginormous and ugly and the drums sound thunderous. In a nutshell, it sounds like war metal should. Rogga’s vocals are a bit upfront in the mix, but that adds to the sense of terror and impending doom this album so eloquently conveys.
Since I’m a big fan of the lead collaborators and worship Bolt Thrower, it’s a no-brainer I love this album. If you like your death thick, raw and heavy as a Panzer battalion, you’ll love what Just Before Dawn brewed up. I hope this isn’t a one-off project because I surely want more of this stuff. Back to the front!!