Dawn of a Dark Age – La Tavola Osca Review

How many bands do you know that use the natural elements in their sound? “Earth, wind, fire, and air! We look bad but we don’t care,” reminds The Hex Girls.1 They forgot water but it’s okay because they don’t care. From Thrice’s Alchemy Index and RnB funk legends Earth, Wind & Fire, to the lesser-known metal forays of post-black shoegazers Nemus’ and “witch metal” purveyors Black Queen (and I’m sure a ton more I just can’t think of right now), we might need the Avatar to restore balance before the Dawn of a Dark Age!2

Dawn of a Dark Age is an Italian black metal duo formed in 2014, brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Vittorio Sabelli (aka Eurynomos, also of Suici.De.Pression), currently featuring vocalist Emanuele Prandoni (aka Anamnesi of Progenie Terrestre Pura and Grind Zero). Sabelli has released five full-lengths since the project’s inception: volumes 1-5 of The Six Elements series (in order: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Spirit / Mystères). This presumably culminates in sixth full-length La Tavola Osca,3 even if I’m unsure what it has to do with the elements. That aside, while Dawn of a Dark Age sports standard black metal fare with tremolo, blastbeats, and blackened vocals, it also features quite a few experimental tricks that showcase its versatility. Ultimately, while its ambition is noteworthy and tricks impressive, La Tavola Osca is tragically capsized by a horrific second act of shoddy songwriting and nauseating repetition.

Composed of two tracks, La Tavola Osca’s greatness is epitomized in first part “Atto I,” which features some nice Dissection-esque melo-black riffs and other blackened shenanigans, but its focus lies in the clarinet and acoustic guitar spearheading the twenty-three-minute track’s movements. An odd choice, feeling a bit like Spain’s metal minimalists Inhumankind, but a strangely effective one for Dawn of a Dark Age, as clarinet encompasses haunting and rip-roaring in its inclusion in drawn out tones and truly technical shreds solos(?), respectively. The acoustic guitar maintains a flamenco-meets-Falls of Rauros tone for its tamer moments, having a slightly festive flavor alongside its bleaker melodies. Also utilized are saxophone, bass spotlights, female vocals, punk D-beats, Italian spoken word, and operatic Gregorian chants a la Batushka4—flourishes in a track that ebbs and flows patiently between blackened fury and haunting atmosphere.

However, Dawn of a Dark Age’s darkest hour lies in “Atto II.” The first is imperfect, sure, as transitions can be awkward, tonal shifts jarring, and the track identity scattershot. But the second movement really takes the cake. Beginning with an unsteady passage in which the same moody melody is repeated by different instruments and vocals (clarinet to acoustic guitar to classical opera vocals to melodic tremolo), the real damage happens thereafter at the seven-minute mark to its conclusion. Forsaking solid content for blackened ambiance, distant flute and ritualistic drumming a la The Ruins of Beverast or Heilung, wind sound effects straight outta Blut aus Nord’s The Work Which Transforms God, and wintry Paysage d’Hiver sound effects take center stage, while also featuring Moëvöt blackened vocals, moans, shrieks, and breathing echo over the fray. While this is certainly an ambitious mix of styles, it ends up being monotonous drudgery of over ten minutes of embarrassing repetition. I can see where it’s intended to be mesmerizing, but its atmosphere is too abrupt, it goes goes on for too long doing too little, and the decision to forsake solid content for interlude-esque ambiance feels like musical suicide. It’s feels painfully sloppy, and even if executed properly, jarringly tone-deaf. Ultimately, the last ten minutes of La Tavola Osca painfully derail what could have been a promising listen.

I cannot fault Dawn of a Dark Age for the duo’s ambition. Using non-metal instruments to lead a metal album is prone to disaster, but surprisingly La Tavola Osca at its most clarinet-led and acoustic guitar-supported is a wonder to behold. While its best is certainly prone to tonal insecurities and jarring transitions, it feels menial compared to the latter half’s protracted exercise in blackened ambient worship that feels neither original nor fleshed out, landing in unforgivable agonizing tedium. While I can respect the bold direction and radical experimentation, the only thing that stuck with me was the obnoxious wind effects ringing in my ears. They should have used it in the Air installment. Ugh.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
LabelAntiq Records
Websites: dawnofadarkage.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/dawnofadarkage
Release Date: July 10th, 2020

Show 4 footnotes

  1. If I have to explain, I will end you.
  2. Bitch, if I have to explain this…
  3. Referring to the Oscan Tablet, a religious artifact containing remnants of the long-dead Oscan language.
  4. The real one, thank you.
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