As a big fan of Tuomas Saukkonen’s Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon projects (R.I.P. to both), I was the natural demographic for his melancholy melodeath vehicle, Dawn of Solace as well. 2006s The Darkness was a beautiful and haunting dose of Finnish gloom that made an impression, and I always wondered why he never released another album under that name. Now in 2020 he finally delivers the followup outing titled Waves. Some things have changed since the last time we heard Dawn of Solace material. Long-time collaborator Mikko Heikkilä (Kaunis Kuolematon, Ex-Sinamore) is now the voice of the band, with Tuomas contributing very little in the way of harsh vocals. It’s still sullen sadboi melodeath with gothic elements, but now it’s essentially doomy melodeath without the death. I admit I haven’t loved much of the material Tuomas’ current project Wolfheart has released over the past few years, but I sure love what he did here. This is a return to the sound and style that made me a fan of the man’s music and it shows he can still craft songs that brings out the sadboi in the heart of Steel.
Opener “Lead Wings” immediately sets the somber, dreary tone Tuomas is known for. His guitar-work is weepy and morose, like the classic Finnish melodeath sound, with strong hints of Black Sun Aeon and plenty of Insomnium influences too. There’s also elements of goth acts like To Die For and Charon. Mikko’s vocals are pure goth glory and when teamed with Tuomas’ restrained, mournful leads, you get a potent, emotional end product that manufactures the feelz by the bucketload. “Ashes” is better still, essentially like the clean sung parts of the best Insominium songs stitched into a amazingly gloomy number.
From there, the album weaves dismal tales of loss and pain, surely depressive but the writing is so crisp, sharp and accessible, you won’t struggle to get through it. “Hiding” is huge standout, finding that perfect blend of plaintive vocals and moody guitar-work with a chorus that becomes irresistible like an icy wind across a frozen lake. You will need to hear this many times if you hear it once. “Tuli” is the heaviest cut and the only one to feature harsh vocals, though they are very brief and understated. There are elements of black/Viking metal in the riffing and the song is sung entirely in Finnish. It’s a nice change of pace though the sadboi vibe is ever present. No song feels like filler and the album plays amazingly well as a whole.
At just over 40 minutes Waves is a tight, concise album that flows well and goes by fast. The songs are all in the 4-5 minute range without any fat or extraneous bits. Mikko is born to sing this kind of forlorn stuff and he knocks it out of the park with his chilly, laid back style. He never over-sings or tries to be overly dramatical, instead delivering his lines in a way that conveys genuine emotion. Tuomas handles guitar, bass and drums and does a rock solid job across the board. I’m a long time devotee of the way he writes riffs and harmonies, and after being disappointed by the Wolfheart material, it’s great to hear him churning out these kinds of dour leads again as he crafts sadboi tapestries of pure Finish grief and lament. He’s still a master of creating intense wintry moods and Waves contains some of his finest moments.
Waves is the best thing Tuomas has done since disbanding Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon, and it’s the first album of 2020 to really rock my world. If you love the Finnish sadboi sound and Tuomas’ past projects, this is a must hear. It’s the ideal album for a grey mid-winter day, so give in to the cold and ride these emotional waves to the sadhouse.