Just Before Dawn – An Army at Dawn Review

If you’re in the market for a death metal album that approximates the very specific sensation of being turned into a bloody pancake by an unstoppable tank division, here it is, folks. An Army at Dawn is the 4th platter of war-themed splatter from Just Before Dawn, and as on their prior battle primers, they target a sound halfway between the bulldozing punch of Bolt Thrower and the doomy, dreary war-death of Hail of Bullets. That means a whole lot of huge riffs to crush you like heavy machinery and melancholy, gloomy/doomy moods that hang over the landscape like mustard gas in no man’s land. Powered by riff-master Anders Biazzi’s (Gods Forsaken, ex-Blood Mortized) keen ear for brain-pulping guitar work, Just Before Dawn always deliver the hellish goods, demonstrating a mastery of this kind of doomy death. An Army at Dawn is no exception, offering the listener more weighty, riffy, war-themed ugliness exploring man’s brutality toward his fellow man.

First things first, I’d like to commend the band for showing how an album intro should be done. The guitar-work is melancholic and wistful, getting your attention and creating atmosphere, and then out of nowhere you get pasted with a nuclear howitzer as “Path of Armor – to the Last Tiger” roars to life. The classic Bolt Thrower riffing is in full effect and used to wantonly pummel, pulverize and harass your flanks, and it works just like it always has because you really feel those jackhammer RIFFS. Since Just Before Dawn enjoy the revolving door approach to vocalists, Ralf Hauber of Revel in Flesh leads this initial assault and does ugly, ghastly work. This is the kind of song I look to the band for and I’m a fan. “The Guns at Last Light” is the same kind of industrial wargrinder, spewing black smoke as it’s propelled by massive riffs and a despairing vibe that recalls the works of 1914.

Other top moments include the epic-sized “Dance of Katyusha” where enormous riffing and dark, depressive moods perform a weird mating ritual as wild solos break through the lines at unexpected intervals. “The Atlantic Wall” is another big moment – heavy, doomy and relentless in its tank-like rumbling and juggernaut riffwork. While there are no bad cuts, not every song flattens me with a 2-ton warhammer. “Unless Victory Comes” and “With Everything We Have” are typical Just Before Dawn fare and though they work and don’t disrupt the album’s multi-pronged offensive, they don’t do a lot to stand out on their own and the riffs are bit less impactful and more chuggy. At 52 minutes, the album feels about the right length, but one of two cuts could stand being trimmed to make for a leaner, meaner spin.

Since Mr. Biazzi is a skilled riff crafter, much of the material works because of those Bolt Thrower-esque leads that smash through everything in their path. This album feels a little slower than the the last few outings, with a greater push into harrowing doom death on multiple tracks. It works and gives the material that bleak and ominous overtone last heard on the debut, which is ideal for the subject matter. Biazzi and Gustav Myrin (Gods Forsaken, ex-Blood Mortized) once again show they can deliver a collection of ear-wormy guitar lines and develop some rich atmosphere in the process. This is about as guitar-driven of a death platter as you’ll find and the blend of doomy and driving riffs works well. Using a different vocalist on almost every track is a band trademark and I’m always surprised it works, but it does once again. I’m most partial to Hauber and Mattias Parkkila (Malfeitor, ex-Blood Mortized), but everyone does a fine job of bellowing and roaring over the fog of war.

You know what to expect on a Just Before Dawn album and An Army at Dawn gives it to you in spades, wrapped in a lovely brass casing. We don’t have Bolt Thower to kick around anymore, but these grizzled vets are happy to sell you the military grade black market goods at competitive prices. War is still Hell, but check this out if you need more bloodshed, blast radius, and Battlestar Galactica in your safe, sedentary life. Dawn waits for no man.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Raw Skull Recordz
Websites: justbeforedawn1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/justbeforedawntheycame
Releases Worldwide: September 25th, 2020

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