Just Before Dawn – Battle-Sight Zeroing Review

It’s nearly Christmas and for many folks that means thoughts turn to gifts, eggnog, and goodwill toward mankind. But Just Before Dawn want to use this holly, jolly time of year to remind us that war is Hell and man cannot stop killing his fellow man. What better way to do that than with a mini-album centered thematically on the Vietnam conflict? Battle-Sight Zeroing is 34 minutes of slow, grinding, war-themed death metal that once again sounds a whole lot like Bolt Thrower. And with Bolt Thrower dead and buried, there’s certainly a market out there for exactly what Just Before Dawn specialize in, and I’m admittedly a sucker for this kind of bunker-busting death. But can the music rise above homage levels to strike first and strike hard without mercy? Let’s study the battle plan.

I’ve always appreciated what Just Before Dawn do and the 6 songs here are all rock-solid examples of their craft. Opener “Kill Zone” is a really good Bolt Thrower song you never heard before. I’m not trying to be cheeky, that’s just the best way to describe it. The riffs are huge and grinding and the tank in the muck pacing is exactly what Bolt Thrower made famous. The way the band weave melancholic, mournful passages into the relentless riff crushitude is a real triumph and gives the heaviness the perfect foil of tragedy, properly depicting the essence of war. This template is rarely deviated from across Battle-Sight Zeroing. Each song is introduced with a sample from one Vietnam war movie or another and then you’re promptly slapped with heavy, mid-tempo riffage. “Mac V Sog” adds a bit of Hail of Bullets spice to the trench warfare, with David Kreft (Graceless) sounding a lot like Martin van Drunen at times.

In fact, the only time Just Before Dawn stray from Bolt mode is to dabble in Hail of Bullets influences, so it’s basically a trip from A to A- and back. This is fine because the results are so good, and “Into an Ambush” is the closest anyone will ever come to reviving Bolt Thrower. The lead riff even reminds me of “At First Light” from Those Once Loyal. The 6 tracks on offer are all good to very good, with nothing feeling like an afterthought. It’s a concussive, shell-shocked 34-minute onslaught and the leads by Riff Lord Anders Biazzi (Gods Forsaken, ex-Amon Amarth, ex-Bood Mortized) and Gustav Myrin (Gods Forsaken, ex-Blood Mortized) are as good as ever, driving the songs forward with a sense of unstoppable inevitability. The production suits the material and the guitar tone is fugly. You’ll feel oppressed in all the best ways.

It’s the aforementioned riffage that always plants Just Before Dawn’s material in your head like a .45 round. Yes, Biazzi and Myrin borrow lustily from Bolt Thrower, but they also know how to write riffs that resonate and trigger involuntary fist raising. Each song is loaded with the kind of crushing leads you crave and those sadboi, mournful moments to give it all context and emotion. David Kreft delivers top-notch death vocals that hover somewhere between Karl Willets and Martin van Drunen. This is a small deadly space, and Kreft handles his role well. Jon Rudin (Heads for the Dead) manages to grind on his drums in much the same way that Andrew Whale did on the classic Bolt Thrower albums, making the material heavy and weighty. This is a band that knows how to weaponize their chosen formula and deploy it effectively for maximum carnage.

Battle-Sight Zeroing is aimed at a specific death metal audience and it’s aimed well. It’s sure to hit a sweet spot for many a fan of warcore and it’s a short, sharp, hard-to-resist package. It’s being released in cassette and digital formats only, because that’s fookin’ trve, and it will make a fine stocking stuffer/sticky bomb for the death eater in your life. You can’t give the gift of new Bolt Thrower in 2022, but you can come pretty freaking close. War for Christmas!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: NA | Format Reviewed: Advance mp3 copy1
Label: Into It
Websites: justbeforedawn1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/justbeforedawntheycame
Releases Worldwide: December 15th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. The mp3 files defy DR scoring.
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