Bolt Thrower is KIA, Hail of Bullets is MIA. That leaves fewer reliable war-themed death metal projects to recruit for dangerous, behind-the-lines missions exposing the horror and brutality of battle. Just Before Dawn is one of those once and still loyal, ready and able to guide the battle tank of death metal back into the service of brutality, no matter the odds. Tides of Blood is their mighty third campaign, and as always that means founder/guitarist Anders Biazzi (ex-Amon Amarth, Blood Mortized) and his band of death metal mercenaries aim to shape the battlefield with merciless onslaughts of death metal artillery. This isn’t sadboy melodeath or Gothenburg fruitery. No sir, this is war metal, and war death is Hell.
Hell, as you may recall, is full of crushingly fat, distorted riffs that sit someplace between the Realm of Chaos and the dreaded Left Hand Path. Said riffs are designed to be dense enough to penetrate tank armor and knock the treads off, and they do just that. A veritable who’s who of death metal vocalists deploy across the album’s runtime in support. Dave Ingram of Bolt Thrower fame does the yeoman’s work, appearing on most of the cuts, and he’s joined by the likes of Mattias Parkkila (Blood Mortized, Malfeitor) and Jonny Pettersons (Wombbath) among others. After the obligatory intro of bullets hissing and bombs exploding, “Day of Days” unleashes the classic Just Before Dawn attack on the listener. Propulsive, buzzy, nasty riffs cascade as Mr. Ingram takes us back to the glory days of bolt throwage. It’s ripping, plowing stuff, and though it’s not much different than what we’ve heard before from a cadre of bands, Anders Biazzi has a certain flair for this kind of death rattle and his riff-work elevates the song considerably.
The title track goes for that sweet spot between doom and death metal and nails it for a nearly 7-minute crawl through barbwire and blood that packs a lot of ugly, dirty impact. Standout cut “Bombs Over Bremen” also triumphs due to tank busting riffs and as much heaviness as any death fiend could desire. There are a plethora of fat, weighty riffs to be found across the album’s runtime and at no point does the band dabble with girly concepts like progression or evolution.
The biggest knock against Tides of Blood is we’ve heard it all before, and often at that. This is well executed death metal with all the heaviness and nastiness one could want, and it definitely sounds like the progeny of Bolt Thrower and Hail of Bullets, which is great, and the riffs are viscous and vicious. The various vocalists put their grisly all into, but it has a definite “been there, killed that, got the medal” feeling to it at times, which is likely inescapable considering the niche style the band is anchored too.
As always, the riffs hit big and hard, feeling heavy as all fook and sounding as if they’re coated in axle grease, mucous and cesspool leavings. This is not a band that goes for pretty melodies, and Biazzi is not one to write trilling leads. It’s jackhammers and saw blades all day, and that’s death metal, folks. I just love the way this guy writes riffs and there are plenty good here to enjoy and be oppressed by. The collection of guest vocalists all do a good job, and are somewhat interchangeable to an extent. For my money, Dave Ingram works the best with the music and conjures happy memories of bands past. The band is tight and the guitar dominates as it should.
I love this particular style of death metal, and Just Before Dawn nails it better than almost anyone. Tides of Blood is another powerhouse volley of explosive death, with all the trappings of the classic style we love. It might not hit as hard of their prior albums, but it’s another fun, ugly dose of war noise suitable for a battlefield near you. Keep this side toward enemy.