Friday, June 13, 2003

Review: Before The Dawn - My Darkness (2003)

Before The Dawn [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
My Darkness

I am one of those somber souls who craves metal of the Gothic sort. I can't say why, actually, though I suppose I could rattle off a number of possible contributing factors. Whatever the source of the dark currents that sweep me along, I can say for sure that I find solace and a sense of tranquility when listening to a dose of well-played Goth metal. While there are a fair number of bands who succeed in this genre, there are just as many who try and fail - ofttimes quite embarrassingly so. This review is of the debut album of a relatively new band that thankfully falls into the former category.

Before The Dawn sprang to life in 1999 as the solo project of Tuomas Saukkonen, a versatile musician who has been heavily involved in the local Finnish metal scene for some time. Tuomas soon began recruiting other musicians and proceeded to release two demos while suffering through various line-up changes. Finally, in the latter part of 2002, a deal was struck with the Spanish label Locomotive Music for Before The Dawn's debut full-length album My Darkness.

The album opens with an ambient intro typical of the genre, doing a fine job of setting the mood for the explosion that is "Unbreakable" - one of the finer songs on the disc. The leads of Panu Willman, formerly of Entwine, are well-executed and memorable. Soon the raspy snarls of Tuomas leap from the speakers as the very heavy, dark riffing of Tuomas and Panu grab hold of your senses and propel you deeper into My Darkness. Throughout this song, and the entire album as well, Jarkko Männikkö's lush keyboards remind one of fellow Finns Amorphis in terms of elegant atmosphere. Next up is "Seraphim", and though not as heavy as "Unbreakable" it stands out for being the listener's introduction to Panu's clean, somewhat hopeful vocal style - when I first heard his voice on this album I was reminded a bit of Colin Hay from Men At Work. The choruses are actually sung by both Panu and Tuomas, creating a wonderful mix of despair and expectation. Another memorable track is "Take My Pain", where the catchy hooks and leads float atop the driving rhythm section of bassist Toni Broman and drummer Dani Mettinen. "Father And Son" is another of my favorites, built upon chugging riffs with a splash of eerie keys - easily one of the heaviest songs on My Darkness.

Before The Dawn displays, with efficiency, the dark and haunting aspects of the Gothic genre while at the same time generating a feeling of guarded optimism - mainly through the vocals of Panu. Fans of the bands mentioned earlier in this review, as well as fans of older Katatonia, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost, will find plenty to like about Before The Dawn and My Darkness. I will certainly keep an eye on these guys as they've displayed the potential to become one of the leaders in their genre.

Track Listing
1 Intro
2 Unbreakable
3 Seraphim
4 My Darkness
5 Take My Pain
6 Father And Son
7 Alone
8 Angel
9 Undone
10 Human Hatred
11 4.16. am

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Thursday, June 12, 2003

Review: Destination's Calling - Mastery of the Light (2001)

Destination's Calling [ Website | MySpace ]
Mastery of the Light

In the world of epic power metal, the Germans can claim a fair number of bands that are respected as leaders of the genre - Gamma Ray, Helloween, and Blind Guardian immediately come to mind in any conversation about this style of metal. Formed in 1997 as Infinity, a cover band playing Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Queensryche, Destination's Calling have thrown themselves into the saturated European power metal market with Mastery of the Light.

The Iron Maiden influence is evident right from the beginning of the first track "Gate to the Past" with the twin-guitar lead of Christian Gräter and Markus Göller. Christian also displays a polished vocal style throughout the album that is very reminiscent of Kai Hansen and Hansi Kursch, yet at times brings to mind Bruce Dickenson. "Still Believin'" is my favorite song on the album, having a very '80s metal feel to it without sounding dated. The buzzsaw riffs, well-executed leads, and the busy drumwork of Oliver Noe drive the song at a healthy pace, while Christian exhibits a style of singing slightly more akin to Geoff Tate of Queensryche. The following track, "Remember the Past", is an acoustic composition delivered in the style of a medieval bardic tale. Being the only song like this on Mastery of the Light, it at first seems out of place but over the course of a few listens I found it to be a pleasant way to slow things down for a bit before turning up the pace again with "Candle in the Night" - a blistering song showcasing the furious leads of Markus. Throw in a short "true metal" gang chorus and you have a solid power metal demonstration.

Although I was very impressed by the polished skill displayed by Markus, I'm afraid Destination's Calling are trekking in a direction that will find them drifting in a vast sea of similar bands. "Still Believin'" is the exception, of course, showcasing a sound that works very well for the band. Power metal fans who can't get enough will be pleased with Mastery of the Light.

Track Listing
1 Gate To The Past
2 Sign Of Glory
3 Judgement Day
4 Still Believin'
5 Remember The Past
6 Candle In The Night
7 Mastery Of The Light
8 Destination's Calling

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