Friday, May 13, 2011

Before The Dawn Rises In The U.S.

Before The DawnNot everyone has heard of the Finnish metal band Before The Dawn (BTD). No surprise. Unless you know someone who keeps up on bootlegs or has worked as a reviewer, they're easily missed despite having released six albums in Europe. Even there, they were opening for bigger acts just two years ago.

Deathstar Rising is the album that could change that. While it might be their sixth in Europe, it's their debut in the United States, with frontman Tuomas Saukkonen likely to leave a mark on American metal.

The 10-track LP (14-track bonus LP) is better than the earliest works from a band that began as Saukkonen's solo project. It might even be their best work.

Deathstar Rising is a solid U.S. debut and a smart sixth release in Europe.

Almost immediately after its release in Europe, the album hit the Finnish top ten and the song Judgement was listed as one of the "Top 20 Gothic & Alternative Songs of February 2011" by Gotherica. While the nods are nothing to write home about on their own, they have made their strongest member roster to date.

Of course, Saukkonen remains a remarkably talented musician and performer in the driver's seat, covering guitar, harsh vocals, and keyboards. He composes and mixes most of the work from his home studio (much like he does with his other bands). Rounding out the talent is Lars Eikind (bass, clean vocals), Juho Räihä (rhythm guitar), and newcomer Atte Palokangas (drums).

Two immediate things stand out that make Deathstar Rising different. Palokangas brings a fresh urgency to the percussion that BTD had lost on Soundscape Of Silence. And second, the album cannot be confined to a sub genre. It balances melodic death metal, goth metal, and doom metal as effortlessly as it Saukkonen balances his growling vocals with Eikind's harmonies.

Although Deathstar was the first track to earn attention in the United States, the sound isn't entirely indicative of the album. Generally, BTD follows a verse light and chorus heavy arrangement. Deathstar twists and flips the emphasis, opening with a heavy verse and leaving the chorus light.

Deathstar Rising has several great picks, very few skips.

After Deathstar, preview Winter Within, which captures Saukkonen's emphasis on how a song feels, with this one icy and Nordic. Unbroken is another favorite. It is the heaviest and fastest song on the album, but the real prize isn't the studio version. It's the live track (recorded at Nosturi, Helsinki) that brings something unique. The same can be said about The Black.

BTD also included an acoustic version of their single My Room, which does a fine but forgettable job showcasing Eikind's talent as a singer. You can also skip the unneeded instrumental introduction, unless you purchase the entire album. Instead, skim for heavier tracks like Judgement and Butterfly Effect.

No everyone agrees this time. Some critics are calling the album dull, with the same riffs and melodies. I don't know. While I don't review metal too often, BTD brings an enthusiasm and energy that other death metal bands have been lacking lately.

Deathstar Rising By Before The Dawn Bends A 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

I know Saukkonen keeps busy with several bands and even produces for other bands. Deathstar Rising is one of those albums that makes me wish he'd narrow his attention. This band is cutting close to re-emerging the genre. Besides, Saukkonen is wildly down to earth. He might have the whole viking warrior look happening, but he doesn't take himself seriously.

In a recent record promo he even asked American guys to buy the album because it would help them get girls. But even if you don't like the album, he said, buy it and like the girls who like the band.

Deathstar Rising is on iTunes. Stick with the bonus album. You can also download some tracks from Deathstar Rising at Amazon. Check for older albums as they are listed on iTunes and Amazon too.
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