Before the Dawn – Deathstar Rising (Nuclear Blast Records)

Thursday, 21st March 2013
Rating: 9/10

Largely an unknown quantity outside of Finnish metal circles, Before the Dawn is poised to change that with the release of their sixth album, Deathstar Rising. Not unlike classic Amorphis, or Sentenced (all eras), or if we want to get fancy, Opeth and Katatonia, Before the Dawn’s sound conglomerate is massively cohesive, thanks in large part to songs that are instantly memorable, with a melodic structure as stable and strong as the aforementioned bands. And as evidenced by the glowing rating attached, it’s one of the year’s best albums.

Guided by founding member/guitarist/vocalist Tuomas Saukkonen, BFD relies on the lavish brush strokes of melodic Finnish death metal, complemented with a Goth flavor. Acoustic guitars are in vast supply here, starting with the opening “The First Snow,” to the bristling “Sanctuary,” which sees bassist Lars Eikind employ his hearty clean vocal range. The man isn’t going to bowl anyone over with his vocal approach, but his phrasing and hooks (the chorus for “Unbroken” is one of the album’s best moments) place him line with fellow growled/clean vocal practioners like Opeth’s Michael Akerfeldt and Amorphis’s Tomi Joutsen.

Not a bum track in the lot, as the pummelling verse section during “Deahtstar” sets up a spiraling guitar solo that strikes a nerve, while the more traditional Finnish metal clamor of “Remembrance” and “Butterfly Effect” are laced with crisp melodies and heavy riff action. The album ends on a triumphant note with “Wreith,” which runs in line with the current melo-death mastery coming from Insomnium.

There’s no substituting for memorable songs, and while Before the Dawn is easily the sum of its Finnish metal parts, their take on Finland’s wipe-open sonic landscape is one that has to be recognized. Saukkonen has been at this for over a decade, so seeing him finally hit one out of the park with Deathstar Rising will more than likely help BFD get some face-time alongside the usual Finnish metal suspects who may soon find themselves looking over their shoulders…

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