Before the Dawn – Rise of the Phoenix (Nuclear Blast Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 8/10

With plenty of wind left in the sails of last year’s excellent Deathstar Rising, Finnish melodic death metal champs Before the Dawn are back with Rise of the Phoenix, an even more homegrown-sounding effort. We say “homegrown,” because clean singer/bassist Lars Eikund left the band shortly after the release of Deathstar Rising, giving way to all grunts, all the time from main dude Tuomas Saukkonen. If there’s a more pure Finnish-sounding melodic death metal album in existence than this, then please, point it out.

Eikund’s absence hurts the band, specifically for the choruses where he was often the focal point (see previous BTD cuts like “Silence,” “Unbroken” and “Sanctuary”). Without Eikund’s power metal tenor to boost these songs, Saukkonen is left to bellow his way on through and in most cases, it’s a mini-success, like on lead single “Phoenix Rising” and album highlight “The Perfect Storm.” However, Saukkonen’s uni-growl (not “uni-brow”) can make the listener weary, especially if one is waiting for a glimmering chorus.

Saukkonen has proven to be quite adept at taking the core elements of melodic Finnish death metal (see: early Amorphis, Sentenced, modern Insomnium) and melding them into tight, song-oriented compositions. One doesn’t need to look further than opening cut “Pitch-Black Universe,” or “Fallen World” for traditional melodic DM, where both are embellished by lavish acoustic guitar arrangements. Album closer uh, “Closure” also follows suit, but in instrumental fashion.

Those looking for the “next level” release from Before the Dawn aren’t going to get it with Rise of the Phoenix. Rather, it’s nearly predictable in its execution, which in a rare moment, is fine – few can carve out melodies like Saukkonen. Plus, when the marvelous “Phoenix Rising,” “The Perfect Storm” and “Fallen World” are on, you’re not really pondering such minute details…these songs rock hard enough to satiate just about anyone.

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