Before The Dawn are a Finnish melo-death band that have been cranking out albums for a bit over a decade now. One of their defining features is the fantastic clean vocals in their choruses, sung by bassist Lars Eikind. Or at least it was until he and drummer Atte Palokangas left immediately after the band’s performance at Nummirock last year. When I saw the band a couple of months ago in Camden there was definitely a feeling that something was missing, as they were unable to perform any of their material that contained clean vocals. However, towards the end of their set, frontman Tuomas Saukkonen announced that the band would play some songs from Rise Of The Phoenix, and the new style started to make sense…
For fans that were heavily into Lars’ influence, there just isn’t anything as easily accessible as ‘Deadsong’ or ‘Deathstar’. Instead, the band has opted to go for a heavier iteration of their core sound that is occasionally broken up by acoustic interludes. It’s definitely a sound that Toumas’ throat shredding vocals are suited for; even though he benefited from the contrast with Lars’ voice, he is more than capable of carrying an album by himself. The band’s rhythm-heavy sound is greatly aided by new drummer Joonas Kauppinen, who shows himself to be an absolute monster on tracks like ‘Throne Of Ice’ and ‘Pitch-Black Universe’ where he skips from relentless double bass to some seriously impressive fills without pausing for breath.
Even though the band is noticeably heavier this time out, there is still a lot of melody in the guitars. Think a less folky Insomnium, but you can also hear a bit of old In Flames in there too – the acoustic sections in particular remind me quite a bit of The Jester Race. The fretwork is really good: the vast majority of widdly guitar is kept for leads rather than extended soloing, but it walks the line between beauty and brutality that all albums in the genre do very well. Most impressively, Rise Of The Phoenix manages this without sounding like you’ve heard it all before. The album does run a little short – even including the intro and outro it doesn’t quite reach 40 minutes – but this is only a slight quibble. It’s not like the album would be improved by the addition of a couple of extra filler tracks. You’re getting a bit of a lean beast, but it definitely growls loudly enough.
It was a brave decision for Before The Dawn to not even attempt to replace Lars, but it was probably the right one. This is some properly heavy Finnish melodic death metal, so if you prefer pre-Clayman In Flames then this is definitely an album worth considering.