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Tuomas Saukkonen is well known in the Finnish community not only as the head of Before the Dawn but also from his other projects Dawn of Solace, The Final Harvest and now Black Sun Aeon. When he started Black Sun Aeon as a solo project it is quite a wonder if he expected the project to become as successful as it has. It could partly be because of the success of his melodic death metal band Before the Dawn or just the plain fact that Black Sun Aeon's debut album Darkness Walks Beside Me is just that good.
Armed with Mikko Heikkilä's stunningly gloomy vocal and a handful of other well known Finnish musicians Tuomas Saukkonen has managed to record a highly melodic doom/death metal album enswathed with a dismal atmosphere. A lone melancholy piano melody introduces the listener into this dismal dimension and prepares the ears for the burst opening of A Song for My Wrath which I feel is the perfect song to summarize exactly what Black Sun Aeon is about. Heavy midpaced melodic death metal verses matched with clean sorrowful choruses by Mikko and melodic acoustic interludes.
A Song for My Wrath follows a radio friendly structure but this shouldn't be taken for more than just a teaser of what Tuomas has to offer on this debut album. There is plenty of diversity to the songs and enough progressiveness that by the end of A Song for My Sorrow it'll be clear that this album is not just about the atmosphere but also the structural composing depth and you'll be wanting to give it your full attention. The borrowing of vocal talent from Mynni Luukkainen, Ville Sorvali and Tomi Koivusaari gives the album great variety and such moments as the Mynni/Mikko duet chorus on A Song for My Demise shows the passion that even the hired hands have for the music.
It is really hard to express in words just how majestic the atmosphere is. This becomes apparent during the minute long intro to A Song for My Demise. The melody is so eerily beautiful playing along with the acoustic guitar but it is once Mikko makes that daring scream "darkness" that you can really feel the demise of the track. Every aspect, every instrument and every moment is what alluringly creates this atmosphere. The base guitar is deep enough to be extremely hard to find except in a few moments but its deep tone only adds to the darkness. Not much to mention about the rhythm guitars and the acoustics. Both are deep dark and the driving force behind the atmosphere. The leads and vocals are just the icing on the cake. The final touch needed for perfect achievement. One gripe I have is that the lead guitars, though deeper and not without effects, sound quite similar to the tone Tuomas used on Before the Dawn's Soundscape of Silence. This could be for a number of reasons but I would guess that it would be because of the short time frame (both spoken about albums were recorded in 2008) and it is possible that quite the same equipment was used. As for the actual leads; The majority of leads are during the choruses which are mostly then tremolo picked and -- because the album is mid to slow paced -- have more of that "epic" feel such as Amon Amarth's tremolo melodies.
A Song for My Weakness has one of the most spine-tingling moments I have heard in metal... well quite possibly since the beginning of my journey into metal. It is when the bass drop occurs the atmospheric keyboards fade in and Mikko's voice; that the shiver is sent up my spine and I start to believe that I am listening to a truly beautiful composition. I use composition in that case to describe the entire album because Darkness Walks Beside Me can only truly be appreciated when listened to in its whole. This is also the way it seems when each track is named as a chapter. But also aside from that reason the entire album has excellent flow and there are no standout tracks that you know right away follows an entirely different groove. This could send some listeners running for the hills as each song doesn't have a distinct melody or catchiness aside for possible A Song for My Wrath.
After listening through Darkness Walks Beside Me a number of times it is extremely easy to see why Black Sun Aeon has already clicked so well with Finns in such a short amount of time. Not only for the fact it is easy for a Finn to relate to the music heard on this record but because said music is really just that damn good. Plain and simply put. From the haunting piano introduction till the very last "Darkness walks beside me!" scream from Mikko this album is gold. Go out and buy this. Go out and buy this now.