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Before turning into the Dawn we all know, the one that released albums such as the very much lauded Slaughtersun, before being a black/death outfit filled with melodies and amazing chord progressions, before all this, this band was nothing more than an old school full-fledged death metal entity in the good Swedish tradition. And is that a bad thing? Given my admiration and passion for all that is old school death metal, and more even if it’s from the Swedish variant, then I’m all for it.
This demo was released in 1992, a year where most legendary Swedish albums had already been released, and it would see itself reissued in the form of a split only two years later through Mexican label Bellphegot Records. There’s no easy way to get it though as everything Dawn as ever released is normally sold at prohibitive prices to most people, so the best chance would be the Slaughtersun compilation which brings it along with the remaining two full-lengths and the Sorgh På Svarte Vingar Fløgh EP.
And trust me when I say that it’s worth it because this demo is one of the greatest pieces of musical history from the northern regions of Europe, distilling twenty minutes of brutal and unrelenting death metal in a way not uncommon to the major players from their country. This hellish attack on your senses commences with “In The Depths Of My Soul” and before you know it you’re already enveloped in a shredding riff layered with blast beats. The melodic breakdowns more famous in later works of the band are already noticeable here, although with such a vicious and rancorous delivery from Henke in the vocal department they serve more to create atmosphere and give some diversity, as opposed to creating more pronounced melodies. The intense riffing and the sheer weight are almost incommensurable and “Incantation Of Unholyness” brings more of the same with another melody opening the brutish song that awaits at the end of a minute and half. Again blast beats turn you into pulp before some more thrashing beats arrive near the middle of the song. The demo is filled with many moments alternating between the melodic riffing and the crude battering of the snare drum, and with “Spawn Of Evil” a new level of brutality is achieved as there’s absolutely no respite and no escape, with furious beats attacking you from its very beginning and barely letting you breathe, with the haunting keyboards making you feel like your crypt is calling for you.
But it’s the with the closer “Thirst Of The Dead” that this demo really adheres to you, a surge of brutal riffs and the most demonic vocals you can imagine hitting you like fists in the dark and pushing your beaten body towards an open grave. Henke had a great growling presence during the whole demo, with a very deep and low tone, but here he goes for the jugular with a roar that could make your heart stop and any wild beast flee in desperation.
The sound quality and the production on this demo are absolutely stunning and it actually reminds me a bit of the Finnish production style more than the Swedish, with a really pronounced low end and great emphasis on the drum department. There’s no distorted sound, no hiss and no mud that isn’t needed, this is a professional production job worthy of any full-length from the time, and every instrument can be heard clearly.
This demo packs quite a punch and if you’re not paying attention you may find yourself down on the ground and struggling for your life, as it assaults your for four rounds never showing any sign of stopping. In the end you’re beaten to a pulp and thoroughly smashed to pieces, but you abide it because that’s what you came looking for. If you like death metal then it’s mandatory that you listen to this, and if you’re lucky to find it in any physical format don’t miss the chance of adding it to your collection because it’s worth every penny. This is on par with Utumno’s EP, for instance, and that fact alone says a lot! Dawn would go on and continue doing great music, albeit in a rather different way. This demo sees the band at their rawest and most aggressive form and it’s a perfect example of why Swedish death metal is so renowned worldwide.
Sometimes the best music is waiting to be discovered right under one’s nose. Such is the case with Dawn, the Swedish death, and later black metal band whose Apparition demo has been sitting around on my computer for ages before I actually decided to give it a good go. And I must say, I’ve been blown away. Dawn’s only link with a popular metal band stems from frontman Henke Forss’ remarkable performance on In Flames’ Subterranean EP, but to hell with popularity, because Dawn’s music is a lot more intricate and powerful than In Flames’, even on this lowly demo.
Apparition consists of four tracks of pure death metal, uncompromising and extremely advanced from a technical point of view. From the first few seconds of In the Depth of my Soul, the listener realizes that this demo truly is something. What this initially reminded me most of was Swedish death metal, but the kind with just a slight, teasing tinge of melody, comparable in this regard to the death metal of early At The Gates, especially on The Red in the Sky is Ours, although without any of the violin and other overt melodic elements that that album contains.
Dawn’s death metal performance is very impressive. This combines the two greatest qualities that only the very best of death metal is able to attain: technical prowess and old-school atmosphere. The riffs are slow and buried in the mix, fortunately not enough to make them inaudible but enough to give the whole thing a very crunchy, poorly-produced ambience in the best possible sense of the expression. That said, they’re very well-constructed and often quite memorable; pure death metal artistry of the highest order. The second essential element here is the drumming. Karsten Larsson is a very competent man in this department, doing insane patterns and high speed work that just leaves the listener breathless due to the sheer power and talent involved with it all. Additionally, the drumming is quite loud in the mix, just enough to shadow the riffs a tiny little bit, working wonders for the recording’s overall atmosphere, which simply screams old-school death metal like we love it.
Finally, there are Henke Forss’ vocals. He’s actually unrecognizable as the singer on Subterranean despite only two years’ difference in release times. Instead, here he does death metal vocals at a very high level, making these low, inhuman growls which are absolutely indiscernible with the lyrics, very much like Masse Bromberg’s work on the first two Hypocrisy albums. However, death metal isn’t made for the lyrics to be easily understood and these vocals are the essential final element to a demo which withstands the effects of time with absolute strength.
Dawn’s Apparition is a total masterpiece, there’s no going on around it. Death metal, especially inconspicuous demos, rarely impress me and for one to do so on such a massive scale truly is an achievement. This is inescapably essential listening for every true death metal fan.