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Paradoxical sayings can be an effective way of conveying a point, as well as reveal something unique about a band. Arguably a favorite paradox that is used to poke fun at the lighter side of power metal is the ironically intended notion of the "serious power metal" style, as if dabbling in Sci-FI and high fantasy themes are a joking matter that don't offer up a more serious, albeit metaphorical take on things. To be fair, there is definitely something to be said for bands that hang on the themes of metal cultural cliches and partying, but what most have in mind when thinking of a more serious brand of power metal is what the now defunct Dawn Of Silence were briefly in the business of creating. While much of this pertains to their choice in lyrical subjects, which deal with philosophical concepts and interpersonal relations, it also concerns their more old school and stripped down approach to their style, while maintaining a modern air that keeps it from screaming throwback right into the listener's ear.
For all the darkness that is seemingly conveyed in the album art, this Swedish outfit's second studio LP Wicked Saint Or Righteous Sinner (a seemingly paradoxical title, but not really), is fairly standard by power metal standards. A heavy degree of influence from a number of noteworthy heavy and power metal acts from Sweden and Germany inform the character of this album, namely Edguy, Hammerfall, Masterplan, Dream Evil and Nocturnal Rites. It likewise imports a fair amount of influence from the Iron Maiden paradigm, particularly in terms of intermittent lead guitar harmonies that cropped up on a more sustained basis on Piece Of Mind and Powerslave. It differs from many of the aforementioned bands by translating these influences into a modern, heavier and more guitar oriented character that generally avoids keyboard usage, save a fleeting little intro to kick off the first song on the album, not all that dissimilar to the comparably darker and equally non-prolific act Saint Deamon.
Most of the time, the musical contents of this album tends to come off as a bit too methodical and orthodox, falling maybe just a tad bit short of being contrived. It tends to avoid excess in terms of technique and tempo, eschewing the speed metal character that tended to dominate the pre-2005 paradigm in favor of a more rocking, mid-paced sound that has a fair amount in common with recent Edguy outings, minus the goofiness. The slower, grooving numbers such as "Crucifire" and "Masquerade" really underscore the heaviness factor in the riff department, though the chorus sections definitely have an arena character to them that cuts towards a lighter feel. Much of the rest of the album coasts a bit faster, in the sort of faster but not speeding character of the average successor of Helloween's "I Want Out", but a bit darker and with occasional faster bursts, of which "Escape The Night", "Away From Heaven" and "Shadow Of Guilt" are the most memorable and sing-along worthy.
While the overall demeanor of this album is fairly predictable, from the derivative songwriting, sufficient yet not outstanding lead guitar breaks, there is one element on here that really shatters the mold, namely vocalist Patrik Johansson. His performance on here can be best described as exceptional, taking a similarly raspy yet mostly smooth approach most comparable to that of Tobias Sammet and breathing a celebratory charm into otherwise average songs with above average production qualities. It's definitely a different vocal persona than the one he is known for now with Bloodbound, but it isn't hard to see how this album ended up getting "Pata" his current gig with said outfit. This isn't to necessarily say that the rest of this band are absolute slouches at their instruments, but the vocals definitely carry things from middle of the road metal to something that could stand a second or third listen.
Though this is probably among the smarter sounding albums to come out in this style in recent history, it doesn't quite close the deal in terms of overall distinctiveness. If not for Johansson's vocals, it wouldn't be difficult to mistake this for a number of bands that have come and gone over the course of the past seven or eight years. In truth, the first inclination of many could well be to think of this as an album that Edguy should have put out in place of Tinnitus Sanctus or Age Of The Joker (said band's worst two albums to date). It's definitely fun for an occasional listen, but the songs tend to be so formulaic and predictable that they lose their luster upon repeated listens. This is essentially the final testament of a band that didn't quite break through into the big leagues, but they did manage to leave a few cracks before calling it a night.
Wicked Saint or Righteous Sinner is the sophomore album from the Swedish Dawn of Silence. The band formed around the turn of the century and spat out a bunch of demos before arriving at their debut Moment of Weakness in 2006, which was an average and inoffensive offering at best. But four years and a lot of hard work later, the band have made some huge improvements to their sound, which is a hybrid of classic heavy metal and more intense European power metal with siren-like vocals and a ballsy tone. The bands I am most reminded of would be fellow Swedes like HammerFall, Nocturnal Rites or the goofy Dream Evil, but Dawn of Silence have a style that might also appeal to fans of Sonata Arctica, Mystic Prophecy, Iron Fire, or really...anyone that likes their power metal modern and crushing with a huge depth of sound, if not the most intense compositions.
Patrik Johansson has a set of pipes on him which might sound like the frontmen of any of the aforementioned bands mixed together, or squarely between a Joacim Cans and Tobias Sammet of Edguy. When this man gets going, you can easily forgive the music being rather standard power fare since he will definitely have you banging your fists and screaming like a harpy. In fact, if Edguy were still writing good records instead of channeling party rock garbage like Poison and Skid Row, they might sound quite like this band does today.
Wicked Saints or Righteous Sinners consists of 10 tracks, all of which are anthems spring-coiled with big guitar hooks ready to strike out at you with their thick chords and massive chugging tone. That's right, there are no distinct ballads here. Even "In Quest for Life", which opens with clean guitars, picks up to a harmonious mid-paced metal charge, with one of the more distinct choruses on the album to boot. Other tracks that immediately caught me were "Away from Heaven", which Johansson heralds with a life affirming siren scream. The guitars are pumping here, if hardly ambitious, and I like the soaring of the backing vox during the pre-chorus. "Release Me (From Myself)" opens with a little melodic bounce not unlike In Flames, and then a largely chugged out momentum ala Dream Evil or HammerFall's heavier tunes. "Crucifire" has one of those standard, mean, power metal paces ala Judas Priest or Accept, and some great vocals as well.
The lyrics here are the sort you'd expect, larger than life and cut and dry expressions of life, love, sin, punishment, and redemption, but to their credit, while un-ambitious, they don't completely suck like so many other bands in the genre. Dawn of Silence does not fuck around like a Dream Evil, they do attempt to illicit some real emotion from the listener. The positive thrust of the band plus the fantastic production values will probably appeal to a lot of younger listeners who are fans of no-frills melodic heavy metal, especially the Swedish bands who take the retro intentions and place them in the modern mold. If you fit into that caste, then Dawn of Silence will probably not disappoint you. This isn't the sort of album I'd ever listen to with much frequency, but a safe bet to crank in your car if you want to bang your head and impress that friend you have who only likes 80s metal with the 'good' singing.
Highlights: In Quest for Life, Away from Heaven, Crucifire