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Yes, it is better to have some knowledge in a certain field, before attempting to start working in it; music is not an exception from this and some special significance seems to exist when it comes to ambient and drone influences these days. A lot of bands simply fail when it comes to webbing these kind of elements into their compositions; an excessively blandness instead of haunting atmosphere is being created and the quality of the art is diminished to a great deal. Longing for Dawn are different in this respect, due to the background of Frederic Arbour. He runs the label Cyclic Law -- a label focussed on drone and ambient -- as well as the ambient project Instincts; thusly can he rely on a good deal of experience in terms of creating ambient/drone textures and you can hear this on this release.
Funeral doom is minimalist and limited to a small amount of riffs, motives and structures at a certain period of time, hence it is necessary to fill any gap that might exist with something that might grasp the attention of the listener. In terms of Longing for Dawn two elements have to emphasized: the keyboards, which work as a contrast to the guitars and support the atmosphere, and the drone/ambient textures whose part is to give the music some additional depth and volume; Total Abscense of Light would be an example for the potential of this approach. Actually, the band needs them, because the minimalism in the concept of the band, excessive repetition in the motives and minimalism in the arrangements in long segments would otherwise sound too thin and lack of fascination as well as variation. As the compositions are separated into different parts, each with their own style but still with some ideas of the preceding one, the importance of keeping the tension up becomes some significance.
Drums can be a tricky thing and the overtly reliance by bands on drum-computers do make it easier for them to create a coherent framework. In case of Longing for Dawn a real drummer can be found, but he is unable to give the music much dynamic or positive impact. In fact, by listening to the first composition, Access to Deliverance, one has to admit that his performance is by no means good. The play is uninspiring, too monotonous and repetitive and makes it an endurance to listen to parts of this release. Worst of all, the production is by not optimal and had put a too large emphasis on the drums -- especially some cymbals --, which fosters the previously discussed impression unnecessarily. As the music is quite minimalist in the opening track, the outcome of this flaw should be obvious.
Final bits and bytes
This release is not bad for a first attempt and especially the drone/ambient textures work fine with the music; they appear in a way they do not suck and are actually able to support the instruments. Yet, when it comes to the overall quality, then it is still wanting and especially the drums with the excessively repetitive and monotonous play are not optimal. Further reaches the music occasionally the point of being too plain and also boring. The fascination Lethal and Total Abscense of Light are able to create does not remain until the end of the release. Nevertheless, this release has some nice moments and can be enjoyed, even though new heights are not reached here.
First off, you won't find anything here that hasn't been done elsewhere. Yes, this is a funeral doom album, slow, brooding, with the requisite depressive atmosphere, and, honestly, a rather generic one. But this is funeral doom done right.
The pace is slow throughout. The keyboards play an extremely important role in creating the atmosphere, with airy keyboard soundscapes constantly present in all the tracks. This forms a sonic background that gives the music plenty of space. From time to time the keyboards play little fills, which are much needed and as they prevent the songs become boring. At time they are the only instrument, e.g. in the middle of "Lethal". Overall, this in an example an excellent use of keyboards on a doom album.
Now, the guitars. Personally, I don't like their sound that much. Their sound is too trebly and more reverb and low end would make the music heavier, and give it more power. The riffs are rather basic and if you don't like simple music better stay away from this album. Occasionally, a clean guitar part appears (the beginning of "Ashes of Innocence", or "One Lonely Path") but it is nothing special. The poor guitar sound is in large part compensated by keyboards but still, the guitars could be much better. The same goes for the bass, which is audible and fills the task of providing the bottom frequencies in the mix, but it does hardly anything else.
The vocals are low growls reminding me of Evoken a bit and maybe even Thorr's Hammer. They are not very low, pretty standard in fact, nothing extremely guttural, but they fit the music nicely. The drums are your standard standard doom metal ones and their sound is just appropriate, not too heavy nor cardboard-like (Skepticism, anyone?).
The mix is very even which is not necessarily a good thing as the guitars could be much fleshier and the drums a bit heavier. But the prominent role of keyboards is a redeeming quality, making the music appropriately gloomy and despondent.
So, if you like slow and very atmospheric but not necessarily too heavy, or varied and original doom metal, you might want to check this album out.