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I am amazed this band didn't made a bigger splash than they did. I suppose I'd have to blame the scene for that, as it has become so overrun with third-rate At The Gates/ In Flames wannabes that this band has been tarred with the 'yet another melodic death metal band' brush. Yes Solar Dawn are from Sweden, yes they play Melodic Death Metal of the general Gothenburg school, and I suppose if you really hate that style, you can just skip the rest of this, but it would be a shame to dismiss this band, as they are way too good to ignore.
What I like about Solar Dawn is that they are all about the riff. A lot of bands of this stripe play nice harmonies and good leads, but they don't have the stuff to write real songs. These guys build rock-solid songs around some of the coolest riffs I have heard in ages. Each song has its main riff, plus breakdown and alternate riffs to keep things from getting dull, and each tune has its own identity. One spin of the album and each song will be immediately identifiable, not to mention that some of the riffs are fiendishly hooky. (The main lick from "Punished By Silence" in particular, will never come out of your skull.) There are some slower tunes like "Deep In Mourning" which has some clean vocals that are surprisingly good, and thrashier cuts like "Spellbinder" and the awesome "Artistic Blasphemy". Throughout the CD Solar Dawn successfully combine Swedish Death Metal with a Traditional Metal riff sensibility to generate some monstrously catchy, headbanging stuff.
The look of the CD is atypical, with a rather artistic cover pic and a perfectly legible logo. The interior design is fine, if uninspired. Lyrics are included, and I have to say they are pretty cliché. Typical Gothenburger junk here like "Insidious lords of utopian decay/ once on the throne of this world/ indoctrination, salvation or decay?" What the hell does that mean? Whatever. Fortunately this is Death Metal, and you can't really understand the words anyway. The production is very good, with that signature Abyss guitar tone and a massive lower end to the proceedings so that the whole package sounds heavy as Hell.
Solar Dawn are a very cool band, and I see no reason why the fact that their general subgenre usually sucks should hold them back. Whatever you think of the Gothenburg sound, these guys are an excellent band that deserve way more attention than they are getting. I highly, highly recommend this album to any and all Death fans who aren't addicted to Satan, as this is heavy, crushing stuff that will grab you by the throat and won't let go. An excellent and unjustly overlooked CD.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com