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Germany really doesn't half-ass anything it sets out to do. Whether it be delicious beer, finely crafted automobiles, or as of late, black metal, there seems to be an unspoken yet all-encompassing standard of excellence the nation upholds itself to. With numerous flagship brethren putting out timeless works of cold, atmospheric magic on a seemingly annual basis, Sun Worship walk the auspicious path of black metal greatness without arrogance alongside many bands highly respected by the genre's tastemakers.
Sun Worship's sophomore LP, Pale Dawn, is a glimmering example of how to achieve the coniferous soundscapes of modern USBM without rehashing the notion that you need neofolk elements to cement the atmosphere within the realms of nature. Capturing the raw elements of Scandanvia's black metal of yore with the compositional genetics of the American black metal scene, Sun Worship may not be revolutionaries, but the pure honesty and passion in their sound is unmistakable and quite addictive. When Elder Giants was released in 2014, the waves of its unveiling were felt all the way across the atlantic. It was a masterpiece of modern black metal executed with a certain finesse and honed-in vision that constituted it as a near flawless work of art. Vivid and memorable, Pale Dawn does an admirable job at fulfilling the high expectations it's predecessor set.
Make no mistake, in lieu of its dramatic songwriting, this is a very straight-up affair that stands solely on the groundwork of traditional black metal aesthetics; swaths of layered, tremolo picked melodies wash over the elegant aggression of the drums like turbid northern winds ripping over a barren snowpack, with the anguished vocals infusing an essential, primal human element to the appreciation of nature's cold indifference to man's woes. So why is this par-the-course affair so special? Simple. It does everything it sets out to do without error. Perhaps it's the German roots, but its clear that each individual member of the band has invested tremendous energy and pride into their work. Never settling for monotony or plotless meandering, within each and every song is an unmistakable chemistry and maturity that never loses focus or lends itself to the negative stereotypes of its influences. There's no fat on the meat of this album, and running at a humble 37 minutes, it accomplishes what many atmospheric black metal albums fail to achieve in twice the runtime.
Although Pale Dawn is an album built on a foundation of atmospheric vision, its crowning achievement lies in its ability to be instantaneously memorable without becoming tiresome on repeated listens thanks to mesmerizingly tactile crescendos. The organic songwriting and seamless progression of it all is captivating and holds more than enough substance to stand the test of time. Sun Worship is a very talented group of musicians that boast the wisdom of restraint and an ear for superbly cohesive dynamics. The layered guitar work is charismatic and lusty with its ability to interlock melodies that almost act as an audial Rorschach test; revealing myriads of introspective and empowering revelations on every listen. Coupled with a brilliantly unpretentious but wholly admirable and well-thought drumming performance and well-mixed, anguished vocals, Pale Dawn is the type of album that stands high above the sum of its' individual parts.
One is hard-pressed to find a single moment on this album that drags or feels uninspired, yet the overwhelming sense of familiarity of it all could arguably be seen as a detriment. The wheel certainly hasn't been reinvented here, but nonetheless Pale Dawn stands as one of 2016's most captivating black metal releases, with Sun Worship now firmly cementing themselves as one of the genre's benchmark acts. If enjoy your black metal drenched in white light and passionate emotion that refuses to crawl into the realms of nihil, then Pale Dawn is a triumphant masterpiece of frenetic zeal that you surely won't want to miss out on.
(Originally published on http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/72452/Sun-Worship-Pale-Dawn)