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Strong, consistent, and enjoyable. - 88%

TheMorticiansFlame, May 3rd, 2012

Melodic metal, ah the sweet sounds of heavy riffing and soaring guitar melodies. Melodic metal, though a general term, certainly is one of the oldest forms of the genre, and can be traced back to heavyweights such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and in some instances has changed little since then. With all of this in mind, Before the Dawn has formed another brick in the ever growing wall of melodic metal with their newest release, “Rise of the Phoenix”. The album combines heavy and harmonious guitar work, with a dark tone and atmosphere to create an undeniably “metal” album. This approach to writing metal, performing sections and writing in a style that is almost guaranteed to “work” succeeds in some aspects, and falters in others. While being a splendid album to listen to, it no doubt struggles under the weight of its own genericism.

The album starts off with an intro track, something I think is necessary for metal such as this. It works to put the listener into the mood for metal and sets the stage for the rest of the record. “Exordium” performs this task well. After that the songwriting comes into full effect. The songwriting on this work has two main components, that of the heavy riff, and the melodic riff. Before the Dawn is able to balance these two styles of songwriting to create a very listenable album, the best example of this may be the intro to “Eclipse”, which combines melody and heavy guitars. The melodic riffs and solos sometimes run together, and I feel as if they over-do it in that sense. This causes some of the songs to run together, something that relatively traditional metal should avoid. At best, these riffs are emotional and create a powerful effect in the song, sometimes launching it to a height of feeling that the vocalist on the record does not often reach. Harmonies add flavor to the lines and give them an even stronger punch. It’s clear that Before the Dawn can write impressive melodic lines, and while they manage to balance this aspect with their riffing, sometimes the melodies get tiresome. The riffing on this album, when present, is heavy, fast, and works well in moving the song to where it needs to be. Sometimes smothered by the more melodic parts, these riffs can go unappreciated if the listener isn’t focusing on them. “Rise of the Phoenix” could benefit, in my opinion, from an increase in this type of guitar work, and more balance between that and the melodies. Neither element is wholly groundbreaking, but they are each written well and provide for interesting listening.

The quality of the record is near perfect for what they are trying to achieve. Each note is distinguishable and clear, yet the guitars do not suffer from too much overproduction. Some genres may require more or less clarity, but for what they are writing, Before the Dawn did an admirable job of making the record sound good. The drums are sound a little manufactured at points, and could maybe benefit from a little more depth, and the bass is mixed rather low, and when noticeable, is slightly too distorted. The drums sometimes are played too fast, and take away from the guitar parts. The guitars were given first priority in the mixing process and it shows, as they shimmer and glisten, as well as crush and crunch. The guitar solos are well done, many times tasteful and enjoyable, while somewhat generic. They start to run together towards the end of the album though. The guitarists have a strong command of their instruments, and are able to display their talent when necessary. The vocalist is gruff and powerful. He adds a lot to the dark atmosphere of the album, as well as keeps it interesting. He does not vary his style too much, but the album does not run long enough for it to become too tedious.

The album was set up effectively, with the song order giving it a good cohesion. They chose to put “Throne of Ice” towards the beginning middle, this song, which starts with around a minute of acoustic guitar gives the listener an early break in the heaviness. After that break though, the song continues into a full band piece and ends with one of the first very noticeable guitar solos on the record. This track serves to give the listener a break from the heavy songs, but by making it end with a full band section, it does not create a “skip track”, a clean interlude that once listened to, will be glanced over upon repeat listens. Overall, the album is put together with repeat listening in mind. It paces itself well; it divides itself into two sections, with “Throne of Ice” being the dividing line. The first section is all that you’d expect from a melodic metal band, while the second is a little more aggressive. This aggression comes to a peak in the song “Perfect Storm”, which is a fitting title for this dissonant track, although the chorus seems a little out of place. The album ends with the song “Closure”, a song that prepares the listener for the end by starting off with an acoustic intro, after which the song launches into a huge guitar solo. This solo, while predictable, serves to end the album strongly and with character.

The atmosphere of the album is a little unoriginal. It uses the usual dark toned acoustics and melodramatic metal feel. For what it is though, it works. The mood of the album helps to put the listener into that fantastical world of melodic metal, which has always been an escape music of sorts, and does so effectively.

Overall, Before the Dawn’s “Rise of the Phoenix” does what it intends to do. It is a well crafted melodic metal album, and will be enjoyed by most fans of the genre, unless they have a strong aversion to some unoriginality. There is nothing too groundbreaking about it, and some may consider it generic, but it is enjoyable in its own context. It will fit in nicely with the rest of Before the Dawn’s discography.