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Melodic black metal with atmospheric proportions. - 76%

ConorFynes, July 17th, 2015

Whenever I've asked folks for music recommendations, Dawn, and their final album Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) tends to get mentioned at a far more frequent rate than I'd expect from a record that's now close to twenty years old. My speakers have been ablaze lately with Sacramentum and Vinterland, so it's been propitious to continue by Swedish melodic black metal hit parade with an album I should, by every right, have checked out years ago.

Dawn weren't the only band around to traverse the incestuous ridge between death and black metal, but they're one of the few that made their transition smoothly. Their debut Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher was an impressive observation that caught the Second Wave on its ass-end. Come Dawn's complete realization of their black metal destiny with Slaughtersun however, the so-called golden age was over. Black metal (particularly from the Scandinavian reaches) was in for a bit of an overhaul, a greater part Dødheimsgard than Immortal, and even stalwarts like Mayhem were dipping their wicks in all manners of spooky industrial fuckery. That Slaughtersun came out in a post-Storm of the Light's Bane world is no question; it's not likely Dawn would have been writing music like this five years prior. Regardless, Slaughtersun distinguished itself from a lot of its experimental contemporaries by the sense that they weren't trying to flourish their music with bells and whistles. The songs, however long and intense, are fairly simple by design. This has been seen to give Slaughtersun a sort of timeless quality, even if I get the impression the band have overstayed their welcome by album's end.

Slaughtersun is straightforward, and relatively clean compared with Dawn's other album. Though these songs consistently taunt the ten minute mark (though rarely overcoming it) they forego Burzum-variety minimalism in favour of fast-paced, guitar-fuelled melodic songwriting with a terminal case of chorus fetishism. They draw standard songwriting out to expansive lengths. In a normal case, I'd prefer to hear a band be economical with their time, especially if they're sticking to a relatively narrow wave-band stylistically. I don't think Dawn are entirely out of the foxhole in that respect, but the quality of their riffs and soaring atmosphere make the song lengths worthwhile. I'd consider using the term 'epic' to describe the effect they were going for here if the word hadn't already been run into the mantle of the Earth. In any case, Dawn's reinvention of self can be effectively summarized as having taken the songwriting conventions of the Swedish melodic sound with the patient scope regularly associated with atmospheric black metal. Unlike some of the album's better-weathered fans, I'm not sure the pairing really works, but I am certain that Dawn bring enough spot-on riffs to their songwriting that they make it work.

Even if my laziness cost me a past history of listening to Slaughtersun, I've been long familiar with "The Knell and the World", the band's best-known- and possibly best- track in their catalogue. Dawn make use of fast, melodic guitar lines, but they're not as overt with it as the Dissections and Windirs of the world. The band's performance and production here is surprisingly meaty, with due consideration in the mix even given to bassist Lars Tängmark-- considering most of the Second Wavers no doubt went comatose when it came time to check the bass knob on the mixing board, this alone seems to set Dawn apart from a lot of the bands that influenced them. Though the first track rings strongest in my mind, I actually prefer the second song, "Falcula". There's some thread of melancholic vulnerability in Dawn's melody writing that gets highlighted on this song, and I like the album all the more for its inclusion.

Slaughtersun is a fairly consistent album, by most accounts. It seems a bit out of place to have included a short acoustic interlude ("To Achieve the Ancestral Powers") in an album otherwise populated by ten minute monsters, but I don't think any piece falls short of what it set out to do. Where I may be less inspired than this album's diehards however is its feeling of sameyness. I don't take issue with the long song lengths so much as the fact that one song offers little different than another. With an overall length pushing a full hour, this stands as a bit of an issue. I'm currently unsure whether I really prefer it to Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher, but there's no doubt Slaughtersun's left some imprint in my head. From Henke Forss' dismal screams and apocalyptic imagery, to the soaring drive and atmosphere, the album still earns its keep today. Swedish melodic black metal does get better than this, but it's worth than deserved being immortalized in the collective consciousness of those who would be interested in what they do.