Review Summary: Haunting vocals, atmospheric instrumentals, and drop-dead gorgeous songwriting set this gem apart from the rest of Before the Dawn's catalog.
The first I ever heard of Before the Dawn was “Deadsong” from their album Deadlight
just a few years ago. I really enjoyed the track, listening to it several times off of their music video that someone had uploaded to YouTube. Only within the last couple weeks have I given a listen to any of their older albums since they had been sitting in my library and Deathstar Rising
had just come out. I was pretty impressed with the band's early works and particularly fond of their clean vocalist. Needless to say, My Darkness
impressed me and I moved on to their next album.
Here enters the band’s sophomore album, 4:17 AM
. What was most apparent on this album was the drastic increase in production quality, as compared to (at least my copy of) My Darkness,
which was rather quiet and a bit muffled. 4:17 AM
, on the other hand, has plenty of clarity and is a breath of fresh air in a genre that is often overblown. Not only is this album great musically, but what is perhaps the most important part of this record is the tremendous atmosphere it has. The instrumentation, though relatively basic, is extremely immersive and does an amazing job of capturing the listener in a universe that the sounds create.
has a bleak mood which, despite its heaviness, is often very relaxed. Because of this, the album retains much more of a doom metal style despite its typically high tempo compositions. A surprising amount of the album’s atmosphere comes from the haunting clean vocals, which often serve as the focal point in the tracks. The true beasts of this album, however, are the guitars. The melodies and riffing are absolutely top-notch; beautiful, melodic, creative, and positively brimming with a fullness that could make a statue weep. The melodies on this album could give Katatonia a run for their money, and that’s saying a lot for me. Each song is surprisingly diverse not just in notation, but in the different rhythms that they utilize. Each melody, riff, and rhythm sounds and feels unique and creative despite their relative simplicity.
The only place where this album doesn’t quite live up to its own standards is in its lyrics. They aren’t bad, of course, but they aren’t really great either. However, while the lyrics aren’t as creative as the rest of the album, they are fairly cryptic, and follow in the same vein as the rest of the music in that they are aren’t particularly intricate.
In short, this album is fantastic. Every track is killer, and an absolute high point for both melodic death and doom metal. It’s really a shame that Tuomas seemed to eventually shift more towards thrashy, melodic death metal near the end of Before the Dawn’s discography, as I feel like his best music came from his more doom-focused era, and 4:17 AM
, in particular, was his finest and most inspired work.