Review Summary: Before The Dawn: Chapter 7 - Where Tuomas Saukkonen finally growls the band's name and it sounds really badass
After giving last year’s Deathstar Rising
a favorable review, I was rather certain it will be the last overly positive piece of criticism I will bestow upon Before The Dawn. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed the band as throughout their career they have been a consistently solid melodeath act boasting a gothic twist, but with six albums behind their backs and their formula wearing thin, the chances of them releasing another truly exciting record seemed slimmer than ever. That is where I went wrong though. Tuomas Saukkonen, the main man in Before The Dawn and a tireless workhorse in the Finnish metal scene, promised that Before The Dawn will come back stronger than ever after the Deathstar Rising
cycle and a slew of member changes, and when Tuomas says something, he means it, dammit. On their seventh studio album, Before The Dawn have yet again managed to squeeze out most of the juices from a rather generic melodeath formula, and much like last year, the album succeeds not because it is overly exceptional-sounding, but because it is alive and inspired.
What has changed this time around compared to Deathstar Rising
, and other Before The Dawn albums in general, is that Rise of The Phoenix
is notably heavier and also a tad darker when it comes to the overall mood. Tuomas Saukkonen announced after the release of Deathstar Rising
and in the wake of upcoming member changes that he wants to drop the gothic elements the band had kept with them for their whole career, and instead opt for a more straightforward, but also more melancholic approach. And while Before The Dawn have never been a fun-sounding band, Rise of The Phoenix
does indeed carry with it a distinct dark undercurrent that is a bit different compared to the band’s older works. On albums such as Soundscape of Silence
, it was mainly up to the lead guitar and lyrics to create the melancholy, but here, every facet of the music oozes it. Whether it be the grander production or the more refined use of keys, Rise of The Phoenix
exhibits the kind of melancholic edge that Tuomas Saukkonen’s other projects, namely Black Sun Aeon and Dawn of Solace, so expertly do.
But that on its own is not why Rise of The Phoenix
succeeds. The album is above your average melodic death metal release because Tuomas Saukkonen and Juho Räihä (the two main contributors) have paid a lot of attention to the little details here. For example, the jumpy lick that kicks in around the three minute mark in "Pitch-Black Universe" is sweet as hell, and the piano outro to "Phoenix Rising" is a very nice touch. In other areas, the drums are much more on the forefront this time around as there is a lot of blasting going on, and the added acoustic parts serve as lovely bridges that connect the harsher sections together. And then there are, of course, the melodies, which are strong as ever (not to say that this is surprising in any way, seeing as how both Räihä and Saukkonen are experts at writing tasteful leads and melodic riffs). They are a little too familiar at times, truth be told, as Saukkonen has developed his own precise style over the years which is easily identifiable, but nevertheless the melodic lines are stronger than most of what comes out of the conventional melodic death metal genre these days.
In conclusion, what we have in Rise of The Phoenix
is yet another solid melodic death metal record from one of the most reliable bands in the genre. It doesn’t steer away from the traditional formulas used in melodeath, but thanks to another stalwart performance by Before The Dawn’s two main men, Juho Räihä and Tuomas Saukkonen, it is a delightful listen regardless. I have no idea how they can make such a conventional formula work every single time, and now more than ever I am left bedazzled over it, but concurrently, the results speak for themselves. If there is one thing that is for certain, it's that there is no point in doubting the capabilities of Tuomas Saukkonen. Do that, and the man will find a way to prove you wrong, just as he has proved my doubts worthless with Rise of The Phoenix