We were looking for a record so out-of-the-box, it would not fit anywhere. No band enjoying the safe harbor of their chosen style would qualify for that, of course. But an outfit sailing out there in the murky depths of yonder mists. A place where the music defines the direction, not the confines of a style. And that is when that cover of white-clad figures on a stormy beach caught our attention.
It turned out to be Dawnwalker‘s shiny new record Ages that saw the light of day in early December 2020. And – indeed – this is a record with little regard to boundaries.
At first, their tune sounds like some poetic and pretty quiet piece. Unplugged to a point and a bit unsure of direction. Earth lore nirvana or a step to the left into a land where metal flowers bloom? What’s it gonna be? Any direction, actually.
But this predicament solved itself relatively quickly. Or it complicated itself, depending on how you look at it. Because nothing is what it seems on Ages.
The record projects a weird mix of Opeth and Alcest for long stretches. Yet, the moment Dawnwalker wade into heavier territory, some serious spice appears. This is when the offering easily matches the weird and fiery intensity of a band like Todtgelichter. With screams and yelps, garnished with genuine death and doom, down to tremolo-infused blackened screeching sessions. Cross-style and strange intermezzos included. Not to speak of the forays into Progressive Metal and pretty intense djentology.
Yet, how Ages combines clear voice with growls, rasps, and screams really jacks the interest levels in this record up to no end. Because they use mood in conjunction with the style of voice. And that – in itself – always influences the type of riffing on display.
I worried a bit about the large number of epic 10-minute+ tracks that kinda float about the disk. And rightly so. Dawnwalker often noodle a bit too much around the soundscape. And that is not to their advantage. For example, we get it that Colony / A Gathering kind of welcomes the final stage of things. But to drive it home with the noise-infected mighty djent hammer for a felt couple of years is a bit much. A subtle culling of all those rolls of fat would have made for a much crisper delivery.
That does – however – not mean that Ages only features epic failures that simply feed on their uncanny length. Much to the contrary. The Wheel or – again – the excellent Ancient Sands are living proof that a band can concoct long tracks without losing your listener.
I will admit – however – that I fancy the band’s heavier incarnation over their woozier parts. Ages shines the most when they move into that extreme heavy metal alt/prog mode1). That also means that they are masters of their own complexity and will never lose that fil-rouge that is so important to the success of such wild records. And they do that with an uncannily precise song structure.
The aforementioned Ancient Sands may be a good example. Starting with a powerful meaty riff, it then moves into blackened territory quickly which – interestingly – alternates between clears and growls. But the choir that hits in the middle like clockwork just stole the cake and ate it, too. Okay, one can argue that this is what music is all about, but not all bands hit this home like this one.
Yet, all those clear-cut structures notwithstanding, I found the production a bit too fuzzy at times, a perceived lack of that sharply honed delivery we so ardently crave. And that’s a pity. Also, I truly had to jack up the volume to get some bite out of Ages. Now, of course, we cannot have it both ways. On one hand, reviewers deplore the loudness war, and once the shoe is on the other foot, it ain’t right either.
In the end however, the RMR crew relished that pretty unique metal sound the folks from Dawnwalker present. Ages indeed is a piece way off the beaten path. Not something we can easily stuff into a genre and forget about it. And that is exactly the way things are supposed to be.
Hardy, steely metal together with ambients and lofty atmospherics. And all that unconstrained by self-inflicted rules. In short, the record is a testament to ardent creativity and a mighty portion of talent. And this is a good thing.
You should try some, too. If you are brave enough, that is.
Ed’s note: And there’s a new record out. Try some.
Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Facebook
Release Date: 4 December 2020
|1.||Am I making sense yet?|