Thursday 24 January 2019

My Darkest Time - Dawn (2018)

Country: Macedonia
Style: Gothic Doom/Death Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 30 Nov 2018
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website

Wow, this caught me by surprise in the very first few seconds. I do like it when an album does that! This track, Two Angels, promptly surprised me again when the vocals hit two minutes in because that sounded like three completely different styles all at once. And I mean all at once, not interacting but battling it out. Hey, add a third surprise. I looked them up and found out that they're a Christian band. Playing gothic doom/death. Well, why not.

Two Angels is an interesting song. The metronome drum got really old for me, but that mix of styles fascinated me. I dug the chiming guitars that almost sound like a sitar and the drums when they got interesting at the end. The female gothic vocals are an enticing siren song and the raucous male vocals shift it even further into originality. The song needed an end though, rather than a fade.

In short, it's not entirely successful but it is fascinating. The worst thing about the album is that the next couple of songs are fascinating in pretty much an identical way, merely with better rhythms. In isolation, they would have garnered the exact same sort of wide eyed response from me. Together, the effect is lessened somewhat until Dawn slows down late on and we realise that My Darkest Time aren't a one trick pony.

The best thing about the album is that it refuses to be one thing, though this might be an offputting approach to many. My Darkest Time have five albums on Bandcamp but haven't described themselves yet. On Facebook, they go for gothic/doom/death metal, but that's less what they are and more an attempt to cover the bases. The only death here is in the male vocals of Martin Atanasov, who may be going for hardcore shouts but whose accent is so extreme that it ends up morphing it into a sort of death growl.

To me, they sounded rather like a heavy Dead Can Dance. Marina Atanasova sings very much in the gothic operatic tradition but with a world edge, meaning that there's as much of Lisa Gerrard here as whichever symphonic metal vocalist comes to mind first. The music, which with the exception of Zoran Petrovski's lead guitar all comes courtesy of Zarko Atanasov, who founded the band back in 2005, and it's all over the map, both musically and ethnically. I'm not too knowledgeable about the folk sounds of Skopje, but I caught a lot of Indian sounds here.

Dawn is certainly an interesting album and one to dive deep into to figure out what Zarko Atanasov is doing at any random point in time. However, it often felt oddly disembodied and Open, O Doors is a great example of that. Each of the component parts is capable and the end result is interesting, but I never bought into this being a band playing together.

It feels like it was constructed rather than grown, with Zarko combining what everyone else was doing in isolation and layering on other sounds until it all got to where he wanted. That's especially weird when two voices are singing harmony to each other but without ever feeling like the singers had met each other. The only time I felt like they were singing together was in the final track, Lord Have Mercy.

I do love bands, seriously, who make it difficult for critics like me to attempt to convey whether you're likely to dig their work or not. I've listened through a few times now and I'm still not quite sure if I do.

The best way to attempt Dawn is to suggest that there's a relatively consistent ethnic groove across the board, with duetting vocals floating over it: pleasant but unsurprising gothic female and uniquely harsh male. Oh, and when you figure out what they're doing, they'll mix it up just enough to make you wonder. Does that help? Probably not!

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