Friday 31 January 2020

Dawn of Solace - Waves (2020)

Country: Finland
Style: Gothic Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 24 Jan 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

Dawn of Solace is mostly another one man band, this time the work of Tuomas Saukkonen from Lahti in Finland, who contributes everything here except the clean vocals, which are provided by Mikko Heikkilä, the guitarist and clean vocalist in Kaunis Kuolematon. Saukkonen is a busy lad. Apparently Dawn of Solace grew out of another of his bands, Before the Dawn, who played gothic death metal. When some of the material written for their third album turned out different enough, he diverted it to a new solo project, Dawn of Solace, and released it as The Darkness in 2006.

He continued to work in many different bands, like thrash/deathcore outfit The Final Harvest, melodic doom/death group Black Sun Aeon and melodeath project RoutaSielu. However, he disbanded them all in 2013 to concentrate on a new one called Wolfheart. Like many of his solo projects, it grew into a full band and they're four albums in and still going. However, as another melodic death metal band, this material wouldn't have fit so he resurrected Dawn of Solace for a second album, fourteen years after the first.

I see Dawn of Solace listed as melodic doom/death metal, but there's more to it than that. The vocals are almost entirely clean, Heikkilä sounding a lot like Joel Ekelöf of Soen; Saukkonen's death growls restricted to a single song called Tuli and even then in the background behind Heikkilä. The music isn't entirely unlike Soen either, but their progressive leanings are toned down greatly in favour of a gothic sort of melancholy. It's often slow with a prominent piano and the grandeur of it fits gothic metal too.

There is certainly doom here (check out the beginning to Ashes or the core riff in Silence) but it feels more upbeat than we might expect and sometimes faster as well; Numb reaches quite a clip at points. When it gets very slow, like the piano driven Ghost, it has all the melancholy that doom can dream of but I'd still say that it ends up far more gothic than doom. As to death, that's pretty much confined to Tuli and isn't prominent there anyway. I read that Dawn of Solace's first album was heavier, so I presume this marks a conscious move away from the doom/death they're known for.

Whatever we call it, the result is delightful. From the weaving guitars that open Lead Wings to the slow piano fadeout of Ghost, everything is strong and everything maintains that sad forlorn tone. It's certainly depressive music but it's the sort of depressive music that helps to exorcise your demons and let you go on with your day rather than the sort that lets you wallow in the sheer pointlessness of it all. I can easily see this becoming a regular play for its healing benefits.

The album feels short at just over forty minutes, but that's because it's an immersive experience and there are no lesser moments to be found. There are eight songs on offer and every one could be considered a highlight. At some point, depending on the day, I could suggest any one of these as a personal favourite. Right now, I'm leaning towards Ashes, because of its guitar solo, its slow build and its gorgeous refrain. But then I'll listen to one of the others and start to doubt myself. Maybe Hiding is my favourite instead. And Numb. And Lead Wings. And...

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