For an all too brief moment in time, they were a sensation.
Dawn were that rare thing in the underground – a band who make an explosive impact, coming from nowhere, only to disappear completely.
I say it’s a rare thing because bands usually gain prominence over years, emerging with their best work within an album or two, before declining gracelessly as we all complain about them.
Dawn weren’t like that. Yes, they had had an album and an EP before this, but absolutely no-one remembers them.
So it seemed that when ‘Slaughtersun’ came out, it was a bolt in a clear nightside eclipse, as it were.
And with the intensity of such a shooting star blazing across the night sky, it fizzled out and disappeared just as quickly.
I use words like this very deliberately. There can be few, who’ve savoured this album both when it came out and over the years since, who weren’t attracted to it for just exactly that intense kinetic energy that it possesses.
Just A Moment… In Time
Right from the first notes – notes that sound almost too good for the album and the band they turned out to be- it is absolutely scouring, speeding, scorching even though it’s melodicism is almost gentle, classicist, even formal.
Dawn’s moment was an interesting one.
They emerged when Black Metal, and labels like Necropolis (theirs), Mordgrimm, Adipocere, Cacaphonous, Misanthropy et al were at an apex of releasing what the Second Wave Of Black Metal would culminate in.
As bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth rose to dominate the scene with theatrics that were gradually souring into an all too consumable form of accessible black metal, Dawn stood at something of a bridge between old and new.
One that marked a point that some bands just decided not to cross.
Their blisteing black metal owed much, much more to Emperor’s ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ than any other album; and it was clear they had no intention at all of following the post-1997 embrace of electronics and experimentations led by Arcturus and Ulver.
No, this album was resolute in its almost high-European approach.
It had Scandanavian darkness, tale and mood in its keyboard swathes, and a commitment to keeping up the speed that fixed them firmly as peers of Gehenna and Absu as opposed to bands dirtying themselves with other directions.
Melody though is what marks this album out. I mentioned Dissection already, because they aped so fully that arpeggiated, tremolo picked guitar style.
Yet the title ‘Crown Of The Triarchy’ may hint to Rotting Christ’s influential album of just two years prior (‘Tiarchy Of The Lost Lovers’). There are certain influences to be heard.
It was critically well received: Gregory Whalen gave it an impeccable 4.5 nukes in Terrorizer at the time, of course referencing the Dissection connection, and pointing out that Dawn were about the closest thing to it.
They looked the part as well; as if Sentenced had decided to bullet-belt and spike up, and not needing corpsepaint to hide behind.
‘Slaughtersun’ is a strident release. There’s Bathory in its sweep, certainly. But as the speed that excited its opening tracks gives way to a more galloping pace by the mid and back stages, its perhaps obvious why they wouldn’t come to move with the times.
Much of that is down to the vocal style.
They’re hardly alone in delivering a single toned croak, but even to this day the lack of variety and insistent meaninglessness of them still grates on me.
Had there been a larger personality at the front of the band, a greater message, maybe they would have been more heralded than they became – more sustainable.
As it was, despite the punch of this album, it remains one that’s almost indifferent when it comes to a personal connection.
Tolkien-esque in parts, redolent of the best mid-90’s atmospheres, its nonetheless bland in terms of its message.
Yet just when you think that, a moment of genius – bald, speeding drums with no accompaniment open ‘The Aphelion Deserts’, clainging foward with a few cymbal hits and that huge fizzing guitar tone coming in to command the song forward.
It could be Marduk, briefly.
And of course we have to commend the production as another example of the one-man metal factory that was Peter Tägtgren at Abyss.
I dont personally like what he did to Black Metal bands, not least Immortal – many do – but Dawn was without doubt one of his better moments, while being unmistakably him. That guitar tone is a dead giveaway.
Nihil Ex Nihilo
Dawn came from nowhere and went nowhere. As far as I can make out they were at the very least rehearsing, posssibly recording some sort of comeback around 2008 – entitled ‘The Fourfold Furnace’.
I dont know if it ever made it out. I am sure however the world wouldn’t have cared.
Their time had been and gone, as was happening before their eyes in 1998 when they were possibly already beginning to sound a shade dated even then.
It remains however an important release for many: one of the defiantly last second wave of black metal toned albums that valued stiff rigour and formality of style over image, commercialism and sliding up the greasy pole.
The speed of it is still exciting to this day, in an age when only older bands generally play this fast for this long – if indeed that’s even a good thing.
And indeed they had their influence. It’s impossible to hear Keep Of Kalessin, for example, and not think of Dawn.
They recall a time of high Ancient Rites, Enthroned, Old Mans Child – fellow also rans who never quite made any better of themselves though their music was fundamentally decent. Dawn’s album roundly beats each.
So they came from nowehere and went nowhere. But take some time to acquaint yourself with this album.
Looking back it was perhaps just another on a conveyor belt, despite the excitement of their discovery – proven of course by their lack of a follow up – and yet, in small doses these days, it retains a definite charm and atmosphere.
– Earl Grey ::: 06/09/16
– Shirt pic courtesy of Tshirt Slayer