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Dawn - Darker CD (album) cover

DARKER

Dawn

 

Symphonic Prog

3.57 | 30 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Swiss quartet Dawn originate from the lovely town of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva , scene of the prestigious Jazz festival as well as immortalized by the classic Deep Purple anthem 'Smoke on the Water'. If you've never been, you should consider visiting this pricy paradise, a tour of the Chateau de Chillon is really well worth the trip. Staffed by the talented keyboardist Nicolas Gerber, the crisp guitar of Rene Degoumois, who doubles on shrill vocals and the bass/drum tandem of Julien Vuataz and Manu Linder, the band has no shortage of chops, especially in view of their tangent towards harder-edged and bombastic symphonic prog, somewhere in the sonic territory of the Scandinavian specialists (Anglagard, Landberk, Wobbler etc..) as well as classic early King Crimson. Their 2007 debut "Loneliness" was quite a revelation, bathing in an austere melancholia that verged on the depressive, a sentiment that continues on the aptly titled follow-up "Darker". The band has been compared to the Flower Kings, perhaps more due to the singer's voice, which has a Pye Hastings meets Roine Stolt pitch but really quite his own tone. In my opinion, the style is much darker (sic) and more atmospheric than the mighty technical Swedes, throwing in some harsher references that owe more to Rush than Genesis but they forge a personal style that offers both technique, musicianship and gripping atmosphere.

"Yesterday's Sorrow" is the dreamy overture, a clearly 70s styled serenity that is all mellotron-infused, simple drum frills as the honor guard, a bright synthesized loop wrapping the package. It sets a positive mood for the otherwise glacial "Cold", a rambunctious nearly 10 minute rampage brutally tortured by a cool bass pattern and a Wobbler-like Nordic tinge. The rabid organ pressures the shrieking chain-saw guitar into action, as the rhythm crew get all bothered up and angry, contrasting with the nearly angelic vocals, a shimmering game of contrasts and hews. There is a sense of grittiness, despair and polite rage, a seemingly dysfunctional malaise imbibes the piece when the reptilian bass gets settled into a basic and relentless groove, this will definitely appeal to those who prefer more somber prog.

Phew, after that somewhat unfriendly onslaught, what more than another epic piece, almost identical in length and drama, the bruising title track "Darker"? The mood is starker, denser and even experimental at times, searching out deep sentiments and sonic reflections that go beyond the casual neo/symph approach. Guitarist Degoumois searches out glistening boundaries, more linear desperation than flickering technique, using a tone that is closer to Robert Fripp in sustaining notes for unbearable lengths. It's definitely grim, neurotic and hinges on the painful.

"Lullabies for Gutterflies" is a brief side show, contrastingly playful, rhythmically repetitive and obsessive, the mood is very much like a musical merry-go-round. It preps the listener for the piece de resistance, the cataclysmic "8945". If that number means nothing to you, let me offer a historical explanation. The 9th of August 1945 was the date when the plutonium atom bomb "Fat Man" devastated the town of Nagasaki, Japan, de facto ending WW2 with 70,000 casualties (over half within seconds of the blast , the balance by the end of the year). Three days after Hiroshima was levelled, this town was pulverized and Imperial Japan surrendered forthwith. 'God, bless science' Rene sings! Dawn broodingly construct a 19 minute anti-war and anti-bomb rant. 'Welcome to the atomic age'. The anguished guitar work is furious and despondent, in an almost punky tone, the drums binary and a sweepingly sad synth provide the all the radiating tears. Mellotron? Oh, yeah! Nothing pretty and serene here, folks! President Harry S. Truman makes multiple cameo appearances, a classic progressive formula of infusing history with music. The entire piece is gruesomely effective, combining various calamitous sections that ensure shock and pain, agonizing deliberate and wretched. The mighty mellotron gets quite the workout from Gerber, pounding away on the black and white board with unabashed scorn. Needless to state the explosive mushroom cloud is to be expected. Ka-boom!

After such a demonic attack on the senses, the next track does sound somewhat "Out of Control", to say the least! It is quite apparent that there are some veiled Genesis influences, the Rutherford-like bass circa Watcher of the Skies, as well as some keyboard lunges that come from the Tony Banks school of intense revelry. Hey, after the bomb, there is a slight sense of dysfunctional revival, no? The mellotron-drenched finale with its guitar auxiliary is stunning, slow and deliberate.

"Lost Anger" is a brief little tune, with an overt Genesis /Ant Phillips feel, could easily have warranted further development and wind up as a more epic piece. In fact, it rather serves as a proper intro the final piece the 10 minute + "Endless", a more vocal-vehiculated arrangement that gradually spins into a vertical atmosphere loaded with rich mellotron and Cartesian electric guitar interfaces , something nearer to classic early KC, as well as that Banks-styled synth playing that permeates Gerber's universe. Excellent finish.

There is little doubt that the longer tracks are oozing symphonic grandeur and as such, will appeal to prog fans in search of dense sensations and spirited instrumental darkness.

4 obscure beginnings

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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