The last couple of years has been a bit of a disappointment for me in terms of the output from my favorite bands out of Finland. Swallow the Sun and Amorphis put out albums that in the greater context were good releases they just didn’t hit me like previous albums and at times left me bored. Insomnium was the saving grace with a stellar album they’re coming to the U.S. in support for. Needless to say I needed something that could fill the void left behind by the other two. Recently I discovered another band from Finland called Before the Dawn and quite frankly I’m surprised they fell below my radar for so long. Formed by Toumas Saukkonen over a decade ago BTD has produced 7 albums with the latest,Rise of the Phoenix, just released on the 27th of this month. This marks a new lineup and in some respects a new style direction for the band hence the album name.
The thing that really strikes me about Rise of the Phoenix is the similarities with it and some Amorphis work. There is definite atmospheric and almost folk like passages sprinkled through. What you will not find is any clean vocals which apparently there were on previous releases. I’m ok with that as Toumas is a competent growler that does not detract from the music. There are 9 tracks in the standard version which is nice and compact and none of the songs leave you with the sense that they are too long or meandering. Beginning with the opener ‘Exordium’ which is one of those times that an intro track actually does set the table for what to expect instead of giving a false positive as so many other intros do. Next up is Pitch Black Universe which is the first song to give off the Amorphis vibe with it’s distinct riff and pacing. ‘Phoenix Rising’ would be the title track and is probably the heaviest and closest to pure death metal style of all the tracks during the verses. The chorus is definitely going to be live show staple in the way it almost commands hands to be in the air. Cross to Bear has a kick ass groove riff at the beginning and frankly the whole song is catchy as hell. Throne of Ice begins with 2 minutes of acoustic music and then kicks in with a slow to midtempo riff. Perfect Storm is close to being filler on this album as nothing really distinguishes it from other tracks. Fallen World makes up for it but by having a riff that just forces you to at a minimum to bob your head and throughout it’s just a killer tune. Probably my favorite track. I’m not sure if there is irony here but Eclipse just like the title of an Amorphis album also reminds me of them once again. Closure as the title hints at is a gorgeous acoustic instrumental that kicks in to some mellow lead work and then finishes with vocals from Toumas near the end before finishing out as an instrumental again..
Overall Rise of the Phoenix is just what I needed to fill the void in the melodic death doom arena.I have listened to the older works by BFD to some extent but as of yet have not given them as much attention as this. Rise of the Phoenix is the right balance of atmospheric,heavy,and catchy that I look for in Scandinavian metal. We definitely have a candidate for my year end list with this release. Do yourself a favor if you like this type of metal and go out and get a copy of Rise of the Phoenix. You can start with their Facebook page.
In the meantime check out the video for ‘Pitch Black Universe’
And for ‘Phoenix Rising’