Ah Finland, nobody does Dark Metal quite like Finland. Nobody seems to cram in so much atmosphere, melancholy and lets face it, down-right despondency as the Fins manage. And I love them for it. Throes Of Despondency…sorry…Dawn like to supplement their Dark with words like Progressive, Gothic and at times Avant-garde, which are all more than justified, but before we delve deeper it’s safe to assume that if you like Finnish Dark Metal, there’s going to be plenty to like about Throes of Dawn.
They’re no strangers to the scene, debuting back in 1997, they have molded and honed their style over the following years to arrive at their 6th full-length album here in 2016. And just to call into question my ‘Classic Finland’ intro, initially there is more than a dash of British laugh-meisters Anathema winding it’s way through the slow, atmospheric, mesmerizing opening track called…err…’Mesmerized’. Things heavy up at times from then on with moments of Amorphis, Lake Of Tears and Tiamat in evidence, but also blended with progressive touches akin to Porcupine Tree. The band do like to mix it up which keeps things interesting, but there is always that melancholic overtone (or undertone if you prefer) that is ever-present and links each track to it’s neighbour.
Heavy drums, guitar and bass trade places with acoustic guitar and piano on a regular basis as each track takes the listener on an emotive journey through the psyche of Throes Of Dawn. No ‘verse-bridge-chorus’ for TOD, it’s all about intertwining moods and unexpected atmosphere changes. There’s plenty of melody on offer with the vocals being a clean sung mid/low range throughout, but wisely the band favour hooks (like the haunting descending vocal line that runs effortlessly throughout the excellent ‘Lifelines’) rather than big catchy choruses, which helps the overall feel that the band are at pains to create.
There are some fabulous lead guitar melody lines on show within “Our Voices Shall Remain” (‘Lifelines’ is once more a great example, but also shining though on other tracks like ‘The Understanding’ for example), that take the pressure off the vocals for memorability, with the keyboards contributing expertly on that front also, helping to blend all the other instruments together to give the overall sound a wonderful smoothness. This is illustrated perfectly on the emotive ‘One Of Us Is Missing’, which somehow manages to intertwine some classic 70’s Camel and Pink Floyd into their already rich dark soundscape.
Where as none of the songs are exactly short, the whole thing concludes with the epic ‘The Black Wreath Of Mind’, an accordion and bagpipe ditty based around a jaunty English folk tune perfect for Morris Dancing…no of course it isn’t, it’s exactly what you would expect from a 14 minute song called ‘The Black Wreath Of Mind’ by Throes of Dawn! A slow start that builds nicely, it has a good sprinkling of latter-day Opeth spicing things up and crescendos with a rather fabulous lengthy guitar solo. And there you have it, utterly Finnish, but utterly Throes Of Dawn, who like many of their countrymen have their own unique take on Dark Metal – plenty of variation, some unexpected influences, but always under a big, heavy, grey oppressive cloud of gloom. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)