Albums such as Dawn's new effort "Darker" are extremely
difficult to rate. The reason for this is that the album itself
is actually rather good. I believe it is derivative, however,
and therein lies my conundrum. Dawn hails from Switzerland, a
country that I don't hear much of in the way of prog. Their
sophomore album certainly lives up to its name, and I feel that
is its greatest asset.
"Darker" is an album full of lush keyboards, dark guitars, and
throbbing bass environments.
The band plays very well, and I'm especially
impressed with Nicolas Gerber on keys. His Hammond organ swells
and loops material with precision and changes in octave that
come at just the right moment. It's a very effective foundation
for the rest of the music. However, René Degoumois on guitars is
also very talented, especially the emotive, high- tuned portions
that stand against a blackened aura. Julien Vuataz on bass and
Manu Linder on drums combine to craft a rhythm section that
gurgles and flares when needed, and they both display their fair
share of incredible musicianship. There is no question, then,
that this band can play.
If I had to
liken Dawn to another band, it would be The Flower Kings, for
sure. Sure, there are hints of Floyd, King Crimson, and maybe
even Riverside, but The Flower Kings seem to be everywhere in
this album. In fact, the dark pondering about war that permeates
"Darker" is very much in line with The Flower Kings' "Desolation
Rose" from last year. This is a shame, in my opinion. Even with
his accent, René Degoumois on vocals sounds so much like Stolt.
These guys are obviously much better than a TFK clone, and they
show it every once in a while with lengthy instrumentals, a dark
environment, and other ways. However, they always go back to
that TFK sound. I like TFK, but I don't need other bands to
sound just like them.
All is not
lost, however. What Dawn does, they do well. This album is full
of rolling instrumental brilliance, some creative portions
(Lullabies for Gutterflies), and a mastery of climactic ideas. I
especially appreciate "Cold" with its keyboard swells; the title
track for its, well, darkness; and "Endless" for its magnificent
conclusion. My favorite, however, is "8945", a masterful epic
track that is not only brilliant musically, but is also sullenly
profound. The album seems to center on the ravages of war and
man's terrifying abilities to destroy. Against this backdrop,
they add in the horrors of men killing in the name of God. It's
harsh stuff, and it elevates this album considerably.
then, is not a lost cause. I do believe the band needs to branch
out their sound, but the lyrical content and the slightly
darker, less humorous side are a welcome differentiation from
The Flower Kings material. This a great album that I think
deserves anyone's time, but know that you are in for a dark
journey that will leave you wondering, "What have we done?"