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Just Before Dawn – An Army At Dawn

Just Before Dawn
An Army At Dawn
by Brian Lowrie at 11 October 2020, 11:41 AM

Ah, World War II; The global conflict that ended with the highest human fatality record of any war in history, so why wouldn’t it be a great subject matter for death metal? While some bands may only touch on the concept, there are fewer bands who are able to centralize on it with any sort of success. Just Before Dawn is a Swedish death metal super-group (to put it lightly) that were able to have such success with An Army At Dawn, their third full length release that will make any fan of either war, or classic melodic death metal happy.

 Opening with “Paths of Armor – To The Last Tiger”, the band makes their mission statement clear: delivering focused-sounding, mostly mid-paced death metal ripe with chainsaw-esque guitars, hammering drums and lower-register vocals is top priority. Although some of the lead-guitar work on this track feels a little underdeveloped, it doesn’t overcompensate and distract the listener. “The Guns At Last Light”, the second track, could be considered the “marching music” of the album. It features guest vocals from Matias Nastolin (Decaying), who brings a panicked-style mid-range scream often in accompaniment with the lower-range growls that dominate the album. The focus switches to a slower atmosphere more akin to watching an approaching army with the title track, “An Army At Dawn”. This song really shows guitarist (and core songwriter) Anders Biazzi’s roots, writing an anthem of war that consists of looming guitars and a more modest drumbeat.

“Goliath Revived” is the band’s first single, and deservedly so. A more blistering and thrash oriented track, it will definitely serve as the band’s “wall of death” track for live performances (if those ever become a thing again.) The pacing is consistent, unrelenting, and at the same time, heavy as an atom bomb, with lyrics describing soldiers looking death in the eyes and pushing forward regardless of the outcome. “Dance of Katyusha” is as close as Just Before Dawn comes to writing a folk song. This track is named after “Katyusha”, a Soviet military march about a woman’s faithfulness to her lover, a soldier who is currently serving the Motherland. “Belaya Smert”, which translates to literally “White Death”, is a more slow and somber affair, choosing to place more emphasis on making the listener feel chilled to the bone. Kicking the pace back up with “With Everything We Have”, the track drops you right onto the battlefield with steady double-bass drums, grinding guitars and despairingly contrasting vocals, thanks to appearances by David Nilsson and Andreas Stenlund. Looming guitars and ominous drum beats make a return in the first bonus track, “The Atlantic Wall”, which honestly feels like a rehashed variant of “An Army At Dawn” with a different vocalist. While in my opinion, this vocalist is a stronger presence, the instrumental work on this track is also more interesting, despite the atmospheric déjà vu. The “final” track (there is another bonus track afterwards), “Unless Victory Comes”, embraces more of a sludgey influence in the riffs, while not losing the catchy spirit of the songs before it. It’s by no means a bad song, but feels like a bit of a cliffhanger to end an album on. With that being said, “Into The First Wave”, the tenth track, decides to end the album on a more energetic (and arguably more proper) note. It embraces the thrashier elements presented earlier, while also instilling a sense of apathy into the listener, reminding us that war only has two options: victory, or death.

This album wasn’t the most technically interesting, but it was most certainly a fun ride filled with a sense of nostalgia for me. As someone who grew up on a lot of old school Swedish death metal (moreso in the style of At The Gates, Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity, etc.) this band takes an entertaining turn on a subgenre that’s been around for decades. It may not be the most original sound, and the sound may not be for everyone, but Just Before Dawn know what they do best: World War II influenced, crushing death metal.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship:7
Memorability: 7
Production:8

 

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Paths of Armor – To The Last Light
2. The Guns At Last Light
3. An Army At Dawn
4. Goliath Revived
5. Dance of Katyusha
6. Belaya Smert
7. With Everything We Have
8. The Atlantic Wall (Bonus)
9. Unless Victory Comes
10. Into The First Wave (Bonus)
Lineup:
Anders Biazzi -  Guitars, Bass
Gustav Myrin – Guitars
Brynjar Helgetun – Drums
Jon Rudin – Drums
Jonny Pettersson – Vocals, Bass
Record Label: Soulseller Records
     


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Edited 20 October 2020
 

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