It’s no secret on this website that when it comes to music, I like what I hear to be daring and experimental to always push the envelope forward. With that said, on Dawnwalker’s fourth full-length record Ages, the band have once again proved that they’re ahead of the curve and ready to keep innovating.
The brainchild of Mark Norgate, who is joined here in turn by Sacred Son’s very own Dane Cross, Dawnwalker as a project have refused to compromise or bow down to genre conventions and are all the better for it. What we have here on Ages is a collection of lengthy tracks that whimsically dance between the ethereal and the energetic with music that flirts with post-rock, black metal, industrial and hardcore confidently and courageously. It’s difficult to nail down any particular influences upon listening, but my mind was quickly drawn to the likes of metal greats such as: Opeth, Katatonia, Alcest, Uada, Solstafir, A Forest of Stars, Ghost Bath, Agalloch and even unexpected influences like Swedish pop singer Martin Rubashov.
The Wheel sets a solid precedent for what’s to come on the record throughout. An extended kaleidoscope of clashing crescendos suspended in a constant state of flux, and yet ever moving. Moody post-rock singing and stellar acoustic guitar playing lead into the substantial meat of this track’s core. One moment, calming and similar to something that could have come straight off of Opeth’s Damnation record, then as it comes to a close, things intensify in a way that would give Napalm Death a run for their money.
Ancient Sands is reminiscent of avant-garde acts such as Hail Spirit Noir, with the long dreamlike choruses contrasting with the thick chugging rhythm that halts for no man, twisting and contorting in the latter period to something that could be torn straight from Lifelover or Shining’s back catalog. Having the lionshare of songs be this lengthy in nature allows the listener to fully envelope themselves into a trance-like state, completely beholden to the spells that await them, in this dark ritual, which Ages clearly is.
The production on this full length is magnificent in the method of how light and dark are merged so effortlessly. It is refreshing to hear natural percussion cut through the mix as prominently as this with little issue, and newcomer Hugo Terva seems to really come into his own with the personality of his fills and emotive ride/crash progressions that embody a large portion of the longer songs on this record.
There’s a sinister vibe that links these songs together in a very clever way. The brief ambient pieces that provide equal parts respite and reflection on what has happened and a glimpse at what’s to come. None is this more apparent than on the track Colony / A Gathering where flutes and medieval influence are king, as the thick oppressive guitar chugging permeates. Make no mistake that everything is very well thought out on this album, every piece falls into play masterfully and not a second of the runtime is wasted. Particular mention goes to the album’s closer, The Cataclysm, which will make you wonder exactly how the end of life as we know it can sound so inviting. The stunning layered vocal passages that begin this track are as gorgeous as the best lines from Akerfeldt ever were.
There is a lot to love on Dawnwalker’s newest record. It is without question one of the most striking records that I have had the pleasure of hearing this year, and it has certainly left an impression on me. I look forward to hearing where Norgate and company go from here in their musical endeavours, and this year seems a little brighter with music this substantial to close it out to.