Before the Dawn – Stormbringers (Album Review)

Back in the 2000s the Finnish Metal scene was booming with exciting bands. Whether it be more Doom Metal leaning acts like Swallow the Sun, or more Gothic Metal ones such as To/Die/For, the well ran deep with talent. A time that also produced some more mainstream acts like Children of Bodom or Nightwish, at the roots were also some lesser-known bands away from the international stage such as Before the Dawn.

Formed around 1999, the band was the passion project of Tuomas Saukkonen. What some might describe as a one-man show at times, Saukkonen in more recent times is known for his band Wolfheart. However, those who know his history, very much associate him first and foremost with Before the Dawn, but also with other offshoots such as Black Sun Aeon and Dawn of Solace. These facts in mind, Before the Dawn has been a dormant project for over a decade now, with little hope of resurrection thanks to the success of Wolfheart. Rather unfortunate for fans of the band’s previous stellar efforts – ranging from 2003’s My Darkness to 2004’s 4:17 AM through to 2007’s Deadlight and beyond – around 2021 Before the Dawn surprisingly resurfaced. The resurface resulted in the Deadlight reissue which also included brand new song “The Final Storm” featuring former Vocalist Lars Eikind (also known for his work with Neo Classical Metal band Winds).

A resurrection most never expected, Saukkonen soon retooled the lineup with only Guitarist Juho Räihä returning from the older lineup. From here, Saukkonen brought on Bassist Pyry Hanski (…And Oceans) and Clean Vocalist Paavo Laapotti to join the band. Laapotti, the youngest member of the group, is probably the intangible here, because by studying Before the Dawn’s formula, you have to acknowledge their great balance of clean and harsh vocals. This can be heard when Panu Willman (formerly of Entwine) led on clean vocals perfectly from 2000 to 2004, or when Eikind held the reins from 2007 to 2011. With big shows to fill, and showing he is a nice fit, Laapotti shines on the brand new Before the Dawn album Stormbringers.

Released on June 30, 2023 through Napalm Records, Stormbringers marks the first Before the Dawn album in well over a decade. A long time ago, a lot has changed in the surrounding landscape, so has Before the Dawn as well? Another big question, the answer lies within the nine new songs they gift to their listeners.

Now, as most recall, Before the Dawn was a hybrid of styled projects which ranged from Melodic Death Metal to Doom Metal to Gothic Metal. In contrast, Saukkonen’s Wolfheart features more straight up Melodic Death Metal stylings with a tint of icy cold Black Metal. So, how does he transition back into writing Before the Dawn music once more?

Well, being the talented songwriter that he is, even this many years removed, Saukkonen does just fine creating Before the Dawn music. Having a similar atmosphere to their prior records, the guitars possess the same melodic tones, while the song structures also strike similarities. Much like material heard on say 2006’s The Ghost or Deadlight, Saukkonen harsh growls complement Laapotti’s strong, clear singing voice. This can be heard on standout tracks like “Destroyer,” “Downhearted,” “The Dark,” as well within the thick sound of “Chaos Star.”

All in all, Stormbringers is as good as it gets for longtime Before the Dawn fans. It sounds fresh, yet fits perfectly next to their older material as if no time has lapsed. Excited to see the full-blown return of Before the Dawn, Cryptic Rock gives Stormbringers 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Before the Dawn – Stormbringer / Napalm Records (2023)
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