Dawn of a Dark Age - _The Six Elements, vol. 2: Water_
(Independent, 2014)
by: Dan Lake (6 out of 10)
These Italian black metal miscreants first came to our attention six months ago with their debut outing _Earth_, which is now followed up -- right on schedule, we should add, as one of six semi-annual installments planned for the next few years -- by this month's _Water_ album. We strongly suggest you read our thoughts on _Earth_ before delving too far into this review. To recap: in 2014, Dawn of a Dark Age set out to explore their conception of the classical elements with a bastard blend of extreme metal and jazz/orchestral instrumentation. The result... well, the results aren't all in yet, as there are still four sections of the project yet unrecorded, and it feels strange passing judgment on such a small part of the whole.

_Water_ contains a lot of exciting, um, elements, but the overall effect is strangely not all that exciting. It took about a dozen spins of the album to figure out why this might be, but it appears to come down to the sound of the recording. While the clarinet, saxophones, viola and violin sparkle with a crisp clarity, the metallic aspects of the music toil in a murky, muddy mix that erodes the impact of these sections. The compositions are strong, the vocals alternately phlegmy and growly, the performances appear to be sharp, but all of it wallows in a bland, stagnant low end that blunts its power.

The non-metallic parts of the recording bring this album to life, an admission that obviously makes me a pussy. Band leader Vittorio "Eurynomos" Sabelli and I share an enjoyment of jazz fucker John Zorn, a fact which shines through the woodwind and string performances and explains, perhaps, why I find them so enticing. Channel-shifting reed calls flit across various parts of the album, meant to mimic either whalesong or seabirds. "The Gates of Hell (In the Deepest Dark Abyss)" mounts slowly with dark, rippling keys, longing bowed strings, echoed gagging and whispery singing. The impish clarinet on "The Old Path of Water (Where You Rot Slowly)" reminds me of the soundtrack to the Neil Gaiman / Dave McKean collaboration film _Mirrormask_. An acoustic guitar splits "The Verrin's Source (On MountField)" by picking out a medieval European melody. Squalling saxophones tear apart the doom that laces "Otzuni (The Black City in Apulia)" before the song reduces itself to a spritely synth-pipe and clarinet jig. "Outro n.2" builds chimes toward a menacing instrumental crescendo that ties back into the stormy waves and drowning sounds that began the album.

The average metal fan won't find much to extol on _Water_, but open minds willing to devote some time to Dawn of a Dark Age will certainly be rewarded. I'm left wishing that the union of metal and jazz hid its seams a little better, adding instruments in a way that grows out of compositional need rather than feeling like they were grafted together for the hell of it. For all the disparaging remarks, though, the final judgment comes down to this: I know for sure that I'll be listening to Dawn of a Dark Age more in the future.

Contact: http://www.r-evolutionband.com/#!dawn-of-a-dark-age/ctdn

(article published 29/12/2014)

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