Before the Rain - _Frail_
(Avantgarde, 2011)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)
With the memory of a powerful live performance supporting Katatonia still fresh, my expectations for _Frail_ were extremely high: anything less than contender for doom album of the year would have been a serious disappointment. Coming into only the second full-length of their career, Before the Rain can nonetheless be considered genre veterans in a way, with roots that stretch back to the late Nineties. This is quite relevant to their success in meeting my expectations with this follow-up to their debut album _...One Day Less_, in that there is nothing uncertain, inexperienced or trendy about their approach to doom metal. It took them several years to release their first album; and now, with that first step out of the way, on _Frail_ they seem to have only become more confident, consistent and ambitious than before.

What this evolution has led to is six tracks, each varying between nine and seventeen minutes in length. Before the Rain take their time building and toppling entire musical structures, climbing from despondent depths to almost hopeful heights and tumbling back down again. In that process, they create music that has its roots in the doom/death genre at heart, but frequently transcends the need to conform to category guidelines, as shown in the opening track, "And the World Ends There". The more traditional sounding "Shards" may at times hearken back to old My Dying Bride, but the flowing, expansive nature of their compositions does not lend itself well to remaining close to a specific influence for long. If you know your doom metal, you will understand where a significant part of their inspiration is likely to have come from, at least at some stage; but you will not be hearing a retread of old staples you might associate with any specific bands.

Before the Rain's knack for quiet, quasi-acoustic passages plays into the album title and its well worked lyrical and visual theme, and on the superb "Breaking the Waves" it all truly comes together; hard to believe it clocks in at over seventeen minutes. For the shorter (a mere nine minutes long) "A Glimpse Towards the Sun", the band employs a livelier pace and some memorable vocal lines to achieve the album's most immediately accessible, engaging and easily replayable song. On the last song proper, title track "Frail", BtR return to the seventeen minute mark -- which they conquer with solid songwriting, as well as powerful lyrics that integrate with the song and elevate it to a yet more affecting experience. The album then slowly fizzles out with an outro that really is a full song in its own right, with some great sombre vocals towards the end.

Boasting a new guitar player and a new drummer in their ranks, the band has simultaneously gained a greater interplay of guitar styles and very tight, highly deliberate and effective drumming. Before the Rain have also recruited Gary Griffith (formerly of Morgion) to lay down vocals on _Frail_, and that turns out to be one of the major differences compared to their past. Much as I liked their previous vocalist, Griffith just takes things to a whole new level. He is able to provide not only a powerful, gravelly roar, but also some impeccable clean singing of a different category altogether. His clean vocals are neither in the traditionally mournful doom style nor the gruff approach some singers use; they are distinctive, vibrant and intense, sometimes lending the music an almost epic feel to offset the deep gloom of other passages. Natalie Koskinen from Shape of Despair also adds her voice to successfully highlight certain moments on several songs, but achieves less of an impact on the overall result. Also of note is a brief contribution from Peter Bjargo of Arcana fame.

Growth is a requirement for any band looking to release their second album. Simply coming up with essentially the same album again is not enough to maintain the same level of success between a debut and its follow-up. As such, the dreaded second album is a significantly harder challenge for most bands. On _Frail_, Before the Rain have managed to tread that fine line between retaining their appeal of old and simultaneously adding interesting new elements, ultimately ensuring their music keeps growing and evolving.


(article published 26/6/2011)

10/24/2007 P Azevedo 9 Before the Rain - ...One Day Less
2/29/2004 J Montague 3.5 Before the Rain - ...And With the Day Dying Light
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