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Blue Dawn - 2013 - "Cycle of Pain"

(55:44, Black Widow Records)


****+
                 
TRACK LIST:

1.  The Powers That Be 5:43
2.  Emerald Eyes 4:12
3.  Naked Soul 5:19
4.  Cycle of Pain 6:02
5.  Clone 4:36
6.  Dawn of Contempt 2:09
7.  Contempt 5:06
8.  Aurora 2:54
9.  The One to Blame 5:53
10. Red Sun 3:59
11. In Every Dream Home a Heartache 4:29
12. Last Cry 5:22

LINEUP:

Monica Santo  vocals 
Enrico Lanciaprima  bass; vocals
Andrea Di Martino  drums 
Luigi Milanese  guitars 
With:
James M. Jason - keyboards, synthesizers
Roberto Nunzio Trabona  saxophone 

Prolusion. The Italian band BLUE DAWN was formed back in 2009, based out of the city of Genoa. They released their self-titled debut album in 2011, and towards the end of 2013 their sophomore production "Cycle of Pain" appeared. As with their debut album, this CD is distributed through the Italian label Black Widow Records.

Analysis. There are many ways in which you might describe the music of Blue Dawn, but a common denominator I suspect just about everyone writing about this album will include is that Black Sabbath is a more than likely source of inspiration. There's a distinct vintage stoner rock and doom metal tinge to this album, both by the use of dark, heavy distorted bass motifs and in the grimy, dark guitar riffs used that naturally inspired associations in that direction. Blue Dawn isn't a band that is quite on par with Black Sabbath admittedly. Mix and production do leave a bit to be desired, the compositions come across as fairly basic at times, and while there are plenty of 70's hard rock and doom metal included in their sound the end result is just as often comparable with obscure metal bands from the early 80's of a more dubious quality as far as the end result is concerned. Although I suspect that this is primarily due to the technical aspects of this album to a greater extent than the compositions and performances themselves. Main vocalist Monica Santo has a strong and distinct voice which she applies with a fair bit of passion. The voice does sound slightly off at times however, but if that is a case of a deliberate focus on emotional delivery or a result of mix and production not quite managing to incorporate her voice in the best possible manner is hard to say. That her vocals are somewhat accented may also have something to say to this. Fine and distinct lead vocals by all means, but they could have tied in even better with the music this band explores. Strong, distinct and loud drum patterns combine well with insistent, driving bass guitar to form a rock solid foundation, and the dark, twisted and fairly heavy guitar riffs are a good fit on top of that. The songs themselves are somewhat uneven however, with the fairly basic 80's oriented metal piece Close as an example of the compositions that didn't make that much of a positive impression, despite the clever saxophone driven insert midways into that song. Alongside a guest saxophonist, Blue Dawn has also enlisted a guest keyboard player, and it's when he combines his talents with the band in some of their more sophisticated ventures that this CD shifts towards sounds of a much more intriguing nature. Title track Cycle of Pain is arguably the highlight among those, a song that has room for sparse arrangements featuring frail guitars, piano and instrument reverbs just as often as shifting towards a more classic Black Sabbath inspired excursion. There's even room for some sickly sounding organ details in the latter part of the song, a suitably dramatic detail. Much the same can be said about The One to Blame, another composition where Blue Dawn successfully incorporates keyboard textures with their vintage hard rock and doom foundation to create a song that probably merits to be placed somewhere inside the progressive rock universe. Otherwise I'll note that there are a lot of keyboard embellishments at hand that do give this blend of vintage hard rock and doom metal a strong identity. All in all, I do find quite a few of the compositions on this album to be not all that impressive however, and also in the cases where the different elements combine into a greater whole this is a case of a band that will appeal to a select niche audience rather than a broader one.

Conclusion. The Italian quartet Blue Dawn, with the aid of two guest musicians, has managed to create a rather distinct blend of vintage hard rock, doom metal and progressive rock on their second full-length production "Cycle of Pain". There is a certain underground sound and atmosphere to this production that will limit its overall appeal I suspect, a basic and at times primitive sound to these excursions that reminds me of obscure early 80's heavy metal. But if you don't mind a band that has more of a basic sound and find the notion of a band exploring this somewhat odd blend of styles to be intriguing, this is a CD worth giving a spin. Especially of you're fond of female vocalists with a distinct and strong expression and delivery.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 6, 2014
The Rating Room


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