Written by: Volt Thrower
Old sticky beer gripping the bottom of my shoes. Sweaty dudes bumping into me. The crushing weight of Tatsu Mikami’s bass tone laying waste to my chest cavity. Was it all a dream? The last show I went to in the pre-pandemic times was Church of Misery in February, less than three months ago, but it feels like it's been at least three years. The concept of time of has become a black hole since ~March 13th. Anything prior to that date genuinely feels like it's beyond the grasp of memory or record, i.e. Time Immemorial.
We’re in unprecedented times, people feel hopeless. Canadian sludgers Heron build atmosphere on the back of hopelessness, and deliver perhaps the most relevant release of 2020.
Post-metal is an intrinsically fickle beast. While a more forgiving genre such as sludge or death can exist--and flourish--simply on the merits of its particularly bombastic nature, post-metal consistently toes a line between repression and expulsion. While this particularly sleepy-eyed Village isn’t that well versed in the post-metal ‘verse, I do know this: a band must walk that line with grace, displaying both self-reflective ambiance and explosive catharsis, the inevitable result of an emotional and sonic bottleneck. How, then, does the band in question handle to pressure? Dawn Fades are a mighty quintet based out of LA, and prior to their debut, the reputable immersive nature of their live performances served as a calling card. While this may be their first release, these fellas are markedly professional and mature in their craft. I’m happy to report that when Dawn Fades commits to emotive bombast, they blow the walls out.
While these moments of catharsis are few, they define the album’s ability to maintain interest and immersion. Buildup is everything, and Dawn Fades’ true strength is their ability to maintain interest through the more ambient, acoustic, and otherwise gentle passages, while simultaneously knowing how and when to strike without isolating or boring their audience. If that isn’t a success story, what is? Gentle and often near-elusive guitar sets the stage, and well-considered use of cleans and harshly blackened rasps provide a barometer for intensity. None of this feels contrived or--gasp--overly academic.
Take the periodic brief pauses in instrumentation on Ashes, a track that slowly grew to become a favorite. While another band might have used this as a chance to showcase an animistic screech, or another suitably violent vocal exorcism, Dawn Fades elects for a subtle silence. In interrupting the pattern, it helps the song as a whole catch an (occasional) jagged breath. As a result, attention is focused. Quite smart. Moments like this, which frequent the album, seem particularly well constructed for a live environment, where the audience can be pulled and manipulated through a tangible atmosphere.
From a critical perspective, the drums, which significantly define the motion of the album throughout, could use more heft--while light on their feet, they generally lack punch. That said, the crunchier tracks--such as lead single Freeze--feel particularly massive in comparison. More concretely, the utilization of lyric-less cleans in Shackle seem slightly out of place given the prior sophistication of atmospherics. Considering the overall achievement here, minor complaints. On a personal level, Dawn Fades was very much worth the expedition into unfamiliar genre waters. If you are a fan of post-metal--or perhaps similarly uninitiated--this debut will undoubtedly prove an intriguing and satisfyingly immersive experience.
Dawn Fades will be released February 8th from Metal Assault Records. In the meantime, we here at the Sleeping Village highly recommend you bend your ear in the direction of Lean and Freeze. Solid singles both, and a strong introduction to Dawn Fades’ uniquely precise line in the sand between introspection and violent spectacle.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!