Under A Bleeding Sky
Final Dawn - Under A Bleeding Sky 2004 Candlelight Records - reviewed by: EC
1. Solemn Art
3. Aggression Overdrive
5. Regression Is Transgression
6. Bleeding Sky
7. What Flows Within
8. My Pain
Okay, see if you can stay with me on this. Finland's Final Dawn originally recorded "Under A Bleeding Sky" for their first label, New Aeon Media in late '03. New Aeon is a sublabel of Hammerheart Records, which just recently changed their monicker to Karmageddon Media. The album was released in March of '04 through New Aeon. Candlelight Records' domestic outlet, Candlight USA, has decided to pick up the record and release it stateside. So now the record is floating around on both ends of the world, on three different labels...well technically only two....yeah, it can get about as confusing as an Iced Earth lineup.
When I first fired up Final Dawn's debut record, "Under A Bleeding Sky", I was really expecting corpsepainted goons howling at the moon via a nicely packaged CD. What I got is the exact opposite. These guys really go against the trends, refusing to go completely over the top with the speed metal aggression most death acts aim for these days, and at the same time they are not going Swedish melodic metal ala In Flames, Dark Tranquility, etc. The band has thrown in plenty of melody on these eight tracks, but it's not enought to get caught up in the latest trend.
It seems like one of the most surprising things for me this year is the amount of fantastic death metal releases we've seen. From the underground came Spiral Madness and De Lirium's Order, while bigger labels like Century Media stuck to their guns and released masterpieces by Grave and Unleashed. Its really quite unexpected and I never would have guessed that a genre this unoriginal could suddenly become fresh again. Sure we still have the piss poor acts (Six Feet Under, Cattle Decapitation, etc.) taking advantage of the kiddies, but some of the bands have stepped up and taken the bull by the horns. Final Dawn is one of those bands. With their debut, the group have concentrated on delivering a high voltage, energetic look at classic death metal, deeply mired in the early 90s and inspired by pioneers like Death, Benediction, and At The Gates. Like I mentioned earlier, Final Dawn refuse to get caught up in the Gothenburg sound, but they do allow a bit of the Finnish sound to creep in ala Sentenced and Cry Havoc, adding a good bit of depth to this high octane affair.
Knowing nothing about the band when I inserted the disc, I was stunned to hear the straight ahead metal crunch of album opener "Solemn Art". I gave it thirty seconds for the blast beats to kick in, but fortunately they never did. Instead the band stay right on track, not gearing up too fast or too doomy, but allowing the mid-tempo groove to carry them through. Vocalist/guitarist Vesa Mattila has a deep vocal range, not really sounding like any of today's death metal frontmen. "Ardent" has deep, polished riffs that sound somewhat like Euro-power (Morgana Lefay comes to mind). "Aggression Overdrive" and "Regression Is Transgression" are rich with Swedish roots, tangling the band in early Edge Of Sanity and Hypocrisy. The Finnish vibe runs rampant through "Doze", reminding me of the best moments of the Sentenced "Amok" record. My favorite cut here is "Bleeding Sky", which is total new wave worship. The opening riff could have been lifted from Priest's "Defenders Of The Faith" record.
Final Dawn have created something memorable within the restrictions of the death metal genre. "Under A Bleeding Sky" is the perfect death metal album for me. It certainly isn't technical, but does have some timing changes to keep it interesting. Mattila's vocals are enjoyable, and the whole album is well produced. I wish Mikko Tormanen's drums were a little higher in the mix, but overall this is a stellar release and one that will hopefully inspire other death acts to think about the past, and what brought them to the dance in the first place. I wish more of this stuff existed, but unfortunately there isn't enough bands out there that are willing to play traditional death metal.